‘Inmate’s suit vs DOC officials shall proceed’

U.S. District Court for the NMI Chief Judge Ramona V. Manglona has denied a motion to dismiss Reynaldo A. Manila’s lawsuit against former Department of Corrections Commissioner Robert Guerrero and two other DOC officials.

In an order on Monday, Manglona determined that Manila’s claim against former DOC commissioner Robert Guerrero and current DOC official Jose K. Pangelinan is not barred by the statute of limitations.

Manglona said Guerrero and Pangelinan may raise their statute of limitations defense again in a motion for summary judgment if they discover evidence to support it.

The judge also found that Manila’s complaint alleges facts sufficient to state an 8th Amendment claim against DOC official Georgia M. Cabrera for deliberate indifference to serious medical needs.

Guerrero, Pangelinan, and Cabrera have 14 days to respond to the lawsuit.

Guerrero, who is currently the Department of Public Safety commissioner, was the DOC commissioner when Manila was diagnosed with retinal detachment in the left eye.

Manila sued Guerrero, Cabrera, and Pangelinan in 8th Amendment right to adequate medical care. He claims their indifference to his medical complaint caused him to go blind in his left eye.

Cabrera used to serve as DOC commissioner, while Pangelinan served as acting DOC commissioner when Guerrero was transferred to DPS. Cabrera and Pangelinan are still DOC officials.

Manglona heard their motion to dismiss last Thursday, July 11, and placed the matter under advisement.

In their motion to dismiss, assistant attorney general Hessel Yntema argued that the first claim against Guerrero and Pangilinan was filed after the two-year statute of limitations deadline.

Yntema said the second claim against Cabrera fails to allege a serious harm that resulted from the alleged delay in the treatment of a cataract.

As this is Manila’s third amended complaint, Yntema asked the court dismiss the lawsuit with prejudice, which means Manila can no longer re-file the lawsuit.

Manila appeared at the hearing via telephone and without a lawyer. He remains in the custody of DOC.

In her 16-page order that denied the motion to dismiss last Tuesday, Manglona said it appears that Manila has been in CNMI custody continuously from the initial diagnoses of his retinal detachment until the present day.

Manglona said most of the documents that Manila has attached to his pleading and that he refers to are inmate request forms, DOC medical consultation reports, and letters from doctors to DOC officials.

“The court finds that Manila has pleaded sufficient facts to plausibly establish the tolling exception for disability so as to overcome a motion to dismiss on statute of limitations grounds,” Manglona said.

Ferdie De La Torre | Reporter
Ferdie Ponce de la Torre is a veteran journalist who has covered all news beats in the CNMI. Born in Lilo-an, Cebu City in the Philippines, De la Torre graduated from the University of Santo Tomas with a bachelor’s degree in journalism. He is a recipient of many commendations and awards, including the CNMI Judiciary’s prestigious Justice Award for his over 10 years of reporting on the judiciary’s proceedings and decisions. Contact him at ferdie_delatorre@saipantribune.com

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