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BROWN v. COUGHLIN

January 18, 1991

JAMES BROWN, PLAINTIFF,
v.
THOMAS COUGHLIN, III, COMMISSIONER OF THE NEW YORK STATE DEPARTMENT OF CORRECTIONAL SERVICES; STEPHEN DALSHEIM, SUPERINTENDENT OF THE DOWNSTATE CORRECTIONAL FACILITY; DR. ANTHONY FORTE, SENIOR DOCTOR AT DOWNSTATE CORRECTIONAL FACILITY; LILLIAN CARPENTER, NURSE ADMINISTRATOR AT DOWNSTATE CORRECTIONAL FACILITY; GREGORY MITCHELL, COUNSELOR AT DOWNSTATE CORRECTIONAL FACILITY; JACQUELINE MCMICKENS, COMMISSIONER OF THE NEW YORK CITY DEPARTMENT OF CORRECTIONS; ALLEN GOLDBERG, DIRECTOR OF PRISON HEALTH SERVICES OF THE NEW YORK CITY DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH; THOMAS REED, PRISON HEALTH SERVICES UNIT ADMINISTRATOR FOR RIKERS ISLAND HOSPITAL; JOHN GALLAGHER, DEPUTY WARDEN IN COMMAND OF RIKERS ISLAND HOSPITAL; DR. WALLACE ROONEY, MEDICAL DIRECTOR OF RIKERS ISLAND HOSPITAL; DR. ERNEST STUART, CHIEF PHYSICIAN OF RIKERS ISLAND HOSPITAL; JOHN MCLAUGHLIN, PRESIDENT OF THE NEW YORK CITY HEALTH AND HOSPITALS CORPORATION; IRA CLARK, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR AND REGIONAL ADMINISTRATOR OF THE KINGS COUNTY HOSPITAL CENTER; EDWARD I. KOCH, MAYOR OF THE CITY OF NEW YORK; INDIVIDUALLY AND IN THEIR OFFICIAL CAPACITIES, DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Kevin Thomas Duffy, District Judge:

  MEMORANDUM & ORDER

Plaintiff James Brown commenced the instant civil rights action for deliberate indifference to his medical needs against the following defendants: (1) Thomas Coughlin, III, Commissioner of the New York State Department of Correctional Services ("DOCS"); (2) Stephen Dalsheim, Superintendent of the Downstate Correctional Facility ("Downstate"); (3) Dr. Anthony Forte, Senior Doctor at Downstate Correctional Facility ("Downstate Hospital"); (4) Lillian Carpenter, Nurse Administrator at Downstate Correctional Facility; (5) Gregory Mitchell, Counselor at Downstate Correctional Facility; (6) John Gallagher, Deputy Warden in Command of Rikers Island Hospital; (7) Dr. Ernest Stuart, Chief Physician of Rikers Island Hospital (collectively "the state defendants"). Brown further names as defendants in this action: (1) Jacqueline McMickens, Commissioner of the New York City Department of Corrections; (2) Allen Goldberg, Director of Prison Health Services of the New York City Department of Health; (3) Thomas Reed, Prison Health Services Unit Administrator for Rikers Island Hospital; (4) Dr. Wallace Rooney, Medical Director of Rikers Island Hospital; (5) John McLaughlin, President of the New York City Health and Hospitals Corporation ("HHC"); (6) Ira Clark, Executive Director and Regional Administrator of the Kings County Hospital Center ("Kings County Hospital"); and (7) Edward I. Koch, Mayor of the City of New York (collectively "the city defendants"). Brown alleges that his civil rights were violated, pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, and 1988 and under the Fifth, Eighth, and Fourteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution had been violated due to denial of due process and being subjected to cruel and unusual punishment in the allegedly deliberate indifference of the state and city to his serious medical needs. Additionally, Brown sets forth a pendent state claim against the municipal defendants for negligence, medical malpractice, and/or gross negligence. Brown further moves for a protective order, waiving responses to the municipal defendants' local Rule 46 interrogatories. The municipal defendants cross-move to compel Brown's compliance with the interrogatories. By Order to Show Cause on April 25, 1990, the municipal defendants moved pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 56 for an order granting summary judgment, dismissing the complaint. The state defendants move pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(c) for a judgment on the pleadings, dismissing the pendent state malpractice, negligence and/or gross negligence claims against the state defendants and all claims federal and state against Coughlin, Dalsheim, Carpenter and Mitchell.*fn1 All of the above named defendants are being sued both as individuals and in their official capacities.*fn2

FACTS

On March 13, 1985, Brown was arrested and charged for attempted murder, attempted robbery, and assault.*fn3 Upon being delivered to the custody' of the New York City DOCS, he presented with a bone fracture in his right leg which apparently occurred at some time prior to his arrest.*fn4 He was taken to Woodhull Medical Center, a New York HHC facility, x-rayed and diagnosed as having a comminuted fracture of his right tibia and fibula. His wound was cleansed, the leg splinted, and he was administered antibiotics intravenously. Municipal Defendants 3(g) ¶¶ 6-9.*fn5 At 9:52 p.m. on March 13th, Brown was transferred to Kings County Hospital, under the auspices of HHC, and underwent surgery. He remained at Kings County Hospital until March 22, 1985. Municipal Defendants 3(g) ¶¶ 11-13. From March 22nd to October 8th, Brown was housed at the Brooklyn House of Detention, a correctional institution under the auspices of the New York City DOCS. Municipal Defendants 3(g) ¶ 14. Brown was readmitted to Kings County Hospital for additional surgery, remaining there from October 8, 1985 to November 6, 1985. He then went back to the Brooklyn House of Detention until November 7th when he was sent to Rikers Island Infirmary, under the jurisdiction of the New York City Department of Health. Municipal Defendants 3(g) ¶¶ 15-17.

Brown underwent additional surgery on February 18, 1986 and remained in Kings County Hospital until March 14, 1986. From March 14th to the 24th, Brown was housed at Rikers Island Infirmary. On March 24, 1986, Brown was transferred to the New York State DOCS and never returned to any City facilities after that date.*fn6

Immediately after being in the city defendants' custody, Brown was transferred to Downstate, a state medical facility, where he remained until he was transported to Westchester County Medical Center for outpatient evaluation of his condition. Complaint ¶ 33. He was transported back to Downstate until May or June of 1986 when he was transported to St. Lukes Hospital. A persistent infection remained in Brown's leg. At St. Lukes, a bone scan and culture of the infected leg was performed. Complaint ¶ 34. In June 1986, Brown was transferred to Julia L. Butterfield Memorial Hospital ("Butterfield") and underwent two additional surgeries to his leg. The infection never cleared, the condition worsened. Complaint ¶ 36. On October 9, 1986, Brown filed a grievance with the Downstate Inmate Grievance Resolution Committee requesting a transfer to a larger hospital for treatment and further evaluation. Complaint ¶ 39. Brown was told that the leg would have to be amputated and a petition for a writ of habeas corpus, ordering to be transferred from Butterfield to the larger Downstate facility, was denied. Complaint ¶ 42. Brown then reinstituted his writ of habeas corpus seeking an order to be transferred to a larger medical center. By decision dated November 6, 1986, Brown's grievance requesting a second medical opinion was granted at the state's expense. Complaint ¶ 44. Brown was transferred to Helen Hayes Hospital for a second opinion. The evaluating physician agreed that the leg had to be amputated and he transferred Brown back to Butterfield for the surgery. Complaint ¶¶ 43-45. Brown's leg was amputated and he was subsequently returned to Helen Hayes Hospital for a prosthesis. Complaint ¶ 45.

DISCUSSION

A. The Municipal Defendants

1. Federal Claims:

The municipal defendants have moved for summary judgment on the close of discovery on the claim that Brown's evidence is insufficient to establish the requisite elements essential to a claim under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 or the federal constitution. Also, the municipal defendants ask the Court to dismiss Brown's pendent state claim because of a failure to file or to allege the filing of a notice of claim.

Summary judgment must be entered after adequate time for discovery has passed and upon motion against a party who fails to make a showing sufficient to establish the existence of an element essential to that party's case, and on which the party will bear the burden of proof at trial. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322, 106 S.Ct. 2548, 2552, 91 L.Ed.2d 265 (1986). "If the burden of persuasion at trial would be on the nonmoving party, the party moving for summary judgment may satisfy the burden of production in either of two ways. First, the moving party may submit affirmative evidence that negates an essential element of the nonmoving party's claim. Second, the moving party may demonstrate to the Court that the nonmoving party's evidence is insufficient to establish an essential element of the nonmoving party's claim. Id. at 331 (Brennan, J., dissenting in result, but concurring with legal analysis of majority, and citing 10A Wright sec. 2727, pp. 130-31 and Louis, Federal Summary Judgment Doctrine: A Critical Analysis, 83 Yale L.J. 745-50.)

In order to establish a claim under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, plaintiff must establish by a preponderance of the evidence that: (1) the conduct complained of was committed by a person acting under color of state law; (2) that this conduct deprived the plaintiff of rights and privileges secured by the Constitution or laws of the United States; and (3) that the defendants' acts were the proximate cause of the injuries and consequent damages sustained by the plaintiff. Martinez v. California, 444 U.S. 277, 100 S.Ct. 553, 62 L.Ed.2d 481, reh. denied, 445 U.S. 920, 100 S.Ct. 1285, 63 L.Ed.2d 606 (1980).

That the municipal defendants at bar were acting under the color of state law is undisputed.

In order for the plaintiff to establish the second element, he must show by a preponderance of the evidence that the defendants committed the acts alleged by plaintiff and that those acts caused plaintiff to suffer the loss of a federal right. Monell v. Department of Social Services, 436 U.S. 658, 98 S.Ct. 2018, 56 L.Ed.2d 611 (1978). Plaintiff must also show that the defendant intended or was reckless in bringing about the offensive acts which caused the deprivation of a federal right. Daniels v. Williams, 474 U.S. 327, 106 S.Ct. 662, 88 L.Ed.2d 662 (1986); Davidson v. Cannon, 474 U.S. 344, 106 S.Ct. 668, 88 L.Ed.2d 677 (1986).

Finally, the plaintiff must show that the defendants' acts were the proximate cause of plaintiff's injuries. There must be a sufficient causal connection between the act or omission of each separate defendant and any injury or damage suffered by plaintiff. Givhan v. Western Line Consolidated School District, 439 U.S. 410, 99 S.Ct. 693, 58 L.Ed.2d 619 (1979); Mt. Healthy City School District Board of Education v. Doyle, 429 U.S. 274, 97 S.Ct. 568, 50 L.Ed.2d 471 (1977).

The municipal defendants claim that Brown has failed to establish that any of the municipal defendants deprived him of a constitutional right. For purposes of this type of motion, I must disagree. The constitutional obligation of the defendants to meet certain minimum standards of medical care for individuals held in custody is traceable to both the Eighth Amendment prohibition against the imposition of "cruel and unusual punishment," as applicable to the states under the Fourteenth Amendment's guarantee of "due process." Estelle v. Gamble, 429 U.S. 97, 102-03, 97 S.Ct. 285, 290, 50 L.Ed.2d 251 (1976), reh. denied, 429 U.S. 1066, 97 S.Ct. 798, 50 L.Ed.2d 785 (1977); Youngberg v. Romeo, 457 U.S. 307, 315, 102 S.Ct. 2452, 2457-58, 73 L.Ed.2d 28 (1982). See also Deshaney v. Winnebago County Dept. of Social Services, 489 U.S. 189, 198, 109 S.Ct. 998, 1004-05, 103 L.Ed.2d 249 (1989). Specifically:

Deshaney v. Winnebago County, 489 U.S. 189, 200, 109 S.Ct. 998, 1005-06, 103 L.Ed.2d 249 (citations omitted).

Indifference may be "manifested by prison doctors in their response to the prisoner's needs or by prison guards in intentionally denying or delaying access to medical care or intentionally interfering with the treatment once prescribed." Estelle v. Gamble, 429 U.S. at 104-05, 97 S.Ct. at 291; see e.g., Williams v. Vincent, 508 F.2d 541 (2d Cir. 1974) (doctor choosing the easier and less efficacious treatment, throwing away prisoner's severed ear and merely stitching the stump, may be attributable to deliberate indifference rather than the exercise of professionally sound judgment). The municipal defendants failed to provide adequate enough care to keep Brown's osteomyelitis, or bone marrow infection, at bay. This situation may well be worse than the aforementioned where the doctor refused to sew a severed ear back onto the defendant. That procedure required a significant level of expertise whereas Brown's condition, a broken leg, surely has a clear prognosis of complete and uncomplicated recovery in the normal course with a modicum of adequate treatment. Here, Brown's condition was one which could easily be remedied by diagnostic testing. The record before me indicates, however, a possible or apparent denial of medical care by repeated instances of denied treatment, excessively delayed care, substantial delays in follow-up appointments and diagnostic testing, incorrect medications, improper or inadequate ...


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