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Robert Harris v. Westchester County Medical Center

July 6, 2011


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Richard J. Holwell, District Judge:


Plaintiff pro se Robert Harris, currently incarcerated at Oneida Correctional Facility, commenced this action on February 4, 2008, alleging deliberate indifference to his medical needs in violation of 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Now before the Court is defendants' motion to dismiss. For the reasons that follow, that motion is GRANTED.


For the purposes of this motion, the following facts are taken as true.

On May 15, 2007, Harris injured his left pinky finger while playing basketball. (Third Amended Complaint ("Compl.") at unnumbered pg. 4.) He was seen that day by the medical staff at Valhalla Correctional Facility ("Valhalla"), where he was then incarcerated, given ibuprofen, and returned to his cell. (Typewritten Attachment to Compl. ("Compl. Attach.") at unnumbered pg. 1.) Every night, Harris was given ibuprofen until May 22, 2007, when he was given an x-ray examination. (Id.) Harris alleges that he was in "constant and unbated [sic] pain" during that time. (Id.)

On May 22, 2007, Nurse Practitioner Maria Taylor took x-rays of Harris's hand, which showed no broken bones. (Id.) She then gave Harris ibuprofen despite his protests that ibuprofen left him in pain. (Id.) A day or two later, Harris requested stronger medication, but Taylor denied his request. (Id.)

On May 25, 2007, Harris underwent another x-ray exam, and Taylor told him that he had a severe dislocation and torn ligaments in his left pinky finger. (Id.) Harris again requested stronger medication, but Taylor denied the request. (Id.)

About two months later, Harris was taken to Westchester County Medical Center, where Dr. McGill performed surgery on his left pinky. (Id. at 3.) In doing so, McGill inserted a pin in Harris's pinky without informing Harris that he would do so. (Id. at 3, 4.) Harris alleges that as a consequence, his finger is permanently bent, and he cannot straighten it out. (Id. at 3.) Harris was returned to Valhalla, seen at the infirmary, was sent back to general population "even though [he] was heavily sedated, groggy, and in severe pain." (Id.) Harris requested to stay overnight in the infirmary, but that request was denied. (Id.) His placement in general population was in the top tier, meaning that he "had to walk down the stairs to get [his] food," and was "bumped into by other inmates which caused [him] severe pain in his left pinky." (Id.) When it was time to receive his pain medication, Physician Assistant Norris Nosworthy gave him Tylenol "instead of the Vicodin that Dr. McGill prescribed." (Id.)

Harris's pinky was bandaged and tied to his ring finger. (Id. at 3, 4.) Harris was told that the bandages would be on for six to eight weeks, but they were on for twelve weeks. (Id. at 4.) His ring finger also became stiff during this time. (Id.)

The bandages were removed on October 24, 2007, and two weeks later Harris went to physical therapy. (Id.) He attended physical therapy at Valhalla two or three times, where the physical therapist informed him that he "should be able to get [his] ring finger back but [his] left pinky will never be the same" and that "form [sic] the looks of your pinky the surgery did'nt [sic] go well." (Id.) On February 16, 2008, Harris was transferred to Elmira Correctional Facility ("Elmira"). (Id.) While incarcerated there, he underwent physical therapy for about two months at Five Points Correctional Facility, since Elmira did not have physical therapy. (Id. at 5.) Harris's complaint states that he "still cannot bend [his] left pinky or ring finger as of today." (Id.)

Harris commenced this action on February 4, 2008. By order dated that same day, Judge Kimba M. Wood directed Harris to file an amended complaint within sixty days of the order addressing certain deficiencies in the complaint and advised Harris that failure to do so would result in dismissal. (ECF No. 3.) Specifically, Judge Wood found that Harris's allegations in his original complaint, namely that the initial x-rays showed no broken bones, that a subsequent xray showed severe dislocation, and that surgery was not performed until some months later failed to show deliberate indifference. (Id. at 3.) Harris did not timely file an amended complaint, and the complaint was dismissed without prejudice on April 11, 2008. (ECF No. 4.) On January 12, 2009, Harris moved to reopen his case, and his motion was granted by Judge Leonard B. Sand on February 6, 2009. (ECF Nos. 6, 7.) Judge Sand directed Harris to file an amended complaint within sixty days of his order, which Harris did on March 31, 2009. (ECF No. 8.) Judge Loretta A. Preska then granted Harris leave to file a second amended complaint on September 30, 2009, which Harris did on November 30, 2009. (ECF Nos. 9, 10.) The case was then reassigned to the undersigned, and Harris requested permission to file a third amended complaint to identify the Jane and John Does in his complaint. (ECF No. 13.) The Court granted him permission to do so, and he did on May 28, 2010. (See ECF Nos. 13-15.) On January 3, 2011, defendants brought this motion to dismiss the complaint. Prior to the resolution of this motion, Harris requested appointed counsel on April 26, 2011. (ECF No. 29.) On May 4, 2011, Magistrate Judge Kevin Nathaniel Fox denied the application, finding that Harris's complaint lacked sufficient merit to warrant appointing counsel. (ECF Nos. 29, 30.)


I.Standard of Review for Motion to Dismiss

To survive a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss, a complaint must allege "enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face." Starr v. Sony BMG Music Entm't, 592 F.3d 314, 321 (2d Cir. 2010) (quoting Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007)). "A claim has facial plausibility when the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged." Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 129 S. Ct. 1937, 1949 (2009). If the factual averments permit no reasonable inference stronger than the "mere possibility of misconduct," the complaint should be dismissed. Starr, 592 F.3d at 321 (quoting Iqbal, 129 S. Ct. at 1950). Thus, "[w]here a complaint pleads facts that are 'merely consistent with' a defendant's liability, it 'stops short of the line between possibility and plausibility of 'entitlement to relief.'" Iqbal, 129 S. Ct. at 1949 (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 557). In applying this standard of facial plausibility, the Court takes all "factual allegations to ...

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