Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

Atkinson v. Fischer

September 25, 2009

JOHN R. ATKINSON III, PLAINTIFF,
v.
BRIAN FISCHER, JOHN J. DONELLI, DR. WEISSMAN, DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: George H. Lowe, United States Magistrate Judge

REPORT-RECOMMENDATION

This pro se prisoner civil rights action, commenced pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, has been referred to me for Report and Recommendation by the Honorable Gary L. Sharpe, United States District Judge, pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(b) and Local Rule 72.3(c). Plaintiff John R. Atkinson III alleges that Defendants Brian Fischer (the commissioner of the New York State Department of Correctional Services), John J. Donelli (the superintendent of Bare Hill Correctional Facility), and Dr. Ira Weissman (a physician at Bare Hill) violated his constitutional rights by assigning him to a top bunk, assigning him to a job that required physical exertion, providing inadequate medical care, and providing preferential medical treatment to Jewish inmates. Currently pending before the Court is Defendants' motion for summary judgment pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56. (Dkt. No. 41.) For the reasons that follow, I recommend that Defendants' motion be granted.

I. BACKGROUND

Plaintiff entered the New York State Department of Correctional Services ("DOCS") system on September 28, 2005. He was initially housed at Downstate Correctional Facility. (Dkt. No. 7 at ¶ 8.) Plaintiff alleges that he completed a brief medical history at Downstate in which he stated that he suffered from asthma, vertigo, and dizziness associated with his medication. (Dkt. No. 7 at ¶ 9.)

Plaintiff was transferred to Bare Hill Correctional Facility in October 2005. (Dkt. No. 7 at ¶ 10.) He alleges that he was assigned to a top bunk "even though history from Down[s]tate Facility should have classified him as a 'Medical Bottom.'" (Dkt. No. 7 at ¶ 11.) Plaintiff's transfer paperwork*fn1 made no mention of Plaintiff requiring a bottom bunk. (Dkt. No. 41-3, Defendants' Rule 7.1(a)(3) Statement at ¶ 8; Dkt. No. 43-2, Plaintiff's Opposition to Motion for Summary Judgment at ¶ 8.)

On January 16, 2006, Plaintiff fell from the top bunk. (Dkt. No. 41-3 at ¶ 2.) He hit his head and neck. (Dkt. No. 7 at ¶ 12.) Plaintiff was escorted to the infirmary, where he was given ibuprofen and sent back to his cell. (Dkt. No. 7 at ¶¶ 14-15.) An inmate injury report was prepared, in which it was noted that there was no swelling, that the skin was intact, that Plaintiff was alert and oriented, that Plaintiff's pupils were equal and reacted to light, and that Plaintiff denied pain or injuries in his extremities or trunk. (Dkt. No. 41-4, Defendants' Ex. A.)

Sometime after the fall, Plaintiff was assigned to a bottom bunk. (Dkt. No. 7 at 28*fn2.) Within a few days of the fall, Plaintiff alleges that he began experiencing severe headaches, neck aches, and dizziness. (Dkt. No. 7 at ¶ 16.) Plaintiff requested x-rays of his neck. (Dkt. No. 7 at ¶ 19.)

The chronology of Plaintiff's requests for x-rays and his receipt of results is somewhat unclear. Plaintiff alleges that his neck was not x-rayed until five months after the fall. (Dkt. No. 7 at ¶ 21.) Attachments to the complaint indicate that Plaintiff had requested x-rays before he fell, and that he received at least some x-ray results within a few days of the fall. For instance, in a grievance filed by Plaintiff on the day after his fall, Plaintiff stated that he had waited four months for an x-ray, that he had been told it would be reviewed in 10 days, and that it had been 30 days. Plaintiff also complained that he was very dizzy and experienced headaches every day. He stated that he "was told I would be seeing a doctor" and requested a response in writing "as to how long I have to wait to see a physician." (Dkt. No. 7, Ex. A.) Plaintiff was instructed to come to sick call, where the nurse would give him the results of his x-ray. There was no response regarding his request to see a doctor. Id. Plaintiff's medical records show that he was given the results of the x-ray on January 20, 2006. (Dkt. No. 41-11, Defendants' Ex. H at 16.)

Plaintiff's medical records show that he was seen on January 31, 2006. At that time he complained of headaches and dizziness since his fall. It was noted that he was already scheduled to see the doctor. (Dkt. No. 41-11, Defendants' Ex. H at 15.)

On February 1, 2006, Plaintiff wrote another letter asking when he would see a doctor. (Dkt. No. 7, Ex. A1.) The response was that he was "scheduled to see the facility doctor ... We do not give exact dates for call outs, sorry!" Id.

On February 2, 2006, Plaintiff filed a "Request for Interview or Information." In the request, he stated that he had been told that there was no history of vertigo listed in his charts. He stated that he had compiled a more complete medical history. (Dkt. No. 7, Ex. B.)

Plaintiff's medical records show that on March 21, 2006, he complained of pain in the back of his neck. (Dkt. No. 41-11, Defendants' Ex. H at 15.)

On April 1, 2006, Plaintiff filed a grievance. (Dkt. No. 7 at ¶ 22.) He stated that when he fell out of his bunk, he had been placed on the "infamous 5 plus month waiting list to see the doctor." He stated that his neck cracked each time he turned it and that he suffered daily headaches and dizziness. He complained that the only care he had received was motrin and ibuprofen. He stated that a nurse at sick call felt his neck and opined that there was something wrong with it and that he would probably be recommended for physical therapy. (Dkt. No. 7, Ex. C.)

Plaintiff's medical records show that on April 6, 2006, Plaintiff was seen by Dr. Ferrari, who ordered an x-ray of Plaintiff's spine. (Dkt. No. 41-11, Defendants' Ex. H at 14.)

In response to Plaintiff's April 1, 2006, grievance, Defendant Donelli stated that Plaintiff had been evaluated by a doctor on April 6, 2006. Donelli noted that "[x]-rays ordered at that time reveal degenerative changes at C6 and C7. No treatment was ordered at that time." (Dkt. No. 7 at ¶ 22, Ex. E.)

Plaintiff's medical records show that on June 2, 2006, Plaintiff complained of stiffness and pain in his neck that had lasted for several months. He claimed that his niece, who is a physical therapist, assessed his neck as being "distorted." Plaintiff was scheduled to see a doctor. (Dkt. No. 41-11, Defendants' Ex. H at 13.)

Plaintiff's medical records show that on July 21, 2006, Plaintiff complained of neck pain and stated that he had had some relief from ibuprofen. He was told to report to nurse sick call. A doctor's review regarding ibuprofen was ordered. (Dkt. No. 41-11, Defendants' Ex. H at 12.)

On August 11, 2006, Plaintiff filed a "Request for Interview or Information." He stated that since receiving Defendant Donelli's response to his April 1, 2006, grievance, he had been to the infirmary three times. Each time he was denied pain medication and told that a prescription had been ordered for him. He asked "when something is going to be done for me with regards to an injury I sustained at this facility?" (Dkt. No. 7, Ex. I.) On August 14, 2006, staff responded that Plaintiff was scheduled to see the doctor "very soon." Id.

Defendant Dr. Weissman examined Plaintiff on August 14, 2006. Plaintiff had pain on neck flexing and minimal tenderness elsewhere. Based on the examination and Plaintiff's medical record, Dr. Weissman diagnosed Plaintiff with moderate to severe degenerative disc space disease. Dr. Weissman prescribed Naprosyn (an anti-inflammatory drug), Robaxin (a muscle relaxant), and lab work. (Dkt. No. 41-15, Weissman Aff. at ¶ 6.) Plaintiff alleges that Dr. Weissman told Plaintiff to notify him if there were any adverse side effects or if the medication failed to relieve Plaintiff's symptoms. (Dkt. No. 7 at ¶¶ 26-27.)

Plaintiff's medical records show that on September 6, 2006, Plaintiff reported that the medication was not giving him any relief. He was scheduled for a doctor's call out. (Dkt. No. 41-11, Defendants' Exhibit H at 12.)

Plaintiff's medical records show that on September 19, 2006, Plaintiff again complained of constant neck pain and stated that the medications were not effective. The medical record states that Plaintiff "is scheduled to see MD." (Dkt. No. 41-11, Defendants' Ex. H at 11.)

In September 2006, Plaintiff was assigned a job that required him to sweep, mop, and shovel snow. The job caused him physical pain and he filed a grievance requesting a new assignment. (Dkt. No. 7 at ¶ 41, Ex. J.) The grievance was denied by R. Donaldson. The response stated that Plaintiff needed "to contact medical in order to be evaluated for potential restrictions. Without standing restrictions, [Plaintiff] must program as instructed. Failure to program may result in disciplinary sanctions." (Dkt. No. 7, Ex. L.)

On October 4, 2006, Plaintiff wrote to Dr. Lester Wright, the Chief Medical Officer, asking to be reclassified to a bottom bunk and limited work status. (Dkt. No. 7, Ex. H.) Dr. Wright's office responded that Plaintiff was "approved to see the facility physician" and that it "appears that your medical needs are being met." (Dkt. No. 7 at 26*fn3.) A month later, Dr. Wright's office sent Plaintiff an identical letter. (Dkt. No. 7 at 27*fn4.)

On December 6, 2006, the Central Office Review Committee noted that Plaintiff was no longer assigned to the porter position or to a top bunk, but that "there is no medical necessity for a program restriction or bottom bunk permit." (Dkt. No. 7 at 28*fn5.)

Plaintiff's complaint alleges that he sent a letter to Defendant Fischer, who responded that Plaintiff's needs were being met. (Dkt. No. 7 at ¶¶ 35-36.) In his opposition to the motion for summary judgment, Plaintiff states that he actually sent this letter to and received a response from former DOCS Commissioner Glenn Goord. (Dkt. No. 43-2 at ¶ 7.)

Plaintiff's medical records show that he saw Dr. Weissman on January 31, 2007. (Dkt. No. 41-11, Defendants' Ex. H at 8.) In an affidavit filed in support of Defendants' motion for summary judgment, Dr. Weissman states that Plaintiff's symptoms "were similar to those he revealed previously, and my diagnosis was similar, as well. Therefore, I continued the Naprosyn, but prescribed ...


Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.