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William Hall v. County of Saratoga

March 5, 2013


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Norman A. Mordue, United States District Judge



This action arises under the auspices of 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Plaintiff asserts that while he was an inmate at the Saratoga County Correctional Facility ("SCCF"), defendants denied him adequate medical care, committed a battery upon him and are liable in negligence for personal injuries he sustained while in their custody. Defendants have moved for summary judgment dismissing the complaint. Plaintiff has not submitted papers in opposition to this motion.*fn1


A. Standard of Review

Summary judgment is appropriate when there is no genuine issue with regard to any material fact, and the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. See Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322 (1986). Stated otherwise, summary judgment is appropriate "[w]here the record taken as a whole could not lead a rational trier of fact to find for the non-moving party[.]" Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 587 (1986). When deciding a summary judgment motion, the Court must "resolve all ambiguities and draw all factual inferences in favor of the party opposing the motion." McPherson v. Coombe, 174 F.3d 276, 280 (2d Cir. 1999).

When, as here, a summary judgment motion is unopposed, "[t]he fact that there has been no [such] response ... does not ... [by itself] mean that the motion is to be granted automatically." Champion v. Artuz, 76 F.3d 483, 486 (2d Cir. 1996); see also Vt. Teddy Bear Co. v. 1-800 Beargram Co., Inc., 373 F.3d 241, 244 (2d Cir. 2004). Instead, a court must (1) determine what material facts, if any, are disputed in the record presented on the motion; and (2) assure itself that, based on those undisputed material facts, the law indeed warrants judgment for the moving party.

See Champion, 76 F.3d at 486. The motion may fail if the movant's submission fails to establish that no material issue of fact remains for trial, Amaker v. Foley, 274 F.3d 677, 681 (2d Cir. 2001), or if the "undisputed facts fail to show that the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law," Vt. Teddy Bear, 373 F.3d at 244 (internal citation and quotation marks omitted).

B. Exhaustion of Administrative Remedies

The Prisoner Litigation Reform Act of 1995 ("PLRA"), mandates exhaustion by prisoners of all administrative remedies before bringing an action regarding prison conditions of confinement. See 42 U.S.C. § 1997e(a). Specifically, the PLRA provides that "[n]o action shall be brought with respect to prison conditions under section 1983 of this title, or any other Federal law, by a prisoner confined in any jail, prison, or other correctional facility until such administrative remedies as are available are exhausted." Id. The Supreme Court has held that the PLRA's "exhaustion requirement applies to all inmate suits about prison life, whether they involve general circumstances or particular episodes, and whether they allege excessive force or some other wrong." Porter v. Nussle, 534 U.S. 516, 532 (2002).

"'Conditions of confinement' is not a term of art; it has a plain meaning." Jenkins v. Haubert, 179 F.3d 19, 28 (2d Cir. 1999). "It quite simply encompasses all conditions under which a prisoner is confined for his term of imprisonment." Id. These include terms of disciplinary or administrative segregation such as keeplock or solitary confinement, as well as more general conditions affecting a prisoner's quality of life such as . . . the deprivation of exercise, medical care, adequate food and shelter, and other conditions that, if improperly imposed, could violate the Constitution. Id. (citing Figueroa v. Rivera, 147 F.3d 77, 82 (1st Cir. 1998); Channer v. Mitchell, 43 F.3d 786, 788 (2d Cir. 1994)) (per curiam). In short, any deprivation that does not affect the fact or duration of a prisoner's overall confinement is necessarily a condition of that confinement.

In Hemphill v. New York, 380 F.3d 680 (2d Cir. 2004), the Second Circuit "read together," Macias v. Zenk, 495 F.3d 37, 41 (2d Cir. 2007), a number of decisions and consolidated cases and formulated a three-part test for examining the scope of the PLRA's exhaustion requirement:

Depending on the inmate's explanation for the alleged failure to exhaust, the court must ask whether administrative remedies were in fact available to the prisoner. The court should also inquire as to whether the defendants may have forfeited the affirmative defense of non-exhaustion by failing to raise or preserve it, or whether the defendants' own actions inhibiting the inmate's exhaustion of remedies may estop one or more of the defendants from raising the plaintiff's failure to exhaust as a defense. If the court finds that administrative remedies were available to the plaintiff, and that the defendants are not estopped and have not forfeited their non-exhaustion defense, but that the plaintiff nevertheless did not exhaust available remedies, the court should consider whether special circumstances have been plausibly alleged that justify the prisoner's failure to comply with administrative procedural requirements.

Hemphill, 380 F.3d at 686.

New York State law provides a three tier inmate grievance procedure applicable to plaintiff's claims. See, N.Y. Correct. Law § 139; N.Y. Comp.Codes R. & Regs. tit. 7, § 701.1 et seq. (2003). Courts in the this Circuit have long recognized this procedure as an "available" remedy for purposes of the PLRA. See Mingues v. Nelson, No. 96-CV-5396, 2004 WL 324898, at *4 (S.D.N.Y. Feb. 20, 2004) (citing Mojias v. Johnson, 351 F.3d 606 (2d Cir. 2003) and Snider v. Melindez, 199 F.3d 108, 112--13 (2d Cir. 1999)). Richard Emery, the Chief Administrator with the rank of Colonel for SCCF submitted an affidavit wherein he averred that the facility maintained an inmate grievance program established by the New York State Department of Corrections and Community Supervision ("DOCCS") pursuant to the above-referenced law and regulations. Further, Emery stated that the grievance program is enumerated in the policies and procedures of SCCF and is distributed to each inmate in an Inmate Handbook. Review of the complaint and the entire record for that matter reveals no suggestion that plaintiff filed or attempted to pursue a grievance of his claims administratively at SCCF prior to filing the instant action.

Regarding part two of the Hemphill analysis, plaintiff does not allege in the complaint or anywhere in the record that defendants inhibited his ability to utilize the grievance program which was indisputably available to him at SCCF. Finally, review of the record does not reveal any "special circumstances" which would justify plaintiff's failure to comply with administrative requirements prior to filing the present federal claim. See Hemphill, 380 F.3d at 686. Thus, the Court finds there is no genuine issue of material fact concerning plaintiff's failure to have exhausted administrative remedies prior to commencing his § 1983 claims against defendants.

Based thereupon, these federal claims are subject to dismissal on procedural grounds.

C. Plaintiff's Claims Under 42 U.S.C. § 1983

1. Inadequate Medical Treatment

Even if the Court ignored plaintiff's procedural failings, his § 1983 claims fare no better on their merits. According to the complaint and his response to interrogatories filed in this matter, plaintiff claims that defendants violated the Eighth Amendment when failed to provide adequate medical care to him while he was an inmate at SCCF by: 1) failing to comply with care and treatment consistent with the diagnosis of renal failure; 2) failing to address the plugging of an A.V. fistula in his left arm in a timely fashion despite his complaints about it, putting a shunt in his neck; 3) not allowing him to shower or bathe for eight days which led to a septic infection; and 4) failing to follow a special diet of low calcium, phosphorous and potassium which was recommended by plaintiff's physician, Dr. Daoui and the Rubin Dialysis Center.

The Eighth Amendment prohibits the infliction of "cruel and unusual punishments" on those convicted of crimes, which includes punishments that "involve the unnecessary and wanton infliction of pain." Gregg v. Georgia, 428 U.S. 153, 173 (1976) (citations omitted). The Eighth Amendment also applies to prison officials when they provide medical care to inmates. See Estelle v. Gamble, 429 U.S. 97, 103 (1976). To establish an unconstitutional denial of medical care, a prisoner must prove "deliberate indifference to [his] serious medical needs." Id. at 104.

The deliberate indifference standard embodies both an objective and a subjective prong. First, the alleged deprivation must be, in objective terms, "sufficiently serious." Wilson v. Seiter, 501 U.S. 294, 298 (1991). See Nance v. Kelly, 912 F.2d 605, 607 (2d Cir. 1990) (Pratt, J., dissenting) (standard contemplates "a condition of urgency, one that may produce death, degeneration, or extreme pain") (citations omitted). Second, the charged official must act with a sufficiently culpable state of mind. See Wilson, 501 U.S. at 298. Deliberate indifference requires more than negligence, but less than conduct undertaken for the very purpose of causing harm. See Farmer v. Brennan, 511 U.S. 825, 835 (1994). More specifically, a prison official does not act in a deliberately indifferent manner unless that official "knows of and disregards an ...

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