would still on occasion deny him the appropriate food.
Mandala also brought his complaint regarding this incident to Littlefield who told him that he should continue to report any incidents in which he is denied his diet. Mandala alleges that he made such reports "frequently." However, the plaintiff admits in his Rule 3(g) statement that he began receiving the high fiber diet he requested in March 1993, more than one year after his surgery.
2. The NCCC incarceration
On July 29, 1993, Mandala was transferred to the NCCC. According to the plaintiff, upon arriving he was processed and his personal property was confiscated. He was then taken to the Medical Department where he was given an evaluation. At this time, Mandala advised the doctor of his ongoing medical condition and treatment regarding his diet and that he required shoulder surgery, which had been previously ordered by the GHCF medical staff. The origin of the shoulder injury is unclear. The doctor informed the plaintiff that a high fiber diet was not available. However, follow up x-rays on the shoulder were taken on July 31, 1993.
"A few days later," Mandala wrote to Jablonsky, the Sheriff of Nassau County informing him of the lack of medical care and submitted a grievance concerning the denial of his high fiber diet and loss of property. On August 9, 1993, Mandala was taken to Nassau County Medical Center for an orthopedic consultation and it was determined that he should try physical therapy for his shoulder before surgery is considered. Approximately three weeks later, Mandala's property was returned and he forwarded the relevant health care documents regarding his diet to the Medical Department.
During this period, the plaintiff alleges that he began suffering from "serious and severe pain" as a result of his improper diet. After signing up for sick call for fifteen consecutive days he was eventually brought to a doctor. At this time, the plaintiff was suffering from "ruptured blood vessels on the sphincter of the anus." Mandala was given some unspecified treatment and advised that the only available diet was a vegetarian diet with extra cereal.
After several more weeks had elapsed, Mandala returned to the Medical Department and complained that he was still not receiving the proper diet or therapy for his shoulder. In response, the plaintiff was informed that there would be no therapy. Nevertheless, over the next several months Mandala continued to make similar complaints.
On February 2, 1994, the plaintiff wrote to the inmate grievance officer complaining that he was not receiving the proper diet. In response, on February 7, 1994, Mandala was advised that the correct diet had been reordered and should be available any day. However, the appropriate food apparently never arrived as the plaintiff continued to make similar complaints on an ongoing basis.
Some time after March 1994, Mandala wrote to one Dr. Levin at the Nassau County Medical Center to suggest surgery because he was still not receiving any therapy. The operation on his shoulder occurred on April 1, 1994.
C. The Complaint and motions for summary judgment
Mandala filed his Complaint in federal court on August 1, 1994 alleging that his civil rights have been abridged in violation of the Fifth, Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments of the United States Constitution and Article I, section 5 of the New York Constitution because the defendants' "failure to afford [the] plaintiff adequate medical care." The Court notes that while the Complaint further alleges violation of "the laws of the state of New York, [and] the common law," no related state or common law causes of action are expressly alleged or addressed in the parties' motion papers. Accordingly, these unspecified claims are not considered in this decision.
The State Defendants and the County Defendants filed two separate summary judgment motions. Although the facts underlying Mandala's claims differ somewhat because of the different actors involved at the GHCF and the NCCC, the summary judgment motions are based on the same argument, namely that even when reading the allegations contained in the Complaint in the light most favorable to the plaintiff, he is still unable to establish that his constitutional rights were violated. The State Defendants move in the alternative to sever the claims against them and to transfer venue to the Southern District of New York. The State Defendants reason that the events underlying the plaintiff's claims against them arose in the Southern District as the GHCF is located in Duchess County and the plaintiff is presently incarcerated in Westchester County. Mandala does not oppose these motions.
A. The summary judgment standard
A court may grant summary judgment "only if the evidence, viewed in the light most favorable to the party opposing the motion, presents no genuine issue of material fact," Terminate Control Corporation v. Horowitz, 28 F.3d 1335, 1352 (2d Cir. 1994) (quoting Cable Science Corp. v. Rochdale Village. Inc., 920 F.2d 147, 151 (2d Cir. 1990)), and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248, 91 L. Ed. 2d 202, 106 S. Ct. 2505 (1986); see also Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(c). The Court must, however, resolve all ambiguities and draw all reasonable inferences in the light most favorable to the party opposing the motion. See Institute for Shipboard Education v. Cigna Worldwide Insurance Co., 22 F.3d 414, 418 (2d Cir. 1994); Twin Laboratories, Inc. v. Weider Health & Fitness, 900 F.2d 566, 568 (2d Cir. 1990).
Once a party moves for summary judgment, in order to avoid the granting of the motion, the non-movant must come forward with specific facts showing that a genuine issue for trial exists. Western World Ins. Co. v. Stack Oil, Inc., 922 F.2d 118, 121 (2d Cir. 1990) (quoting Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(e)); National Union Fire Ins. Co. v. Turtur, 892 F.2d 199, 203 (2d Cir. 1989). A genuine issue of material fact exists if "a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party." Liberty Lobby, 477 U.S. at 248; Converse v. General Motors Corp., 893 F.2d 513, 514 (2d Cir. 1990). If there is evidence in the record as to any material fact from which an inference could be drawn in favor of the non-movant, summary judgment is unavailable. Lane v. New York State Electric & Gas Corp., 18 F.3d 172, 176 (2d Cir. 1994); Rattner v. Netburn, 930 F.2d 204 (2d Cir. 1991).
However, mere conclusory allegations, speculation or conjecture will not avail a party resisting summary judgment. Western World, 922 F.2d at 121. Although the non-moving party need not produce evidence in a form that would be admissible at trial in order to avoid summary judgment, Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(c) and (e) provide that the non-moving party cannot rest on the pleadings but must set forth specific facts in the affidavits, depositions, answers to interrogatories, or admissions on file showing there is a genuine issue for trial. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 324, 91 L. Ed. 2d 265, 106 S. Ct. 2548 (1986); United States v. Rem, 38 F.3d 634 (2d Cir. 1994).
The Court is also mindful that the plaintiff is proceeding pro se and that "the complaint must be 'liberally construed' in favor of the plaintiff and held to 'less stringent standards than formal pleadings drafted by lawyers'. Hughes v. Rowe, 449 U.S. 5, 9, 66 L. Ed. 2d 163, 101 S. Ct. 173 (1980) (per curiam), citing, Haines v. Kerner, 404 U.S. 519, 520, 30 L. Ed. 2d 652, 92 S. Ct. 594 (1972); Ferran v. Town of Nassau, 11 F.3d 21, 22 (2d Cir. 1993). The Court recognizes that it must make reasonable allowances so that a pro se plaintiff does not forfeit his rights by virtue of his lack of legal training. Traguth v. Zuck, 710 F.2d 90, 95 (2d Cir. 1983). But the Court is also aware that pro se status "'does not exempt a party from compliance with relevant rules of procedural and substantive law.'" Id., quoting, Birl v. Estelle, 660 F.2d 592, 593 (5th Cir. 1981). Furthermore, pro se litigants are
generally required to inform themselves regarding procedural rules and to comply with them. Edwards v. INS, 59 F.3d 5, 8 (2d Cir. 1995). This is especially true in civil litigation. See McNeil v. United States, 508 U.S. 106, 113 S. Ct. 1980, 1984, 124 L. Ed. 2d 21 (1993) (suggesting that procedural rules in ordinary civil litigation should not be "interpreted so as to excuse mistakes by those who proceed without counsel"). Moreover, this is not a case where a pro se litigant has stumbled into a snare found only in our case law. Contrast Small v. Secretary of Health & Human Servs., 892 F.2d 15, 16 (2d Cir. 1989) (per curiam).
LoSacco v. City of Middleton, 71 F.3d 88, 92 (2d Cir. 1995).
Finally, when determining a motion for summary judgment, the Court is charged with the function of "issue finding," not "issue resolution." Gallo v. Prudential Residential Servs. Ltd. Partnership, 22 F.3d 1219, 1224 (2d Cir. 1994); Eye Assocs., P.C. v. IncomRx Sys. Ltd. Partnership, 912 F.2d 23, 27 (2d Cir. 1990).
B. The validity of Mandala's claims
Both the State and County Defendants move for summary judgment in their favor dismissing the Complaint, arguing that even when considering the facts alleged in the light most favorable to the plaintiff, Mandala is unable to establish a claim for violations of his civil rights pursuant to the Fifth, Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments of the United States Constitution and Article I, section 5 of the New York Constitution. However, before addressing the substance of this argument the Court must first discuss the preliminary issues raised by the State Defendants regarding the liability of defendants Coughlin and Scully both in their individual and official capacities.
1. Individual liability
Initially, the Court recognizes that "a section 1983 claim for damages against a state official can only be asserted against that official in his or her individual capacity." Al-Jundi v. Estate of Rockefeller, 885 F.2d 1060, 1065 (2d Cir. 1989), citing, Will v. Michigan Dep't of State Police, 491 U.S. 58, 69-70, 105 L. Ed. 2d 45, 109 S. Ct. 2304 (1989); see also Hafer v. Melo, 502 U.S. 21, 24, 116 L. Ed. 2d 301, 112 S. Ct. 358 (1991) (recognizing that suits against state officials in their official capacity constitute suits against the State, and therefore section 1983 suits for damages can only be maintained against state officials in their individual capacities), citing, Kentucky v. Graham, 473 U.S. 159, 87 L. Ed. 2d 114, 105 S. Ct. 3099 (1985).
An individual will not be held vicariously liable under the doctrine of respondeat superior pursuant to section 1983 simply by virtue of that individual having a position of authority. Where "there is no affirmative link between the occurrence of the various incidents of . . . [alleged] misconduct and the adoption of any plan or policy . . . showing approval of such misconduct" there will be no individual liability. Rizzo v. Goode, 423 U.S. 362, 371-81, 46 L. Ed. 2d 561, 96 S. Ct. 598 (1976). "Some personal responsibility of the defendant is required." Al-Jundi, 885 F.2d at 1065, quoting, Johnson v. Glick, 481 F.2d 1028, 1034 (2d Cir.), cert. denied, 414 U.S. 1033, 94 S. Ct. 462, 38 L. Ed. 2d 324 (1973); Ayers v. Coughlin, 780 F.2d 205, 210 (2d Cir. 1985). Accordingly, if the Commissioner of Corrections is not sufficiently involved in an alleged constitutional violation, he will not be held personally liable for the unlawful activity at issue. McKinnon v. Patterson, 568 F.2d 930, 934 (2d Cir. 1977), cert. denied, 434 U.S. 1087, 55 L. Ed. 2d 792, 98 S. Ct. 1282 (1978); Pacheco v. Comisse, 897 F. Supp. 671, 678 (N.D.N.Y. 1995).
As the Second Circuit recognized in Williams v. Smith, 781 F.2d 319, 323-24 (2d Cir. 1986):
A defendant may be personally involved in a constitutional deprivation within the meaning of 42 U.S.C. § 1983 in several ways. The defendant may have directly participated in the infraction. A supervisory official, after learning of the violation through a report or appeal, may have failed to remedy the wrong, . . . . A supervisory official may be liable because he or she created a policy or custom under which unconstitutional practices occurred, or allowed such a policy or custom to continue. Lastly, a supervisory official may be personally liable if he or she was grossly negligent in managing subordinates who caused the unlawful condition or event, . . . . (internal citations omitted)