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Abdul-Jabbar v. West

August 26, 2009


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Leslie G. Foschio United States Magistrate Judge



On July 26, 2006, the parties to this action consented, pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(c)(1), to proceed before the undersigned. The matter is presently before the court on Defendants' motion for summary judgment (Doc. No. 59), filed February 14, 2008, and Plaintiff's motion for a preliminary injunction (Doc. No. 74), filed January 5, 2009.


Plaintiff Samuel Abdul-Jabbar ("Plaintiff"), proceeding pro se, commenced this civil rights action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 on May 26, 2005, alleging violations of his Eighth Amendment right to be free from cruel and unusual punishment while incarcerated at Elmira Correctional Facility ("Elmira" or "the correctional facility"), related to an incident occurring on February 28, 2005, when Plaintiff, while pushing a mess hall garbage wagon to the correctional facility's dumpster, stepped into a pothole, fell on his back, twisting his foot and knee. Plaintiff named as Defendants Elmira Superintendent Calvin E. West ("West"), Elmira Food Service Administrator Jeffrey Fletcher ("Fletcher"), Elmira Nurse Administrator Mary J. Hopkins ("Hopkins"), and Wesley K. Canfield, M.D. ("Dr. Canfield"). Plaintiff specifically asserted three claims for relief including (1) West and Fletcher failed to repair the pothole into which Plaintiff stepped, sustaining his injuries; (2) Hopkins, as Elmira's Nurse Administrator, failed to timely arrange for adequate treatment of Plaintiff's injuries; and (3) Dr. Canfield failed to timely treat Plaintiff's injuries, including providing adequate pain medication and ordering an MRI of Plaintiff's spine.

By Order filed March 14, 2006 (Doc. No. 6) ("March 14, 2006 Order"), Honorable Michael A. Telesca dismissed the claims against West for lack of personal involvement, and against Fletcher as alleging negligence which cannot support a § 1983 claim. The claims for denial of medical care, alleged against Defendants Hopkins and Canfield (together, "Defendants'") both members of the correctional facility's medical staff, although minimally sufficient, were allowed to proceed. March 14, 2006 Order at 8.

On February 14, 2008, Defendants filed their motion for summary judgment (Doc. No. 59) ("Defendants' motion"), and supporting papers including the Declaration of John W. Alves, M.D. in Support of Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment (Doc. No. 60) ("Dr. Alves Declaration"), to which is attached as an exhibit copies of relevant portions of Plaintiff's Ambulatory Health Record ("AHR"),*fn1 Defendants' Statement of Undisputed Facts (Doc. No. 62) ("Defendants' Undisputed Facts Statement"), and a Memorandum of Law in Support of Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment (Doc. No. 63) ("Defendants' Memorandum"). In opposition to Defendants' motion, Plaintiff filed on April 4, 2008, the Affidavit of Plaintiff in Support of Motion Opposition to Defendants Summery Judgment [sic] (Doc. No. 69) ("Plaintiff's Response Affidavit"), and the Affidavit In-Support of Plaintiff Statement [sic] (Doc. No. 70) ("Plaintiff's Statement of Facts"). In further support of summary judgment, Defendants filed on May 30, 2008, the Reply Declaration of Assistant New York Attorney General Delia D. Cadle ("Cadle") (Doc. No. 72) ("Cadle Reply Declaration").

On January 5, 2009, Plaintiff filed a motion for a preliminary injunction (Doc. No. 74) ("Plaintiff's motion"), supported by the attached Affidavit of Samuel Abdul Jabbar in Support of Motion for Preliminary Injunction ("Plaintiff's Affidavit"). On February 10, 2009, Defendants filed the Declaration of Assistant New York Attorney General Cadle in Opposition to Plaintiff's Preliminary Injunction Motion (Doc. No. 77) ("Cadle Affidavit"). In further support of his motion, Plaintiff filed on February 26, 2009, Plaintiff's Affidavit in Support of Motion to Replies and Answer to Defendants Opposition to Plaintiff Preliminary Injunction [sic] (Doc. No. 80) ("Plaintiff's Reply Affidavit").

Oral argument on both motions was deemed unnecessary.

Based on the following, Defendants' motion is GRANTED; Plaintiff's motion is DENIED.


As of February 28, 2005, Plaintiff, who is obese and who takes medication to control diabetes and high blood pressure, was incarcerated at Elmira Correctional Facility ("Elmira") where he held a prison job in food service. Just before 8:00 P.M.,

Plaintiff, while working at his prison job, was disposing of trash from the prison's messhall, and stepped into a hole, causing him to fall, and sustaining injuries to his right foot, leg, hip and back ("Plaintiff's injuries"). Immediately following the accident, Plaintiff, whose injuries rendered Plaintiff unable to put weight on his right leg, was transported from the scene of the accident to Elmira's infirmary where he was admitted. The next day, March 1, 2005, Plaintiff was examined by Dr. Canfield who reported Plaintiff had pain with hip movement and right knee rotation, but no fractures were obvious, and ordered X-rays and 24 hours bed rest in the infirmary, and prescribed Flexiril -- a muscle relaxant. On March 2, 2005, Plaintiff was discharged from the infirmary with five days restricted activity, Flexeril prescription, and orders to refrain from work, school, and recreation, and to take meal in his cell.

Over the next three months, Plaintiff continued to be seen by Elmira's medical staff in connection with Plaintiff's complaints of foot, leg, knee, hip, and back pain, and it was observed that Plaintiff walked with a limp. Between March 2, and May 15, 2005, Plaintiff received medical attention, including medication and diagnostic tests, at Elmira's infirmary and local hospitals and clinics, see, e.g., AHR at Bates No. 33 (X-rays taken at St. Lawrence Radiology, P.C.), at least ten times, and was continually placed on work restrictions. Among the medications Plaintiff was prescribed for pain relief, joint stiffness and skeletal muscle relaxer were Flexeril, Motrin, Raboxin, Indocin, and Darvocet. X-rays taken March 1, 2005 of Plaintiff's right knee and hip showed mild degenerative joint disease ("DJD") with no acute abnormalities. X-rays taken on March 11, 2005 of Plaintiff's spine showed mild disc space narrowing at L4-5 and L5-S1, mild spondylolisthesis of the L4 and L5, secondary to degenerative changes, but no evidence of acute fracture or dislocation.

On March 28, 2005, Plaintiff filed an inmate grievance ("Plaintiff's grievance") regarding the treatment he had received for his injuries, seeking a referral to a back specialist, an order for an MRI examination, and physical therapy. A hearing on Plaintiff's grievance was held on April 6, 2005.

On April 8, 2005, Plaintiff, complaining of muscle spasm in his back, was readmitted to Elmira's infirmary, where Plaintiff remained until April 15, 2005. X-rays of Plaintiff's abdomen, lumbo-sacral spine and both hips, taken on April 14, 2005, showed a normal abdomen, mild to moderate DJD in both hips, and no significant findings regarding the spine. Upon being discharged to his cell on April 15, 2005, Plaintiff was placed on restricted activity, including no work and use of a cane, until May 15, 2005.

By letter to the Director of DOCS Forensic Investigations Unit, dated April 22, 2005, Plaintiff complained that although Plaintiff continued to have much pain, swelling and pressure in his back and lower limbs caused by the injuries sustained on February 28, 2005, Dr. Canfield had repeatedly failed to order an MRI. Plaintiff also advised that a vascular ...

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