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JONES v. H.H.C. INC.

April 8, 2003

JEROME JONES, PLAINTIFF, AGAINST H.H.C. INC. PRESIDENT LUIS MARCOS, IN HIS OFFICIAL AND PERSONAL CAPACITY; H.H.C. INC. VICE PRESIDENT FRANK CIRILLO, IN HIS OFFICIAL AND PERSONAL CAPACITY AND ST. BARNABAS HOSPITAL, AND ST. VINCENT'S MEDICAL CENTER, DR. CONYER'S/DR. O'CONNERS BOTH AND THE STAFF AT M.D.C. AS FOLLOWS: "MARTIN" JOHN DOE, "C. WOOTEN" JANE DOE, "C. SMITH" JANE DOE, "SHARON" JANE DOE; "CALDERON" JANE DOE; "GRANDMA" JANE DOE; AND "FAT MAN" JOHN DOE, ALL IN THEIR OFFICIAL AND PERSONAL CAPACITY, DEFENDANTS.


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Frank Maas, United States Magistrate Judge

REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION TO THE HONORABLE DEBORAH A. BATTS

I. Introduction

Plaintiff Jerome Jones is a former State inmate currently released on parole.*fn1 In this pro se civil rights action under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, he claims that while he was lodged at the Manhattan Detention Complex ("MDC") prior to his conviction, certain of the defendants gave him the anticoagulant Heparin, and other drugs contained in gelatin capsules, thereby exposing him to products containing pork. Jones is a Muslim. Liberally construed, his complaint alleges that the defendants violated the First Amendment by not allowing him to exercise his religious rights and the Eighth Amendment by being deliberately indifferent to his serious medical needs.

Defendants Luis Marcos, President of the New York City Health and Hospitals Corporation ("HHC"), Frank Cirillo, HHC's Vice President, and St. Barnabas Hospital ("St. Barnabas") have moved to dismiss Jones's Amended Complaint, pursuant to Rule 12(b) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, on numerous grounds, including nonexhaustion of Jones's administrative remedies, failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted, and qualified immunity. (See Docket Nos. 12, 23). Jones, in turn, has filed a motion for a default judgment against six of the individual defendants. (Docket No. 18). For the reasons set forth below, I recommend that the defendants' motions be granted, that Jones's motion be denied, and that the Amended Complaint be dismissed with prejudice as against all of the defendants.

II. Facts

I have assumed for present purposes that the facts set forth in the Amended Complaint and Jones's other papers are true. Those facts, and other matters of public record, are as follows:

In 1989, while he was incarcerated at the Woodbourne Correctional Facility on another charge, Jones learned that he had a life-threatening illness. (See Am. Compl. at 9). Despite that diagnosis, he was not given suitable medical treatment by State officials. (Id.).

By 1999, Jones had been released from state custody and was receiving dialysis treatment. (Id. at 5; http://nysdocslookup.docs.state.ny.us/kinqw00 (last visited Apr. 4, 2003)). On November 23, 1999, he was arrested at his dialysis center following his failure to appear in state court on a date when he actually was hospitalized. (Am. Compl. at 5). He was lodged at the Brooklyn House of Detention after his arrest, but soon was transferred to the MDC so that he could continue his dialysis. (Id.). From November 24, 1999 through May 14, 2000 — a period of nearly six months — the medical treatment that Jones received at the MDC involved the use of pork by-products, including Heparin.*fn2 (Id. at 5-6).

As a practicing Muslim, Jones may not use products containing pork. (Id. at 5). On or about November 29, 1999, Jones informed John Doe (Conyer's/O'Conners), a doctor at the MDC, that he wanted to be given another form of Heparin — "[s]uch as Beef, Lamb [or] Synthe[t]ics" — so that he would not have to compromise his religious beliefs.*fn3 (Id.). The doctor rebuffed that request, stating: "This is medicine, a blood thinner, that you need for your dialysis's [sic] treatment." (Id.). Thereafter, throughout his stay at the MDC, many of the individual defendants, including John Doe (Conyer's/Conners) regularly gave Jones pork-based Heparin in the course of his dialysis treatments. (Id. at 6). Jones contends that this would not have occurred had he been Jewish or a Jehovah's Witness. (Id. at 7).

Jones claims to have suffered "psychological injury . . . punctuated by nightmares and . . . sleepless nights" as a consequence of the defendants' actions. (Id.). He further contends that the use of pork-based Heparin exacerbated his high blood pressure. (Id. at 5). For these alleged wrongs, Jones seeks to recover $80 million consisting of $40 million for his emotional pain and suffering, an additional $10 million in compensatory damages, and $30 million in punitive damages. (Id. at 8).

Jones concedes in his Amended Complaint that he did not present the facts giving rise to his claims to the MDC through its prisoner grievance procedure. (Id. ¶¶ II.A, B). Instead, because he was a "member of the [MDC's] Inmate Counsel [B]oard," Jones filed a "report" "with[] the in house Inmate Counsel at M.D.C." and made his grievance know n directly to the Warden. (Id. ¶ II.B, C; Pl.'s Affirm. in Supp. of Mot. Not to Dismiss Pl.'s Am. Compl. ("Rebuttal") ¶ 3). He was awaiting a response from the Inmate Counsel when he w as declared "State Ready" and transferred from the MDC. (Rebuttal ¶ 3).

Jones's original Complaint was dated February 24, 2000 and received by this Court's Pro Se Office on May 5, 2000. (Docket No. 1). In that pleading, Jones named as defendants the City of New York and the Department of Correction ("DOC")(the "municipal defendants"), as well as HHC, St. Barnabas, and St. Vincent's Medical Center (the "hospital defendants"). On August 30, 2000, Chief Judge Mukasey dismissed the Complaint sua sponte. (Docket No. 2). In his order, Judge Mukasey held that the municipal defendants could not be held liable in the absence of an officially-adopted policy or custom that directly caused Jones to be deprived of a constitutional right. (Id. at 2-3). Although Jones was given leave to file an amended complaint within sixty days, Judge Mukasey directed that he name as defendants only those individuals who were directly involved in the allegedly unlawful conduct and detail each of their specific roles. (Id. at 3-6).

Jones's Amended Complaint, which was timely filed, deleted the municipal defendants from the caption, maintained his claims against the hospital defendants, and added several individual defendants. (See Docket No. 4). Thereafter Jones agreed to dismiss his claims against St. Vincent's Medical Center. (Docket No. 26).

Following the filing of St. Barnabas' motion to dismiss, Jones submitted a memorandum of law, in which he argued that the inmate grievance procedures in the City's jails are "a farce and a sham" because standard grievance forms are rarely, if ever, available, and, even if completed, are picked up only twice a month and not answered for an additional month. (Docket No. 19 at 2-3). Despite his criticisms of the grievance system, Jones asked ...


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