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Fleming v. Sharma

March 31, 2009

SYLVIA M. FLEMING, INDIVIDUALLY AND AS ADMINISTRATRIX OF THE ESTATE OF PRESTON R. FLEMING, PLAINTIFF,
v.
YOGENDRA SHARMA AND SHEBAB ZAKI, DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: David N. Hurd United States District Judge

MEMORANDUM-DECISION and ORDER

I. INTRODUCTION

Plaintiff Sylvia M. Fleming ("plaintiff") brings two causes of action against defendants Dr. Yogendra Sharma and Dr. Shehab Zaki. First, as Administratrix of the estate of her late husband, Preston Fleming, Jr., plaintiff alleges defendants were deliberately indifferent to her husband's serious medical needs in violation of his Eighth Amendment right to be free from cruel and unusual punishment while serving his prison sentence at Mohawk Correctional Facility ("MCF"). Second, in her individual capacity, plaintiff brings a claim for loss of consortium as a result of her husband's death while under the defendants' medical care at MCF.

Defendants move for summary judgment pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56. Plaintiff opposes the motion with respect to her first cause of action but wholly fails to address defendants' argument as to summary judgment for her loss of consortium claim. Therefore, plaintiff's second cause of action will be dismissed. Defendants' motion was taken on submit without oral argument.

II. BACKGROUND

On February 26, 2004, Mr. Fleming was sentenced to a prison term of two-andone-third to seven years for violating the terms of his probation. At that time, he was being treated for a myriad of health problems, including severe congestive heart failure, hypertension, diabetes, arthritis, and other ailments. New York State Department of Corrections ("NYSDOC") medical records indicate that, prior to his incarceration, Mr. Fleming was under the care of a cardiologist and had undergone a number of by-pass surgeries and angioplasties. Additionally, his cardiologist had been administering weekly intravenous infusions of Natrecor, a drug prescribed to heart patients in order to maintain cardiac stability and prevent decompensated congestive heart failure.

Both defendants are employed by the NYSDOC as physicians within the Walsh Medical Unit ("Walsh") at MCF and are responsible for providing medical care to inmates such as Mr. Fleming. Dr. Sharma serves as Walsh's Director and Dr. Zaki is a clinical physician. Upon beginning his prison term, Mr. Fleming was admitted to Walsh on July 13, 2004, at which time Dr. Zaki first examined him. Defendants were provided memoranda from Mr. Fleming's treating physicians warning of his unstable condition and his corresponding need for intravenous medications, including the drug Natrecor. See Defs.' Answer, Dkt. No. 6, ¶ 13 (admitting the memoranda were included in Mr. Fleming's medical records and that his prior physicians recommended he be treated with Natrecor). Among the records were two letters from Mr. Fleming's cardiologist, Dr. Roger K. Vince, written in anticipation of Mr. Fleming's pending incarceration. See Ex. A to Pl's. Aff., Dkt. No. 15-2. The first letter, dated December 4, 2003, stated that Mr. Fleming suffered from congestive heart failure, had endured multiple heart attacks, and "require[d] intravenous medication on a weekly basis to keep his cardiac status stable." Id. at 1. The second letter, dated February 4, 2004, reiterated Mr. Fleming's various heart conditions and warned:

Should he be incarcerated, he will continue to need his weekly intravenous medications to keep his cardiac status stable. Without these medications, he will need to be hospitalized frequently for decompensation of his heart failure and his cardiac disease. Without this intravenous medication, there is a very high likelihood that he will die within the year.

Id. at 2.

Also included in Mr. Fleming's records was a letter from his primary care physician, Dr. Michael Foote, dated March 8, 2004. Dr. Foote's correspondence repeated many of the same warnings included in Dr. Vince's letters. Dr. Foote's letter warned of Mr. Fleming's relatively unstable coronary condition and stated it was "medically necessary for him to attend a CHF clinic weekly to receive intravenous Natrecor." See Mr. Fleming's Medical Records, Dkt. No. 13, 608.*fn1 Additionally, Dr. Foote concurred with Dr. Vince as to the potentially fatal results should Mr. Fleming not receive Natrecor: "If he does not receive this aggressive therapy he will most certainly have worsening of his condition requiring hospitalization and, otherwise, contributing to morbidity and potential mortality." Id.

Contrary to the instructions from Mr. Fleming's treating physicians, defendants declined to administer Natrecor to Mr. Fleming when he was admitted to Walsh. On June 14, 2004, Dr. Zaki ordered a consultation with a cardiologist, Dr. Ashok Patel. At that time, Dr. Zaki informed Dr. Patel of Mr. Fleming's prior treatment with Natrecor. According to defendants, and in contrast to the memoranda from other physicians included in Mr. Fleming's medical records, Dr. Patel stated that Natrecor was not necessary to treat Mr. Fleming's heart conditions. However, Dr. Patel's consultation report indicated that his findings were only recommendations, and the "final determination will be made by the inmate's NYSDOCS physician." See Mr. Fleming's Medical Records, Dkt. No. 13, 286.

Mr. Fleming's condition worsened from July 13, 2004 to July 27, 2004, after which he was transferred to St. Elizabeth Hospital for further treatment of his acutely decompensated heart failure. His condition improved at St. Elizabeth Hospital after he was prescribed Natrecor. Like many of his previous doctors, Mr. Fleming's treating physician at the hospital, Dr. Larry Maynard, also suggested that "Natrecor might be a good treatment for him . . . ." See Mr. Fleming's Medical Records, Dkt. No. 13, 267. Dr. Maynard also suggested dobutamine as an alternative treatment. Id.

Mr. Fleming was released from the hospital and transferred back to Walsh on August 7, 2004. According to the hospital's transfer summary record signed by Dr. Anju Varansani, Mr. Fleming was advised upon his release that he should continue to receive Natrecor treatment on an outpatient basis. See id. at 265. Once again, however, despite the recommendations of the aforementioned physicians, defendants did not prescribe Natrecor for Mr. Fleming after he returned to Walsh. See Defs.' Answer, Dkt. No. 6, ¶ 20. Plaintiff states in her affidavit that she repeatedly requested her husband be treated with Natrecor but that defendants frequently told her they were still considering whether to prescribe the drug. See Pl's. Aff., Dkt. No. 15, ¶¶ 41, 44-45, 66-67.

Defendants allege Mr. Fleming was noncompliant with his prescribed diabetic diet, thereby causing him to suffer from increased glucose levels and corresponding health complications. See Defs.' Statement of Material Facts, Dkt. No. 12-9, ¶¶ 16-17. In response, plaintiff maintains that her husband was too sick to consume foods as a result of defendants' alleged failure to treat his heart condition. See Pl's. Aff., Dkt. No. 15, ¶ 58. Mr. Fleming's condition gradually worsened, and he died on June 13, 2005 as a ...


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