United States District Court, S.D. New York
February 6, 2004.
RUSSELL MANLEY, Plaintiff,
WILLIAM M. MAZZUCA, Superintendent; THOMAS G. EAGEN, Director I.G.P.; JOHN/JANE DOE, C.P.S.; JOHN/JANE DOE, Div. of Health Svcs.; JOHN & JANE DOES, I.G.P.C.O.R.C. In their Individual and Official Capacities, Defendants
The opinion of the court was delivered by: BARBARA JONES, District Judge
Opinion and Order
Plaintiff pro se Russell Manley brings this action against Defendants,
alleging violations of his federal constitutional rights 28 U.S.C. § 1983
Defendants have moved to dismiss this action For the reasons set forth
below, Defendants' motion is DENIED
On or about June 29, 1999, while confined at the Fishkill Correctional
Facility, Plaintiff sustained a laceration on the thumb of his right hand
and severed a nerve When he reported to the prison medical clinic,
Plaintiff's thumb was stitched by Physician's Assistant Macomber, who did
not realize that a nerve had been severed (Compl ¶ 6) At some later
was examined at the clinic by Dr. J. J. Francis, who referred plaintiff
to a hand surgeon for a consultation. The hand surgeon examined
Plaintiff, determined that Plaintiff had lost full movement of his right
thumb, and recommended that surgery be performed to restore the lost
movement. (Compl. ¶ 7).
Dr. Francis reviewed the hand surgeon's report and recommended to the
Facility Health Service Director that the surgery be performed. The
Facility Health Service Director forwarded the consultation report to
United Correctional Managed Care Inc., the facility's health care
provider, who denied the request for Plaintiff's surgery.*fn1 (Compl.
After the recommendation for Plaintiff's surgery was denied, Plaintiff
began experiencing pain in his thumb He repeatedly went to the prison
clinic for medical attention, complaining of pain and restricted movement
When he was unable to obtain relief from the prison clinic, Plaintiff
filed a grievance complaint I.G.P. Supervisor Goidel responded to
Plaintiff's grievance and advised him that the facility's request for
surgery had been denied by the facility's health care provider Supervisor
Goidel further advised Plaintiff that if he "disagree [d] with this
decision," he should contact Dr. A Lang, Regional Medical Director at
Arthurkill Correctional Facility
he wished to pursue a formal grievance. (Compl. ¶ 9).
"Plaintiff pursued a formal grievance, and the Inmate Grievance
Resolution Committee ("IRGC") submitted a recommendation stating: "We
recommend grievant appeal CPS [healthcare provider] denial to Dr. A.
Lang, Regional Medical Director at Arthur Kill C.F." (Compl. ¶ 10).
Plaintiff appealed the IRGC response to Defendant Superintendent Mazzuca,
who stated that he "concur[red] with the recommendation of the I.G.R.C."
(Compl. ¶ 11).
Plaintiff filed a further appeal with Defendant Thomas Eagen at the
Inmate Grievance Program Central Office Review Committee ("CORC").
Defendant Eagen denied Plaintiff's grievance on January 31, 2001, stating
CORC concurs with the Superintendent in that the
surgical referral submitted by the facility for an
Orthopedic appointment in March was denied by the
health care provider. CORC notes that proper
medications were ordered by the doctor. The grievant
has been seen at sick call for complaints regarding
pains in his left hand. However, there is no record
that the grievant has made any complaints regarding
pain in his right hand.
(Compl. ¶ 12; Ex. 5). Plaintiff wrote to Dr. A. Lang on March 21,
2001, requesting a review of the health care provider's determination. He
received no response. (Compl. ¶ 13).
Defendants have moved to dismiss this action on the bases that (1)
Plaintiff "ignored the proper avenue which could have awarded him the
relief he now seeks in this Court"; (2) Plaintiff's Complaint does not
alleged personal involvement on the part of the named Defendants.
Defendants also move, in the alternative, to dismiss on the grounds that
the named Defendants are entitled to qualified immunity.
A. The "Proper Avenue" for Relief
Defendants ask the Court to dismiss Plaintiff's complaint because
Plaintiff "willingly chose the wrong avenue to address his complaint
about his medical treatment, solely for the purpose of bringing this
lawsuit." (Def. Mem. at 4-5). Defendants state that if Plaintiff had
raised his complaints with Dr. Lang, "he could have received the
treatment he now seeks here prior to filing this lawsuit, and this
complaint would be moot." (Def. Mem. at 5). Defendants rely on
42 U.S.C. § 1997e(c) for their argument that the Court should dismiss
Plaintiff's Complaint because of his "manipulative and duplicitous
behavior." (Def. Mem. at 5).
Plaintiff states that he pursued his grievance rather than simply
contacting Dr. Lang because he believed that if he failed to file all
necessary appeals, he would be considered to have abandoned his
administrative remedies. Plaintiff was concerned
about pursuing available administrative remedies becuase he believed that
he would have no ability to challenge Dr. Lang's finding if it were
adverse to him. (Pl. Mem. at 1-3). Rather than using the grievance
process in a manipulative fashion, Plaintiff claims that he was simply
attempting to follow Department of Correction procedures. Moreover, after
he exhausted his administrative remedies, Plaintiff sent a letter to Dr.
Title 42 U.S.C. § 1997e(c) states, in relevant part, that a court
shall dismiss a prison conditions case if the action "is frivolous,
malicious, fails to state a claim upon which relief can be granted, or
seeks monetary relief from a defendant who is immune from such relief."
Because this is a motion to dismiss the complaint, the Court must accept
all of Plaintiff's factual allegations as true and does not find them
frivolous. Barnett v. Int'l Bus. Machines, 885 F. Supp. 581, 585
(S.D N.Y. 1995) Moreover, the Court accepts Plaintiff's explanation that
he was not acting in a malicious manipulative manner when he pursued
administrative remedies before contacting Dr. Lang. Thus, this action
will not be dismissed pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1997e(c)
B. Personal Involvement
"In this Circuit, personal involvement of defendants in alleged
constitutional deprivations is a prerequisite to an award of damages
under § 1983 " McKinnon v. Patterson, 568 F.2d 930,
934 (2d Cir. 1977), cert. denied, 434 U.S. 1087 (1978). A plaintiff may
allege personal involvement of supervisory defendant if he alleges: (1)
the defendant participated directly in the alleged constitutional
violation, (2) the defendant, after being informed of the violation
through a report or appeal, failed to remedy the wrong, (3) the defendant
created a policy or custom under which unconstitutional practices
occurred, or allowed the continuance of such a policy or custom, (4) the
defendant was grossly negligent in supervising subordinates who committed
the wrongful acts, or (5) the defendant exhibited deliberate indifference
to the rights of inmates by failing to act on information indicating that
unconstitutional acts were occurring. Colon v. Coughlin, 58 F.3d 865, 873
(2d Cir. 1995) Here, Plaintiff alleges that Defendants Mazzuca and
Eagen, "after learning of plaintiff's injury, pain and suffering, were
deliberately indifferent towards plaintiff's rights under the Eighth and
Fourteenth Amendments [and] grossly negligent in their duties " (Compl.
at p. 5-6) Defendants argue that Plaintiff's claims should be dismissed
because he fails to allege sufficient personal involvement on the part of
the named Defendants.*fn2
Defendent Mazzuca, after receiving Plaintiff's grievance appeal, took
no action. Instead, he told Plaintiff that he "concurred with the
recommendation of the I.G.R.C." (Compl. ¶ 11). Defendants rely on Colon
v. Coughlin for their argument that this review of Plaintiff's grievance
is insufficient to establish personal involvement. (Def. Mem. at 6-7).
The Court disagrees.
In Colon, the Superintendent took no action in response to a letter the
plaintiff had mailed to him complaining about unconstitutional conduct.
The court found that the Superintendent was not liable because plaintiff
was already scheduled to have a hearing on the same issue. The court saw
"no reason why [the Superintendent] should have intervened in advance of
an established procedure in which Colon was to be given the opportunity
to substantiate the claim that he made in his letter " Colon, 58 F.3d at
873 Defendants attempt to analogize the facts at issue here, stating that
Defendant Mazzuca "directed plaintiff to the proper avenue to voice his
complaint about his medical treatment" i.e., directed him to contact Dr
Lang and, because that was the established procedure for an inmate to
As an initial matter, Defendants have failed to provide any authority
that would allow the Court to conclude that directing an inmate to
contact the facility's health provider was the "established procedure" or
even the "proper avenue for relief Moreover, unlike the two personal
involvement cases Defendant relies upon Colon v. Coughlin and Sealey
v. Giltner, 116 F.3d 47, 51 (2d Cir. 1997) where the plaintiffs had
merely written letters directly to the Superintendent, Defendant
Mazzuca's involvement in this case arose in the context of Plaintiff's
appeal of the IRGC decision Therefore, Plaintiff has alleged sufficient
personal involvement to defeat Defendants' motion to dismiss
2. Defendant Eagen
Defendants concede that Defendant Eagen "investigated, or at least
directed C O R C to investigate, plaintiff's allegations " (Pl Mem at 8).
Yet Defendants maintain that claims against Defendant Eagen should be
dismissed because "Eagen properly performed the duties of his position "
Since Defendants concede that Defendant Eagen either directed someone
else to investigate Plaintiff's claims or performed the investigation
himself, the Court does not understand how Defendant Eagen was not
sufficiently involved to
properly perform his duties as an issue of fact.
Therefore, dismissal of Plaintiff's claims against Defendant
Plaintiff's Eagen is not appropriate.
C. Qualified Immunity
"[G]overnment officials performing discretionary functions' generally
are granted a qualified immunity and are shielded from liability for
civil damages insofar as their conduct does not violate clearly
established statutory or constitutional rights of which a reasonable
person would have known." Wilson v. Layne, 526 U.S. 603, 609 (1999)
(internal quotations and citations omitted). Defendants concede that
prison officials who are deliberately indifferent to an inmate's medical
needs violate an inmate's clearly established constitutional rights.
(Pl. Mem. at 11). However, Defendants nonetheless claim that they are
immune from this suit because, as explained by the Second Circuit in
Cuoco v. Moritsugu, 222 F.3d 99 (2d Cir. 2000), it is reasonable for a
non-medical prison official to refrain from interfering in the medical
treatment of a prisoner. The Court disagrees.
As an initial matter, the Court notes that the Second Circuit in Cuoco
stated that the plaintiff's "failure to intervene" claim should have
survived the defendants' motion to dismiss, but nonetheless affirmed the
district court's judgment because the motion to dismiss had been
converted to a motion for
plaintiff in Cuoco sought to hold the defendants liable for failing to
contravene the medical decisions of her doctors. Id. Here, Plaintiff is
challenging the Defendants' failure to help him receive the treatment
recommended by his doctors. Thus, the finding of reasonableness in Cuoco
The Court denies Defendant's motion to dismiss on grounds of qualified
immunity, but will allow the Defendants leave to renew this motion after
the close of discovery.
Defendants' motion to dismiss is denied. The Defendants are directed to
appear before the Court on Tuesday, February 17, 2004 at 11:00 a.m. for a
conference to discuss the status of this case.