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Lee v. Frederick

October 22, 2007


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


Plaintiff, Julius Lee, 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 violations of his constitutional rights during 2001 and 2004, while plaintiff was confined at Five Points Correctional Facility ("Five Points"). Defendants Mark Frederick and Kimberly Kulman, who at all times relevant to this lawsuit were employed by DOCS at Five Points as a physician assistant and a registered nurse, respectively, have moved for summary judgment pursuant to Rule 56 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. For the reasons that follow, the motion is granted.*fn1


On June 3, 2001, plaintiff was administered a test for tuberculosis ("TB"), pursuant to established DOCS policy. Amended Complaint ¶ 9; Frederick Decl. (Dkt. #79) ¶ 4. Although the results were negative, DOCS policy called for plaintiff to be placed on "TB hold" unless he consented to take TB medication, because other test results indicated that plaintiff's immune system was not functioning properly, which rendered the test results less reliable than they would otherwise have been. According to defendants, TB hold is intended to "isolate[] an inmate from the rest of the prison population for the purpose of preventing the transmission of TB to other inmates and staff." Frederick Decl. ¶ 11.

Plaintiff initially refused to take the TB medication. Plaintiff's Statement of Material Facts ("PSMS") (Dkt. #83-2) ¶ 2; Frederick Decl. ¶ 14. He was therefore placed on TB hold. PSMS ¶ 3; Frederick Decl. ¶ 15.

On June 17, 2001, plaintiff agreed to take the TB medication. Amended Complaint ¶ 12; Frederick Decl. ¶ 17. He was then released from TB hold, and continued on TB medication. Amended Complaint ¶ 13; Frederick Decl. ¶ 18. Plaintiff spent about five or six days on TB hold. Complaint ¶¶ 10-13; Plaintiff's Depo. Tr. ("Tr.") at 16; Frederick Decl. ¶ 16.

While on the TB medication, plaintiff complained to medical staff about certain physical problems that he was experiencing, such as headaches and other pains. Amended Complaint ¶ 16; Frederick Decl. ¶ 20. Plaintiff was seen on June 27, 2001 by Frederick, who concluded that these were side effects of the TB medication, and prescribed medication for plaintiff's symptoms. Frederick Decl. ¶ 21; Plaintiff's Exhibits (Dkt. #83-4) at 10.

On the morning of August 3, 2001, plaintiff asked the officer on duty that he be placed on emergency sick call because plaintiff had no vision in his left eye. Amended Complaint ¶ 19; Frederick Decl. ¶ 26. Defendant Kuhlman came to plaintiff's cell and, after speaking with plaintiff, she left, stating that she would notify Frederick.

Frederick arrived at plaintiff's cell early in the afternoon of August 3. After examining plaintiff, Frederick had plaintiff taken to the Cayuga Medical Center emergency room, where plaintiff was diagnosed with anterior uveitis, an inflammation in the front part of the eye. Plaintiff was treated for his condition there and continued to receive treatment following his transfer to Attica Correctional Facility in September 2001. Amended Complaint ¶ 21. Plaintiff recovered and does not suffer any lasting effects on his vision. Tr. at 38, 46; Plaintiff's Opposing Statement of Material Facts (Dkt. #83-2) ¶ 29.

Based on these facts, plaintiff asserts a single cause of action alleging that defendants violated his rights under the Eighth Amendment to the United States Constitution.*fn2 Although the amended complaint does not articulate the basis for these claims with great particularity, it appears from plaintiff's papers in opposition to defendants' summary judgment motion that plaintiff's claims are essentially twofold.

The first claim arises out of plaintiff's placement on TB hold. The gist of the claim appears to be that plaintiff was "forced" to take TB medication, Amended Complaint ¶ 26, by placing him on TB hold when he initially refused to do so. Plaintiff asserts that defendants had no sound medical reasons for placing him on TB hold. He alleges that defendants did not even follow their own purported policy of isolating inmates on TB hold, because throughout the time that plaintiff was on TB hold, he shared a cell with another inmate, who had no restrictions on his coming and going, aside from those placed on all inmates. Plaintiff's Memorandum of Law (Dkt. #83-1) at 3, 9; Dkt. #83-2 ¶ 6; Plaintiff's Declaration (Dkt. #83-3) ¶ 8. Plaintiff also asserts that "[b]y confining plantiff [sic] to his cell on T.B. hold, and allowing plantiff cellmate [sic] to come and go as [he] pleased with no restrictions [defendants] punished plantiff for not taking said medications." Dkt. #83-2 ¶ 10.

The second component of plaintiff's claims relates to his loss of vision on August 3, 2001. Plaintiff alleges that after Kuhlman left his cell on the morning of that day, plaintiff was left unattended for about six to seven hours before he was seen by Frederick at around 1:30 p.m. Plaintiff alleges that this delay in providing him with treatment constituted deliberate indifference to plaintiff's serious medical needs, in violation of his rights under the Eighth Amendment. See Dkt. #83-1 at 5, 9; Dkt. #83-2 ¶¶ 21, 22; Dkt. #83-3 ¶¶ 15, 20. Plaintiff alleges that he was in "excuriating [sic] pain" during that time. Dkt. #83-2 ¶ 26.


I. Eighth Amendment Claims: General ...

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