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Johnson v. New York City Dep't of Health

December 22, 2008

HERMAN JOHNSON, ET AL., PLAINTIFFS,
v.
NEW YORK CITY DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH, ET AL., DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Hon. Barbara S. Jones, United States District Judge

USDC SDNY DOCUMENT ELECTRONICALLY FILED DOC #:

MEMORANDUM DECISION AND ORDER

I. Introduction

In this civil rights action brought pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, four pro se plaintiffs allege that they were denied adequate and appropriate medical care, in violation of their Eighth Amendment rights, while they were detainees at Rikers Island. On July 17, 2008, the Honorable Barbara S. Jones, to whom this case is assigned, dismissed the plaintiffs' claims against several municipal entities for failure to state a claim, but granted three of them leave to amend their complaint to state their "deliberate indifference" claims in more detail against specific individuals. (See Docket No. 59 ("Order")).*fn1 Judge Jones did not provide such leave to plaintiff Fred Jenkins, a/k/a Ronald Jenkins ("Jenkins"), whose deliberate indifference claim against a doctor survived the Defendants' motion. (Id. at 25, 32-33). The plaintiffs' retaliation claims also survived the Defendants' motion. (Id. at 28-31, 33).

Jenkins now moves pursuant to Rule 15(a) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure to file a second amended complaint ("SAC").*fn2 (See Pl.'s Mot. for Leave to Amend Claims, Ex. B.). In his SAC, Jenkins originally proposed to add an additional claim regarding the DOC's grievance process and to add as defendants with respect to that claim the City of New York ("the City"), the New York City Department of Corrections ("DOC"), and the DOC Commissioner. In his reply papers ("Reply"), Jenkins also seeks permission to join as defendants with respect to that claim the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene ("DOHMH") and its Commissioner, "having mistakenly failed to included them" in his original motion papers. (Reply at 8). This request appears to have been prompted by the Defendants' opposition papers, which indicate that "DOHMH is the department of the City . . . responsible for rendering medical services to prisoners" and for providing a medical complaint review process. (See Def.'s Opp. at 3 & Ex. A (Aff. of Dr. Jason Hershberger, dated Oct. 2, 2008 ("Hershberger Aff."))). (The City, DOC, DOHMH, and the DOC and DOHMH Commissioners are hereinafter referred to, collectively, as the "Proposed Defendants.")

For the reasons set forth below, Jenkins' motion to file his proposed SAC is denied.

II. Background

A. Jenkins' Factual Allegations

In his proposed SAC, Jenkins alleges as follows:

From August 4 to December 20, 2006, Jenkins was a medical pretrial detainee under the care of the DOC at Rikers Island, where Prisoners Health Services ("PHS"), a private contractor, oversaw his treatment. (SAC ¶¶ 36-37). During his stay there, Jenkins repeatedly complained in writing and orally to the PHS medical staff that he was not receiving adequate treatment, but these complaints were never investigated or addressed. (Id. ¶ 38). Jenkins therefore sought to file a grievance with the DOC concerning his medical care, but was blocked by the DOC's "longstanding policy" of excluding medical complaints from the prison grievance process. (Id. ¶ 39). Accordingly, his only administrative option was to complain to PHS, which had exclusive authority under its contract to determine (pursuant to DOC guidelines) whether investigation of his medical complaint was warranted. (Id. ¶ 40). Jenkins contends that permitting him to complain only to the private medical staff already overseeing his treatment, and affording him no further appeals directly to the DOC, violated his constitutional rights. (Id. ¶¶ 41-44).

B. New Claim and Defendants

Jenkins' SAC adds a new claim for relief, in which he alleges that by (i) failing to provide an appeal beyond PHS and (ii) excluding pretrial detainees' medical complaints from the DOC grievance process, the Proposed Defendants caused Jenkins to "endure unnecessary pain and suffering, extreme emotional anguish, humiliation, and the violation of his First and Fourteenth Amendment rights." (Id. ¶ 53). Jenkins further seeks permission to add the City, DOC, DOHMH, and the two agency Commissioners as defendants, (see SAC ¶ 2; Reply at 8), even though Judge Jones previously dismissed the municipal entities from this action.

III. Discussion

A. Rule ...


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