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Warren v. Chakravorty

July 25, 2006

VINCENT WARREN, PLAINTIFF,
v.
HARI CHAKRAVORTY AND DALE BISSONETTE, DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Gerard E. Lynch, District Judge

OPINION AND ORDER

Plaintiff pro se Vincent Warren, currently an inmate at the Elmira Correctional Facility, brings this action for monetary relief under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 based on events that took place following a fall that occurred while he was an inmate at the Green Haven Correctional Facility in 2003. Plaintiff alleges that defendant Chakravorty failed to adequately treat an injury he suffered on January 2, 2003, that defendant Bissonette interfered with his medical treatment, and that Bissonette injured him through the use of excessive force. Plaintiff's second amended complaint, filed on May 25, 2004, asserted various claims against numerous defendants, but on August 31, 2004, this Court dismissed portions of plaintiff's complaint, leaving only plaintiff's claims against Chakravorty and Bissonette. Warren v. Purcell, No. 03 Civ. 8736 (GEL), 2004 WL 1970642 (Sept. 3, 2004). Discovery commenced thereafter with respect to the remaining defendants, and was completed on August 31, 2005. Defendants now move for summary judgment on all of plaintiff's remaining claims. For the reasons below, defendants' motion will be granted in part and denied in part.

BACKGROUND

The parties paint two very different pictures of the relevant events. Both parties agree that Warren slipped and fell on some ice in the yard at Green Haven on January 2, 2003. Immediately following his accident, Warren was taken to St. Francis Hospital for treatment, diagnosed with a neck contusion or sprain, and discharged with instructions to rest, take over-the-counter pain medication, and seek follow-up treatment at the Green Haven clinic. (Def. R. 56.1 Stmt. ¶ 2.) The next day Warren, escorted by Bissonette, went to the Green Haven clinic for follow-up care. (Warren Dep. 70.) During this initial visit, Warren was treated by Chakravorty, a doctor at the clinic, though not Warren's primary care provider. (Def. R. 56.1 Stmt. ¶ 3.) It is at this point that the parties' versions of events begin to diverge.

According to defendants, the following events then took place. Chakravorty "conducted a thorough examination of plaintiff." (Id. ¶ 6.) He checked for spinal deformity, examined Warren for external injuries, and tested Warren's ability to walk on his heels and toes. (Chakravorty Decl. 3.) Following this examination, Chakravorty diagnosed Warren as suffering from a neck and back strain, and prescribed a muscle relaxant and an anti-inflammatory. (Id.) The examination was completely routine, thorough, and professional. (Id. ¶¶ 4-6.) At no time did Chakravorty scream at Warren or order Warren out of his office. (Id. ¶ 5.) After Chakravorty completed his examination and treatment, Warren left his office and went to the office of his primary care provider, Dr. Bendheim. (Def. R. 56.1 Stmt. ¶ 18.) However, because Warren had a medical visit pass only to see Chakravorty, not Bendheim,*fn1 Bissonette entered Bendheim's office and "escorted" Warren out of the office,*fn2 without touching Warren "physically" and without any yelling or verbal abuse. (Id. ¶¶ 19, 22.)

Warren offers a different version of events. According to Warren, once he arrived at Chakravorty's office, he told Chakravorty that he was in pain and that he needed some pain medication. (Warren Dep. 71.) At the time, the pain in Warren's neck was so intense that he was crying. (Id. 75.) Warren noticed that his medical file was on the table, but Chakravorty did not look at the file while Warren was in the room, nor did he discuss the file with Warren. (Id. 71-72.) Instead, Chakravorty simply told Warren that "nothing is wrong with [him]," and to "get the hell out of his office." (Id.) Warren, however, remained in the office in an unsuccessful attempt to obtain some pain medication, until Bissonette entered Chakravorty's office, grabbed Warren by the shirt, and pulled him out into the hall. (Id.74-76.) The entire visit lasted two minutes, in which time Chakravorty conducted no examination whatsoever. (Id. 71-72.)

According to Warren, as he was being pulled out of the office, Warren saw Bendheim walking down the hall. (Id. 76.) Once outside Chakravorty's office, Warren began walking slowly so that Bissonette, who was supposed to be escorting him out of the clinic, advanced some distance ahead of him down the hall. (Id. 78.) After Bissonette got ahead of him, Warren went into Bendheim's office, sat down, and told Bendheim what had happened in Chakravorty's office. (Id.) Bendheim then left his office, retrieved and reviewed Warren's medical files, requested that a neck brace be obtained for Warren, and prescribed him some pain medication. (Id. 78-80.) Shortly thereafter, while Bendheim was telling Warren about the medication and while a nurse was putting the neck brace on Warren's neck, Bissonette entered the room and grabbed the brace in an attempt to pull it off his neck. (Id. 82.) Warren began screaming, and Bendheim stepped between Warren and Bissonette, argued with Bissonette, and ordered Bissonette out of the office. (Id.) Bissonette left, but then reentered and ordered Warren to leave the office. (Id. 83-84.) Warren obliged. He left the office with his neck brace, but without his medication, which was left behind. (Id.) Bissonette then escorted Warren back to his cell block without incident. (Id.)

DISCUSSION

Summary judgment shall be granted if the Court determines that "there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(c). A "genuine issue of material fact" exists if the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could find in favor of the non-moving party. Holtz v. Rockefeller & Co., 258 F.3d 62, 69 (2d Cir. 2001). In deciding a motion for summary judgment, the Court must "resolve all ambiguities and draw all reasonable inferences in the light most favorable to the party opposing the motion,"Cifarelli v. Babylon, 93 F.3d 47, 51 (2d Cir. 1996), and must refuse to make any credibility assessments or weigh the evidence, Weyant v. Okst, 101 F.3d 845, 854 (2d Cir. 1996).

To determine which facts are material, the Court must look to the substantive law that supplies the basis for the plaintiff's claims. See Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986). Here, Warren asserts a claim of inadequate medical treatment against Chakravorty and Bissonette, and a claim of excessive force against Bissonette. Each claim will be addressed in turn.

Because the parties present radically different version of the key events, and because the resolution of credibility issues is a matter for the factfinder, where the witnesses' accounts differ the Court must accept the version of the facts most favorable to Warren, the party opposing the motion.

I. Warren's Claims Against Chakravorty and Bissonette for Inadequate Medical Treatment

The Eighth Amendment protects against the "unnecessary and wanton infliction of pain," Hope v. Pelzer, 536 U.S. 730, 737 (2002), and its protection extends to the provision of medical care in our prison system, Estelle v. Gamble, 429 U.S. 97, 103 (1976); accord Hathaway v. Coughlin, 37 F.3d 63, 66 (2d Cir. 1994). Inmates are not free to seek out their own doctors or obtain their own private health insurance, and therefore it is the "government's obligation to provide medical care for those whom it is punishing by incarceration." Estelle, 429 U.S. at 103. To state a constitutional claim based on the denial of medical care, a plaintiff must satisfy both an objective and a subjective test. "First, the alleged deprivation must be, in objective terms, 'sufficiently serious.'" Id. at 66, quoting Wilson v. Seiter, 501 U.S. ...


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