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MANDALA v. COUGHLIN

March 16, 1996

JOHN MANDALA, Plaintiff,
v.
THOMAS C. COUGHLIN III, Commissioner of the New York Department of Correctional Services; CHARLES SCULLY, Superintendent of the Green Haven Correctional Facility; LARRY ZWILLINGER, Health Services Administrator at Green Haven Correctional Facility; DR. JEANTY, Chief Physician at the Green Haven Correctional Facility; MS. STEWART, Physician's Assistant at the Green Haven Correctional Facility; JAN LITTLEFIELD, Food Service Administrator at the Green Haven Correctional Facility; and SAM ROE = "1" through "5" inclusive, said names being fictitious, the true names of said defendants being unknown to plaintiff, the persons intended being Agents, Servants, Officers, and/or employees of the State of New York employed and/or assigned at Green Haven Correctional Facility; All of the above in their individual and/or official capacities, [State Defendants,] and THE COUNTY OF NASSAU, JOSEPH P. JABLONSKY, Sheriff of Nassau County; DR. KASHIMAWO, Medical Director and Medical Department Administrator at the Nassau County Correctional Center; SERGEANT AMITRANO, Kitchen Unit Supervising Officer at Nassau County Correctional Center; and JOHN DOE = "1" through "5" inclusive, said names being fictitious, the true names of said defendants being unknown to plaintiff, the persons intended being Agents, Servants, Officers, and/or employees of the County of Nassau, All of the above in their individual and/or official capacities, [County] Defendants.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: SPATT

 SPATT, District Judge:

 This case arises out of the claims of the plaintiff, John Mandala, ("Mandala" or the "plaintiff") against the defendants alleging that he received inadequate medical attention and a high fiber diet while incarcerated at the Green Haven Correctional Facility ("GHCF"), a state operated prison, and the Nassau County Correctional Center ("NCCC"). Mandala claims that his civil rights were violated under the Fifth, Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments of the United States Constitution, Article I section 5 of the New York Constitution and unidentified "laws of the State of New York [and] the common law." Specifically, he has filed suit against two sets of defendants:

 
(1) the "State Defendants," who are officers and employees at the GHCF,
 
a. Thomas Coughlin III, the Commissioner of the New York State Department of Correctional Services ("Coughlin"),
 
b. Charles J. Scully, Superintendent of the Green Haven Correctional Facility ("Scully"),
 
c. Larry Zwillinger, Health Services Administrator at the Green Haven Correctional Facility ("Zwillinger"),
 
d. Dr. Jeanty, the Chief Physician at the Green Haven Correctional Facility ("Jeanty"), whose given name is not set forth in the parties' motion papers,
 
e. Jan Littlefield, the Food Service Administrator at the Green Haven Correctional Facility, ("Littlefield") and
 
f. Ms. Stewart, a Physicians Assistant at the Green Haven Correctional Facility, whose given name is not set forth in the parties' motion papers, and
 
g. multiple unknown state employees at the Green Haven Correctional Facility ("Sam Roe 1 through 5"); and
 
(2) the "County Defendants,"
 
a. the County of Nassau,
 
b. Joseph P. Jablonsky, the Sheriff of Nassau County ("Jablonsky"),
 
c. Dr. Kashimawo, the Medical Director and Medical Department Administrator at the Nassau County Correctional Center, whose given name is not set forth in the parties' motion papers,
 
d. Sergeant Amitrano, the Kitchen Unit Supervisor at the NCCC, whose given name is also not set forth in the parties' motion papers ("Amitrano"), and
 
e. multiple unknown county employees working at the NCCC ("John Doe 1 through 5").

 Presently before the Court are motions for summary judgment by both the State Defendants and the County Defendants, pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. P. 56. The defendants contend that even when viewing the facts in the light most favorable to the plaintiff, Mandala is unable to establish a violation of his constitutional rights. In addition, the State Defendants have moved in the alternative, to have their case severed and the venue transferred to the Southern District of New York. In support of these motions, the State Defendants reason that most of the events underlying the plaintiff's claims against them transpired in Duchess County and Mandala is presently incarcerated in Westchester County. Accordingly, it would be logical to hear this case in the Southern District. The plaintiff does not oppose these alternative motions.

 I. Background

 A. Mandala's convictions

 Mandala was convicted of two counts of manslaughter in the first degree in the County Court of Nassau County on January 26, 1989. He was sentenced to consecutive terms of eight and one-third to twenty-five years incarceration and initially placed in the NCCC. On February 27, 1989, the plaintiff was transferred to the state correctional system. After a series of transfers, on January 8, 1991, Mandala was placed in the Green Haven Correctional Facility where he remained until August 4, 1993. The plaintiff alleges that his claims against the State Defendants arose during this two and one-half year period.

 On July 19, 1993, the plaintiff's convictions were reversed based on the trial court's failure to disqualify a juror. Mandala was indicted again on August 4, 1993, at which time he was transferred from the GHCF to the NCCC, where he remained incarcerated until October 17, 1994. Mandala alleges that his claims against the County Defendants arose during this one year period.

 On September 30, 1994, the plaintiff was again convicted of two counts of manslaughter and was sentenced to consecutive terms of eight and one-third to twenty-five years and three to nine years imprisonment. On October 27, 1994, Mandala was transferred back to the GHCF, where he was incarcerated until approximately September 17, 1995, when he was transferred to the Sing Sing Correctional Facility in Ossining, New York where he is presently incarcerated.

 B. Mandala's incarceration

 1. Incarceration at GHCF

 According to the Complaint, on January 1, 1992 at 2:30 p.m., the plaintiff, who was then incarcerated at the GHCF, "requested emergency medical care." Mandala was examined by Stewart, the physician's assistant on duty at the time. The examination revealed that the plaintiff's temperature was elevated, at 101.6. Because no doctors were available to take an x-ray due to the holiday, Stewart suggested that the plaintiff return the next day for further treatment.

 Approximately fourteen hours later, on January 2, 1992, at 4:30 a.m., Mandala "experienced sharp excruciating abdominal pains and started to sweat profusely." Although it is not entirely clear, it appears that the plaintiff began screaming to the house officer for help. At 5:15 a.m. an officer entered Mandala's cell to remove him for medical assistance. However, the officer refused to allow the plaintiff to take his winter coat even after Mandala explained that he was "freezing cold, yet sweating at the same time." Further, although the officer brought the plaintiff a wheelchair, Mandala was instructed to either "move the wheelchair [him]self, or walk." As a result, the plaintiff was "forced to limp and walk through the unheated halls with severe pains, chills and without his coat" for thirty minutes in order to obtain medical attention.

 Upon reaching the infirmary at 5:45 a.m., the plaintiff was examined by Ms. Ryan, a registered nurse, who took his vital signs. According to the Complaint, Nurse Ryan informed him that "he was dehydrated, had no pulse and that his blood pressure was dangerously low." The nurse then instructed the officer who brought Mandala to the infirmary to get his winter coat. Nurse Ryan was then forced to wheel the plaintiff to a waiting area for an ambulance to take him to the hospital because the officer refused to do so.

 The plaintiff arrived at St. Francis Hospital at approximately 7:00 a.m. where he was examined by an emergency room doctor. Subsequently, he was examined by one Dr. Soongh, a surgeon who recommended that surgery be scheduled for the next day. On January 3, 1992, during the preparation for surgery, the hospital staff discovered that the plaintiff's temperature was elevated, at 103.5. X-rays were taken and a diagnosis of pneumonia was made. Antibiotics were prescribed and the surgery took place approximately twenty hours later. A Hartman Procedure and a colostomy were performed.

 On January 11, 1992, the plaintiff returned to the GHCF where he was placed in the infirmary and aftercare was ordered along with "colostomy procedures" and a special diet. On February 5, 1992, the plaintiff was returned to St. Francis Hospital and surgical revisals *fn1" of the colostomy and Hartman Procedure were performed. Nandala then returned to the GHCF infirmary until he was released to rejoin the general population.

 On February 22, 1992, the plaintiff was given post-operative instructions and advised to have a high fiber diet. Mandala then informed the kitchen of his medically prescribed diet, but the kitchen staff responded only that it he should "go back to medical." Medical informed him that "it was the kitchen's problem."

 During the subsequent months, the plaintiff made numerous visits to the medical unit complaining of "severe stomach pain, intestinal burning, strain in defecating and inside stitches coming through the skin." Mandala then had a consultation with one Dr. Jordan who scheduled surgery to remove the stitches and assured the plaintiff that a high fiber diet had been ordered. Nevertheless, the surgery was not performed "until the stitches were piercing the skin."

 On April 25, 1992, Mandala made another visit to the medical unit where he spoke with Dr. Jeanty regarding his diet problems. Dr. Jeanty responded only that the matter was a "kitchen problem." On September 24, 1992, Mandala filed a grievance with the Inmate Grievance Resolution Committee at the GHCF regarding the denial of his medically prescribed diet. On September 25, 1992, he wrote a letter to Scully, the Superintendent of the GHCF, concerning the denial of adequate medical care and proper food. The September 25, 1992 letter was forwarded to Zwillinger, the facility's Health Services Administrator for resolution.

 On October 13, 1992, the plaintiff was called to a Grievance Committee hearing where it was decided that he should be given the diet prescribed by the medical department consistent with a 1991 court decision, Milburn v. Coughlin, 79 CV 5077 (S.D.N.Y. 1991), addressing therapeutic diets at the GHCF. The Grievance Committee's decision was forwarded to Superintendent Scully for implementation.

 On October 14, 1992, Mandala wrote a follow up letter to Scully regarding this matter and on October 15, 1992, he received a letter from Zwillinger advising him that the proper diet should be available in the mess hall. Follow up letters were sent to the plaintiff from Scully on October 20, 1992 and Zwillinger on October 26, 1992 regarding the availability of the plaintiff's medically prescribed diet. However, the new diet had not been received as of those dates.

 On November 19, 1992, Mandala wrote a letter to Dr. Jeanty complaining that he still was not receiving the proper food. Dr. Jeanty did not respond. On that same day, the plaintiff filed a Notice of Decision of Appeal Form, apparently because Superintendent Scully had failed to take the proper measures pursuant to the Grievance Committee's determination. Scully responded on December 3, 1992 that there was no evidence that the proper diet had been denied.

 On January 13, 1993, the plaintiff was contacted by Littlefield, the Food Administrator at the GHCF who informed him that he was aware that the civilian cooks had denied him his medically prescribed diet and that he would personally see that Mandala was provided the proper food. On February 10, 1993, however, the plaintiff spoke with an individual identified in the Complaint as "Sam Roe '2'" who refused to provide him with the medically prescribed diet. Mandala then reiterated his complaint to one Captain Cole. The plaintiff alleges upon information and belief that Captain Cole spoke with Sam Roe 2 and then informed ...


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