United States District Court, D. Delaware
BRADLEY M. O'NEAL, Plaintiff,
CONNECTIONS MEDICAL CARE, et al., Defendants.
plaintiff, Bradley M. O'Neal ("O'Neal"), an
inmate at the Sussex Correctional Institution
("SCI"), Georgetown, Delaware, filed this lawsuit
pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983.(D.I. 3, 7.) He also requests
counsel. (D.I. 11.) O'Neal appears pro se and
was granted permission to proceed in forma pauperis
pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915. (D.I. 5.) The court
proceeds to review and screen the complaint and amended
complaint pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B) and
2016, O'Neal began having groin pain. He submitted a sick
call slip on June 28, 2016, and saw three different nurses on
June 29, 2016, the last of whom diagnosed him as having a
hernia. O'Neal was in extreme pain and had swelling in
the groin area. He was taken to the infirmary on July 2,
2016, and immediately transferred from the SCI to the Beebe
Medical Center ("Beebe") where he was admitted.
Surgery was performed that day, and O'Neal underwent a
second surgery on July 4, 2016. O'Neal remained at Beebe
for two weeks. He return to the SCI infirmary on July 11,
2016, and transferred to general population the next day.
O'Neal returned to Beebe for a follow-up on September 7,
2016 and was told "it appears to be OK." (D.I. 3.)
December 14, 2016, O'Neal notice a reoccurrence of the
condition. He submitted a sick call slip on December 15, 2016
and saw a nurse on December 16, 2016. He submitted another
sick call slip on December 18, and was seen by a nurse on
December 19, 2016. On December 20, 2016, he asked if he was
on the list to see a physician, and he was not. He was seen
by a physician the next day, December 21, 2016. On the
morning of December 22, 2016, O'Neal began bleeding, was
seen at the infirmary, and then transferred to Beebe. He was
admitted and surgery was performed the next day, December 23,
2016. O'Neal returned to the SCI on December 24, 2016 and
remained in its infirmary until December 27, 2016. O'Neal
complains of the pain he suffered when the packing used for
the wound was removed on December 25 and December 27, 2016.
He alleges that "all of this could have been prevented
if they would have let him see the doctor a lot sooner than
they did." (D.I. 7.) O'Neal seeks $5 million in
compensatory and punitive damages.
STANDARD OF REVIEW
federal court may properly dismiss an action sua
sponte under the screening provisions of 28 U.S.C.
§ 1915(e)(2)(B) and § 1915A(b) if "the action
is frivolous or malicious, fails to state a claim upon which
relief may be granted, or seeks monetary relief from a
defendant who is immune from such relief." Ball v.
Famiglio, 726 F.3d 448, 452 (3d Cir. 2013); see
also 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2) (in forma
pauperis actions); 28 U.S.C. § 1915A (actions in
which prisoner seeks redress from a governmental defendant);
42 U.S.C. § 1997e (prisoner actions brought with respect
to prison conditions). The court must accept all factual
allegations in a complaint as true and take them in the light
most favorable to a pro se plaintiff. Phillips v. County
of Allegheny, 515 F.3d 224, 229 (3d Cir. 2008);
Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 93 (2007). Because
O'Neal proceeds pro se, his pleading is
liberally construed and his complaint, "however
inartfully pleaded, must be held to less stringent standards
than formal pleadings drafted by lawyers." Erickson
v. Pardus, 551 U.S. at 94 (citations omitted).
action is frivolous if it "lacks an arguable basis
either in law or in fact." Neitzke v. Williams,
490 U.S. 319, 325 (1989). Under 28 U.S.C. §
1915(e)(2)(B)(i) and § 1915A(b)(1), a court may dismiss
a complaint as frivolous if it is "based on an
indisputably meritless legal theory" or a "clearly
baseless" or "fantastic or delusional" factual
scenario. Neitzke, 490 at 327-28; Wilson v.
Rackmill, 878 F.2d 772, 774 (3d Cir. 1989); see,
e.g., Deutsch v. United States, 67 F.3d 1080, 1091-92
(3d Cir. 1995) (holding frivolous a suit alleging that prison
officials took an inmate's pen and refused to give it
legal standard for dismissing a complaint for failure to
state a claim pursuant to § 1915(e)(2)(B)(ii) and §
1915A(b)(1) is identical to the legal standard used when
ruling on Rule 12(b)(6) motions. Tourscher v.
McCullough, 184 F.3d 236, 240 (3d Cir. 1999) (applying
Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6) standard to dismissal for failure to
state a claim under § 1915(e)(2)(B)). However, before
dismissing a complaint or claims for failure to state a claim
upon which relief may be granted pursuant to the screening
provisions of 28 U.S.C. §§ 1915 and 1915A, the
court must grant O'Neal leave to amend his complaint
unless amendment would be inequitable or futile. See
Grayson v. Mayview State Hosp., 293 F.3d 103, 114 (3d
well-pleaded complaint must contain more than mere labels and
conclusions. See Ashcroftv. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662
(2009); Bell Ail. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544
(2007). A plaintiff must plead facts sufficient to show that
a claim has substantive plausibility. See Johnson v. City
of Shelby, __ U.S. __, 135 S.Ct. 346, 347 (2014). A
complaint may not dismissed, however, for imperfect
statements of the legal theory supporting the claim asserted.
See Id. at 346.
the pleading regime established by Twombly and
Iqbal, a court reviewing the sufficiency of a
complaint must take three steps: (1) take note of the
elements the plaintiff must plead to state a claim; (2)
identify allegations that, because they are no more than
conclusions, are not entitled to the assumption of truth; and
(3) when there are well-pleaded factual allegations, the
court should assume their veracity and then determine whether
they plausibly give rise to an entitlement to relief.
Connelly v. Lane Const. Corp., 809 F.3d 780, 787 (3d
Cir. 2016) (internal citations and quotations omitted).
Elements are sufficiently alleged when the facts in the
complaint "show" that the plaintiff is entitled to
relief. Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 679 (quoting Fed.R.Civ.P.
8(a)(2)). Deciding whether a claim is plausible will be a
"context-specific task that requires the reviewing court
to draw on its judicial experience and common sense."
takes exception to the medical care he was provided and
alleges that had he been seen sooner, the procedures and pain
from his condition could have been prevented. The Eighth
Amendment proscription against cruel and unusual punishment
requires that prison officials provide inmates with adequate
medical care. Estelle v. Gamble, 429 U.S. 97,
103-105 (1976). In order to set forth a cognizable claim, an
inmate must allege a serious medical need and acts or
omissions by prison officials that indicate deliberate
indifference to that need. Estelle, 429 U.S. at 104;
Rouse v. Plantier, 182 F.3d 192, 197 (3d Cir. 1999).
A prison official is deliberately indifferent if he knows
that a prisoner faces a substantial risk of serious harm and
fails to take reasonable steps to avoid the harm. Farmer
v. Brennan, 511 U.S. 825, 837 (1994). A prison official
may manifest deliberate indifference by "intentionally
denying or delaying access to medical care."
Estelle, 429 U.S. at 104-05.
"a prisoner has no right to choose a specific form of
medical treatment, " so long as the treatment provided
is reasonable. Lasko v. Watts, 373 F.App'x 196,
203 (3d Cir. 2010) (quoting Harrison v. Barkley, 219
F.3d 132, 138-140 (2d Cir. 2000)). Moreover, allegations of
medical malpractice are not sufficient to establish a
Constitutional violation. White v. Napoleon, 897
F.2d 103, 108-09 (3d Cir. 1990) (citations omitted); see
also Daniels v. Williams, 474 U.S. 327, 332-34 (1986)
(negligence is not compensable as a Constitutional
deprivation). Finally, "mere disagreement as to the
proper medical treatment" is insufficient to state a
constitutional violation. See Spruill v. Gillis, 372
F.3d 218, 235 (3d Cir. 2004) (citations omitted).
allegations do not rise to the level of deliberate
indifference to a serious medical need. Although "[a]cts
or omissions sufficiently harmful to evidence deliberate
indifference to serious medical needs" constitute cruel
and unusual punishment under the Constitution, Estelle v.
Gamble,429 U.S. 97, 106 (1976), merely negligent
treatment does not give rise to a constitutional violation,
Spruill v. Gillis,372 F.3d 218, 235 (3d Cir. 2004).
O'Neal's allegations indicate that he was treated on
multiple occasions (both for the initial condition and its
reoccurrence) and that he also received treatment from
outside medical care providers. The allegations are
insufficient to state plausible constitutional violations.
Id.; see also Norris v. Frame, 585 F.2d