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DOBBIN v. ARTUZ

April 25, 2001

ANTHONY DOBBIN, PLAINTIFF,
V.
CHRISTOPHER ARTUZ, ET AL., DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Robert W. Sweet, United States District Judge.

OPINION

In this 42 U.S.C. § 1983 action, pro se plaintiff Anthony Dobbin ("Dobbin"), an inmate at the Green Haven Correctional Facility ("Green Haven"), seeks compensatory and punitive damages for injuries arising out of a fall down the stairs at that facility on January 18, 1998, which may have exacerbated his preexisting chronic back condition. Dobbin alleges that by failing to move him to a cell on the first floor of the facility, or the "flats," so that he would not have to use the stairs, the defendants were deliberately indifferent to his serious medical needs, which led to his fall and compounded his back problems.

Defendants Christopher Artuz ("Artuz"), George Schneider ("Schneider"), Charles F. Kelly, Jr., ("Kelly"), Colman S. Wilson ("Wilson"), William F. Glasser ("Glasser"), Sabina Kaplan ("Kaplan"), Norman H. Selwin ("Selwin"), Lynn G. Forgit ("Forgit"), Oliva A. McClean ("McClean"), and Byron Rodas ("Rodas") (collectively "defendants") have moved for summary judgment pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56. Dobbin, who has been provided with the requisite notice advising him of his obligations in surmounting the challenge, opposes the motion only as to Artuz, Kelly, Kaplan, Selwin, McClean, and Rodas. Dobbin concedes that dismissal of the claims against Schneider, Forgit, Wilson, and Glasser, is appropriate.

For the reasons set forth below, the motion will be granted, and the action dismissed as to all defendants.

The Parties

At the time this action arose, Dobbin was an inmate in the custody of the New York State Department of Correctional Services at Green Haven in Stormville, New York. He has subsequently been transferred to the Clinton Correctional Facility in Dannemora, New York.

Artuz was the Superintendent of Green Haven from May 1993 to April 2000, where he was responsible for the overall management and supervision of the facility's staff and inmates.

At all times relevant to this action, Kelly was a correctional officer with the rank of Lieutenant at Green Haven. His duties included acting as Watch Commander, Disciplinary Lieutenant, and conducting disciplinary Tier hearings, as well as investigating staff and inmate complaints. In January 1998, Kelly was assigned to investigate Dobbin's complaint that he had not been moved to a cell on the first floor of the facility, or the "flats."

Wilson, Green Haven's Health Services Sergeant, is responsible for maintaining security at the facility hospital and psychiatric unit, as well as at the areas surrounding the commissary and counseling offices. On January 18, 1998, he was assigned to work as the Housing Sergeant in charge of the F Block, where Dobbin was housed. He was one of the first correctional officers to arrive on the scene of Dobbin's accident.

At all times relevant to this action, Glasser was a Corrections Officer at Green Haven. On January 18, 1998, he was a member of the First Response Team, which required him to respond to emergencies in the facility and care for inmates involved therein.

At all times relevant to this action, Dr. Selwin was the Acting Medical Director at Green Haven. His responsibilities included managing his caseload of patients, reviewing consults with administrators, seeing inmates on sick call, supervising medical staff and ensuring that patients were provided with adequate care.

Dr. Selwin admitted Dobbin to the infirmary following his discharge from Saint Francis Hospital on January 18, 1998 as a result of the fall. At all times relevant to this action, Forgit was a registered nurse at Green Haven. Working the emergency sick call shift, Forgit's responsibilities included examining and treating inmates at emergency sick call and in the infirmary, conducting physical examinations, and taking inmates' medical histories. She was also a member of the Medical Response Team responsible for responding to medical emergencies that arose within the facility.

Forgit was one of the Green Haven staff members who responded to the alert after Dobbin fell.

McClean is a physician's assistant at Green Haven who examines and treats inmates during regular and emergency sick call, and makes rounds in the Special Housing and Protective Custody Units. When serving as the "on-call provider," McClean examines inmates who have medical emergencies. McClean admitted Dobbin to the Green Haven infirmary and ordered medication for him upon his return from St. Francis Hospital on January 19, 1998. Rodas has been a physician's assistant at Green Haven since 1996. In that capacity, he examines and treats patients during regular and emergency sick calls. Rodas examined Dobbin soon after he was transferred to Green Haven from Sing Sing Correctional Facility ("Sing Sing") in 1997, and thereafter served as Dobbin's primary care provider, responsible for Dobbin's overall health care.

Facts

Except as otherwise noted, the following facts are undisputed. Inmates arriving at Green Haven meet with a counselor, medical staff, members of the Program Committee to determine their work assignment, and receive an orientation. (Kaplan Aff. ¶ 8.)

If an inmate states that he is unable to work for medical reasons, Program Committee staff refers the matter to the medical staff, who examine the inmate, review his file, and advise the Committee of any medical considerations pertinent to work assignments. (Kaplan Aff. ¶ 9.) The determination of where inmates are housed depends on two factors: "job assignment" and medical need. (Kaplan Aff. ¶ 10.)

Inmates are primarily housed in housing unit blocks near their work assignments. In addition, inmates may be moved to a cell on the "flats" if they have a specific medical condition requiring such a placement, medical staff authorizes the move, and submits a "work limitation form" to the Program Committee. (Kaplan Aff. ¶¶ 10-11, 13.) The Program Committee must forward the work limitation form to the Unit of Movement and Control before the move can be accomplished. (Kaplan Aff. ¶ 13.) Depending upon availability, the actual transfer of an inmate to a cell on the flats could take anywhere from one day to several weeks. (Kaplan Aff. ¶ 14.) Green Haven contains 84 cells on the flats, which are located on the same floor as the law library, clinic, and mess hall. (Id.) Dobbin was transferred from Sing Sing on June 6, 1997.

As his medical records reflected that he had a history of back problems and had been diagnosed with a herniated disc, Green Haven medical staff scheduled a neurological consult and notified corrections staff that Dobbin had to sleep on a bottom bunk. (Spitzer Dec. Ex. M at 564.) Dobbin was assigned to a cell in the F-Block, on the second floor of the facility. (Kaplan Aff. ¶ 33.)

On June 7, 1997, Dobbin requested an emergency sick call. Rodas authorized a permit for Dobbin with instructions that he be assigned only to a bottom bunk. (Rodas Aff. ¶ 16.) Dobbin requested another emergency sick call on June 9, 1997, and complained to Rodas during his examination that he had pain on his left side, and had not yet been moved to a lower bunk.

Rodas filled out a form instructing the Program Committee to move Dobbin to a bottom bunk, and sent a work limitations form to the Program Committee Chairman excusing Dobbin from work for one week.

Dobbin was also scheduled for an appointment with a health care provider. (Spitzer Dec. Ex. M, at 566, 567; Rodas Aff. ¶ 17.) Dobbin was moved to a bottom bunk in another cell on the second floor on June 13, 1997. (Kaplan Aff. ¶ 34.)

Rodas examined Dobbin on June 17, 1998, and, while Dobbin was walking slowly, his physical examination was otherwise unremarkable. Rodas submitted consultations for several tests for Dobbin's back based on a neurologist's prior recommendation. (Spitzer Dec. Ex. M at 566; Rodas Aff. ¶ 19.)

On June 18, 1997, Rodas issued a work limitation form for Dobbin, which specified that Dobbin may not stand long, bend, squat, push, or pull, but may walk, do hand work, light work, and must be assigned to a bottom bunk. (Spitzer Dec. Ex. M at 570; Kaplan Aff. ¶ 19; Rodas Aff. ¶ 20.)

Dobbin requested a block sick call on June 19, 1997 for chronic foot problems. Rodas examined him several days later, on June ...


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