The opinion of the court was delivered by: Larimer, Chief Judge.
Plaintiff, Hector Leon, appearing pro se, commenced this action
under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Plaintiff, who is an inmate in the
custody of the New York State Department of Correctional
Services, alleges that defendants, who at all relevant times were
employed at Orleans Correctional Facility, failed to apprise Leon
in Spanish, his native language, of Orleans's medical policies,
and that as a result he did not receive his prescribed AIDS
medication until several weeks after he arrived at Orleans.
Plaintiff also alleges that because there were no
Spanish-speaking personnel on the Orleans medical staff,
plaintiff was forced to utilize other inmates as interpreters,
which caused him to disclose his condition to those inmates.
Plaintiff alleges that these acts and omissions violated his
rights to privacy and to be free from cruel and unusual
punishments as guaranteed by the United States Constitution.
Plaintiff requests an award of compensatory damages of $250,000,
and the same amount in punitive damages. Defendants have moved
for summary judgment.
Apparently plaintiff at some point contacted the Legal Aid
Society ("LAS") in New York City, informing them that he had not
been receiving his medication since his transfer to Orleans.*fn1
Michela Bowman, a Legal Assistant at LAS, then wrote a letter
dated April 12, 1996 to a Dr. Hussain at Orleans, asking that
Leon be provided all necessary medications as soon as possible.
Bowman also relayed Leon's concern about having to use inmate
interpreters due to the lack of Spanish-speaking medical staff.
In a letter dated April 12, 1996, defendant Brij Sinha, M.D.
responded to Bowman's letter. Dr. Sinha recommended that Bowman
inform Leon that he needed to pick up his medication at the
infirmary, and informed her that a Spanish-language orientation
packet was available to plaintiff upon his request. With respect
to the interpreter matter, Dr. Sinha stated that Leon "is to
provide his own interpreter." Dr. Sinha said that Orleans had no
Spanish-speaking medical providers on its staff, but that there
were two Spanish-speaking counselors that Leon could contact to
see if they would be willing to be present at sick call.
Bowman then wrote to Leon on April 24, 1996, informing him of
Dr. Sinha's response. Although it is not exactly clear from the
record when plaintiff did begin receiving his medications at
Orleans, it appears that this occurred at around this time. The
record also reflects that Leon was provided with a Spanish
version of the orientation materials on July 2, 1996.
Plaintiff subsequently filed several grievances concerning
these matters. Ultimately these were reviewed by the Central
Office Review Committee, which found that it did not appear that
Leon had any language problems with the Orleans medical staff,
but added that "the use of inmate interpreters for medical
matters is inappropriate. Staff should be used for this purpose."
Affidavit of Sally B. Johnson (Docket Item 45) Ex. E.
The complaint asserts three causes of action. The first alleges
that defendants have provided plaintiff with inadequate medical
care by causing him to go without his medication for an
unreasonable length of time. The second cause of action alleges
that defendants violated plaintiff's right to privacy by allowing
the use of inmate interpreters. The third cause of action appears
simply to restate both of these claims.
I. Denial of Medical Care
Plaintiff's first cause of action (and as explained, to some
extent his third cause of action as well), though citing no
particular legal basis, appears to arise from an alleged
violation of Leon's rights under the Eighth Amendment's
proscription of cruel and unusual punishments. That amendment has
been construed not only to cover "punishments" in the ordinary
sense of that word, but also, in some situations, inadequate
medical care. See, e.g., Farmer v. Brennan, 511 U.S. 825, 827,
114 S.Ct. 1970, 128 L.Ed.2d 811 (1994).
In order to establish a § 1983 claim based on inadequate
medical care, a plaintiff must prove "deliberate indifference to
[his] serious medical needs" on the part of the defendants.
Estelle v. Gamble, 429 U.S. 97, 104, 97 S.Ct. 285, 50 L.Ed.2d
251 (1976). The standard of deliberate indifference includes both
subjective and objective components. "First, the alleged
deprivation must be, in objective terms, `sufficiently serious.'"
Coughlin, 37 F.3d 63, 66 (2d Cir. 1994) (citations omitted),
cert. denied, 513 U.S. 1154, 115 S.Ct. 1108, 130 L.Ed.2d 1074
(1995); Ramos v. O'Connell, 28 F. Supp.2d 796, 802 (W.D.N Y
1998). Second, the defendant "must act with a sufficiently
culpable state of mind." Hathaway, 37 F.3d at 66. An official
acts with the requisite deliberate indifference when 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."
Farmer, 511 U.S. at 837, 114 S.Ct. 1970.
In addition to the Eighth Amendment, the Prison Litigation
Reform Act ("PLRA") also bears upon this case. Pursuant to that
Act, which became effective in 1996, 42 U.S.C. § 1997e(e) now
provides that "[n]o Federal civil action may be brought by a
prisoner confined in a jail, prison, or other correctional
facility, for mental or emotional injury suffered while in
custody without a prior showing of physical injury." Defendants
contend that plaintiff's Eighth Amendment claim fails because
there is no evidence that plaintiff suffered any physical injury
as a result of the delay in his receipt of ...