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Martin Hodge v. Dr. Wladyslaw Sidorowicz

March 24, 2011


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Honorable Paul A. Crotty, United States District Judge:


ORDER on R & R

Martin Hodge ("Hodge"), an inmate at the Sullivan Correctional Facility ("Sullivan") in the New York State Department of Corrections ("DOC"), brings this action pro se under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against Dr. Wladyslaw Sidorowicz, Facility Health Services Director; Lynn Lilley, Deputy Superintendent of Administration; Drs. Timothy Whalen and Carl Keonisngmann, Regional Medical Directors at DOC; Dr. Lester Wright, Deputy Commissioner and Chief Medical Officer at DOC; and Pedro Diaz, a Regional Health Services Administrator at DOC (collectively "Defendants"). No state agency, including the DOC, has been named as a defendant. Hodge alleges that, while at Sullivan, Defendants failed to provide him satisfactory medical treatment for his chronic back and vision problems.*fn1

Specifically, Hodge claims that he was: (1) denied adequate pain medication for his back; (2) denied or delayed in receiving certain requested treatments for his medical conditions; (3) denied or delayed in seeing several specialists recommended for his back and eye problems; (4) continuously left without medication due to the incompetence and deliberate indifference of prison medical personnel; (5) denied a double mattress in violation of a state court order; (6) caused severe back pain due to inadequate heating in the facility; and (7) denied reasonable accommodations for his poor vision. Hodge makes two additional allegations against the Sullivan nursing staff, none of whom is named in the complaint: First, he claims that, in retaliation for his complaints about back pain and the adequacy of the medical care, the nursing staff attempted to admit him to the prison infirmary against his will. Second, Hodge alleges that the nursing staff, also in retaliation, falsified his medical records in response to his repeated requests for specific medications and treatments after their denial. Hodge seeks an injunction and $850,000.00 in damages.

Hodge primarily claims that the Defendants' failure to provide him with adequate medical care constitutes cruel and unusual punishment in violation of the Eighth Amendment. Defendants move under Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b) to dismiss because: (1) the complaint is entirely barred by the Eleventh Amendment; (2) Hodge has failed to state a claim under the Eighth Amendment for which relief may be granted; (3) Defendants are protected by qualified immunity; and (4) several of Hodge's claims are barred by the statute of limitations. The Court construes the pro se complaint generously, to assert claims under the Americans with Disabilities Act ("ADA") and Rehabilitation Act, as well, and accordingly also interprets the motions to dismiss to contest the adequacy of these additional claims. See Triestman v. Federal Bureau of Prisons, 470 F.3d 471, 474 (2d Cir. 2006) (holding that the submissions of a pro se plaintiff are read with "special solicitude" and must be construed liberally and interpreted "to raise the strongest arguments that they suggest").

On February 1, 2010 the Court referred the general pretrial matters and dispositive motions in the case to Magistrate Judge Michael Dolinger. After discovery, Defendants moved to dismiss Hodge's complaint. On November 2, 2010, Magistrate Judge Dolinger issued a Report and Recommendation ("R&R"), advising that the Court (1) dismiss without prejudice Hodge's claims against the Sullivan nursing staff and his sixth claim about the inadequate heating for failing to name the proper defendants; (2) grant Hodge leave to name the proper defendants for these claims within thirty-days of the adoption of the R&R; and (3) dismiss with prejudice the rest of the claims asserted under § 1983, as well as any under the ADA and Rehabilitation Act, for failure to state a claim upon which relief may be granted. Neither party has filed any objections to the R&R. For the reasons set forth below, the Court adopts the R&R in full and dismisses the case.


Dr. Sidorowicz began treating Hodge for chronic vision and back problems in March 2004, when Hodge was transferred from Sing Sing to Sullivan. (Compl. ¶ 1). The vision problems stem from a childhood eye infection and developing glaucoma. The back problems result from a herniated disc and associated nerve damage. Hodge alleges, inter alia, that Dr. Sidorowicz and the other named Defendants denied him adequate vision and back care, including pain management medication and use of a second mattress for his back, which had been ordered following an Article 78 proceeding in state court.

I.Hodge's Eye Care*fn3

Hodge has had several, unsuccessful, surgeries to correct his eye condition. In June 2006, while under Dr. Sidorowicz's care, Hodge underwent another surgery performed by Dr. Simmons. Hodge was told to return for a follow-up two weeks later, but was not taken to that appointment until August 2006. This delay incited Hodge's first complaint about Dr. Sidorowicz's care. During this time Hodge was also taken to an eye specialist on multiple occasions to treat his glaucoma. He now claims that on several other occasions he had difficulty receiving the eye drops that these physicians prescribed.

In January 2007, a cornea specialist informed Hodge that he would conduct a cornea transplant once Hodge's glaucoma was under control. Later that month, Dr. Sidorowicz reduced the frequency of Hodge's glaucoma eye drops, causing Hodge to become upset, presumably because he thought it would prolong his glaucoma recovery, delaying or preventing the transplant. A glaucoma specialist then scheduled a surgical procedure for January 2008, but because the laser machine broke, it was not performed until March 2008.

Finally, Hodge alleges that he was repeatedly denied the cornea transplant procedure recommended by the cornea specialist in 2007. Dr. Sidorowicz denied the referral in January 2008, and again later that year after a second specialist referred Hodge for the same procedure. Dr. Sidorowicz ultimately concluded that Hodge "was not a candidate for . . . keratoprosthesis." (Compl. ¶ 40, Pl. Ex. 34). Hodge then wrote letters to Dr. Whalen and Dr. Keonigsmann requesting that they override Dr. Sidorowicz's decision. In October 2009, Diaz responded on behalf of Drs. Whalen and Keonigsmann, denying the request. After receiving Diaz's letter, Hodge wrote to Brian Fischer, Commissioner of DOC, again seeking an override of Dr. Sidorowicz. In November 2009, Wright responded on Mr. Fischer's behalf, also denying the request in a letter that is essentially identical to Diaz's letter.

II.Hodge's Back Treatment

After Hodge suffered a herniated disc in 2001, Dr. Sidorowicz prescribed injections for pain management. The injections were administered annually, starting with Hodge's arrival at Sullivan in 2004 and lasting until January 2007, when Dr. Sidorowicz recommended oral pain medication due to the risk that the injections may have negative side effects on Hodge's eyes. Hodge refused to take the oral medication and continuously requested the injections. The requests were repeatedly denied.

In the meantime, Dr. Sidorowicz signed several medical exemption forms relieving Hodge of his work duties from April to June 2007 due to his back pain.*fn4 For several weeks, Hodge did not see Dr. Sidorowicz but was treated several times by the prison nursing staff for injuring his back when lifting items. One of the nurses on duty-who is not named in the complaint-recommended that Hodge be admitted to the prison clinic due to his repeated requests for medical attention and fear of reinjuring his back. Hodge refused admission and filed a grievance alleging, as he does in his complaint, that the attempt to admit him was retaliatory.

In December 2008, Hodge underwent surgery for his back pain-a laminectomy and foramintomy-which temporarily controlled the pain. His request for a memory foam mattress, per his surgeon's recommendation, was denied. Hodge also claims that he was ...

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