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Wilson v. Ritchie

February 4, 2009


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



Plaintiff, a prison inmate in the custody of the New York State Department of Correctional Services ("DOCS"), is suing pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, alleging that Defendants violated his Eighth Amendment rights by denying him appropriate medical care. Now before the Court is Defendants' motion for summary judgment [#16]. For the reasons that follow, the application is granted.


Unless otherwise noted, the following are the undisputed facts of this case viewed in the light most favorable to Plaintiff. At all relevant times Plaintiff was an inmate at Five Points Correctional Facility ("Five Points"). Plaintiff had diabetes, for which he required a daily insulin injection. Defendant Jaymi Ritchie ("Ritchie") and Defendant Wendy Proctor ("Proctor") were both employed as nurses at Five Points. On June 17, 2004, Proctor, accompanied by a corrections officer, went to Plaintiff's cell, and Proctor advised him that they needed to escort him to the recreation area, so that she could give him his insulin injection. Plaintiff refused to go. Proctor then told Plaintiff to put his arm through his cell door's "feed-up slot," so that she could give him the injection at the cell. However, Plaintiff refused, stating that the feed-up slot was unsanitary. Ultimately, Plaintiff did not receive an insulin injection that day. The following day, and for the next nineteen days, Plaintiff received his insulin injections from Proctor, by extending his arm through the feed-up slot. Plaintiff filed two separate Inmate Grievances against Proctor, complaining about having to receive his injections in this manner. Neither of the grievances mentions Ritchie, although the Inmate Grievance Resolution Committee ("IGRC") apparently contacted Ritchie concerning the first grievance.

On November 17, 2005, Plaintiff commenced the subject action against Proctor and Ritchie, alleging that they violated his rights under the Eighth Amendment, by denying him proper medical care. On December 22, 2006, Defendants filed the subject motion for summary judgment [#16].*fn1 In support of the motion, Proctor states that on June 17, 2004, she was told by corrections staff at Five Points that, since Plaintiff was assigned to the Special Housing Unit ("SHU"), he was not permitted to go to the facility medical center to receive medication. (Proctor Affidavit [#19] at ¶ 5). Proctor also maintains that Plaintiff refused to either place his arm through the cell door to receive his injection, or to go to the recreation area to receive the injection. Although Plaintiff did not receive his injection that day, Proctor indicates that she did not observe him "exhibit any signs of diabetic distress or symptoms of illness." Proctor states that on subsequent days, when Plaintiff agreed to place his arm through the cell door to receive his injections, she minimized the risk of infection, by "wip[ing] the injection site area on his arm with a sterile alcohol-moistened towelette before and after each injection," and that such procedure was "consistent with standard medical procedures in the community for giving insulin injections." (Id. at ¶ 12). Finally, Proctor states that, to her knowledge, Plaintiff never suffered "any adverse physical effects" from receiving his insulin injections in that manner. (Id. at ¶ 13). The Court subsequently issued a Motion Scheduling Order [#22], directing Plaintiff to file and serve any responsive papers on or before December 19, 2008. Plaintiff did not file opposition papers, and Defendants' factual assertions are therefore accepted as true. See, Local Rule 56.1(c).


The standard for granting summary judgment is well established. Summary judgment may not be granted unless "the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with the affidavits, if any, show that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the moving party is entitled to a judgment as a matter of law." Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c). A party seeking summary judgment bears the burden of establishing that no genuine issue of material fact exists. See, Adickes v. S.H. Kress & Co., 398 U.S. 144, 157 (1970). "[T]he movant must make a prima facie showing that the standard for obtaining summary judgment has been satisfied." 11 MOORE'S FEDERAL PRACTICE, § 56.11[1][a] (Matthew Bender 3d ed.). "In moving for summary judgment against a party who will bear the ultimate burden of proof at trial, the movant may satisfy this burden by pointing to an absence of evidence to support an essential element of the nonmoving party's claim." Gummo v. Village of Depew, 75 F.3d 98, 107 (2d Cir. 1996)(citing Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322-23 (1986)), cert denied, 517 U.S. 1190 (1996).

The burden then shifts to the non-moving party to demonstrate "specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial." Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(e); Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 250 (1986). To do this, the non-moving party must present evidence sufficient to support a jury verdict in its favor. Anderson, 477 U.S. at 249; see also, FED. R. CIV. P. 56(e)("W hen a motion for summary judgment is made and supported as provided in this rule, and adverse party may not rest upon the mere allegations or denials 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."). The underlying facts contained in affidavits, attached exhibits, and depositions, must be viewed in the light most favorable to the non-moving party. U.S. v. Diebold, Inc., 369 U.S. 654, 655 (1962). Summary judgment is appropriate only where, "after drawing all reasonable inferences in favor of the party against whom summary judgment is sought, no reasonable trier of fact could find in favor of the non-moving party." Leon v. Murphy, 988 F.2d 303, 308 (2d Cir.1993). The parties may only carry their respective burdens by producing evidentiary proof in admissible form. FED. R. CIV. P. 56(e). Moreover, since Plaintiff is proceeding pro se, the Court is required to construe his submissions liberally, "to raise the strongest arguments that they suggest." Burgos v. Hopkins, 14 F.3d 787, 790 (2d Cir.1994).*fn2

Plaintiff is suing pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, and the legal principles applicable to such claims are well settled:

In order to establish individual liability under § 1983, a plaintiff must show (a) that the defendant is a "person" acting "under the color of state law," and (b) that the defendant caused the plaintiff to be deprived of a federal right. See, e.g., Monroe v. Pape, 365 U.S. 167, 81 S.Ct. 473, 5 L.Ed.2d 492 (1961). Additionally, "[i]n this Circuit personal involvement of defendants in alleged constitutional deprivations is a prerequisite to an award of damages under § 1983." McKinnon v. Patterson, 568 F.2d 930, 934 (2d Cir.1977).


An individual cannot be held liable for damages under ยง 1983 "merely because he held a high position of authority," but can be held liable if he was personally involved in the alleged deprivation. See Black v. Coughlin, 76 F.3d 72, 74 (2d ...

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