RANIERI v. BYRNE et al
MEMORANDUM AND/OR OPINION. SIGNED BY HONORABLE JOEL H. SLOMSKY ON 1/4/17. 1/5/17 ENTERED AND COPIES MAILED TO PRO SE PLAINTIFF AND E-MAILED(jpd, )
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE EASTERN DISTRICT OF PENNSYLVANIA
WARDEN DAVID BYRNE, et al.,
January 4, 2017
Plaintiff Daniel Ranieri, proceeding pro se, brings this suit against Defendants Warden
David Byrne and the Medical Director of the George W. Hill Correctional Facility (collectively,
“Defendants”) for alleged violations of Section 1983 of the Civil Rights Act.1 Specifically,
Plaintiff asserts a violation of his Eighth Amendment rights arising from Defendants’ deliberate
indifference to his serious medical needs.
In his Complaint, Plaintiff states that he was arrested in April 2015 at the Gaudenzia
House Treatment Center. 2
Plaintiff asserts he was working on personal medical problems at
George W. Hill Correctional Facility (“GWHCF”) is a privately owned prison located in
Delaware County, Pennsylvania. The Facility is currently run by Community Education
Centers (“CEC”) under a daily functional service contract. The Facility is responsible for the
incarceration of pre-trial detainees and persons serving a county sentence of two years less one
day or a state sentence of five years less one day. GWHCF Medical Director’s name was not
disclosed during this litigation.
When analyzing the sufficiency of a pro se Complaint, the Court must liberally construe the
pleading. Higgins v. Beyer, 293 F.3d 683, 688 (3d Cir. 2002). Moreover, the facts as alleged
in Plaintiff’s Complaint are accepted as true for purposes of deciding the Motion to Dismiss.
Gaudenzia at the time of his arrest.3 (Doc. No. 3 at 3.) Following his arrest, Plaintiff was
transferred to GWHCF. Plaintiff had been confined there on prior occasions. He alleges that
officials at this Facility were aware that he had Hepatitis C based on his prior confinements.
Plaintiff also asserts that officials at GWHCF failed to transfer his medical records or medication
with him when he was sent to a different prison known as “Gander Hill” in the State of
Delaware. This failure, he claims, resulted in severe and permanent liver damage.
Plaintiff initially claims his medical needs were ignored by GWHCF staff. (Id.) In his
Complaint, he alleges that he received no medical treatment from April 2015 to December 4,
2015 while at GWHCF. He claims that he first received treatment on December 23, 2015, only
after he left GWHCF, when he was admitted to Christiana Hospital in Delaware. At this time, he
was incarcerated at Gander Hill. (Id.) Despite this claim, in subsequent filings and in statements
made on the record at the October 5, 2016 hearing, Plaintiff admitted that he received treatment
while incarcerated at GWHCF. Plaintiff stated that he was “taking a few blood tests” while at
GWHCF. (Doc. No. 24 at 11.) Plaintiff also said that “medical would say, oh, you’re okay.
You’re okay. You’re okay[,]” when he would ask about the blood test results. (Id. at 12.)
At the hearing held on October 5, 2016, Plaintiff also agreed that the facts in his Complaint
could be supplemented with his later filings in this case and factual statements he made at the
hearing. (Doc. No. 24 at 24.)
Furthermore, according to Defendants’ Motion to Dismiss, Plaintiff was incarcerated at
GWHCF from April 15, 2015 to December 4, 2015. (Doc. No. 13 at 3.) Plaintiff was
immediately discharged to the custody of the State of Delaware. (Doc. No. 26 at 1.) Although
Plaintiff had medical issues while incarcerated at GWHCF, it appears that his medical
condition worsened after he left that facility. Plaintiff is challenging in this case his medical
treatment at GWHCF and the conduct of Defendants after he left that Facility and was
transferred to a different prison known as Gander Hill in the State of Delaware.
The record does not describe the treatment Plaintiff was receiving at Gaudenzia House.
In addition, in his supplemental filings, Plaintiff alleges that he never suffered from high
blood pressure, Type II diabetes, or mental health problems. Plaintiff claims, however, that he
received treatment for these conditions while at GWHCF. (Doc. No. 26 at 2.) The record shows
that as part of his health care regime while at GWHCF, Plaintiff was taking, Amlodipine
(Norvasc) 10 mg, once per day, Doxepin (Sinequan) 150 mg, once per day, Fluoxetine (Prozac)
20 mg, two capsules per day, Losartan (Cozaar) 100 mg, once per day, and Metformin HCL 500
mg, once per day.4 (Doc. No. 26 at Ex. A.)
Plaintiff asserts that the medical staff at GWHCF knew that he had Hepatitis C and liver
damage and that it “was always documented during the intake medical process.” (Id.) Plaintiff
claims that “[i]ts a fact with liver damage mental health medication should not be given – to
anyone, but the Community Education Center medical staff, and [the] medical director totally
ignore[d] it and medications are forced on more inmates than should be.” (Id.) Moreover,
Plaintiff asserts that he was forced to take medication that “caused further damage to [his] liver
[and that he suffers] from [cirrhosis] of [his] liver.” (Id. at 3.) He claims that the Hepatitis C
made him tired and the staff at GWHCF would only give him “mental health medicines to [help
The Court will take judicial notice that Amlodipine is a commonly used medication to treat
high blood pressure and coronary artery disease. Doxepin is a tricyclic antidepressant
commonly used to aid anxiety disorders and trouble sleeping. Fluoxetine is an antidepressant
commonly used to aid depressive disorder. Losartan is commonly used to treat hypertension.
Metformin is used to treat Type II diabetes.
Rule 201 of the Federal Rules of Evidence allows a court to take judicial notice of
adjudicative facts. Fed.R.Evid. 201(a). Facts that may be judicially noticed are
those not subject to reasonable dispute because they are either generally known
within a trial court's territorial jurisdiction or can be readily determined from
sources whose accuracy cannot reasonably be questioned. Id. at 201(b).
United States of America v. CVS Caremark Corp., 913 F. Supp. 2d 125, 139 (E.D. Pa. 2012).
Plaintiff admits that he saw “three [medications] that [he] was taking” from the list, prior to his
incarceration at GWHCF. (Doc. No. 24 at 10.)
him] sleep.” (Doc. No. 24 at 14.) Plaintiff admits that he was unhappy with the treatment at
GWHCF. (Id. at 15.)
Upon discharge from GWHCF, Plaintiff asserts that he was given no medication to take
with him, even though there are reminders in the holding cell for prisoners to take their
medication with them. (Id. at 3-4.) On the record, at the hearing held on October 5, 2016,
Your Honor, on December 4th, I didn’t receive any medications. There’s a big
sign on intake that tells you before you’re discharged [to] make sure you tell the
sergeant, a CO, or a medical staff to give you your medications. I asked for my
medications, the sergeant told me we don’t have time for that. You have to go.
Delaware is here to pick you up.
They rush me out of there. He said Delaware would have my medications. I got
to Delaware, they gave me no medications for [sic] the first 10 days and I fell out
and ended up in Christiana Hospital. My whole system shut down because I
wasn’t getting any medication at all.5
(Doc. No. 24 at 8-9.) Plaintiff further claims that “the George W. Hill Prison/Community
Education Center staff failed in it[s] duties to send all medications or proof of medication
consumption by this [P]laintiff prior to 12/4/2015 and from 4/15/15 to 12/4/15.” (Doc. No. 26 at
6.) As noted, Plaintiff asserts that as a result of this lapse, he went more than ten days without
medications while in custody at Gander Hill Prison in Delaware. (Id.) Plaintiff agreed, however,
that Defendants were not responsible for medications the State of Delaware failed to give him.
(Doc. No. 24 at 9.)
The Court asked Plaintiff to clarify whether he meant the State of Delaware or Delaware
County, Pennsylvania. Plaintiff responded with “[t]he State of Delaware.” (Doc. No. 24 at 9.)
In support of his claims, Plaintiff stated that he filed several grievances with the
Delaware County Prison, but never received a response.6 (Id.) He also claims that he sent
requests to “upper staff” but these requests were never answered. (Id. at 4-5.)
Plaintiff further alleges that “Coatesville Veterans Hospital [is] addressing [his] ‘liver’
damage, that George W. Hill ignored from 4/15/15 to 12/4/15.” (Id. at 6.) Plaintiff asserts that
“only when [he] had life threatening problems 2/12/16 did George W. Hill, C.E.C. Medical Staff
take, [any] action – four times admitted to Christiana Hospital and Crozer Hospital 12/23/15 to
Defendants have filed a Motion to Dismiss the Complaint in its entirety. (Doc. No. 13.)
Plaintiff filed several Responses. (Doc. Nos. 14-16.) A hearing on the Motion was held on
October 5, 2016 at which the Court requested Defendants file a Supplemental Motion to Dismiss
based on the statements made by Plaintiff on the record supplementing the Complaint. (Doc. No.
22.) On November 4, 2016, Defendant filed a supplemental brief in support of their Motion to
Dismiss. (Doc. No. 25.) On November 17, 2016 and November 18, 2016, Plaintiff filed two
more responses. (Doc. Nos. 25-26.) The Motion is now ripe for disposition.
STANDARD OF REVIEW
The motion to dismiss standard under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) is set
forth in Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662 (2009). After Iqbal it is clear that “threadbare recitals of
the elements of a cause of action, supported by mere conclusory statements do not suffice” to
defeat a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss. Id. at 663; see also Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550
U.S. 544 (2007). “To survive a motion to dismiss, a complaint must contain sufficient factual
Plaintiff notes in his Complaint that he filed his grievances with the “Delaware County Prison.”
Apparently, he was referring to GWHCF. (Doc. No. 1 at 4.) It appears that Plaintiff filed the
grievances while at GWHCF, which is a prison located in Delaware County, Pennsylvania.
matter, accepted as true, to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.” Ethypharm S.A.
France v. Abbott Labs., 707 F.3d 223, n.14 (3d Cir. 2013) (citing Sheridan v. NGK Metals Corp.,
609 F.3d 239, n.27 (3d Cir. 2010)). “A claim has facial plausibility when the plaintiff pleads
factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable
for the misconduct alleged.” Id. Applying the principles of Iqbal and Twombly, the Third
Circuit in Santiago v. Warminster Twp., 629 F.3d 121 (3d Cir. 2010), set forth a three-part
analysis that a district court in this Circuit must conduct in evaluating whether allegations in a
complaint survive a 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss:
First, the court must “tak[e] note of the elements a plaintiff must plead to state a
claim.” Second, the court should identify allegations that, “because they are no
more than conclusions, are not entitled to the assumption of truth.” Finally,
“where there are well-pleaded factual allegations, a court should assume their
veracity and then determine whether they plausibly give rise to an entitlement for
Id. at 130 (quoting Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 675, 679). “This means that our inquiry is normally broken
into three parts: (1) identifying the elements of the claim, (2) reviewing the complaint to strike
conclusory allegations, and then (3) looking at the well-pleaded components of the complaint
and evaluating whether all of the elements identified in part one of the inquiry are sufficiently
alleged.” Malleus v. George, 641 F.3d 560, 563 (3d Cir. 2011).
When determining a motion to dismiss, the court must “accept all factual allegations in
the complaint as true and view them in the light most favorable to the plaintiff.” Buck v.
Hampton Twp. Sch. Dist., 452 F.3d 256, 260 (3d Cir. 2006). Where, as here, the complaint is
filed pro se, the “complaint, ‘however inartfully pleaded’ must be held to ‘less stringent
standards than formal pleadings drafted by lawyers.’” Fatone v. Latini, 780 F.3d 184, 193 (3d
Cir. 2015) (quoting Haines v. Kerner, 404 U.S. 519, 520-21 (1972)). It should be dismissed only
if it appears “beyond doubt that the plaintiff can prove no set of facts in support of [his] claim
that would entitle [him] to relief.” Olaniyi v. Alexa Cab Co., 239 Fed. App’x. 698, 699 (3d Cir.
2007) (citing McDowell v. Del. State Police, 88 F.3d 188, 189 (3d Cir. 1996)).
Pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6), Defendants seek dismissal of the
Complaint for several reasons.7 (Doc. No. 13.) The Court will address each of Defendant’s
arguments in turn.
A. Plaintiff Has Failed to Plausibly Allege a Serious Medical Need or that Defendant
Medical Director Acted with Deliberate Indifference
Defendants argue that Plaintiff has not adequately pled a claim of serious medical need or
of deliberate indifference which are required in order to sustain an Eighth Amendment violation.
(Doc. No. 13 at 8.) The Court agrees.
Plaintiff brings this action under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Under Section 1983, a plaintiff must
establish: (1) the violation of a right guaranteed by the United States Constitution and the laws of
the United States; and (2) that the alleged deprivation was committed or caused by a person
acting under the color of law.8 See West v. Atkins, 487 U.S. 42, 48 (1988); see also Piecknick v.
Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, 36 F.3d 1250, 1255-56 (3d Cir. 1994) (quoting Carter v. City of
Philadelphia, 989 F.2d 117, 119 (3d Cir. 1993)).
Rule 12(b)(6) states:
(b) How to Present Defenses. Every defense to a claim for relief in any pleading must be
asserted in the responsive pleading if one is required. But a party may assert the
following defenses by motion:
(6) failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted.
Fed. R. Civ. P. 12 (internal emphasis omitted).
Plaintiff is afforded no substantive rights under 42 U.S. §1983, but instead is provided “a
remedy for deprivations of rights established elsewhere in the Constitution or federal laws.”
Kopec v. Tate, 361 F.3d 772, 775-776 (3d Cir. 2004).
Here, Defendants concede that they were acting under the color of state law. The only
issue that remains is whether a constitutional right of Plaintiff was violated. The constitutional
right Plaintiff relies on is the Eighth Amendment.
In Estelle v. Gamble, the Supreme Court held that the failure to provide adequate medical
treatment violated a prisoner’s Eighth Amendment right only when it results from “deliberate
indifference to a prisoner’s serious illness or injury.” 429 U.S. 97, 105 (1976). Under the Eighth
Amendment, a prisoner’s “serious medical needs” cannot be met with “deliberate indifference.”
Estelle, 429 U.S. at 104-05. As noted in Estelle:
We therefore conclude that deliberate indifference to serious medical needs of
prisoners constitutes the “unnecessary and wanton infliction of pain,” Gregg v.
Georgia, supra, at 182-183, 96 S.Ct. at 2925 (joint opinion), proscribed by the
Eighth Amendment. This is true whether the indifference is manifested by prison
doctors in their response to the prisoner's needs or by prison guards in
intentionally denying or delaying access to medical care or intentionally
interfering with the treatment once prescribed. Regardless of how evidenced,
deliberate indifference to a prisoner's serious illness or injury states a cause of
action under [§] 1983.
In order to state a cognizable claim, a prisoner must allege acts or omissions
sufficiently harmful to evidence deliberate indifference to serious medical needs.
It is only such indifference that can offend “evolving standards of decency” in
violation of the Eighth Amendment
Id. at 290-91.
Here, Plaintiff therefore must plausibly allege “(i) [a] serious medical need, and (ii) acts
or omissions by prison officials that indicate deliberate indifference to that need.” Natale v.
Camden Cnty. Corr. Facility, 318 F.3d 575, 582 (3d Cir. 2003) (citing Estelle v. Gamble, 97 S.Ct.
285 and Rouse v. Plaintier, 182 F.3d 192, 197 (3d Cir. 1999)). In Farmer v. Brennan, the Court
held that a medical need is serious if it is “one that has been diagnosed by a physician as
requiring treatment or one that is so obvious that a lay person would easily recognize the
necessity for a doctor’s attention.” 511 U.S. 825, 834 (1994). See also Woloszyn v. Cnty of
Lawrence, 396 F.3d 314, 320 (3d Cir. 2005). Mere allegations of malpractice are not sufficient
to establish a claim under § 1983. See Estelle, 429 U.S. at 105; see also Inmates of Allegheny
Cnty. Jail v. Pierce, 612 F.2d 754, 762 (3d Cir. 1979).
1. Serious Medical Need
First, Plaintiff contends his serious medical need is Hepatitis C, and claims that his
Hepatitis C flared up while he was incarcerated at GWHCF. Plaintiff alleges in his supplemental
filings that the flare up of his Hepatitis C led to tiredness during his incarceration.
Hepatitis C has been held to be a serious medical condition. Clites v. Wetzel, No. 55
C.D. 2016 2016 WL 4069279, *4 (Pa. Commw. Ct. Jul. 28, 2016); Iseley v. Dragovich, 90 F.
App’x 577, 580 (3d Cir. 2004); Colon-Martinez v. Pennsylvania Healthcare Servs. Staffs, 530 F.
App’x 115, 117 (3d Cir. 2013) (per curiam). Therefore, Plaintiff has shown the existence of a
serious medical illness and has met the first prong of an Eighth Amendment violation.
2. Deliberate Indifference
Second, Plaintiff contends that prison officials were deliberately indifferent to his serious
medical need of Hepatitis C. Initially, he claims that Defendants did not meet his needs while he
was incarcerated at GWHCF. But the facts show that the medical providers at GWHCF were not
deliberately indifferent to Plaintiff’s medical needs. His blood was routinely checked and he was
advised that no further treatment was required for Hepatitis C.
In addition, he received
numerous medications while at the facility. They include: Amlodipine (Norvasc), Doxepin
(Sinequan), Fluoxetine (Prozac), Losartan (Cozaar), and Metformin HCL. Although the record is
not clear as to whether these drugs were prescribed for Hepatitis C, they show beyond
peradventure that Plaintiff was receiving medical treatment and that the staff was not indifferent
to his medical needs.
The facts here show at best that Plaintiff was dissatisfied with the level of care he
received at GWHCF. However, an inmate’s dissatisfaction with the level of care, even if it rises
to a claim of malpractice, does not constitute an Eighth Amendment violation.
Brennan, 511 U.S. 825, 834 (1994).
Next, Plaintiff asserts another theory to support his claim of deliberate indifference. He
contends that the failure of Defendants to send his medical records or medication along with him
to Gander Hill, a Delaware State prison contributed to or caused his Hepatitis C to flare up,
resulting in cirrhosis of his liver. He blames Defendants for Delaware State prison officials not
treating his Hepatitis C for the first ten days of his incarceration because GWHCF did not send
his medical records. During this period his Hepatitis C flared up and he had to be hospitalized.
As a result, Plaintiff asserts he spent time in Christiana Hospital recovering.
This claim, however, is without merit for the following reason. In Natale v. Camden
Cnty. Corr. Facility, the court held that the obligation of ascertaining a prisoner’s current medical
status was the responsibility of the incarcerating facility. 318 F.3d 575, 584-85. The Third
Circuit held that an institution that incarcerated the plaintiff was required to call plaintiff’s prior
medical providers to find out his current medical condition, the medication he was taking, and
when he should receive the medication. Id. at 580. Specifically, the court noted:
While laypersons are unlikely to know how often insulin-dependent diabetics need
insulin, common sense—the judgment imparted by human experience—would tell a
layperson that medical personnel charged with caring for an insulin-dependent diabetic
should determine how often the diabetic needs insulin.
Id. (internal citations omitted.) The burden, therefore, is on a prison facility at which a plaintiff
is incarcerated to insure that an inmate’s medical condition is properly treated.
This Court is bound by the holding in Natale. Plaintiff remained in the State of Delaware
prison system for more than ten days before complications arose. This period allowed the prison
staff a significant amount of time to contact Plaintiff’s treating physicians, former correctional
institution, or provide him with proper medical care. While he was incarcerated at the GWHCF
his blood tests always showed a normal range. Defendants had no knowledge of what was
occurring to Plaintiff at the Delaware State prison.
Viewing the facts in the light most favorable to Plaintiff, it is clear that he is dissatisfied
with the medical treatment he received at GWHCF, that the staff at GWHCF were not
deliberately indifferent to his Hepatitis C, that his medical condition did not decline until he was
in Delaware state custody for ten days without treatment, that Defendants were not responsible
for the decline, and that he has failed to plead sufficient facts to support a claim for deliberate
indifference by Defendants. As a result, Plaintiff’s claim against Defendants will be dismissed.
B. Plaintiff Has Failed to Plausibly Allege a Claim Against Warden David Byrne
for Additional Reasons
Plaintiff has not alleged facts that Warden David Byrne was personally involved in the
events that led to his injuries. This concession was made by Plaintiff on the record at the
October 5, 2016 hearing:
Well, I was told you have to use him as a start because he’s in
charge. He oversees the whole prison. So everything, he has to
answer for everybody.
So he really didn’t do anything?
(Doc. No. 24 at 20.)
In the Third Circuit, a plaintiff must prove that a defendant in a civil rights action had
personal involvement in committing the alleged violation. See Eppers v. Dragovich, No. 957673, 1996 WL 420830, at *4 (E.D. Pa. Jul. 24, 1996) (finding that defendants in civil rights
actions must have “personal involvement” in the alleged wrongs). Plaintiff has failed to allege
that Defendant Byrne had any involvement in the alleged violation of his civil rights and
therefore there is no cognizable claim against Warden David Byrne.
In addition, Defendants argue that because Warden David Byrne is not part of the medical
staff, and because Plaintiff was under the care of the prison doctor, Warden Byrne could not be
deliberately indifferent to him as a matter of law. (Doc. No. 13 at 7-8.) The Court agrees.
“[W]here a prisoner is being treated by medical personnel, non-physician prison officials
cannot be deliberately indifferent for failing to intervene in the medical treatment.” Glatts v.
Lockett, No. 09-29, 2011 WL 772917 at *9 (W.D. Pa. Feb. 28, 2011); see also Durmer v.
O’Carroll, 991 F.2d 64, 69 (3d Cir. 1993) (Defendants who were not physicians could not be
deliberately indifferent to medical needs of patients when patients were treated by the prison
Here, Plaintiff agreed on the record that his Hepatitis C was being monitored at GWHCF
through examination of his blood with the staff noting that no follow up treatment was necessary.
(Doc. No. 24 at 20.) Under this circumstance Warden Byrne was not required to personally
oversee any action taken in regard to Plaintiff’s medical condition and was not deliberately
indifferent to Plaintiff’s medical needs.
Thus, Plaintiff has failed to plead plausible facts
showing that Warden Byrne was responsible for Plaintiff’s claims. Therefore, Defendants’
Motion to Dismiss will be granted as to Warden David Byrne for these additional reasons.
Amendment of the Complaint Would Be Futile
Although Plaintiff has not requested that he be granted leave to amend his Complaint, the
Court will not grant him leave to amend because doing so would be futile. “When a plaintiff
does not seek leave to amend a deficient complaint after a defendant moves to dismiss it, the
court must inform the plaintiff that [she] has leave to amend . . . unless amendment would be
inequitable or futile.” Grayson v. Mayview State Hosp., 293 F.3d 103, 108 (3d Cir. 2002)
(emphasis in original). Granting leave to amend is futile when “the plaintiff was put on notice as
to the deficiencies of [her] complaint, but chose not to resolve them.” Krantz v. Prudential Invs.
Fund Mgmt. LLC, 305 F.3d 140, 144 (3d Cir. 2002). A plaintiff asserting § 1983 claims is put on
notice of the deficiencies of his complaint by way of a defendant’s motion to dismiss. Kundratic
v. Thomas, 407 F. App’x 625, 630 (3d Cir. 2011). Finally, “a district court need not grant leave
to amend a complaint if the complaint, as amended, would fail to state a claim upon which relief
could be granted.” Id. (quoting Shane v. Fauver, 213 F.3d 113, 115 (3d Cir. 2000)). Plaintiff has
not alleged plausible federal or state law claims against Defendants.
Given the foregoing
principles, amending the Complaint would be futile.
For the foregoing reasons, Defendants’ Motion to Dismiss (Doc. No. 13) will be granted.
All claims against Defendants Warden David Byrne and the Medical Director of George W. Hill
Correctional Facility will be dismissed in their entirety. An appropriate Order follows.
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