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Manley v. Mazzuca

January 22, 2007


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Kenneth M. Karas, District Judge


Plaintiff Russell Manley, a prisoner, alleges that Defendants William Mazzuca, Thomas Eagen, and numerous unidentified officers working in the New York State Department of Correctional Services' Inmate Grievance Program and Division of Health Services failed to provide him with adequate treatment for a laceration on his right hand. Specifically, Plaintiff claims that Defendants violated his civil rights by being deliberately indifferent to his serious medical needs and grossly negligent in their treatment of his wounds. Plaintiff brings this lawsuit for damages pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, alleging violations of the Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution.

Defendants have moved for summary judgment on the grounds that: (1) Plaintiff's injury was not sufficiently serious to violate his constitutional rights; (2) Plaintiff has failed to show that Defendants had the requisite state of mind to establish a violation of the Eighth Amendment; (3) Defendants were not personally involved in any constitutional violation; (4) Defendants are entitled to qualified immunity; and (5) Plaintiff's claims against Defendants in their Official capacities are barred by the Eleventh Amendment. For the reasons discussed below, the motion is GRANTED.

I. Background

At all times relevant to this Opinion, Plaintiff was an inmate in the custody of the New York State Department of Correctional Services ("DOCS"), housed at the Fishkill Correctional Facility in Beacon, New York ("Fishkill"). (Defs.' Statement Pursuant to Local Rule 56.1 ¶ 1 ("Defs.' 56.1").) Plaintiff suffers from arthritis in his hands, feet, and hip, which limits his dexterity and results in chronic, extreme pain. (Decl. of John Knudsen Ex. D at 37:22-38:17 ("Pl.'s Dep.").) On June 29, 1999, Plaintiff suffered cuts on his right thumb and left palm while he was attempting to bend the lid of a tuna fish can into a shape suitable for slicing an onion. (Defs.' 56.1 ¶ 4.) The cut on Plaintiff's thumb was deep, and he was immediately escorted to Fishkill's medical department. (Id. ¶ 5.)

Plaintiff was first treated by a nurse, who cleaned the wound, applied anti-bacterial medication, and contacted the on-call Physician's Assistant. (Id. ¶ 7.) The nurse noted that Plaintiff had suffered a one-inch long cut encircling the distal portion of his right thumb and that Plaintiff complained of a loss of sensation in that digit. (Id. ¶ 6.)The Physician's Assistant closed the wound with seven stitches, and prescribed Tylenol for Plaintiff's pain. (Id. ¶ 8.) Plaintiff returned to the medical department for additional treatment on a number of occasions over the next few weeks, including the removal of his stitches. (Id. ¶ 9; Pl.'s Statement of Material Facts Pursuant to Local Rule 56.1(b) ¶ 9 ("Pl.'s 56.1").)

On August 18, 1999, Plaintiff returned to the medical department, complaining of swelling, a decrease in flexibility and grip strength, and persistent numbness in his right thumb. (Defs.' 56.1 ¶ 10.) Based on his observations of Plaintiff's condition, the treating physician submitted a request for an outside consultation, requesting that a physical therapist evaluate Plaintiff's condition and advise the DOCS medical staff. (Id. ¶ 11.) The physical therapist performed a number of tests on Plaintiff's hand and directed him to perform a series of exercises to increase his grip strength and dexterity. (Id. ¶¶ 12-14.) She also asked that DOCS medical personnel re-evaluate Plaintiff's right hand for hypersensivity. (Pl.'s 56.1 ¶ 12.)

Plaintiff returned to the medical department on February 18, 2000. The attending physician, noting that Plaintiff's complaints of pain and loss of flexibility persisted, requested outside consultation with an orthopedic hand specialist. (Defs.' 56.1 ¶ 16.) The DOCS request form for outside consultation has a boxed-off area in the upper-right corner labeled "Coordinated Care Information." (Decl. of John Knudsen Ex. C at Manley 535.*fn1) That box contains a number of blanks where the doctor filling out the request can indicate the type of care requested. One of the blanks is titled "Consultation Type" and is followed by four choices: Initial, Follow up, Procedure, and Telemed. (Id.) None of these choices was marked on the initial referral form. The physician wrote that the reason for the request was Plaintiff's continued post-physical therapy pain and stated, "Please evaluate and advise." (Id.)

In response to this request, Plaintiff was sent to St. Agnes Hospital on March 10, 2000, for a consultation with Dr. Richard Magill ("Dr. Magill"), an orthopedist who specialized in hands. (Defs.' 56.1¶ 17.) Dr. Magill noted, in virtually indecipherable script, that Plaintiff continued to experience pain and loss of sensation, and wrote "[illegible] exploration of nerve repair or relocation of [illegible]." (Pl.'s 56.1 ¶ 17; Decl. of John Knudsen Ex. C at Manley 532.) Fishkill's computerized records of this visit also contain the following post-consultation notation: "Can not read consult recommendations." (Aff. of Russell Manley Ex. D at Manley Referral 9 ("Manley Referral").) Plaintiff, however, claims to have deciphered the script. He argues that Dr. Magill's notations include nine separate "observations," including "a surgical exploration of [Plaintiff's] damaged and/or severed nerve and/or neuroma, if any, was indicated, and . . . such an orthopedic surgical procedure should be scheduled and performed." (Pl.'s Mem. of Law in Opp'n to Defs.' Mot. for Summ. J. 5 ("Pl.'s Opp'n Mem.").)

On March 16, 2000, Dr. Francis, the attending physician at Fishkill, again filled out a request for outside consultation regarding Plaintiff's hand. This request mirrored the first one, except that the doctor selected "Follow up" as the Consultation Type and, instead of asking for an evaluation, wrote "RTC per your request for reevaluation." (Decl. of John Knudsen Ex. C at Manley 532.) This request was denied by Correctional Physician Services ("CPS"), a vendor contracted by DOCS to review requests for specialty medical care. (Decl. of John Knudsen Ex. H at 55 ("Lang Dep."); Manley Referral 7.) Fishkill's computerized record of this request included a comment on the denial which reads, "Why is another follow up being requested?" (Manley Referral 7.) The denial was reviewed by Dr. Alexis Lang ("Lang" or "Dr. Lang"), the DOCS regional medical director, and was upheld on May 3, 2000. (Defs.' 56.1 ¶¶ 22-24.) No additional requests for outside consultation were made. (Id. ¶ 26.)

On December 20, 2000, Plaintiff wrote to Fishkill's Inmate Grievance Resolution Committee ("IGRC"), describing his injury and stating that the hand specialist had recommended surgery to restore movement to his right thumb. (Defs.' 56.1 ¶ 29; Aff. of Russell Manley Ex. D at Manley Grievance 3 ("Manley Grievance").) He requested that he receive "proper diagnosis and treatment." (Defs.' 56.1 ¶ 29; Manley Grievance 3.) Lewis Goidel ("Goidel"), supervisor of Fishkill's Inmate Grievance Program ("IGP"), conducted an investigation into Plaintiff's grievance. (Defs.' 56.1 ¶ 30.) He advised Plaintiff that he could appeal the denial of the consultation recommendation to Dr. Lang. (Id. ¶ 31.) Goidel also told Plaintiff to advise him if he intended to pursue a formal grievance. (Id.) Plaintiff informed Goidel that he was interested in pursuing a formal grievance so he could seek relief in court. (Id. ¶ 32.)

On January 2, 2001, Goidel formally processed Plaintiff's grievance. (Pl.'s 56.1 ¶ 33.) On January 4, 2001, Plaintiff's grievance was heard before the IGRC. (Id.) The IGRC came to the same conclusion as Goidel, recommending an appeal to Dr. Lang of the consultation denial. (Defs.' 56.1 ¶ 34.) Plaintiff immediately appealed the decision of the IGRC to the then-Superintendent of Fishkill, Defendant William Mazzuca ("Mazzuca"). (Id. ¶ 35.) One day later, on January 5, 2001, Mazzuca reviewed Plaintiff's appeal and stated that he concurred with the IGRC's recommendation. (Id. ¶ 36.)

On January 11, 2001, Plaintiff appealed Superintendent Mazzuca's decision to the DOCS Central Office Review Committee ("CORC"), DOCS' highest level of administrative review. (Id. ¶ 37.) After investigation, CORC upheld Mazzuca's determination on January 31, 2002, in a written decision signed by Defendant Thomas Eagen ("Eagen"), head of the statewide Inmate Grievance Program. (Id. ¶¶ 38-39.) The written decision stated, incorrectly: "The grievant has been 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." (Manley Grievance 1.)

On March 21, 2001, Plaintiff sent a letter to Dr. Lang requesting medical treatment for his thumb. (Compl. Ex. 6.) Dr. Lang claims never to have received this letter (Defs.' 56.1 ΒΆ 42), but there is no dispute that ...

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