Plaintiff and persons acting on his behalf expressed their disagreement with the USMS's determination in letters dated October 1, 1996 and October 4, 1996 (Item 6, PP 13-14; Item 9, P 6; Item 10, Exs. B-6, B-8). Following receipt of their objections, on or about October 7, 1996, the USMS in the Western District of New York referred this matter to USMS headquarters, Prisoner Services Division, for review (Item 6, P 16; Item 9, P 6; Item 10, P 4). Captain Withiam-Wilson, Chief Public Health Service officer for the USMS, also determined that the dentures would be considered elective medical treatment (Item 6, PP 16-17; Item 10, P 7).
In addition to referring the matter for review, the USMS transferred plaintiff to the Erie County Holding Center (ECHC) on October 8, 1996, where a nutritious soft food diet could be provided (Item 6, P 15; Item 9, P 8; Item 10, Ex. B-9). On October 11, 1996, plaintiff was examined by Huron O. Hill, Dental Director at the ECHC (Item 7, P 3). At that time, plaintiff reported no discomfort relating to his fractured jaw and tooth extractions (Id.).
Plaintiff was released from USMS custody on February 6, 1997, approximately five and one-half months after his teeth were extracted (Item 6, P 19). Following his release, and prior to filing this lawsuit, plaintiff obtained dentures on his own (Item 19, P 7, Ex. C).
Plaintiff commenced this action on May 2, 1997, seeking relief under the Supreme Court's holding in Bivens, 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and the Federal Tort Claims Act. According to plaintiff, defendants USMS and Chautauqua County were deliberately indifferent to his serious medical needs in violation of the Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution when they decided not to provide him with dentures. Plaintiff is seeking declaratory relief, injunctive relief directing the USMS or Chautauqua County to pay the cost of plaintiff's dentures, injunctive relief directing all defendants to secure dental treatment for plaintiff, monetary damages against the USMS and Chautauqua County reimbursing plaintiff for the cost of his dentures, and costs, expenses and attorney's fees (Item 1).
On July 21, 1997, the federal defendants, the United States Marshals Service, Jay Peck and John McCaffrey, moved for dismissal or summary judgment on the grounds that all requests for injunctive relief are moot, there is no subject matter jurisdiction over plaintiff's tort claim, plaintiff failed to exhaust administrative remedies, plaintiff's constitutional claims against the USMS are barred by the doctrine of sovereign immunity, plaintiff failed to allege personal involvement on the part of the individual federal defendants, plaintiff has failed to demonstrate that he suffered a violation of his constitutional rights, and the individual federal defendants are entitled to qualified immunity.
The county defendants, Chautauqua County, Joseph Gerace, Jerome Ernewein and Zenon Panfil, moved for dismissal or summary judgment on September 10, 1997, on the grounds that plaintiff fails to state a claim against the county defendants, all requests for injunctive relief are moot, plaintiff has failed to demonstrate that he suffered a violation of his constitutional rights, and the individual county defendants are entitled to qualified immunity.
On December 1, 1997, plaintiff responded to defendants' motions, addressing only defendants' claims that he did not suffer a violation of his constitutional rights.
I. INJUNCTIVE RELIEF.
In his first cause of action, plaintiff alleges that the USMS violated the eighth amendment's prohibition against cruel and unusual punishment when they refused to provide him with dentures. Plaintiff's second cause of action directs the same allegations at Chautauqua County through the fourteenth amendment. With respect to both of these defendants, plaintiff seeks declaratory relief as well as injunctive relief directing the USMS or Chautauqua County to pay for plaintiff's dentures and to secure such treatment for plaintiff (Item 1, PP 21-24).
Injunctive relief is an equitable remedy that is typically invoked to preserve the status quo pending a final determination or to prevent future harm. To the extent that plaintiff is seeking an injunction directing reimbursement for the cost of his dentures, his claim should be construed as one for monetary damages rather than for injunctive relief. See Edelman v. Jordan, 415 U.S. 651, 668, 39 L. Ed. 2d 662, 94 S. Ct. 1347 (1974); Yorktown Medical Laboratory, Inc. v. Perales, 948 F.2d 84 (2d Cir. 1991) (rejecting argument that retroactive reimbursement represented injunctive relief rather than damages).
As to plaintiff's requests that the court order the USMS and Chautauqua County to secure dental treatment for plaintiff, the request is moot. "The hallmark of a moot case or controversy is that the relief sought can no longer be given or is no longer needed." Martin-Trigona v. Shiff, 702 F.2d 380 (2d Cir. 1983). See also North Carolina v. Rice, 404 U.S. 244, 30 L. Ed. 2d 413, 92 S. Ct. 402 (1971); Liner v. Jafco, Inc., 375 U.S. 301, 306 n. 3, 11 L. Ed. 2d 347, 84 S. Ct. 391 (1964). By plaintiff's own admission, he has already obtained the treatment requested -- that is, he now has dentures (Item 19, P 7).
Accordingly, defendants' motions are granted with respect to all claims for injunctive relief.
II. BIVENS CLAIM.
In his first cause of action, plaintiff claims that the USMS's refusal to provide him with dentures gives rise to "a cause of action resting directly on the Eighth Amendment's prohibition against cruel and unusual punishment pursuant to the United States Supreme Court decisions in Bivens v. Six Unknown Federal Narcotics Agents, 403 U.S. 388, 91 S. Ct. 1999, 29 L. Ed. 2d 619 (1971), and Carlson v. Green, 446 U.S. 14, 64 L. Ed. 2d 15, 100 S. Ct. 1468 (1980)" (Item 1, P 22).
The federal defendants move for dismissal pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6) for failure to state a claim, or in the alternative, for summary judgment. Because the federal defendants have submitted affidavits and exhibits in support of their motion, the motion is treated as one for summary judgment and disposed of as provided in Rule 56. Plaintiff had notice of defendants' alternative motion, and submitted his own affidavits and exhibits in response.
A. Defendant United States Marshals Service.
To the extent that plaintiff relies on Bivens, summary judgment is granted as to the USMS. Bivens held that where an individual's constitutional rights are violated by a federal agent, the victim has a right to recovery in federal court, even in the absence of a statute conferring such a right. Carlson, supra, 446 U.S. at 18. However, jurisdictional limitations allow a plaintiff to sue only the government officials responsible for the violation, and not the federal agency where they are employed. Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. v. Meyer, 510 U.S. 471, 483-86, 114 S. Ct. 996, 127 L. Ed. 2d 308 (1994) (Bivens does not imply cause of action against the federal government or its agencies); Platsky v. Central Intelligence Agency, 953 F.2d 26, 28 (2d Cir. 1991); Mack v. United States, 814 F.2d 120, 122-23 (2d Cir. 1987) (Bivens actions against the United States are routinely dismissed for lack of subject matter jurisdiction) (citing Keene v. United States, 700 F.2d 836, 845 n. 13 (2d Cir.), cert. denied, 464 U.S. 864, 78 L. Ed. 2d 171, 104 S. Ct. 195 (1983). Jurisdiction is therefore lacking with respect to the USMS, a federal agency.
B. Defendants McCaffrey and Peck.
With respect to the individual USMS employees, the government argues that no question of fact exists as to whether plaintiff suffered a violation of his eight amendment rights, that the individual defendants were not personally involved in the alleged deprivation, and that they would, in any event, be entitled to qualified immunity with respect to plaintiff's claim.
1. Eighth Amendment Violation.
The prohibition against cruel and unusual punishment includes an inmate's right to adequate medical care. Farmer v. Brennan, 511 U.S. 825, 128 L. Ed. 2d 811, 114 S. Ct. 1970 (1994); Hathaway v. Coughlin, 37 F.3d 63 (2d Cir. 1994), cert. denied, 513 U.S. 1154 (1995). In order to establish that this right has been violated, the inmate must satisfy a two-part test.
The first part of the test is objective, and requires the inmate to show that the alleged deprivation is "sufficiently serious." Farmer, supra, 511 U.S. at 834 (quoting Wilson v. Seiter, 501 U.S. 294, 298, 115 L. Ed. 2d 271, 111 S. Ct. 2321 (1991)). In other words, the inmate must show that he is incarcerated under conditions posing a substantial risk of serious harm. Id. This includes not only conditions affecting an inmate's current health problems, but also those that are "sure or very likely to cause serious illness and needless suffering the next week or month or year." Helling v. McKinney, 509 U.S. 25, 33, 125 L. Ed. 2d 22, 113 S. Ct. 2475 (1993). According to the Second Circuit, this standard contemplates '"a condition of urgency, one that might produce death, degeneration, or extreme pain."' Hathaway, supra, 37 F.3d at 66 (2d Cir. 1994) (quoting Nance v. Kelly, 912 F.2d 605, 607 (2d Cir. 1990) (Pratt, J. dissenting)).
The second prong of the test is subjective and requires the inmate to show that the official had a "sufficiently culpable state of mind." Wilson, supra, 501 U.S. at 297, quoted in Farmer, supra, 511 U.S. at 834. The inmate must establish that the official acted or failed to act with deliberate indifference to the inmate's health or safety. As stated by the Second Circuit:
[A] prison official does not act in a deliberately indifferent manner unless that official "knows of and disregards an excessive risk to inmate health or safety; the official must both be aware of facts from which the inference could be drawn that a substantial risk of serious harm exists, and he must also draw the inference."
Hathaway, supra, 37 F.3d at 66 (quoting Farmer, supra, 511 U.S. at 837).
It is clear that dental care has been recognized as "one of the most important medical needs of inmates." Ramos v. Lamm, 639 F.2d 559, 576 (10th Cir.), cert. denied, 450 U.S. 1041, 68 L. Ed. 2d 239, 101 S. Ct. 1759 (1980). The Second Circuit has noted, however, that:
[A] correctional facility is not a health spa, but a prison in which convicted felons are incarcerated. Common experience indicates that the great majority of . . . prisoners would not in freedom or on parole enjoy the excellence in dental care which the plaintiffs understandably seek on their behalf. We are governed by the principle that the objective is to "provide the minimum level of [dental] care required by the Constitution." Ruiz v. Estelle, 679 F.2d 1115, 1150 (5th Cir.), vacated in part as moot, 688 F.2d 266 (5th Cir. 1982), cert. denied, 460 U.S. 1042 (1983). "The essential test is one of medical necessity and not one simply of desirability." Woodall v. Foti. 648 F.2d 268, 272 (5th Cir.1981) (citation omitted).