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Green v. Ginnis

October 1, 2007

CLARENCE GREEN, PLAINTIFF,
v.
SUPERINTENDENT MICHAEL MC GINNIS, ET AL., DEFENDANTS.



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

DECISION AND ORDER

Plaintiff, Clarence Green, appearing pro se, commenced this action pursuant to 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 were violated from 1997 through 2001, while he was confined at Southport Correctional Facility. Specifically, plaintiff alleges that he was denied adequate medical treatment for his back pain.

Defendants, all of whom were at all relevant times DOCS employees at Southport, have moved for summary judgment. Plaintiff's only response to the motion has been to ask the Court for extensions of time to respond to the merits of defendants' motion, all of which the Court has granted. In all, the Court has now granted plaintiff four extensions of time to file a response to the summary judgment motion. See Dkt. #69, #71, #72, #75. The most recent extension gave plaintiff until November 2, 2006 to file a response. Plaintiff, however, has never filed a substantive response to the summary judgment motion. Plaintiff's last contact with the Court was a letter dated February 5, 2007, advising the Court of plaintiff's change of address to Eastern Correctional Facility.

DISCUSSION

I. Plaintiff's Failure to Respond to Defendants' Summary Judgment Motion

Rule 56(e) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure provides that [w]hen a motion for summary judgment is made and supported as provided in this rule, an adverse party may not rest upon the mere allegations or denial of the adverse party's pleading, but the adverse party's response by affidavits or as otherwise provided in this rule must set forth specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial. If the adverse party does not so respond, summary judgment, if appropriate, shall be entered against the adverse party. The Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit has held that when a party moves for summary judgment against a pro se litigant, either the movant of the district court must provide the pro se litigant with notice of the consequences of failing to respond to the motion. Vital v. Interfaith Med. Ctr., 168 F.3d 615, 620 (2d Cir. 1999); see also Irby v. New York City Transit Auth., 262 F.3d 412, 413 (2d Cir. 2001).

In the instant case, defendants' notice of motion (Dkt. #61) and the Court's initial scheduling order (Dkt. #67) both gave plaintiff notice of the requirements of Rule 56 and the consequences of failing to respond to a motion of summary judgment. The notice of motion states, in part, that defendants' factual assertions "will be accepted by the District Judge as being true unless you submit affidavits or other documentary evidence contradicting those assertions. If you do not so respond, summary judgment, if appropriate, may be entered against you. If summary judgment is granted against you, your case will be dismissed and there will be no trial."

Likewise, the scheduling order states, in part, that "Rule 56 provides that plaintiff may NOT oppose summary judgment simply by relying upon the allegations in the complaint. Rather, plaintiff must submit evidence, such as witness statements or documents, countering the facts asserted by the defendants and raising issues of fact for trial," and that "[a]ny issue of fact that plaintiff wishes to raise in opposition to the motion for summary judgment must be supported by affidavits or by other documentary evidence contradicting the facts asserted by defendants." It further states, "If plaintiff does not respond to the motion for summary judgment on time with affidavits or documentary evidence contradicting the facts asserted by defendants, the Court may accept defendants' factual assertions as true. Judgment may then be entered in defendants' favor without a trial."

It is clear, then, that plaintiff has been adequately advised of the pendency of the motion, of the need for him to respond and the form in which he should do so, and of the consequences of not responding to the motion. Since plaintiff has not filed any responding papers, the Court will accept the truth of defendants' factual allegations, and determine whether defendants are entitled to summary judgment.

II. Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment

A. Eighth Amendment Medical Claims: General Principles

To show that prison medical treatment was so inadequate as to amount to "cruel or unusual punishment" prohibited by the Eighth Amendment, plaintiff must prove that defendants' actions or omissions amounted to "deliberate indifference to a serious medical need." Estelle v. Gamble, 429 U.S. 97, 106 (1976). The Second Circuit has stated that 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)). See also Harrison v. Barkley, 219 F.3d 132, 136-137 (2d Cir. 2000) ("A serious medical condition exists where 'the failure to treat a prisoner's condition could result in further significant injury or the unnecessary and wanton infliction of pain'") (quoting Chance, 143 F.3d at 702).

Among the relevant factors for determining whether a serious medical need exists are "[t]he existence of an injury that a reasonable doctor or patient would find important and worthy of comment or treatment; the presence of a medical condition that significantly affects an individual's daily activities; or the existence of chronic and substantial pain." Chance, 143 F.3d at 702 (quoting McGuckin v. Smith, 974 F.2d 1050, 1059-60 (9th Cir. 1992), overruled on other grounds, WMX Tech., Inc. v. Miller, 104 F.3d 1133 (9th Cir. 1997)).

As to the "deliberate indifference" component, the Supreme Court explained in Wilson v. Seiter, 501 U.S. 294, 298-99 (1991), that this standard includes both an objective and a subjective component. 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 element, the court must consider whether the deprivation was brought about by defendants in wanton disregard of those rights. Id. To establish deliberate indifference, therefore, plaintiff must prove that the defendants had a culpable state of mind and intended wantonly to inflict pain. See id. ...


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