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DAVIDSON v. SCULLY

August 22, 2001

RONALD DAVIDSON, PLAINTIFF,
v.
CHARLES SCULLY, ET AT, DEFENDANT. RONALD DAVIDSON, PLAINTIFF, V. THOMAS COUGHLIN, III, ET AT, DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Leisure, United States District Court Judge.

OPINION AND ORDER

Plaintiff; Ronald Davidson, brings this action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, alleging violations of his Eighth Amendment right to adequate medical care while incarcerated by the New York State Department of Correctional Services ("DOCS"). The named defendants are: Thomas Coughlin, former Commissioner of DOCS; Charles Scully, Superintendent of Green Haven Correctional Facility ("Green Haven"); Dean Riley, Deputy Superintendent of Security at Green Haven; E. Michael Kalomck, Health Services Administrator at Green Haven; Dr. Marc Freedman, Facilities Health Services Director at Green Haven; Wayne Strack, Lieutenant at Green Haven; Dennis Thomson, Sergeant at Green Haven; Angelo Senisi, Senior Counselor at Green Haven; and Gerald Gallagher, Assistant Superintendent of Industries at Green Haven.

Plaintiffs actions allege a continuous and ongoing failure by defendants to provide him with adequate medical care for four distinct medical conditions. Plaintiff alleges that defendants have: i) failed to treat his foot problems by failing to provide him with access to a podiatrist and orthopedic footwear; ii) refused to treat his allergies by denying him allergy shots, denying him access to an allergist, ceasing to provide his allergy medication, and denying him housing in a smoke-free environment; iii) failed to treat his tinnitus by denying him ear plugs, specific medications, a masking device, participation in a sleep study, and housing in quieter sections of the correctional facilities; and iv) denied him treatment of his vision problems by denying him, at various times, contact lenses, the use of eye lubricants, access to monitoring of his contact lens use, and correctly ground lenses for his eyeglasses.

Plaintiff originally brought these actions pro se pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, in the early 1980s, alleging violations of his Eighth Amendment right to adequate medical treatment during his incarceration at Green Haven. Plaintiff amended his 81 Civ. 0390 complaint in 1990 to add Thomas Coughlin, the DOCS Commissioner at the time, as a defendant. After retaining pro bono counsel in 1996, plaintiff filed a Supplemental Amended Complaint to update his claims to include events that took place after his transfer to Auburn Correctional Facility. In Davidson v. Coughlin, 914 F. Supp. 1011, 1, 015 (S.D.N.Y. 1996), the Court denied plaintiffs motion for a preliminary injunction regarding the claims underlying these actions, holding that plaintiff could not demonstrate a likelihood of success on the merits regarding the seriousness of his medical concerns. In May 2001, the Court granted in part plaintiffs motion for leave to submit additional evidence in further opposition to defendants' motion for summary judgment, Davidson v. Coughlin, 148 F. Supp.2d 249 (S.D.N.Y. 2001) [hereinafter, "Davidson II"], and plaintiff submitted evidence regarding his medical treatment since his incarceration at Elmira Correctional Facility. On August 2, 2001, the Court denied plaintiffs request for permission to submit more supplemental evidence.*fn1 Pursuant to Rule 56 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, defendants now move for summary judgment. Defendants' motion is granted in its entirety.*fn2

DISCUSSION

I. Summary Judgement Standard

A moving party is entitled to summary judgment 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 judgment a matter of law." Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(c); see also Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322-23 (1986); Holt v. KMI-Continental Inc.., 95 F.3d 123, 128 (2d Cir. 1996). When considering a motion for summary judgment, the Court's responsibility is not "to resolve disputed issues of fact but to assess whether there are any factual issues to be tried." Knight v. U.S. Fire Ins. Co., 804 F.2d 9, 11 (2d Cir. 1986). In determining whether genuine issues of material fact exist, the Court must resolve all ambiguities and draw all justifiable inferences in favor of the nonmoving party. See Anderson v. Liberty Lobby. Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 255 (1986); Holt, 95 F.3d at 129.

The moving party bears the burden of demonstrating that no genuine issue of material fact exists. See Adickes v. S.H. Kress & Co., 398 U.S. 144, 157 (1970); Gallo v. Prudential Residential Serv. L.P., 22 F.3d 1219, 1223-24 (2d Cir. 1994). "[T]he movant's burden will be satisfied if he can point to an absence of evidence to support an essential element of the nonmoving party's claim." Goenaga v. March of Dimes Birth Defects Found., 51 F.3d 14, 18 (2d Cir. 1995). Once the moving party discharges his burden of demonstrating that no genuine issue of material fact exists, the burden shifts to the nonmoving party to offer specific evidence showing that a genuine issue for trial exists. See Celotex, 477 U.S. at 324. The nonmoving 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 (1986). "A "genuine' dispute over a material fact only arises if the evidence would allow a reasonable jury to return a verdict for the nonmoving party." Dister v. Continental Group, 859 F.2d 1108, 1114 (2d Cir. 1988) (quoting Liberty Lobby, 477 U.S. at 248).

II. Plaintiff's Eighth Amendment Claims

In order to establish an Eighth Amendment claim for inadequate medical care, a prisoner must prove "deliberate indifference to serious medical needs." Estelle v. Gamble, 429 U.S. 97, 106 (1976); see also Chance v. Armstrong, 143 F.3d 698, 702 (2d Cir. 1998). To satisfy this standard, the prisoner must satisfy both a subjective and an objective prong.

First, the alleged medical need must be, in objective terms, "sufficiently serious." Chance, 143 F.3d at 702. A condition is "sufficiently serious" under the Eighth Amendment if it is "a condition of urgency that may result in degeneration or extreme pain." Id. (internal quotes omitted). Medical needs that have been deemed to be sufficiently serious by the Second Circuit include: an untreated tooth cavity see Harrison v. Barklev, 219 F.3d 132, 137 (2d Cir. 2000); chronic tooth pain lasting six months, rendering prisoner unable to chew and resulting in tooth degeneration, see Chance, 143 F.3d at 702; a ruptured Achilles tendon see Hemmings v. Gorczvk, 134 F.3d 104, 107 (2d Cir. 1998); deprivation of "prescribed eye-glasses to avoid double vision and the loss of depth perception," Koehl v. Dalsheim, 85 F.3d 86, 88 (2d Cir. 1996); and delay in removing broken hip pins from a prisoner's hip for more than two years, see Hathaway v. Coughlin, 37 F.3d 63, 66 (2d Cir. 1994).

Second, to satisfy the subjective prong, the defendant must act with "a sufficiently culpable state of mind" that amounts to "deliberate indifference" to the serious medical need. Hathaway, 37 F.3d at 67. 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." Id. at 66. "[D]eliberate indifference entails something more than mere negligence," Farmer v. Brennan, 511 U.S. 825, 835 (1994), and "[m]edical malpractice does not become a constitutional violation merely because the victim is a prisoner." Estelle, 429 U.S. at 106. "Thus, a complaint that a physician has been negligent in diagnosing or treating a medical condition does not state a valid claim of medical mistreatment under the Eighth Amendment." Id.

A. Plaintiff's Podiatric Condition


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