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Atkinson v. Fischer

September 24, 2009

JOHN R. ATKINSON, III, PLAINTIFF,
v.
BRIAN FISCHER, ACTING COMMISSIONER, N.Y. STATE DEPARTMENT OF CORRECTIONAL SERVICES; JOHN J. DONELLI, SUPERINTENDENT, BARE HILL CORRECTIONAL FACILITY; DR. IRA WEISSMAN, FACILITY PHYSICIAN, BARE HILL CORRECTIONAL FACILITY, DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Gary L. Sharpe U.S. District Judge

MEMORANDUM-DECISION AND ORDER

I. Introduction

The above-captioned matter comes to this court following a Report-Recommendation and Order (R&R) by Magistrate Judge George H. Lowe, filed July 10, 2009. (Dkt. No. 44.) The R&R*fn1 recommended that defendants' motion for summary judgment be granted in its entirety. Pending are Atkinson's objections to the R&R. (Dkt. No. 45.) For the reasons that follow, the R&R is adopted in its entirety.

II. Background

John R. Atkinson, III, a former inmate at Bare Hill Correctional Facility, brings this action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, alleging that defendants violated his constitutional rights when he was: (1) assigned to a top bunk despite a physical impairment allegedly entitling him to a bottom bunk;*fn2 (2) assigned to a job requiring manual labor despite his impairment; (3) denied adequate medical care; and (4) discriminated against in the provision of medical care. (See generally Am. Compl., Dkt. No. 7.) Defendants moved for summary judgment, arguing inter alia that Atkinson failed to allege defendants' personal involvement in any unlawful conduct, and that Atkinson's claims regarding bunk placement, job assignment, and inadequate medical care are meritless.

On July 10, 2009, Magistrate Judge Lowe recommended dismissal of all of Atkinson's claims. The court will now review the R&R and the objections raised by Atkinson.

III. Standard of Review

Before entering final judgment, this court routinely reviews all report-recommendations in cases it has referred to a magistrate judge. If a party has objected to specific elements of the magistrate judge's findings and recommendations, this court reviews those findings and recommendations de novo. See Almonte v. N.Y. State Div. of Parole, No. 04-cv-484, 2006 WL 149049, at *6-7 (N.D.N.Y. Jan. 18, 2006). In those cases where no party has filed an objection, or only a vague or general objection has been filed, this court reviews the magistrate judge's findings and recommendations for clear error. See id.

IV. Discussion

A. Bunk Placement Claim

In recommending the dismissal of Atkinson's bunk placement claim, Judge Lowe explained that "there were no facts available to Defendants from which they could have drawn the inference that Plaintiff required a bottom bunk placement upon his transfer to Bare Hill Correctional Facilty" and that there "is no evidence that Defendants actually drew that inference." (See R&R at 20, Dkt. No. 44.) Atkinson responds that although defendants may not have initially known of his need for a bottom bunk, "other exhibits show that when the facility was made aware of the need for a bottom bunk . . . it took two years to get it." (See Objections at ¶ 4(a), Dkt. No. 45 (emphasis added).) This two-year delay, he claims, "meets the deliberate indifference standard." (Id. at ¶ 4(g).) The court will review this portion of the R&R de novo. See Almonte, 2006 WL 149049, at *6-7.

Upon de novo review, the court concurs with Judge Lowe's findings as to Atkinson's bunk placement claim. Initially, Atkinson's claim that it took the facility two years to provide a bottom bunk is belied by the record.*fn3 Moreover, even crediting Atkinson's argument that the facility knew of and failed to address his need for a bottom bunk, there is, as Judge Lowe explained, no evidence that defendants were personally aware of that need or that they deliberately disregarded it. Accordingly, the court adopts the portion of the R&R dismissing Atkinson's bunk placement claim.

B. Job Assignment

Judge Lowe next recommended the dismissal of Atkinson's job assignment claim, explaining that "there is no evidence . . . that any of the named Defendants were involved at all in the decision to assign Plaintiff to the porter job, much less that in doing so they were deliberately indifferent." (R&R at 22, Dkt. No. 44.) In response, Atkinson contends that he was assigned to the porter job "after the facility knew Plaintiff was injured," thereby "showing deliberate ...


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