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Podgurski v. Department of Correction

United States District Court, D. Massachusetts

September 23, 2014

RONALD PODGURSKI, Plaintiff,
v.
DEPARTMENT OF CORRECTION, et al., Defendants.

MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

DENISE J. CASPER, District Judge.

I. Introduction

Plaintiff Ronald Podgurski ("Podgurski") brought this lawsuit against several Defendants: the Massachusetts Department of Correction ("the DOC"); the University of Massachusetts Correctional Health Program ("UMCH"); James Saba ("Saba"), superintendent of the Massachusetts Correctional Institute, Cedar Junction at Walpole ("Walpole"), in his individual capacity; Michael A. Thompson ("Thompson"), superintendent of the Massachusetts Correctional Institute in Concord ("Concord"), in his individual capacity; Dr. A. Hameed, medical director at Walpole ("Dr. Hameed"); and Dr. Patricia Ruze, medical director at Concord ("Dr. Ruze") (collectively, "the Defendants"). D. 7 at 2-4. Podgurski alleges violations of the Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments against the individual Defendants (Count One); violation of the Massachusetts Declaration of Rights against the individual Defendants (Count Two); and negligence/medical malpractice against the DOC, UMCH, Dr. Hameed and Dr. Ruze (Count Three), based on allegedly inadequate medical treatment he received while incarcerated. D. 7 at 1. UMCH has moved to dismiss Counts One and Two for lack of subject matter jurisdiction pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(1). D. 12. The DOC, Saba and Thompson (collectively, "the DOC Defendants") have moved to dismiss all counts for failure to state a claim. D. 21. For the reasons discussed below, the Court ALLOWS UMCH's motion, D. 12, and ALLOWS IN PART and DENIES IN PART the DOC Defendants' motion, D. 21.

II. Factual Allegations

The facts recited are as alleged in the amended complaint, D. 7.

Podgurski has been a prisoner at MCI, Cedar Junction at Walpole ("Walpole") since on or about July 23, 2010, id. ¶ 12, where Saba was the superintendent. Id . ¶ 4. At the time Podgurski was incarcerated at Walpole, he had a documented history of foot problems and had been receiving treatment from a podiatrist on a monthly basis. Id . ¶ 15. Podgurski asserts that the Defendants were on notice about his foot problems since the beginning of his incarceration. Id . ¶ 16. He alleges that upon his incarceration, his daughter provided Saba with a "letter from his podiatrist explaining his need for regular podiatric treatment." Id . ¶ 17. Podgurski further alleges that Saba "rebuffed" the letter and informed Podgurski's daughter that the DOC would follow the advice of UMCH staff, as opposed to "any outside doctors." Id . ¶ 17.

UMCH is a program of the University of Massachusetts Medical School ("UMMS") which, pursuant to a contract with the DOC, was responsible for providing medical care to inmates in DOC custody. Id . ¶ 3. Dr. Hameed was the medical director at Walpole and a UMCH employee responsible for treating Podgurski during his incarceration. Id . ¶¶ 8-9.

Podgurski asserts that after receiving inadequate medical care for his feet while incarcerated at Walpole, he suffered from infections, gangrene and a number of other problems. Id . ¶ 18-41.

Podgurski was reassigned to MCI Concord ("Concord") in November 2010, id. ¶ 42, where Thompson was the superintendent. Id . ¶ 6. Dr. Ruze was the medical director at Concord and a UMCH employee responsible for treating Podgurski during his incarceration there. Id . ¶¶ 10-11. Podgurski asserts that after receiving inadequate medical care for his feet while incarcerated at Concord, he had to undergo surgical procedures to treat one of his feet, including the removal of a metatarsal joint. Id . ¶¶ 42-55. After the surgery, Podgurski experienced persistent infections and received intravenous antibiotics for six weeks. Id . ¶ 55-56. Podgurski's conviction was thereafter overturned and he was released from DOC custody directly to Brockton hospital to continue receiving intravenous antibiotics. Id . ¶ 57. Podgurski alleges that he continues to suffer from foot problems and doctors "predict long-lasting effects" because of the care he received while incarcerated. Id . ¶ 59.

III. Procedural History

Podgurski initiated this action on July 22, 2013. D. 1. He amended the complaint on November 8, 2013. D. 7. UMCH has now moved to dismiss Counts One and Two. D. 12. Dr. Hameed and Dr. Ruze have moved for referral to a medical malpractice tribunal.[1] D. 15. The DOC Defendants have moved to dismiss all counts against them. D. 21. After a hearing on July 8, 2014, the Court took these matters (except for D. 15 that the Court resolved at the hearing) under advisement. D. 29.

IV. Standards of Review

A. Motion to Dismiss for Failure to State a Claim

A complaint must provide "a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief." Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2). The Court accepts "the truth of all well-pleaded facts and draw[s] all reasonable inferences therefrom in the pleader's favor." Grajales v. P.R. Ports Auth. , 682 F.3d 40, 44 (1st Cir. 2012). The Court must "determine whether the factual allegations are sufficient to support the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged." García-Catalán v. United States , 734 F.3d 100, 103 (1st Cir. 2013) (quotations and citations omitted). That is, a claim must be "plausible on its face." Id . (quoting Ashcroft v. Iqbal , 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009)). Although the Court's inquiry does not demand "a high degree of factual specificity, " García-Catalán , 734 F.3d at 103 (internal quotation omitted), the complaint "must contain more than a rote recital of the elements of a cause of action." Id . (quoting Rodríguez-Reyes v. Molina-Rodríguez , 711 F.3d 49, 53 (1st Cir. 2013)).

B. Motion to Dismiss for Lack of Subject Matter Jurisdiction

"When considering a motion to dismiss under Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(1), the Court should apply a standard of review similar to that accorded a dismissal for failure to state a claim' under subsection 12(b)(6)." Menge v. N. Am. Specialty Ins. Co. , 905 F.Supp.2d 414, 416 (D.R.I. 2012) (quoting Murphy v. United States , 45 F.3d 520, 522 (1st Cir. 1995)); see also Puerto Rico Tel. Co. v. Telecomm. Regulatory Bd. of Puerto Rico , 189 F.3d 1, 14 n.10 (1st Cir. 1999). In deciding a Rule 12(b)(1) motion, however, the Court may consider materials outside the pleadings, including affidavits. Gonzalez v. United States , 284 F.3d 281, 288 (1st Cir. 2002).

V. Discussion

A. The Court ALLOWS UMCH's Motion to Dismiss

UMCH argues that because it is a state agency, it is protected from this suit by sovereign immunity, D. 13 at 1, and, therefore, this Court does not have subject ...


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