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O'Neil v. Lynch

United States District Court, D. Delaware

June 27, 2018

JASON T. O'NEIL, Plaintiff,
DR. LYNCH, et al., Defendants.

          Jason T. O'Neil, James T. Vaughn Correctional Center, Smyrna, Delaware. Pro Se Plaintiff.



         Plaintiff Jason T. O'Neil, an inmate at the James T. Vaughn Correctional Center in Smyrna, Delaware, filed this action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983.[1] (D.I. 3). He appears pro se and has been granted leave to proceed in forma pauperis. (D.I. 10). Plaintiff has also filed a motion for injunctive relief and a request for counsel. (D.I. 6, 8). The Court screens and reviews the complaint pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2) and §1915A(a).


         Plaintiff's civil cover sheet indicates that this is an action brought pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 for medical malpractice. (D.I. 3-1). Plaintiff has a long history of psychiatric hospitalizations. (D.I. 5 at 13). In December 2012, he pled guilty but mentally ill to two counts of murder first degree. (Id. at p.12). He was hospitalized at the Delaware Psychiatric Center from January 16, 2013 until February 27, 2013. (Id. at p.13).

         The complaint provides Plaintiffs history of swallowing objects which has resulted in numerous hospitalizations and surgeries. In June or July 2013, when Plaintiff was housed in SHU isolation, he swallowed pieces of a plastic spoon and some pills. In July 2013, when Plaintiff was housed in the psychiatric closed observation ("PCO") at the VCC infirmary, he removed the metal plate covering an electrical outlet broke it into five to eight pieces and swallowed them. Plaintiff was placed in another PCO cell, and he removed and swallowed another plate. Plaintiff was placed in a third cell where he remained until he passed the metal.

         In September 2014, Plaintiff returned to SHU. He alleges he informed Mental Health Director Lezley Sexton and Defendant Dr. Paola Munoz that, if he returned to SHU, he would swallow more metal as well as other items. True to his word, once he returned to SHU Plaintiff swallowed four to five metal pieces from the SHU rec yard fence. Plaintiff was placed on PCO in the infirmary and was forced to pass the metal without pain medication. One week later Plaintiff returned to SHU, broke the glass light in his cell, ate the glass and metal from the light, and intentionally cut his arms. Plaintiff alleges that Sexton and Dr. Munoz were aware of his intent to harm himself and he was still "placed in this environment without protection from [him]self and was willfully neglected." (D.I. 3 at p.7). Once again, Plaintiff was placed on PCO in the infirmary. After Plaintiff passed glass, he was sent to Kent General and underwent emergency surgery. Plaintiff alleges that this occurred several times over a period and, after the fifth or sixth time surgery was performed to remove objects from his body, Kent General stopped accepting Plaintiff for treatment.

         On June 24, 2017, Plaintiff swallowed a foreign object and was admitted to Christiana Hospital in critical condition and underwent emergency surgery. Plaintiff remained at Christiana Hospital until September when he returned to the VCC and was placed on a medical hold by Defendant Dr. Jackson. Several weeks later Plaintiff began running a fever and was admitted to Christiana Hospital with a stomach infection and then diagnosed with MRSA. Once released, Plaintiff returned to the VCC infirmary where he remained for two to three weeks on medical observation.

         Plaintiff alleges that several times during December 2017 to January 2018, he was left to sit with fecal matter overflowing and, for over an hour, he was denied a replacement colostomy bag. He also alleges that nurses were instructed to only change the bag once every three days and that Dr. Jackson told the nursing staff to withhold supplies due to a shortage in supplies.

         Upon Plaintiff's return to general population in January 2018, he was assaulted by six inmates. In February 2018 he returned to the infirmary for a weekend. From there he returned to the same tier where he was assaulted. After he was housed in MHU, he began to run a fever and was sent to Kent General where he was diagnosed with a severe staph infection at the surgery site.

         Plaintiff seeks compensatory damages and injunctive relief.


         A 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 Plaintiff 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).

         An 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 U.S. ...

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