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Espinal v. NYS Dep't of Correctional Services

March 23, 2009

HERMINIO ESPINAL, PLAINTIFF,
v.
NYS DEPARTMENT OF CORRECTIONAL SERVICES; LENN S. GOORD, COMMISSIONER; LESTER N. WRIGHT; J.T. SMITH; DR. GREGOIRE; DR. GENOVESE, DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Lyle E. Strom, Senior Judge United States District Court

MEMORANDUM OPINION

This matter is before the Court on defendants' motion for summary judgment (Filing No. 44). Upon review of the motion, the memoranda and evidentiary submissions of the parties, and the applicable law, the Court finds that the motion should be granted with respect to plaintiff's federal claims.

I. INTRODUCTION

Plaintiff Herminio Espinal ("Espinal") is a prisoner in the custody of the New York State Department of Correctional Services ("DOCS"). Espinal brings this action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, alleging he received inadequate medical care while incarcerated at Five Points Correctional Facility ("Five Points") and Shawangunk Correctional Facility ("Shawangunk") from July of 2004 to the present, in violation of the Eighth Amendment. In addition, Espinal asserts a claim under Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act ("ADA"), 42 U.S.C. § 12131 et seq., and a claim for negligence under New York state law.

II. BACKGROUND

In November of 1974, Espinal was convicted of murder and sentenced to a term of imprisonment of twenty-five years to life (Filing No. 1, ¶ 10; Filing No. 44-6, ¶ 1). Espinal was subsequently placed in DOCS custody and has since resided in several different correctional facilities (Filing No. 1, ¶¶ 10, 13, 16, 19, 21).

In 1980, Espinal briefly escaped from DOCS custody (Filing No. 1, ¶ 11; Filing No. 44-6, ¶ 2). During his recapture, Espinal was shot in the spine (Filing No. 1, ¶ 11; Filing No. 44-6, ¶ 3). As a result of the spinal injury, Espinal is a paraplegic, confined to a wheelchair, and suffers from neuropathic pain syndrome (Filing No. 1, ¶ 12; Filing No. 44-6, ¶¶ 4-5).

According to Espinal, he suffers "excruciating and unbearable pain" due to his injuries (Filing No. 47, ¶ 5). Throughout Espinal's incarceration, the prison medical staff has prescribed a variety of medicines in an attempt to alleviate Espinal's pain (Filing No. 1, ¶¶ 13, 14, 16, 18; Filing No. 44-6, ¶ 6; Filing No. 44-4, exh. A). Espinal contends that the majority of these medications were ineffective, but his pain was effectively managed when he received both Valium and MS Contin from June of 1995 to July of 2004 (Filing No. 1, ¶¶ 14-16, 18; Filing No. 47, ¶¶ 12-13). Valium and MS Contin were recommended by specialists who examined Espinal from 1995 - 1998 (Filing No. 47, ¶¶ 10, 14-16, 19, exh. A at 13-16). One of the specialists reported in March of 1996 that Espinal had "legitimate reason for pain" and responded best to MS Contin (Filing No. 47, exh. A at 15). Espinal received Valium and MS Contin from 1995 until he was transferred from Shawangunk to Five Points on July 27, 2004 (Filing No. 47, ¶ 20).

Espinal was seen by defendant Dr. Gregoire at Five Points (Filing No. 1, ¶ 8). According to medical records dated August 3, 2004, Dr. Gregoire determined Espinal was addicted to Valium and MS Contin, noted that in spite of complaints of pain Espinal was "animated in his conversation -- moving easily both in his bed and in wheelchair -- gesturing [] arms [and] head," and concluded that Espinal would be able to manage his pain without narcotics (Filing No. 44-3, ¶¶ 8-9; Filing No. 44-4, exh. A at 37-40). Dr. Gregoire discontinued Espinal's prescription for Valium, tapered and then discontinued MS Contin, and gave Espinal alternative medications*fn1 (Id.).

Subsequently, Espinal issued several complaints. Espinal complained that he lost bladder control once his prescription for Valium was discontinued (Filing No. 47, ¶ 31). Espinal was given a catheter and leg bag for his bladder condition (Id. at ¶ 33). In addition, Espinal complained of pain and often requested Valium and MS Contin (Id. at ¶¶ 29, 46; see, e.g., Filing No. 44-4, exh. A at 31-32, 41, 44). Dr. Gregoire refused to prescribe Valium or MS Contin but continued to prescribe alternative medications, some of which Espinal voluntarily refused (See Filing No. 44-4, exh. A; Filing No. 44-3, ¶¶ 9-12, 14-15). Medical staff noted in Espinal's medical records that Espinal exhibited drug seeking behavior, maintained excellent hygiene and grooming despite complaints of pain, and was observed by medical staff sleeping through the night and engaged in activities without apparent pain (See, e.g., Filing No. 44-4, exh. A at 30-33, 44; Filing No. 44-3, ¶¶ 9, 14).

Espinal was seen by the pain clinic in September of 2004 (Filing No. 44-4, exh. A at 41). The pain clinic recommended Espinal receive a Clonidine patch, which was ordered (Id.; Filing No. 44-3, ¶ 11). Espinal was again seen by the pain clinic in December of 2004 (Filing No. 44-4, exh. A at 45; Filing No. 44-3, ¶ 15). According to the medical records, the pain clinic recommended Clonidine pills, which Espinal refused, and stated there was no need for Espinal to return to the clinic (Id.). Espinal was seen by a physiatrist in July of 2005; the consultation note stated that "chronic narcotics in neuropathic pain are rarely if ever indicated." (Filing No. 44-3, ¶ 16; Filing No. 44-4, exh. A at 48).

In September of 2005, Espinal was transferred to Shawangunk where Espinal was seen by defendant Dr. Genovese (Filing No. 1, ¶ 9; Filing No. 44-3, ¶ 17). As of September of 2005, Espinal was receiving Neurontin (Filing No. 44-4, exh. A at 47; Filing No. 44-3, ¶ 18). Espinal requested Valium and narcotics; Dr. Genovese reviewed the July 2005 physiatrist consultation note with Espinal and refused to prescribe Valium or narcotics (Filing No. 44-3, ¶¶ 17-19, Filing No. 44-4, exh. A at 48-49). Dr. Genovese offered Espinal non-narcotic medications, which he declined (Filing No. 44-3, ¶ 19).

Espinal complained of pain on several occasions and requested Valium and morphine (MS Contin) (See, e.g., Filing No. 44-4, exh. A at 3, 53, 61, 70). Dr. Genovese refused to prescribe Valium and initially refused to prescribe MS Contin (MS Contin was later prescribed), but Dr. Genovese continued to prescribe alternative medications (See Filing No. 44-4, exh. A; see Filing No. 44-3, ¶¶ 22-25, 30). Medical staff noted in Espinal's medical records that Espinal maintained good grooming, was observed engaged in activities without distress despite complaints of pain, and exhibited drug seeking behavior (See, e.g., Filing No. 44-4, exh. A at 11, 17, 53; Filing No. 44-3, ¶¶ 26, 33-34).

Espinal was seen by a neurologist in December of 2005 (Filing No. 44-3, ¶ 22; Filing No. 47, exh. A at 18). The neurologist recommended Espinal's existing prescriptions for Neurontin and Klonopin be increased and stated that if the increased medication did not help, to begin Nortriptyline and Valium (Filing No. 44-3, ¶ 22; Filing No. 47, exh. A at 18). Espinal did not want to take Nortriptyline (Filing No. 44-3, ¶ 22). Dr. Genovese ordered physical therapy for Espinal in October of 2006 (Id. at ¶ 27). Espinal was seen by a physiatrist in November of 2006 (Id. at ¶ 28). The physiatrist stated Klonopin, which Espinal received, is preferred to Valium for neuropathic pain and recommended MS Contin; MS Contin was prescribed in December of 2006 (Id. at ¶¶ 28-30). Espinal wanted a stronger dose of MS Contin than what was prescribed (Id. at ¶ 30). Espinal's MS Contin prescription was given cautiously because morphine is known to cause respiratory depression, and Espinal has severe ...


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