University of Michigan Law School
Civil Rights Litigation Clearinghouse
new search
page permalink
Case Name Hollihan v. Pennsylvania Department of Corrections DR-PA-0008
Docket / Court 3:15-cv-00005-EMK-SES ( M.D. Pa. )
State/Territory Pennsylvania
Case Type(s) Prison Conditions
Attorney Organization Kairys, Rudovsky, Messing & Feinberg, LLP
Case Summary
On Jan. 2, 2015, a prisoner in Pennsylvania sued the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections ("PDOC"), several of its employees and administrators in their official and individual capacities, as well as Wexford Health Sources (the provider of medical care in state prisons), in the United States ... read more >
On Jan. 2, 2015, a prisoner in Pennsylvania sued the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections ("PDOC"), several of its employees and administrators in their official and individual capacities, as well as Wexford Health Sources (the provider of medical care in state prisons), in the United States District Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania. The lawsuit was brought under the Rehabilitation Act, the Americans with Disabilities Act, and 42 U.S.C. § 1983, for the alleged deprivation of the plaintiff's Eighth Amendment rights. The plaintiff alleged that the PDOC systematically denied medical care to inmates with severe eye conditions, including severe cataracts. The plaintiff was represented by both private counsel and attorneys from the Pennsylvania Institutional Law Project and sought declaratory and injunctive relief; compensatory and punitive damages; and attorneys' fees and costs. Along with his complaint, he filed a motion for class certification.

Since 1999, the plaintiff had suffered from various eye and vision conditions and had received cataract surgery on his right eye in 2001. Prior to 2008, an optometrist determined that the plaintiff's left eye required cataract surgery, to which the plaintiff consented. However, the defendant and its staff denied the recommended surgery, and the plaintiff appealed the denial to no avail. The DOC allegedly has an administrative policy colloquially known as the "One Good Eye" policy, which denies cataract surgery to inmates who retain a threshold modicum of visual acuity in one eye, notwithstanding physician recommendations to the contrary. In 2012, the plaintiff was diagnosed with a cataract in his left eye, and his treating ophthalmologist requested surgery, which was scheduled for Sept. 2012, but then postponed the procedure.

The plaintiff filed an administrative grievance, seeking surgery, but in Jan. 2013, the defendant upheld the decision to postpone. In May 2013, the plaintiff received an additional eye examination, and his left eye was diagnosed with a "very dense cataract" and he was referred for surgery. One of the defendant's staff instead scheduled the plaintiff for a follow-up consultation three months later and explained that the plaintiff was ineligible for cataract surgery on his left eye because the visual acuity in his right eye measured 20/60. Over the next two years, the plaintiff repeatedly requested further information regarding his ineligibility and filed another administrative grievance, while the cataract in his left eye caused virtual blindness in that eye and allegedly caused the vision in his right eye to deteriorate. He ultimately received cataract surgery on his left eye in Feb. 2015.

Wexford filed a motion to dismiss on Mar. 24, 2015. The other defendants filed their own motions to dismiss on Apr. 16, 2015 and June 3, 2015, and the PDOC filed a motion for judgment and to stay discovery on July 17, 2015. Chief Judge Christopher C. Conner granted the motion to stay discovery. After a teleconference with the plaintiffs and defendants on Aug. 24, 2015, however, the Court ordered that the defendants had failed to show good cause for keeping their cataract surgery policy confidential, although such policy has not appeared in the court record yet.

On July 17, 2015, the PDOC and its administrators filed a motion to stay discovery pending disposition of the plaintiff's motion for class certification, the defendants' motion to dismiss, and the defendants' motion for judgment on the pleadings. On July 21, 2015, the court granted the motion.

On Sept. 18, 2015, the Court denied the plaintiff's motion for class certification without prejudice. The Court stated that it would allow limited discovery related to the eligibility of this case for class action certification.

On Jan. 20, 2016, the Court granted in part and denied in part the defendants' motions to dismiss. The motions were denied as to the allegations that the defendants discriminated against the plaintiff on the basis of disability in violation of the ADA (Count I), that the defendant discriminated against the plaintiff on the basis of disability in violation of § 504 (Count II), and that some of the staff member defendants violated his Eighth Amendment right to be free from cruel and unusual punishment in their individual capacities (Count V). The motions were granted as to the allegations that Wexford and some of the staff member defendants, acting in their official capacities, violated his Eighth Amendment right to be free from cruel and unusual punishment (Count III), and that the same staff member defendants referenced in Count III, acting in their official capacities, violated Pennsylvania's constitutional protections against cruel and unusual punishment (Count IV). Both Counts III and IV were dismissed because the plaintiff sought only injunctive relief through those counts, and because he received the cataract surgery, his claims were rendered moot. 159 F.Supp.3d 502.

On Feb. 4, 2016, the parties jointly moved to stay pretrial deadlines pending the conclusion of settlement negotiations. On Feb. 8, 2016, the Court granted the parties' motion and ordered that counsel submit status reports every 60 days.

On Apr. 8, 2016, the plaintiff wrote a letter notifying the court that settlement negotiations with the PDOC and two of its administrators were proceeding towards reaching a settlement, but that negotiations with Wexford and its physicians had stalled.

On Apr. 19, 2016, the plaintiff moved to partially lift the stay with respect to the Wexford defendants, which the court denied on Apr. 20, 2016. Negotiations continued throughout the remainder of the year.

On Jan. 17, 2017, Chief Judge Conner signed an order referring the case for purposes of settlement only to Magistrate Judge Martin C. Carlson. A mediation took place on Feb. 7, 2017.

On Feb. 8, 2017, having been reported to the court that the action was settled, Chief Judge Conner ordered the case dismissed without costs and without prejudice.

30 days after Feb. 8, 2017, PDOC agreed to adopt a new cataract policy that replaces the old "One Good Eye" policy. Inmates would be eligible for cataract surgery even if the individual has one eye that does not need to be operated on. Additionally, inmates that were denied surgery under the old policy would be evaluated on a rolling basis according to the new cataract policy. The PDOC would also let inmates know about the policy change, and provide surgical evaluations for inmates with cataracts and post-operative care after the cataract surgery. For 3 years after Feb. 8, 2017, the PDOC must provide plaintiff counsel with an accounting of inmates who have cataracts and how they were evaluated under the new cataract policy. They must also provide plaintiff counsel with a copy of proposed changes or revisions to the new cataract policy, if any. The PDOC also agreed to pay plaintiff $16,500 but did not agree to pay attorneys' fees. The parties agreed that the court would retain jurisdiction over the implementation and enforcement of this agreement for 3 years, after which the case would be dismissed with prejudice. On Mar. 21, 2017, the parties signed a formal settlement agreement.

Litigation continued over attorneys' fees and costs.

On Feb. 23, 2018, Magistrate Judge Carlson conducted a settlement conference for the parties. On Feb. 26, 2018, Chief Judge Connor ordered that a motion by the plaintiff for attorneys' fees be dismissed as moot because it appeared that the parties had reached a resolution on this issue. The case is ongoing.

Carolyn Weltman - 10/19/2015
Elizabeth Greiter - 03/22/2018
Caitlin Hatakeyama - 10/16/2018


compress summary

- click to show/hide ALL -
Issues and Causes of Action
click to show/hide detail
Issues
Constitutional Clause
Cruel and Unusual Punishment
Content of Injunction
Develop anti-discrimination policy
Discrimination Prohibition
Reporting
Required disclosure
Defendant-type
Corrections
Disability
Visual impairment
Discrimination-area
Medical Exam / Inquiry
Discrimination-basis
Disability (inc. reasonable accommodations)
General
Disparate Treatment
Other
Medical/Mental Health
Vision care
Plaintiff Type
Private Plaintiff
Type of Facility
Government-run
Causes of Action 42 U.S.C. § 1983
Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), 42 U.S.C. §§ 12111 et seq.
Section 504 (Rehabilitation Act), 29 U.S.C. § 701
Defendant(s) Pennsylvania Department of Corrections
Wexford Health Sources, Inc.
Plaintiff Description An incarcerated man with a severe cataract in his left eye and deteriorating vision in his right eye.
Indexed Lawyer Organizations Kairys, Rudovsky, Messing & Feinberg, LLP
Class action status sought Yes
Class action status granted No
Filed Pro Se No
Prevailing Party None Yet / None
Public Int. Lawyer Yes
Nature of Relief Damages
Injunction / Injunctive-like Settlement
Source of Relief Settlement
Form of Settlement Private Settlement Agreement
Conditional Dismissal
Order Duration 2017 - 2020
Filing Year 2015
Case Closing Year 2018
Case Ongoing Yes
Docket(s)
3:15-cv-5 (M.D. Pa.)
DR-PA-0008-9000.pdf | Detail
Date: 04/05/2018
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
General Documents
Class Action Complaint For Damages , Declaratory and Injunctive Relief [ECF# 1]
DR-PA-0008-0001.pdf | Detail
Date: 01/02/2015
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Order [ECF# 78] (M.D. Pa.)
DR-PA-0008-0002.pdf | Detail
Date: 09/18/2015
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Order [ECF# 89] (M.D. Pa.)
DR-PA-0008-0003.pdf | Detail
Date: 01/20/2016
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Settlement Agreement and Release [ECF# 125-1]
DR-PA-0008-0004.pdf | Detail
Date: 05/04/2017
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Judges Carlson, Martin C. (M.D. Pa.) [Magistrate]
DR-PA-0008-9000
Conner, Christopher C. (M.D. Pa.)
DR-PA-0008-0002 | DR-PA-0008-0003 | DR-PA-0008-9000
Plaintiff's Lawyers Love, Angus R. (Pennsylvania)
DR-PA-0008-0004 | DR-PA-0008-9000
Morgan-Kurtz, Alexandra T. (Pennsylvania)
DR-PA-0008-0004 | DR-PA-0008-9000
Rickabaugh, Jessica A. (Pennsylvania)
DR-PA-0008-0004 | DR-PA-0008-9000
Rothschild, Eric J. (Pennsylvania)
DR-PA-0008-0001 | DR-PA-0008-9000
Rudovsky, David (Pennsylvania)
DR-PA-0008-0001 | DR-PA-0008-0004 | DR-PA-0008-9000
Schmidt, Thomas B III (Pennsylvania)
DR-PA-0008-0001 | DR-PA-0008-0004 | DR-PA-0008-9000
Wolfish, Eric (Pennsylvania)
DR-PA-0008-0001 | DR-PA-0008-9000
Yaniak, Janine P (Pennsylvania)
DR-PA-0008-9000
Defendant's Lawyers Davis, Jessica S. (Pennsylvania)
DR-PA-0008-0004 | DR-PA-0008-9000
Enerson, Caleb Curtis (Pennsylvania)
DR-PA-0008-9000
Foreman, Samuel H. (Pennsylvania)
DR-PA-0008-9000
Hamilton, Michael C. (Pennsylvania)
DR-PA-0008-9000
Koczan, Paula A. (Pennsylvania)
DR-PA-0008-9000
Rosenberg, David J. (Pennsylvania)
DR-PA-0008-9000
Other Lawyers Murphy, George Francis IV (District of Columbia)
DR-PA-0008-0004

- click to show/hide ALL -

new search
page permalink

- top of page -