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Faison v. Janicki

February 14, 2007


The opinion of the court was delivered by: David G. Larimer United States District Judge



Plaintiff Oscar Sentell Faison, appearing pro se, commenced this action under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Plaintiff, an inmate in the custody of the New York State Department of Correctional Services ("DOCS"), alleges that his constitutional rights have been violated in a number of respects while plaintiff was confined at Oneida Correctional Facility ("Oneida") and Groveland Correctional Facility ("Groveland"). Defendants have moved for summary judgment pursuant to Rule 56 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure.


I. Eighth Amendment Medical Care Claims

Plaintiff asserts claims ("medical claims") against a physician, a registered nurse, and two nurse practitioners employed by DOCS, alleging that they violated his rights to adequate medical care under the Eight Amendment to the United States Constitution. Defendants are entitled to summary judgment on these claims.

To show that prison medical treatment was so inadequate as to amount to "cruel or unusual punishment" prohibited by the Eighth Amendment, a plaintiff must prove that the defendant's actions or omissions amounted to "deliberate indifference to a serious medical need." Estelle v. Gamble, 429 U.S. 97, 106 (1976). A medical need is "serious" for constitutional purposes if it presents "'a condition of urgency' that may result in 'degeneration' or 'extreme pain.'" Chance v. Armstrong, 143 F.3d 698, 702 (2d Cir. 1998) (quoting Hathaway v. Coughlin, 37 F.3d 63, 66 (2d Cir. 1994), cert. denied, 513 U.S. 1154 (1995)).

The Supreme Court has explained that the "deliberate indifference" component includes both an objective and a subjective element. Wilson v. Seiter, 501 U.S. 294, (1991). With respect to the objective aspect, the court must ask whether there has been a sufficiently serious deprivation of the prisoner's constitutional rights. With respect to the subjective component, the court must consider whether the deprivation was brought about by defendants in wanton disregard of those rights. Id. To establish deliberate indifference, then, plaintiff must prove that the defendant had a culpable state of mind and intended wantonly to inflict pain. See id. at 299; DesRosiers v. Moran, 949 F.2d 15, 19 (1st Cir. 1991); Ross v. Kelly, 784 F.Supp. 35, 44 (W.D.N.Y.), aff'd, 970 F.2d 896 (2d Cir.), cert. denied, 506 U.S. 1040 (1992).

The Court has also cautioned that mere negligence is not actionable. "A [prisoner's] complaint that a physician has been negligent in diagnosing or treating a medical condition does not state a valid claim of medical mistreatment under the Eighth Amendment. Medical malpractice does not become a constitutional violation merely because the victim is a prisoner." Estelle v. Gamble, 429 U.S. 97, 106 (1976). Rather, the plaintiff must allege conduct that is "repugnant to the conscience of mankind," id. at 102, or "incompatible with the evolving standards of decency that mark the progress of a maturing society," id. at 105-06.

Likewise, an inmate's "mere disagreement over the proper treatment does not create a constitutional claim. So long as the treatment given is adequate, the fact that a prisoner might prefer a different treatment does not give rise to an Eighth Amendment violation." Chance, 143 F.3d at 703; see also Bowring v. Godwin, 551 F.2d 44, 48 (4th Cir. 1977) ("The courts will not intervene upon allegations of mere negligence, mistake or difference of opinion").

In the case at bar, plaintiff has failed to present sufficient facts to show the existence of a genuine issue of material fact as to his medical claims. With respect to his claim against Nurse Practitioner Janicki, the complaint itself simply alleges that she "failed to exercise her best judgment and neglected to use reasonable care" in treating plaintiff. Complaint § 5(B). Those are, at most, allegations of negligence or malpractice, and plaintiff's submissions in opposition to defendants' motion contain no evidence suggesting anything more than that.

Plaintiff's claim against Registered Nurse Destito is equally meritless. The complaint alleges that she infected plaintiff with the Hepatitis B virus when she administered his annual tuberculosis injection. Complaint § 5(E). At his deposition in this case, plaintiff testified that Destito "negligently, maybe intentionally, infected me with hepatitis B." Dkt. #41 Ex. B at 30 (emphasis added). Plaintiff offers no support for his claim that Destito "maybe intentionally" infected him other than his unsupported speculation that she did so because she was allegedly "romantically involved with one of the officers" who was regularly posted at the clinic at Oneida, against whom plaintiff had filed grievances in the past. Id. Such conjecture is not enough to survive summary judgment. See Carlyle v. Aubrey, 189 F.Supp.2d 660, 664 (W.D.Ky. 2001) (inmate plaintiff "ha[d] no evidence, other than his own speculation and the ambiguous, undocumented, and inadmissible comments he claims to have overheard, which would support an inference that the Defendants intentionally disregarded any medical risks he had. That is simply insufficient to create a genuine issue of material fact as to whether the Defendants subjected Carlyle to an 'unnecessary and wanton infliction of pain'") (quoting Bryant v. Commonwealth of Kentucky, 490 F.2d 1273, 1274-75 (6th Cir. 1974)).

Plaintiff also has no evidence that Dr. Barranos (who apparently rescinded a medical permit for plaintiff to be given a bottom bunk in his cell, see Complaint § 5(G)) was deliberately indifferent to his medical needs. At his deposition, plaintiff testified that the basis of his claim against Dr. Barranos was "medical negligence." Dkt. #41 Ex. B at 49. Plaintiff stated that "it was just not right" for Dr. Barranos to rescind his permit, id. at 50, and when asked why Dr. Barranos did so, plaintiff replied, "I would have to naturally assume that she felt that I didn't need it I guess. I don't know. I don't know." Id. at 59. When asked whether Dr. Barranos had a personal vendetta against plaintiff, he responded, "I would think not. I would like to think not. No." Id. at 69.

It is clear, then, that, even assuming that Dr. Barranos's rescission of plaintiff's bottom-bunk permit amounted to a serious deprivation of his constitutional rights--which is doubtful--there is no evidence that Dr. Barranos acted with a ...

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