The opinion of the court was delivered by: SHIRA SCHEINDLIN, District Judge
Anthony Williams, proceeding pro se, brings suit under section 1983 of
Title 42 of the United States Code alleging that defendants were, and
continue to be, deliberately indifferent to his serious medical needs in
violation of the Eighth Amendment to the United States Constitution.
Defendants move to dismiss the Complaint on the ground that plaintiff has
failed to demonstrate an Eighth Amendment claim. Alternatively,
defendants assert that they are entitled to qualified immunity and are
thereby immune from suit. Additional grounds asserted by defendants Dr.
Carl Koenigsmann and Superintendent William Phillips include: (1) lack of
personal involvement; and (2) Eleventh Amendment immunity. For reasons that
follow, defendants' motion is granted in part and denied in part.
Plaintiff was brought into the custody of the New York State Department
of Correctional Services on January 31, 1999, and, at all relevant
times, has been incarcerated at Green Haven Correctional Facility ("Green
Haven"). See Complaint ¶¶ 4, 11. In August 1995, plaintiff was shot twice
in the head which resulted in a year-long coma. See id. ¶¶ 9-10. Plaintiff
claims that bullet fragments remain lodged in the base of his brain and
that since this injury he suffers from "severe headaches that range
larger than migraines." Id. ¶ 12. On December 13, 2002, plaintiff
complained of headaches to Green Haven's medical staff who scheduled an
appointment with a neurologist. See id. ¶ 14.
On May 19, 2002, while walking in the yard at Green Haven, plaintiff
was struck in the base of his skull by another inmate and was rendered
unconscious. See id. ¶¶ 16-17. Folio wing this incident, plaintiff alerted
Green Haven's medical staff that the pain in his head had increased
id. ¶ 18. Despite being treated with Motrin and other pain medications,
plaintiff "continued to suffer tremendously." Id. ¶ 19. After the
assault, plaintiff complained of severe pain to his medical provider,
nurse practitioner Stanley Dashawetz.*fn2 See id. ¶ 20. Nurse Dashawetz
prescribed two pills of Ultram, three times a day, and ordered a CAT
scan*fn3 for plaintiff. See id. ¶ 21.
In January 2003, after complaining of migraine headaches for over a
year, plaintiff was sent to St. Agnes Hospital where he was treated by
Dr. Lawrence Epstein. See id. ¶ 22-23. After receiving injections to the
base of his skull, plaintiffs pain subsided. See id. ¶ 24. Dr. Epstein
informed plaintiff that he would require these injections on a monthly
basis. See id. ¶ 25. Plaintiff went to St. Agnes Hospital a total of
three times and received two treatments at that facility. See id. ¶ 26.
Due to disciplinary problems, plaintiff was placed in Green Haven's
Special Housing Unit ("SHU") in February, 2003. See id. ¶ 27. Upon being
placed in SHU, plaintiff only received Ultram twice a day. See id. ¶ 28.
Nurse Dashawetz informed plaintiff that the reduction in his medication
schedule was the
result of a shortage of available officers to escort nursing staff to the
SHU and that "there was nothing he could do." Id. ¶ 29-30. Nurse
Dashawetz also informed plaintiff that his scheduled visits to St. Agnes
Hospital had been cancelled because of an alleged lack of funds. See id.
¶ 32. Without these outside treatments, coupled with the reduction in his
pain medication, plaintiffs pain increased. See id. ¶¶ 33.
Plaintiff filed several grievances with the Inmate Grievance Resolution
Committee ("IGRC") concerning his situation. On February 26, 2003,
plaintiff complained that his Ultram medication was reduced to twice a day
after he was assigned to the SHU. See 2/26/03 Letter from Williams to
IGRC, Pl. Resp., Ex. A. Although plaintiff did not include Superintendent
Phillips' decision, which presumably was unfavorable, he did submit a
document indicating that the Central Office Review Committee ("CORC")
upheld the Superintendent's decision and unanimously denied plaintiffs
request for increased medication. See 5/22/03 Response from CORC, Pl.
Resp., Ex. A. CORC noted that plaintiff "has been seen by the Pain
Management Clinic at St. Agnes Hospital on several occasions, and will be
scheduled to be seen there in the near future." Id.
On May 8, 2003, plaintiff filed another grievance complaining that in
addition to the reduction in his medication, his outside trips to the St.
clinic were cancelled. See 5/8/03 Letter from Williams to IGRC, Pl
Resp., Ex. B. In response to this grievance, the IGRC stated: "According
to the FHSD (Dr. Koengsman) (sic) the pain clinic has become temporarily
inavailable (sic) recently to N.Y.S. DOCS in this region. The Department
is working diligently to re-instate the service. Grievant advised to
discuss alternate treatment with assigned PCP until services can be
re-instated." Response of IGRC, Pl Resp., Ex. B. Superintendent Phillips
affirmed the IGRC's response and added: "If grievant feels that his pain
medication is not effective, he should attend block sick call and request
to see his provider for assessment and evaluation." 8/15/03 Response from
Superintendent Phillips, Pl. Resp., Ex. B.
In addition, plaintiff wrote a letter to Dr. Koenigsmann seeking his
"professional medical assessment" concerning his cancelled treatments at
St. Agnes. See 5/28/03 Letter from Williams to Dr. Koenigsmann, Pl.
Resp., Ex. C ("So now that my trips have been discontinued and I'm in
more pain as the days progress without my treatments what am I suppose
[sic] to do? Just continue to deal with this pain and suffering?").
Plaintiff followed up with a June 25, 2003 letter to Dr. Koenigsmann
asking him to explain why he had not been to the pain clinic since
March. See Pl. Resp., Ex. D. Plaintiff did not receive any responses from
Dr. Koenigsmann. See Pl. Resp. at 6. Plaintiff still resides in the SHU
continues to experience severe pain and suffering due to "inadequate
medical care." Complaint ¶ 37.
"Given the Federal Rules' simplified standard for pleading, `[a]
court may dismiss a complaint only if it is clear that no relief could be
granted under any set of facts that could be proved consistent with the
allegations.'" Swierkiewicz v. Sorema N.A., 534 U.S. 506, 514 (2002)
(emphasis added) (quoting Hishon v. King & Spalding, 467 U.S. 69, 73
(1984)). Pursuant to the simplified pleading standard of Rule 8(a), a
complaint need only include "`a short and plain statement of the claim
showing that the pleader is entitled to relief.'" Id., 534 U.S. at 512
(quoting Rule 8(a)(2)). In fact, a plaintiff is not even required to
plead the elements of a claim. See In re Initial Public Offering Sec.
Litig., 241 F. Supp.2d 281, 323 (S.D.N.Y. 2003) ("Rule 8(a) does not
require plaintiffs to plead the legal theory, facts or elements
underlying their claim.").
At the motion to dismiss stage, the issue "`is not whether a plaintiff
is likely to prevail ultimately, but whether the claimant is entitled to
offer evidence to support the claims. Indeed it may appear on the face of
the pleading that a recovery is very remote and unlikely but that is not
the test.'" Phelps v. Kapnolas,
308 F.3d 180, 184-85 (2d Cir. 2002) (per curiam) (quoting Chance v.
Armstrong, 143 F.3d 698, 701 (2d Cir. 1998)). Therefore, the task of the
court in ruling on a Rule 12(b)(6) motion is "`merely to assess the legal
feasibility of the complaint, not to assay the weight of the evidence
which might be offered in support thereof.'" Pierce v. ...