United States District Court, E.D. New York
January 30, 2004.
AUBREY STEWART, Plaintiff;
RIVERHEAD JAIL, SUFFOLK COUNTY MENTAL HEALTH, DR. PACKER, DR. BADMIJAN, Defendants
The opinion of the court was delivered by: NICHOLAS G. GARAUFIS, District Judge
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER
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
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
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
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
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
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.
For the foregoing reasons, the defendants' motion for summary judgment