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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) Disability Rights-Pub. Accom.
Prison Conditions
Attorney Organization Kairys, Rudovsky, Messing & Feinberg, LLP
Case Summary
On January 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 January 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 persons 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 defendants denied the recommended surgery, and the plaintiff appealed the denial to no avail. The DOC allegedly had an administrative policy colloquially known as the "One Good Eye" policy, which denies cataract surgery to those 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 September 2012, but then postponed the procedure.

The plaintiff filed an administrative grievance seeking surgery, but in January 2013, the defendant upheld the decision to postpone. In May 2013, the plaintiff received an additional eye examination, 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 Febuary 2015.

Wexford filed a motion to dismiss on March 24, 2015. The other defendants filed their own motions to dismiss on April 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 August 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 September 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 January 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 or § 504, 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. 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, and that the same staff member defendants, acting in their official capacities, violated Pennsylvania's constitutional protections against cruel and unusual punishment. The Court noted that the plaintiff had sought only injunctive relief against some of the defendants and, because he had received the cataract surgery, those claims were moot. 159 F. Supp. 3d 502.

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

On April 8, 2016, the plaintiff wrote a letter notifying the Court that settlement negotiations with the PDOC and two of its administrators were proceeding but that negotiations with Wexford and its physicians had stalled. On April 19, 2016, the plaintiff moved to partially lift the stay with respect to the Wexford defendants, which the Court denied on April 20, 2016. Negotiations continued throughout the remainder of the year.

On January 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 February 7, 2017.

On February 8, 2017, Chief Judge Conner ordered the case dismissed without costs and without prejudice under the terms of a settlement agreement to which the parties had agreed.

Thirty days after February 8, 2017, PDOC agreed to adopt a new cataract policy to replace the old "One Good Eye" policy. An individual would be eligible for cataract surgery even if the individual has one eye that does not need to be operated on. Additionally, individuals who 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 individuals know about the policy change, and provide surgical evaluations for individuals with cataracts and post-operative care after the cataract surgery. For 3 years after February 8, 2017, the PDOC would provide plaintiff's counsel with an accounting of individuals who have cataracts and how they were evaluated under the new cataract policy. They must also provide plaintiff's counsel with a copy of proposed changes or revisions to the new cataract policy, if any. The PDOC also agreed to pay the 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 March 21, 2017, the parties signed a formal settlement agreement.

Litigation continued over attorneys' fees and costs.

On February 23, 2018, Magistrate Judge Carlson conducted a settlement conference for the parties. The parties reached an agreement, and on February 26, 2018, Chief Judge Connor ordered that a motion by the plaintiff for attorneys' fees be dismissed as moot because of this resolution.

On March 30, 2018, an individual sent a handwritten letter to the Court explaining that he had not received surgery for his cataracts and that his vision was deteriorating. Judge Carlson forwarded this letter to counsel for both parties.

The settlement agreement expired without any further docket activity, so the case is now closed.

Carolyn Weltman - 10/19/2015
Elizabeth Greiter - 03/22/2018
Caitlin Hatakeyama - 10/16/2018
Alex Moody - 04/14/2020

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Issues and Causes of Action
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Constitutional Clause
Cruel and Unusual Punishment
Content of Injunction
Develop anti-discrimination policy
Discrimination Prohibition
Required disclosure
Visual impairment
Medical Exam / Inquiry
Disability (inc. reasonable accommodations)
Disparate Treatment
Medical/Mental Health
Vision care
Plaintiff Type
Private Plaintiff
Type of Facility
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 outcome Denied
Filed Pro Se No
Prevailing Party Plaintiff
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
Filed 01/02/2015
Case Closing Year 2020
Case Ongoing No
Additional Resources
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Court Docket(s)
M.D. Pa.
DR-PA-0008-9000.pdf | Detail
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
General Documents
M.D. Pa.
Class Action Complaint For Damages , Declaratory and Injunctive Relief [ECF# 1]
DR-PA-0008-0001.pdf | Detail
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
M.D. Pa.
Order [ECF# 78]
DR-PA-0008-0002.pdf | Detail
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
M.D. Pa.
Order [ECF# 89]
DR-PA-0008-0003.pdf | Detail
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
M.D. Pa.
Settlement Agreement and Release [ECF# 125-1]
DR-PA-0008-0004.pdf | Detail
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
show all people docs
Judges Carlson, Martin C. (M.D. Pa.) [Magistrate] show/hide docs
Conner, Christopher C. (M.D. Pa.) show/hide docs
DR-PA-0008-0002 | DR-PA-0008-0003 | DR-PA-0008-9000
Plaintiff's Lawyers Love, Angus R. (Pennsylvania) show/hide docs
DR-PA-0008-0004 | DR-PA-0008-9000
Morgan-Kurtz, Alexandra T. (Pennsylvania) show/hide docs
DR-PA-0008-0004 | DR-PA-0008-9000
Rickabaugh, Jessica A. (Pennsylvania) show/hide docs
DR-PA-0008-0004 | DR-PA-0008-9000
Rothschild, Eric J. (Pennsylvania) show/hide docs
DR-PA-0008-0001 | DR-PA-0008-9000
Rudovsky, David (Pennsylvania) show/hide docs
DR-PA-0008-0001 | DR-PA-0008-0004 | DR-PA-0008-9000
Schmidt, Thomas B III (Pennsylvania) show/hide docs
DR-PA-0008-0001 | DR-PA-0008-0004 | DR-PA-0008-9000
Wolfish, Eric (Pennsylvania) show/hide docs
DR-PA-0008-0001 | DR-PA-0008-9000
Yaniak, Janine P (Pennsylvania) show/hide docs
Defendant's Lawyers Davis, Jessica S. (Pennsylvania) show/hide docs
DR-PA-0008-0004 | DR-PA-0008-9000
Enerson, Caleb Curtis (Pennsylvania) show/hide docs
Foreman, Samuel H. (Pennsylvania) show/hide docs
Hamilton, Michael C. (Pennsylvania) show/hide docs
Koczan, Paula A. (Pennsylvania) show/hide docs
Rosenberg, David J. (Pennsylvania) show/hide docs
Other Lawyers Murphy, George Francis IV (District of Columbia) show/hide docs

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