United States District Court, Northern District of New York
September 25, 2000
RUSSEL J. IRBY, PLAINTIFF,
ART FRISNIA, JR., EVENING DOCTOR, CAPE VINCENT CORRECTIONAL FACILITY; MARCEL THIBERT, NURSE, CAPE VINCENT CORRECTIONAL FACILITY; AND HORACE THIBERT, NURSE, CAPE VINCENT CORRECTIONAL FACILITY, DEFENDANTS.
The opinion of the court was delivered by: Kahn, District Judge.
MEMORANDUM — DECISION AND ORDER
Presently before the Court is Plaintiff's motion for summary
judgment and Defendants' cross motion for summary judgment. For
the reasons set forth below, Plaintiff's motion is DENIED and
Defendants' motion is GRANTED.
On December, 7, 1998, Plaintiff, an inmate residing at the Cape
Vincent Correctional Facility, brought this action pursuant to
42 U.S.C. § 1983 claiming that he received inadequate medical
treatment for an injury suffered on March 11, 1998. Plaintiff's
complaint states that, on that date, he was playing basketball
and injured the back of his right heel. Defendant Frisnia
examined Plaintiff within an hour of his initial injury and
concluded that, although the back of his heel was slightly
swollen, he most likely sprained his ankle and treated him
On March 14, 1998, Plaintiff returned to visit Defendant
Frisnia during "Emergency Sick Call" to receive immediate care.
He requested to see a Doctor and, although Defendant Frisnia
noted additional swelling around Plaintiff's ankle, he denied
this request because of his mistaken belief that Plaintiff had
sprained his ankle. He directed Plaintiff to continue wearing his
ace bandage. Additionally, he proceeded to file a disciplinary
action against Plaintiff for misrepresenting his condition as
On March 16, 1998 and March 23, 1998, Plaintiff reported to
morning sick call and was examined by Defendant Thibert. At the
March 16 examination, Defendant Thibert concluded that Plaintiff
might have "pulled" his Achilles tendon. When Plaintiff exhibited
little improvement on March 23, Defendant Thibert recommended
that he see a physician.
Defendant Rosner, a physician, examined Plaintiff on March 25,
2000 and concluded that Plaintiff had either sprained or torn his
Achilles tendon. He admitted Plaintiff to the infirmary and
referred him to an outside orthopedic surgeon. An outside
orthopedic surgeon examined Plaintiff on March 27, 1998 and
concluded that Plaintiff had an acute Achilles tendon rupture
(tear). The surgeon surgically repaired it that same day. Other
than occasional nagging pain in the Achilles tendon area,
Plaintiff has enjoyed a complete recovery from his injury.
Plaintiff moved for summary judgment pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P.
56(b) on January 22, 2000 on the grounds that Defendants' actions
in treating his torn tendon violated the Eighth Amendment.
Defendants cross-moved for summary judgment on February 10, 2000.
A. Standard of Review
The standard for summary judgment is well-established. Summary
judgment is appropriate if "the pleadings, depositions, answers
to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with the
affidavits, if any, show that there is no genuine issue as to any
material fact and that the moving party is entitled to a judgment
as a matter of law." Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c). A material fact is
genuinely disputed only if, based on that fact, a reasonable jury
could find in favor of the non-moving party. See Anderson v.
Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248, 106 S.Ct. 2505, 91
L.Ed.2d 202 (1986). On a motion for summary judgment, all
evidence must be viewed and all inferences must be drawn in a
light most favorable to the nonmoving party. See City of Yonkers
v. Otis Elevator Co., 844 F.2d 42, 45 (2d Cir. 1988).
The party seeking summary judgment bears the initial burden of
"informing the district court of the basis for its motion"
and identifying the matter "it believes demonstrate[s] the
absence of a genuine issue of material fact." Celotex Corp. v.
Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323, 106 S.Ct. 2548, 91 L.Ed.2d 265
(1986). Upon the movant's satisfying that burden, the onus then
shifts to the non-moving party to "set forth specific facts
showing that there is a genuine issue for trial." Anderson, 477
U.S. at 250, 106 S.Ct. 2505. The non-moving party "must do more
than simply show that there is some metaphysical doubt as to the
material facts," Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio
Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 586, 106 S.Ct. 1348, 89 L.Ed.2d 538 (1986),
"but must set forth specific facts showing that there is a
genuine issue of fact for trial." First Nat'l Bank of Az. v.
Cities Serv. Co., 391 U.S. 253, 288, 88 S.Ct. 1575, 20 L.Ed.2d
B. Plaintiff's Eighth Amendment Claim
In order to establish an Eighth Amendment claim arising out of
inadequate medical care, as made applicable to states by the
Fourteenth Amendment, a prisoner must prove "deliberate
indifference to serious medical needs." Estelle v. Gamble,
429 U.S. 97, 104, 97 S.Ct. 285, 50 L.Ed.2d 251 (1976). This standard
includes both subjective and objective components. "First, the
alleged deprivation must be, in objective terms, `sufficiently
serious.'" Hathaway v. Coughlin, 37 F.3d 63, 66 (2d Cir. 1994)
(citations omitted). Second, subjectively, the defendant "must
act with a sufficiently culpable state of mind." Id. An
official acts with deliberate indifference when he "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 v. Brennan,
511 U.S. 825, 837, 114 S.Ct. 1970, 128 L.Ed.2d 811 (1994).
The Supreme Court has held that a showing of mere negligence
"in diagnosing or treating a medical condition does not state a
valid claim of medical mistreatment under the Eighth Amendment"
and that "medical malpractice does not become a constitutional
violation merely because the victim is a prisoner." Estelle,
429 U.S. at 106, 97 S.Ct. 285; see Harrison v. Barkley,
219 F.3d 132, 136 (2d Cir. 2000) (citing Hathaway v. Coughlin,
37 F.3d 63, 66 (2d Cir. 1994) ("Deliberate indifference requires
more than negligence, but less than conduct undertaken for the
very purpose of causing harm.")).
As to whether the alleged deprivation of medical treatment at
issue in this case was objectively serious, "in the sense that a
condition of urgency, one that may produce death degeneration, or
extreme pain exists," Plaintiff has alleged facts that could
potentially show that his condition was sufficiently painful to
satisfy the objective prong of the deliberate indifference test
under the Eighth Amendment. Hathaway, 99 F.3d at 553; see
Hemmings v. Gorczyk, 134 F.3d 104, 109 (2d Cir. 1998) (stating
that prison medical staff's misdiagnosis of a Plaintiff's torn
Achilles tendon as a bad sprain while ignoring the severity of
his condition could satisfy the objective prong of the deliberate
Unfortunately, Plaintiff has not advanced sufficient evidence
to indicate that the defendants acted with a sufficiently
culpable state of mind to satisfy the deliberate indifference
standard.*fn1 At no time did the Defendants refuse to treat
Plaintiff. At most they are guilty of negligence in failing to
initially diagnose his injury, but even this misdiagnosis was
based on a reasonable, although incorrect, assessment of
Plaintiff's condition. Consequently, this Court must deny
Plaintiff's motion for
summary judgment and grant summary judgment in favor of
For the reasons stated, it is hereby
ORDERED that Plaintiff's motion for summary judgment dismiss is
DENIED; and it is further
ORDERED that Defendant's motion for summary judgment is GRANTED
and that the case be DISMISSED in its entirety; and it is
FURTHER ORDERED that the Clerk of the Court serve a copy of
this Order on all parties by regular mail.
IT IS SO ORDERED.