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United States District Court, E.D. New York

January 30, 2004.


The opinion of the court was delivered by: NICHOLAS G. GARAUFIS, District Judge


Aubrey Stewart ("plaintiff), appearing pro se, brought an action pursuant to § 42 U.S.C. § 1983 on February 28, 2000 alleging that defendants, Riverhead Jail, Suffolk County Mental Health, Dr. Packer and Dr. Badmijan ("defendants"), violated his Eighth Amendment right to be free from cruel and unusual punishment. In his complaint, the plaintiff claims that the medical treatment the defendants provided while the plaintiff was incarcerated was so inadequate as to constitute deliberate indifference toward his health. On January 4, 2002, the defendants submitted a motion for summary judgment. In their motion, the defendants allege that the medical treatment they provided to the plaintiff did not amount to deliberate indifference to the plaintiff's health and thus was not a violation of the Mr. Stewart's Eighth Amendment rights. For the following reasons, the court GRANTS the defendants' motion for summary judgment.

I. Background

  The plaintiff was placed in Riverhead County Jail in Suffolk County on January 3, 1999. Rider to Plaintiff's Complaint ("RPC") at 1. The plaintiff had a history of depression for which Page 2 material fact. See Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323 (1986).

  In deciding a motion for summary judgment, the court must construe the facts in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party, Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 255 (1986), and all reasonable inferences and ambiguities must be resolved against the moving party. Flanigan v. Gen. Elec. Co., 242 F.3d 78, 83 (2d Cir. 2001).

 III. 42 U.S.C. § 1983

  42 U.S.C. § 1983 establishes liability for


every person who, under color of any statute or ordinance, regulation, custom, or usage, of any State or Territory or the District of Columbia, subjects or causes to be subjected, any citizen of the United States or other person within the jurisdiction thereof to the deprivation of any lights, privileges, or immunities secured by the Constitution and laws . . .
42 U.S.C. § 1983. In this instance, it is the Suffolk County Jail, its mental health staff, and two of its doctors whom the plaintiff believes violated his Eighth Amendment right to be free of cruel and unusual punishment.*fn1 Specifically, the petitioner claims that the poor quality of medical care he received while incarcerated in the county jail and the injuries that resulted from that care constitute this alleged violation of the Eighth Amendment.

  The government does, in fact, have an obligation to provide medical care to a person who is incarcerated. See Estelle v. Gamble, 429 U.S. 97, 103 (1976). A prisoner may prevail on a Section 1983 claim for insufficient medical care in violation of the Eighth Amendment only if the defendant acted with "deliberate indifference to the [prisoner's] medical needs" Id. at 104 Page 3 Such Indifference would amount to the "unnecessary and wanton infliction of pain proscribed by the Eighth Amendment." Id. (internal quotations omitted). To succeed on such a claim, the prisoner must allege specific acts or omission that brought about his injuries. These injuries may not be the product only of misdirected treatment decisions as "medical malpractice does not become a constitutional violation merely because the victim is a prisoner." Id. at 106.

  In order to establish an Eighth Amendment claim for medical mistreatment, the plaintiff must offer evidence sufficient to prove both subjective and objective elements. According to the Second Circuit:

[f]irst, the alleged deprivation must be, in objective terms, sufficiently serious. Second, the defendant must act with a sufficiently culpable state of mind. An official acts with the requisite deliberate indifference when the official knows of and disregards an excessive risk of 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.
Chance v. Armstrong, 143 F.3d 698, 702 (2d Cir. 1998) (internal quotations omitted).

  The plaintiff has not submitted any proof on the issue of deliberate indifference. The defendants, on the other hand, have submitted the affidavit of a physician, Dr. Phillips, who claims that the medical care the plaintiff received was appropriate. Because Trazadone is an anti-depressant, and the plaintiff complained to Dr. Packard of depression, the administration of such drug was "specifically intended to alleviate the problems the plaintiff was experiencing." PPA at 13. Furthermore, each time the plaintiff complained to the doctors about the side effects of his treatment, the doctors responded by adjusting his dosage. The plaintiff was not taken off the drug immediately because a person must be weaned from Trazadone in order to avoid withdrawal symptoms. Id. at 15. Rather than appearing deliberately indifferent to the plaintiff's health and Page 4 safety, the doctors attempted to address his self-proclaimed depression and, throughout his course of treatment, responded to his requests by calibrating and eventually weaning him from his medication.

  There also is no evidence that this treatment itself caused the conditions of which the plaintiff complains. Mr. Stewart asserts that it was the Trazadone which gave him cardiac and vision related problems. He provides no evidence, however, which a jury could consider regarding this claim. On the other hand, Dr. Phillips asserts that "there is no known way in which the administration of Trazadone could have been the cause" of his cardiac injuries or loss of vision. Id. at 15-16. Based on the undisputed facts, the plaintiff is unable to establish either the subjective or objective components necessary to make an Eighth Amendment claim arising from the inadequate provision of medical care.

 IV. Conclusion

  For the foregoing reasons, the defendants' motion for summary judgment is GRANTED.


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