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RODRIGUEZ v. AMES
September 30, 2002
ROBERTO RODRIGUEZ, PLAINTIFF,
MICHAEL AMES, ET AL., DEFENDANTS
The opinion of the court was delivered by: Larimer, Chief Judge
Plaintiff, Roberto Rodriguez ("Rodriguez"), brought this action
alleging numerous violations of 42 U.S.C. § 1983. At all times
relevant to this action, plaintiff was an inmate in the custody of the
New York State Department of Correctional Services ("DOCS"). Counts two,
five, and six of plaintiff's twelve-count complaint were previously
dismissed by this Court pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B).*fn1
Defendants now move for partial summary judgment pursuant to
Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c), seeking the dismissal of counts three, four, and
seven through eleven. Defendants also request the denial of all
declaratory and injunctive relief sought by plaintiff, as well as the
dismissal of all causes of action brought against them in their official
Summary judgment is appropriate where "there is no genuine issue as to
any material fact and . . . the moving party is entitled to a judgment as
a matter of law." Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c). In deciding a motion for summary
judgment, the court "must view the evidence in the light most favorable
to the non-moving party and draw all reasonable inferences in its favor."
Sologub v. City of New York, 202 F.3d 175, 178 (2d Cir. 2000) (quotations
omitted). Where, as here, the plaintiff is proceeding pro se, the court
must "read the pleadings . . . liberally and interpret them to raise the
strongest arguments that they suggest." Corcoran v. New York Power
Authority, 202 F.3d 530, 536 (2d Cir. 1999) (quotations omitted).
Nonetheless, "[p]roceeding pro se does not otherwise relieve a litigant
of the usual requirements of summary judgment, and a pro se party's bald
assertions, unsupported by evidence, are insufficient to overcome a
motion for summary judgment." Rodriguez
v. Hahn, 209 F. Supp.2d 344, 348
(S.D.N.Y. 2002) (quoting Parkinson v. Goord, 116 F. Supp.2d 390, 393
A. Denial of Medical Care Claims
Prison medical care, or a lack thereof, may constitute cruel and
unusual punishment, in violation of the Eighth Amendment, where a
defendant acts with `deliberate indifference to [a prisoner's] serious
medical needs.'" Harrison v. Barkley, 219 F.3d 132, 136 (2d Cir. 2000)
(quoting Estelle v. Gamble, 429 U.S. 97, 104 (1976)). A deliberate
indifference claim includes both an objective and a subjective
component. "First, the alleged deprivation must be, in objective terms,
`sufficiently serious.'" Chance v. Armstrong, 143 F.3d 698, 702 (2d Cir.
1998) (quoting Hathaway v. Coughlin, 37 F.3d 63, 66 (2d Cir. 1994)). A
sufficiently serious medical condition is "a condition of urgency that
may result in degeneration or extreme pain." Id.(quotations omitted).
Second, subjectively "the defendant `must act with a sufficiently
culpable state of mind.'"Id. (quoting Hathaway, 37 F.3d at 66). To
establish that a defendant acted with the requisite deliberate
indifference, the plaintiff must show that "`the prison official knew of
and disregarded the plaintiff's serious medical needs.'" Harrison, 219
F.3d at 137 (quoting Chance, 143 F.3d at 703).
Here plaintiff alleges that various medical personal from two different
facilities were deliberately indifferent to his medical needs. Plaintiff
was incarcerated at the Southport Correctional Facility ("Southport")
from April 7, 1998 to August 7, 1998. Plaintiff alleges that during his
stay at Southport, defendant John Alves, a physician and the Facility
Health Services Director, failed to diagnose plaintiff's bowel disorder.
In August of 1998, plaintiff was transferred from Southport to the
Collins Correctional Facility ("Collins"). Plaintiff claims that while at
Collins, defendant Joseph Tan, a physician, also failed to diagnose his
bowel disorder and performed an improper examination in plaintiff's
cell. Plaintiff also claims that Tan failed to provide him with
orthopedic sneakers. Defendant Victor Herbert, the Superintendent at
Collins, supported Tan's determination regarding the sneakers and is also
charged with deliberate indifference. Finally, plaintiff alleges that
defendant Shelley Steeprock, a nurse practitioner, failed to properly
treat an injury to his right hand.
1. Treatment of Plaintiff's Bowel Disorder
a. Claim Against Defendant Alves
Plaintiff claims that he first observed and complained of the presence
of blood in his stool on March 8, 1998, while incarcerated at the Auburn
Correctional Facility ("Auburn"). It was determined at the time that
plaintiff was suffering from hemorrhoids. Plaintiff complained about this
condition several times in April of 1998. Plaintiff's stool tested
positive for the presence of blood and he was scheduled to see a Dr.
Graceffo. However, plaintiff was transferred to Southport before this
examination could be performed.
Plaintiff charges that Dr. John Alves ("Alves"), the Facility Health
Services Director at Southport, was deliberately indifferent to his
serious medical needs because he failed to diagnose and treat this
condition, despite the presence of blood in plaintiff's stool documented
during his stay at Auburn. Complaint, Count 3, ¶ 4. In his response
to Alves's motion for summary judgment, plaintiff also suggests that
Alves must have been notified of his condition
because the Inmate Records
Coordinator at Auburn would have informed Alves of plaintiff's bowel
disorder. Aff. Rebutting Alves Aff., ¶ 12. Plaintiff, concedes,
however, that during his time at Southport, Alves never actually examined
him. Id. at ¶ 4.
A careful examination of the record has not revealed any evidence that
Alves was personally aware of plaintiff's medical condition. When
plaintiff was transferred from Auburn to Southport, he was initially
interviewed concerning his current medical condition. The record of that
health screening and medical orientation make no mention of plaintiff's
complaints of blood in his stool. Aff. Rebutting Alves Aff., Ex. F.
Plaintiff's medical records from Southport show that he first complained
of this condition on April 17, 1998. Alves Aff., Ex. D. It was noted that
plaintiff suffered from hemorrhoids. A record from May 3, 1998, states
that plaintiff tested positive for blood in his stool in March of 1998,
before his transfer to Southport. This condition is not mentioned again
until July 13, 1998, when it is noted that there has been no follow up on
the March 1998 test result. A check of his stool for occult blood was
ordered, and it was noted that the examiner would follow up with a nurse
practitioner. On July 18, 1998, the test returned positive for blood.
There is no indication in any of these records that Alves was informed of
plaintiff's condition. Moreover, other than making a general allegation
that Alves must have known of his condition, plaintiff offers no evidence
to suggest that any of the medical staff had as of yet informed Alves of
On July 27, 1998, plaintiff was examined by a nurse practitioner. Alves
Aff., Ex. B. The examination was normal, with the exception of the report
of blood in plaintiff's stool. The record indicates that the nurse
practitioner would follow up with Dr. Alves. Two days later, Dr. Alves
order a sigmoidoscopy. Alves Aff., Ex. A. Unfortunately, plaintiff was
transferred from Southport before this test could be performed.
Assuming arguendo that plaintiff's medical condition was, in fact,
sufficiently serious, in order to establish that Alves acted with a
sufficiently culpable state of mind, plaintiff must show that Alves "knew
of and disregarded the plaintiff's serious medical needs.'" Harrison, 219
F.3d at 137 (quoting Chance, 143 F.3d at 703). Alves is not responsible
for delays or gaps in treatment solely because he is the Facility Health
Services Director. Brady v. Griffith, 1998 WL 814630, at *5 (S.D.N.Y.
Nov. 23, 1998). The only evidence concerning Alves's knowledge of
plaintiff's condition indicates that he first was notified of plaintiff's
problem on July 27, 1998. Alves then quickly scheduled the necessary
Based on the evidence discussed above, plaintiff has not established
that Alves was deliberately indifferent to his serious medical needs.
Therefore, defendants' motion for summary judgment is granted, and count
three of plaintiff's complaint is dismissed.
b. Claim Against Defendant Tan
Plaintiff charges that further delays in his treatment occurred
following his transfer to Collins in August of 1998. Plaintiff claims
that Dr. Joseph Tan ("Tan"), a physician at Collins, somehow contributed
to this delay. Plaintiff also claims that Tan ...