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William De Jesus v. Joy Albright

March 9, 2011


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Denise Cote, District Judge



Plaintiff William De Jesus ("De Jesus"), proceeding pro se, brings this action pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1983 against various employees of the New York State Department of Correctional Services ("DOC") in their individual capacities.*fn1 De Jesus alleges that, while he was incarcerated in the Fishkill Correctional Facility ("Fishkill"), defendants violated his constitutional rights by failing to attend to his medical needs. Defendants have moved for summary judgment pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. P. 56. For the following reasons, the motion is granted in part.


I. The Parties Unless otherwise noted, the following facts are undisputed.

Plaintiff De Jesus is a prisoner in the custody of the DOC. At the time he filed the complaint, he was resident at Fishkill. Defendant Dr. John Supple ("Supple") is a physician at the Regional Medical Unit ("RMU") at Fishkill who served as plaintiff's primary health care provider. Defendant Dr. Edward Sottile ("Sottile") is a physician and the Facility Health Services Director at the Fishkill RMU. His duties include supervising all medical treatment and the medical staff at Fishkill, including Supple. Defendant Joy Albright ("Albright") is the Nurse Administrator of the Fishkill RMU, in charge of supervising the clinical practice of nurses at that facility, but, according to DOC policies, not a supervisor of the medical care given by doctors. Defendant Angie Maume ("Maume") is the Acting Deputy Superintendant of Health Services at the Fishkill RMU, directing the operations and coordination of support services at the facility, but not, according to DOC policies, directing inmate medical care. Defendant Elizabeth Williams ("Williams") is the Deputy Superintendant of Health Services of the Fishkill RMU, who like Maume, directs support services at the Fishkill RMU, not medical care.*fn2

II. Medical Treatment Prior to Arriving at Fishkill

De Jesus alleges a history of medical ailments that dates back to October 2005 while resident at New York State's Upstate Correctional Facility. His various medical complaints started with a chronic sore throat, and later included eye pain, problems with eyesight, chronic migraine headaches and continued sore throat.

While resident at Great Meadows Correctional Facility ("Great Meadows") and, later, Coxsackie Correctional Facility ("Coxsackie") De Jesus received medical care for his throat and eye complaints. He was examined by an otolaryngologist (an ear, nose and throat specialist, or "ENT") in May 2006, when he underwent a CT scan of his throat and was prescribed medication for acid reflux. He was again seen by an ENT in July 2007. In response to complaints about chest pains and seeing flickering lights, De Jesus was given an electrocardiogram ("EKG") in November 2006, the results of which were normal. De Jesus's vision problems were examined by an optometrist in May 2007, who prescribed him glasses, and an ophthalmologist in July 2007, who could not identify anything wrong with his eyes. His medical history indicates that his first complaint of migraine headaches occurred in July 2007. De Jesus was also twice examined by psychiatrists in the Office of Mental Health ("OMH") at Great Meadows in November 2006, neither of whom referred him for further mental health services related to his physical symptoms.

III. Plaintiff's Medical Treatment at Fishkill

De Jesus's complaint concerns the medical care he received during his time at Fishkill, where he was transferred in October 2007. From the beginning of De Jesus's confinement at Fishkill, Supple was assigned to serve as his primary health care provider. De Jesus was seen regularly by Supple and nurses in the RMU starting very shortly after his transfer to Fishkill. These visits were first in reference to his complaints of eye and throat pain, and seeing flashing lights. His medical records show that while at Fishkill, De Jesus consistently exhibited signs of sore throat, including inflammation, red coloration, and increased mucous. De Jesus was prescribed Claritin, triamcinolone, albuterol and other allergy medications that are designed to relieve eye pain and sore throat, among other symptoms. He was also given an x-ray of his sinuses to investigate his complaints of sore throat in November 2007.

De Jesus sent two letters of complaint about his medical treatment shortly thereafter. The first, dated November 19, 2007, was sent to Sottile, and referenced his persistent eye pain and flashing lights in his vision. The second was dated December 7, 2007 and sent to Albright, referencing his eye and throat pain.

De Jesus filed a formal grievance in January 2008 claiming that he was suffering from serious eye and throat pain and that Supple was not properly treating his condition. Nursing staff, including Albright and Maume, investigated De Jesus's grievance and provided information to the Inmate Grievance Resolution Committee ("IGRC"), which reviews such grievances. In the report denying De Jesus's complaint, the IGRC referenced his visits with Supple, the x-ray he received in November 2007 and the prior medical care plaintiff received at Great Meadows and Coxsackie as evidence that he had been receiving treatment for his eye and throat pain.

On February 10, 2008, De Jesus sent a new letter to Williams, referencing severe eye pain, flashing lights and headaches. De Jesus's headaches were referenced in the record of his March 28 medical exam, the first time they were mentioned in his medical records since arriving at Fishkill. Supple referred De Jesus for an examination by an ophthalmologist in April 2008. This exam did not reveal any abnormalities, although the ophthalmologist suggested that plaintiff's eye pain might be connected to his migraines.

De Jesus filed another grievance complaint in June 2008, complaining of eye pain, flashing lights and violent headaches, and requesting an MRI or CT scan. This grievance was also denied because the IGRC found that De Jesus had been seen by several doctors all of whom had found no "organic basis" for his complaints. Upon appeal to the DOC Central Office Review Committee, De Jesus was told that he should refer his request to Sottile, who would have authority to authorize alternate treatments. De Jesus was also informed that he could "request a consultation from an outside provider of his choice by making necessary arrangements and assuming financial responsibility" pursuant to Health Services Policy Manual Item 7.2.

Upon Supple's referral, Dr. Ramasree Karri ("Karri"), a psychotherapist, examined De Jesus in July 2008 but could not identify "any psychiatric condition including somatoform disorders" that could be the root of his ailments. Karri's evaluation notes indicate that plaintiff told her that his eye ailment "slows me down and hinders my ability to move around."

De Jesus alleges that this evaluation, in addition to the earlier psychiatric evaluations conducted at Great Meadows, found that his complaints were not psychological. He also alleges that Karri advised plaintiff to continue to try to determine the root of his symptoms. De Jesus maintains that he has never suffered from any psychological problems or taken psychotropic medication. Karri, however, stated that although she did not identify any obvious psychiatric disorders at the time of her examination, she had not made a medical diagnosis that plaintiff's symptoms "had a diagnosable medical basis or . . . could be alleviated through medical treatment."

Supple again advised De Jesus to seek counseling at OMH during examinations in August and October 2008 because "no physical basis for his symptoms ha[d] been found by several medical providers over 2 years" and he "advised [De Jesus] to try something new that may help." De Jesus filed another grievance in August 2008, complaining generally of "medical issues" related to his throat and eyes, and seeking that Supple be removed as his primary care provider. In the grievance, De Jesus states that Supple had acted rudely and was refusing to meet his medical needs, including by repeatedly referring him to OMH. Like the prior grievances, this was denied because De Jesus had a history of receiving various types of examinations, medication and other treatment. The denial memorandum also informed De Jesus that his request for a new primary medical provider should be referred to Sottile, as the IGRC did not have authority to change his provider. On August 25 and September 15, De Jesus sent complaint letters to Sottile referencing extreme eye pain, visual complications and throat pain.

In September and October 2008, De Jesus began to complain again about severe headaches. A formal grievance he filed on October 3, which requested a change in medical provider but did not specify any particular ailments, was denied in the same manner as his earlier grievances. In October, De Jesus requested an MRI or CT scan, or examination by a neurologist, but Supple did not order these for him. On October 21, De Jesus filed another grievance in which he complained that Supple had an unprofessional and hostile demeanor and that he was being denied specialized examinations. De Jesus wrote "I fear my life is in danger in Dr. Supple's hands." Responding to this complaint, Sottile examined De Jesus on November 7. According to Sottile's notes from the examination, De Jesus complained about his chronic sore throat, eye problems and "occasional headaches." Sottile identified a persistent sore throat problem, prescribed a flovent spray pump and suggested that a gastro-intestinal consult and/or a UGI endoscopy be performed to assess if De Jesus's sore throat was caused by acid reflux. Sottile did not recommend any of the specialized examinations that De Jesus had sought and did not agree that Supple should be removed as his primary care provider. The IGRC thereafter denied De Jesus's October 21st grievance, finding that Supple had performed his duties appropriately and that no change in medical providers was necessary. Supple did not order the gastro-intestinal consult or the UGI endoscopy that Sottile had recommended.

In December 2008 and January 2009, De Jesus continued to complain of eye pain, sore throat, headaches and seeing flashing lights in his visits with medical staff. In January he was prescribed Imitrex, a medication for the treatment of headaches, by a Dr. Mamis, who is not a party in this case. Supple continued to prescribe De Jesus Imitrex for the next two or three months, as well as lozenges for his sore throat.

De Jesus alleges that his headaches have been entirely untreated by prison medical staff, and that he was never even prescribed over-the-counter pain medication for these headaches. De Jesus alleges that he continues to suffer ...

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