United States District Court, W.D. New York
March 29, 2004.
CEDRIC YOUNG, Plaintiff,
DR. DAVID P. WEYAND, DR. DAVID O'CONNELL, JOHN ROCK, AND DR. BARRY EPSTEIN, Defendants.
The opinion of the court was delivered by: MICHAEL TELESCA, Senior District Judge
DECISION and ORDER
Plaintiff Cedric Young ("plaintiff"), an inmate formerly
housed at the Attica Correctional Facility ("Attica") brings this
action against Dr. David P. Weyand, Dr. David O'Connell, John
Rock and Dr. Barry Epstein (collectively "defendants"), alleging
that the defendants violated his Eighth Amendment rights in
contravention of 42 U.S.C. § 1983 by failing to provide him with
adequate medical care. For determination is defendants' motion
for summary judgment and plaintiff's cross-motion for summary
judgment. For the reasons set forth below, defendants' motion for
summary judgment is granted, plaintiff's motion cross-motion for
summary judgment is denied and plaintiff's complaint is dismissed
in its entirety.
Plaintiff Cedric Young was incarcerated at the Attica
Correctional Facility from December 21, 1995 to February 25,
1997. During that period, plaintiff claims he suffered severe and rapid
deterioration of his eyesight, resulting in his inability to
discriminate objects near and far, especially when the light was
located behind the object. Plaintiff also claims to have
experienced what he describes as "floaters", which impaired his
While incarcerated at Attica plaintiff frequently complained to
personnel that he was having problems seeing things far away and
up close. To address plaintiff's concerns defendants Dr.
O'Connell, Dr. Weyand, Rock and Dr. Espstein examined him several
times, attempting to determine if plaintiff suffered from an
abnormal eye condition which would cause his sight to
Dr. O'Connell, a Medical Doctor employed by the New York State
Department of Corrections ("DOCS"), was the first to examine
plaintiff. Dr. O'Connell's examination revealed that plaintiff
suffered only from a natural aging of the eyes called presbyopia,
which can be neither halted nor reversed. Accordingly, Dr.
O'Connell prescribed plaintiff corrective lenses to help with any
loss of eyesight he may have been experiencing. Defendant John
Rock, a licensed optician who is not employed by DOCS but does
work on a contract basis, fit plaintiff for the eyeglasses
prescribed by Dr. O'Connell.*fn1 When plaintiff subsequently complained that his eyesight was
continuing to deteriorate despite the corrective lenses, Dr.
O'Connell referred plaintiff to Dr. Weyand, an optometrist, for
further examination. Dr. Weyand, a licensed optometrist who
provides care to inmates at Attica on a contract basis, examined
plaintiff on four separate occasions during his stay at Attica.
Each examination revealed no ocular pathology. In addition, Dr.
Weyand concluded that plaintiff's visual acuity with corrective
lenses was 20/20 in distance and near in both his right and left
eyes. Nonetheless, plaintiff continued to complain that he was
losing his sight, whereupon Dr. Weyand referred him to Dr. Barry
Epstein for further diagnosis. Dr. Epstein, a licensed
ophthalmologist at the Ophthalmology Clinic at the Wende
Correctional Facility, examined plaintiff and also found no
ocular pathology.*fn2 Plaintiff commenced this action on July 8, 1996, and has yet to
submit any objective medical evidence that he suffers from an
ocular pathology other than presbyopia, as diagnosed by
Rule 56 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure provides that a
party is entitled to summary judgment as a matter of law only
where, "the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories
and admissions on file, together with the affidavits, if any,
show that there is no genuine issue as to any material
fact. . . ." F.R.C.P. 56(c) (2003). The party seeking summary
judgment bears the burden of demonstrating that no genuine issue
of material fact exists, and in making the decision the court must
draw all reasonable inferences in favor of the party against whom
summary judgment is sought. Ford v. Reynolds, 316 F.3d 351, 354
(2d Cir. 2003) (citing Marvel Characters v. Simon,
310 F.3d 280, 285-86(2d Cir. 2002)). "Summary judgment is improper if
there is any evidence in the record that could reasonably support
a jury's verdict for the nonmoving party." Id.
In order to establish a § 1983 claim based on inadequate
medical care, a plaintiff must prove that defendants acted with a
deliberate indifference to a serious medical need. Estelle v.
Gamble, 429 U.S. 97 (1976). The standard of deliberate
indifference includes an objective component requiring a "sufficiently serious injury", and a subjective component
requiring a "sufficiently culpable state of mind." Hathaway v.
Coughlin, 37 F.3d 63, 66 (2d Cir. 1994).
Here, plaintiff alleges a sufficiently serious injury to state
a claim under § 1983; namely that his eyesight was rapidly
deteriorating. "The standard for Eighth Amendment violations
contemplates a condition of urgency that may result in
degeneration or extreme pain." Chance v. Armstrong,
143 F.3d 698, 702 (2d Cir. 1998) (quoting Estelle v. Gamble,
429 U.S. 97, 104 (1976).). However, a plaintiff need not endure pain to
"adequately meet the test of suffering that Gamble recognized
is inconsistent with contemporary standards of decency." Koehl
v. Dalsheim, 85 F.3d 86, 88 (2d Cir. 1996) (quoting Gamble
429 U.S. at 103). The Second Circuit recognizes visual
deficiencies as meeting this test of "suffering." Id. As such,
plaintiff's alleged visual deterioration satisfies the
sufficiently serious injury inquiry.
However, plaintiff fails to adequately allege that
defendants knew of and disregarded an excessive risk of harm to
his health. ____ A defendant does not act in a deliberately
indifferent manner unless he "knows of and disregards an
excessive risk to an individual's health or safety; the
[defendant] 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." Farmer v. Brennan,
511 U.S. 825, 835 (1994). Aside from bald assertions that defendants "were not concerned
with whether the plaintiff got proper care", Plaintiff's Motion
for Summary Judgment, p. 4 (Doc. No. 57), and complaints that his
eyesight continued to deteriorate despite the prescriptive lenses
supplied to him by Dr. O'Connell and Rock, plaintiff offers no
evidence that defendants knew a serious risk of harm existed to
plaintiff's eyesight. Moreover, the facts before the Court belie
plaintiff's accusations. Plaintiff was examined by Dr. Weyand on
four separate occasions, and obtained three opinions from three
different doctors all of which concluded that he had no ocular
pathology. "[A] mere difference of opinion between a prison's
medical staff and the inmate as to the diagnosis or treatment
which the inmate receives does not support a claim of cruel and
unusual punishment." Perro v. Romano, 1990 WL 80251, *2
(W.D.N.Y. 1990) quoting Ramos v. Lamm, 639 F.2d 559, 575
(10th Cir. 1980)).
Plaintiff also claims that defendants refused to perform
surgery to improve his eyesight because they did not want to pay
for the surgery. To support this allegation, plaintiff provides
an excerpt of a transcript of a conversation his previous
attorney had with an optometrist named Dr. Nejat. However,
plaintiff never names the procedure. Moreover, in the transcript
Dr. Nejat admits that the procedure is rarely performed because,
"it requires an extensive operation where basically you have to
clean out the inside of the eye." (Plaintiff's Motion for Summary
Judgment, Doc. No. 57, Exhibits, p. 4.) And, "I don't know of anybody who would
do that kind of operation for just a benign thing." Id. From
this evidence, no reasonable jury could find that defendants
acted with deliberate disregard for plaintiff's health when they
failed to offer the surgery as an option for plaintiff. As such,
plaintiff's claims are dismissed.
For the reasons set forth above, I find that no genuine issue
of material fact exists as to plaintiff's claims. Accordingly,
defendant's motion for summary judgment is granted, plaintiff's
cross-motion for summary judgment is denied, and plaintiff's
claims are dismissed with prejudice.
ALL OF THE ABOVE IS SO ORDERED.