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Grant v. Wright

May 19, 2008


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Charles J. Siragusa United States District Judge



This is an action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 in which the plaintiff, W illiam T. Grant ("Plaintiff"), formerly*fn1 a prison inmate formerly housed at Orleans Correctional Facility ("Orleans"), alleges that Defendants violated his rights under the Eighth Amendment with regard to his medical needs and his conditions of confinement. Now before the Court is the Defendants' summary judgment motion [#41]. For the reasons that follow, Defendants' application is granted.


For purposes of the instant motion, the following are the undisputed facts of this case, viewed in the light most favorable to Plaintiff. In that regard, the Court notes that, in connection with the subject summary judgment motion, none of the parties submitted affidavits. Consequently, the following facts are taken from Plaintiff's verified complaint, Defendants' Rule 26 disclosures, and the exhibits to Plaintiff's attorney's affirmation.

At all relevant times, Plaintiff w as an inmate in the custody of the New York State Department of Correctional Services (" DOCS" ); defendant Lester Wright, M.D. (" Wright" ) w as DOCS' s Chief Medical Officer; defendants Brij Sinha, M.D. (" Sinha" ) and Judith Cramer, M.D. (" Cramer" ) w ere medical doctors employed by DOCS; defendant B. James, R.N. (" James" ) w as a registered nurse employed at Orleans; defendant John Beaver (" Beaver" ) w as the Superintendent at Orleans; and defendant E.C. McPherson (" McPherson" ) w as Deputy Superintendent for Administrative Services at Orleans.

At all relevant times, Plaintiff was approximately 5' 10" and weighed approximately 475 pounds. Due to his size, Plaintiff could not wear ordinary-sized clothing, nor could he sleep comfortably in a normal-sized bed. Additionally, prior to December 2001, Plaintiff suffered a stroke that left him partially paralyzed on his left side. Following his stroke, and prior to December 2001, Plaintiff was housed at W alsh Regional Unit ("W alsh"), a DOCS medical facility, where, he concedes, he received appropriate medical treatment. (Complaint ¶ 18). In or about late-December 2001, DOCS transferred Plaintiff to Orleans, with the intention of placing him in that facility's handicap-accessible dormitory ("handicapped dorm"). On or about April 1, 2002, DOCS transferred Plaintiff to another medical facility. Plaintiff' s claims arise from events that occurred during the period of approximately three months that he w as housed at Orleans.*fn2 For "a great portion of that time," Plaintiff w as housed in Orleans' s medical infirmary, w here he w as kept w hile special clothing w as being made for him.*fn3 (Complaint ¶ 19). During the remainder of that time, Plaintiff w as housed in the handicapped dorm, though he apparently ate his meals in the facility mess hall used by general-population inmates.

On January 14, 2002, w hile Plaintiff w as housed in Orleans' s infirmary, someone, w hose signature is illegible, completed a form entitled " Handicapped Assessment" concerning Plaintiff. Apparently, the assessment w as designed to determine w hether or not Plaintiff should be housed in the handicapped dorm. The form indicated that Plaintiff could feed and groom himself, and that he could bathe himself w ith assistance. The form also indicated that Plaintiff could ambulate short distances using a cane, and that he also had a w heelchair. How ever, the form indicated that Plaintiff w as not able to dress himself, or to " travel through the compound." With regard to his alleged inability to dress himself, it appears that Plaintiff' s main, if not only, complaint, w as that he had difficulty putting on his socks and tying his shoes. (Rule 26 Disclosure, James Memo, Bates Stamp 000002; Mooney Affirmation, Exhibit B, February 16, 2002 Appeal Statement (" Can' t bend and put socks and tie my boots w ithout gadget that PT gave me." )). Moreover, the finding concerning Plaintiff' s alleged inability to " travel through the compound" w as apparently based on his ow n statement, as opposed to any objective evaluation. (Mooney Affirmation, Exhibit B) (" Per pt." ). In any event, based on this assessment, the person completing the form indicated that Plaintiff w as not " handi-capable," meaning that he w as not " able to live in the self-care handicapped setting at Orleans Correctional Facility." (Mooney Affirmation, Exhibit B).

On January 22, 2002, during a medical call-out visit, w hile he w as still housed in the infirmary, Plaintiff told a nurse that he w as " unable to function in this facility in population." (Mooney Affirmation, Exhibit D). According to Plaintiff, by stating that he w as not able to function " in population," he w as indicating that he could not function in the handicap-dorm at Orleans, and that he w anted to be transferred to one of DOCS' s Regional Medical Units (" RMUs" ), in w hich he could receive more intensive care. (See, e.g., Complaint ¶ ¶ 4, 5, 12).

On January 18, 2002, Plaintiff filed an inmate grievance, Grievance ORL- 15296-02, w hich stated:

I am a male 5' 10" 462 lbs w ho is paralyzed on my left side. I can' t make it [in] gen[eral] population. [I am] in need of special attention.

Also I have a bad leg ulcer w hich is open. Please check my handicap acceptable form. Also [I] don' t have the proper clothes for w inter.

Plaintiff also requested, in the grievance, that he be allow ed to " get to a place so I can finish my therapy so I can try to do things myself." At the time Plaintiff w rote this grievance, he w as still housed in Orleans' s infirmary, not the handicappeddorm.*fn4 Nevertheless, the Inmate Grievance Review Committee (" IGRC" ) apparently forw arded the complaint to James, w ho responded by providing a memo from Sinha to McPherson concerning Plaintiff, dated January 25, 2002, w hich stated:

This inmate w as transferred here to access general population and the handicapable dorm unit. He is post stroke and recovered to the maximum limit.

In my opinion, the best place for him is in the handicapped dorm. He does his ow n routine . . . and w alks to the bathroom and in the hallw ay w ithout difficulty. As regarding his w eight, it is not possible to reduce it over months. He needs to be active. The state shop w as contacted regarding suitable clothing upon his arrival. (Defendants' Rule 26 Disclosures, Bates Stamp 000006). After the IGRC relayed this information to Plaintiff, he appealed to Beaver, w ho concluded that Plaintiff w as properly placed at Orleans, " since the facility is handicapable." Beaver further stated that " [w ]hen the [specially ordered] clothing is issued to the grievant, he w ill be placed in a handicapable housing unit," and he advised Plaintiff " to sign-up for sick-call in order to discuss his medical needs w ith the Medical staff." (Id., Bates Stamp 000005). Plaintiff appealed, apparently because he believed that officials at Orleans had not review ed all of his medical records before forming an opinion as to his abilities. (Id.). The DOCS Central Office Review Committee (" CORC" ) affirmed Beaver' s determination, stating: " CORC notes that the grievant is appropriately housed in the handicapped dorm at this time. It is noted that the grievant is able to ambulate and that he can access sick call regarding his medical complaints." (Id., Bates Stamp 000004).

On February 10, 2002, Plaintiff filed another inmate grievance, Grievance ORL-15312-02, complaining about a " failure to furnish the assistance I need to live a minimally decent life as a handicap person w hich I am paralyzed on my left side can' t bend over to put on my socks and dress myself." He requested that he be provided physical therapy, and that he be transferred to " a facility compatible w ith physical condition that meet civilized standards of decency." The facility grievance clerk apparently forw arded a copy of the grievance to Nurse James, w ho, on February 13, 2002, responded:

Mr. Grant is a heavy man. He remains in the infirmary until his specially ordered clothing arrives for him as he w as sent here w ith poorly fitted clothes. He currently has problems putting his socks on because they are too tight. Looser socks have been ordered by the state shop, so these ...

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