United States District Court, D. Delaware
Ernest Dorian Cephas, James T. Vaughn Correctional Center,
Smyrna, Delaware. Pro Se Plaintiff.
ANDREWS, U.S. District Judge.
Vernon Ernest Dorian Cephas, an inmate at the James T. Vaughn
Correctional Center in Smyrna, Delaware, filed this action
pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. (D.I. 3). He appears pro
se and has been granted leave to proceed in forma
pauperis. (D.I. 7). The Court screens and reviews the
complaint pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2) and
complains of actions taken when he was both an unsentenced
detainee and a sentenced inmate at the JTVCC. Count One of the
Complaint alleges deliberate indifference to medical needs in
violation of the Eighth and Fourteenth
Amendments;Count Two alleges retaliation in violation
of the First Amendment; and Count Three alleges denial of the
right to due process in violation of the Fourteenth
Amendment. On September 4, 2018, Plaintiff filed an amendment
that added claims against two new defendants. (D.I. 9). The
Court considers D.I. 3 and D.I. 9, together, as the operative
One, Medical Needs. On the morning of September 19,
2016, Plaintiff complained of breathing problems and chest
pains. (D.I. 3 at 6). He was taken to the nurses' station
and examined. The nurse contacted Defendant physician's
assistant Deadra Parker, and Parker ordered an EKG and an
x-ray. (Id. at 7). That morning, Parker told
Plaintiff there was nothing wrong with him based upon the EKG
results and she diagnosed Plaintiff with pneumonia.
(Id.). Plaintiff complains that Parker did not
personally evaluate, treat, or assess him. (Id.).
Plaintiff returned to his housing unit that morning.
continued to complain that he was struggling to breathe.
(Id.). During the 3:00 p.m. count, Plaintiff told
the unit officer that he could not breathe. (Id.).
Plaintiff was taken to the infirmary, and nurses took his
vitals. (Id. at 8) Parker entered the room and told
Plaintiff he had pneumothorax on the left side.
(Id.). Plaintiff was taken to Bayhealth Kent General
Hospital by ambulance. (Id.). Plaintiff underwent an
emergency procedure that afternoon, had surgery on September
23, and was discharged on September 27, 2016. (Id.
alleges that Defendant Connections Community Services, the
contract healthcare provider for the Delaware Department of
Correction: (1) failed to adequately staff the JTVCC medical
unit, which causes delays in providing inmates with
treatment; (2) instituted a set of rules, policies, and
protocols that all medical staff diagnose inmates "based
on word of mouth rather than actual evaluation," and
that Parker followed those policies that when she diagnosed
Plaintiff with pneumonia without "touching or
evaluating" him; and (3) did not have appropriate
safeguards in place to insure test results are timely read.
(Id. at 8-9). Plaintiff alleges that the combined
failures of Connections and Parker caused him pain and
suffering in violation of his constitutional rights.
(Id. at 9).
ran out of medication on February 14, 2017, and submitted a
sick call request late that afternoon. (Id. at 10).
Plaintiff did not report this as an emergency.
(Id.). The next morning, Defendant R.N. Amy Malkin
had Plaintiff taken to medical for triage, and she addressed
the sick call request as an emergency. (Id.) When
Plaintiff arrived, he explained to Malkin that it was not an
emergency. (Id.). Malkin was "upset" and
put Plaintiff out of triage. (Id. at 11). Plaintiff
submitted a grievance over the matter. (Id.).
Plaintiff alleges that after he submitted the grievance he
received inadequate medical care and was without medication
for months. (Id.)
alleges that he spoke to Defendant Deputy Warden Scarborough
about a rash and explained he had been unsuccessful in
getting it treated. (Id. at 12). Scarborough advised
Plaintiff that he would email someone in medical so that
Plaintiff would be seen. (Id.). Plaintiff states,
"This too was unsuccessful." (Id.).
Plaintiff wrote to Defendant Warden Dana Metzger that he was
not getting proper medical care and had not received
assistance from Scarborough. (Id.). Plaintiff
continued to seek treatment and file grievances.
alleges that Scarborough transferred him from minimum to
medium high security (i.e., MHU") on October
18, 2018, in retaliation for the letter he sent to Metzger
complaining about Scarborough's failure to assist
Plaintiff in obtaining medical care. (Id. at 17).
Plaintiff alleges Metzger was made aware of Scarborough's
reprisal and did nothing to intercede or correct the
October 6, 2017, Plaintiff awoke with extreme chest pains and
asked the building sergeant to call medical. (Id. at
13). He was taken to medical and triage began.
(Id.). Malkin and Defendant R.N. Tyler Bohanan were
in medical and, when Malkin saw Plaintiff, she commented that
Plaintiff was "just complaining to get his KOP's
[i.e., keep on person medications]" and asked
if he remembered doing this before. (Id. at 13-14).
Malkin took Plaintiff's blood pressure, told the other
nurse to perform an EKG, and scheduled a chest x-ray.
(Id. at 14).
who had been in the office, came out and asked Plaintiff if
he was really there to get KOP's through the provider.
(Id. at 15). Plaintiff told Bohanan that he knew how
to use the process to get refills. (Id.) Bohanan
returned to the office, came back a few minutes later and
asked the officer escorting Plaintiff if he had to tell
Plaintiff that [Bohanan] was writing him up. (Id.).
Plaintiff returned to his housing unit and submitted a
grievance, # 381129. (Id.) He never received the
write-up (i.e., disciplinary report) from Bohanan.
Medical Department received Plaintiff's grievance on
October 11, 2017. (Id.). On October 15, 2017,
Plaintiff was told to report to the Lieutenant's Office
and was formally notified of Bohanan's disciplinary
report. (Id.). The report stated that Plaintiff lied
about having chest pains and gave a false alarm on October 6,
2017. (Id. at 15-16). The disciplinary report
referred to Plaintiff's February 15, 2017 medical visit
when Malkin accused Plaintiff of seeing medical on an
emergency basis to receive K.O.P. (Id. at 16).
Plaintiff alleges that Bohanan's disciplinary report was
not logged until after Plaintiff's grievance was received
by medical. (Id. at 16). He alleges that Bohanan and
Malkin conspired to file the false disciplinary report
against him and punish him for submitting medical grievances
against them. (Id. at 15, 17).
Three, Due Process.
October 15, 2017, Plaintiff was awakened in the early morning
and told to report to the Lieutenant's Office.
(Id.). Defendant Lt. Tony Benson told Plaintiff he
had been written up on October 6, 2017, and the write-up had
been placed in the system a few days earlier. (Id.
at 18). Plaintiff alleges this violated the rules of conduct
which provide that disciplinary reports should be submitted
before the end of the shift, but no later than 24 hours after
the incident. (Id.). Plaintiff alleges that
Benson's failure to give him notice of the disciplinary
report within 24 hours violated his right to due process
under the DOC Rules of Conduct 4.1 and the Fourteenth
Amendment. (Id.). He alleges that Benson had a duty
to stop the outdated disciplinary report from moving forward.
(Id. at 23).
October 18, 2017, at approximately 11:40 a.m., Plaintiff was
told that Scarborough had directed his transfer to MHU.
(Id. at 19). As Plaintiff was packing to move, he
was called downstairs at 12:40 p.m. (Id.). Defendant
Lt. Stevenson was waiting downstairs to conduct a
disciplinary hearing on the Bohanan disciplinary report
Plaintiff had received on October 15, 2017. (Id.).
Plaintiff told Stevenson the hearing was scheduled in
violation of Rules of Conduct Policy 4.2, and Stevenson
responded that there was no time limit on hearings.
(Id.). Plaintiff alleges that he was not allowed to
call witnesses or have an investigation. (Id.)
Stevenson found Plaintiff guilty "based on report."
(Id.) Plaintiff alleges that Stevenson had a duty to
dismiss the disciplinary report because the hearing was not
held until 12 days after the incident, Stevenson failed to
give adequate findings of guilt, and he did not allow
Plaintiff to call witnesses and have access to documents.
(Id. at 23). Plaintiff was sentenced to five days
confinement to quarters and 15 days loss of all privileges.
(Id. at 20). Plaintiff was moved to the MHU tier at
1:30 p.m. (Id. at 20).
appealed, and on October 24, 2017, Defendant Captain Bruce
Burton heard the appeal and affirmed the finding of guilt.
(Id.). The next day, Plaintiff was reclassified
because of the write-up. (Id.). Plaintiff alleges
the write-up served as justification for his transfer from
minimum security to MHU. (Id.)
Plaintiff noticed there had been no response to grievance #
381129, he reinitiated the process and was told the grievance
was abandoned for his failure to appear at the hearing.
(Id.). Plaintiff alleges that he had no notice and
when he refiled the grievance, he was told that it was a
disciplinary matter. (Id. at 21-22). Plaintiff spoke
to Defendant Deputy Warden Parker who told Plaintiff he would
look into it. (Id. at 22). Plaintiff next wrote to
Metzger about the retaliation by the medical staff and
Scarborough, who had Plaintiff transferred. (Id.).
Both Metzger and Parker responded to Plaintiff's