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Sonberg v. Niagara County Jail

United States District Court, Second Circuit

June 7, 2013

NORMAN C. SONBERG, Plaintiff,
v.
NIAGARA COUNTY JAIL, ET AL., Defendants.

NORMAN C. SONBERG, Plaintiff Pro Se.

WILLIAM A. LONG, JR., ESQ, Buffalo, New York, Attorneys for Defendants Niagara County Jail, Beilein, Mahar, Rotko, McArther, Deveraux, Johnson, Hilson, Martin, Wilt, Colliver, Cirrito, Goeski, Granto, Bucholtz, Mendola, Frerichs, Livergood, Gozales, Yousett, Carpenter, Schiavitt, Meisenburg, Shanley, Cotton, Phillips, Logan, Langdon, Doe, Saxton, Vendetta, Stayzer, Kolbe, Stickney, Williams, Wilson, Giles, Greenwald, and Zalewski.

ROACH, BROWN, McCARTHY & GRUBER, P.C. (JOEL J. JAVA, JR., ESQ., OF COUNSEL), Buffalo, New York Attorneys, for Defendants Hohensee and Aikin.

JOHN T. CURTIN, District Judge.

BACKGROUND

Currently pending before the court is plaintiff's motion for relief pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 60(b) (Item 249). Plaintiff brought this action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. ยง 1983 seeking compensatory and punitive damages for the alleged deliberate indifference to his serious medical needs and the deprivation of medical care in violation of the Eighth Amendment to the United States Constitution. In a Decision and Order filed November 15, 2012, this court granted the defendants' motions for summary judgment and dismissed the complaint (Item 239). On January 22, 2013, plaintiff filed a Notice of Appeal (Item 243) and a motion seeking an extension of time in which to file the Notice of Appeal (Item 242). On January 30, 2013, the court granted the motion and directed the Clerk of the Court to re-docket the Notice of Appeal (Item 246). Thereafter, on February 28, 2013, plaintiff filed the instant motion (Item 249). Defendants Aikin and Hohensee filed a response to the motion on April 11, 2013 (Items 252, 253) and the remaining defendants filed a response on April 26, 2013 (Items 255-65). Plaintiff filed a reply on May 6, 2013 (Item 267) and on May 10, 2013 (Item 268).

On May 17, 2013, plaintiff filed a document entitled "Notice to Courts" (Item 269). In it, he advised the court that the Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit has dismissed his appeal "because it lacks an arguable basis in law or fact." Id., Exh. 2.

FACTS[1]

Plaintiff was booked into the Niagara County Jail ("NCJ") on Friday, March 14, 2008 at approximately 4:00 p.m. NCJ staff conducted the intake process and completed a suicide screening. That screening suggested a low risk of suicide. Plaintiff reported his use of multiple medications, including an opiate pain medication. According to facility records, plaintiff did not request to be seen by medical personnel until March 18, 2008.

On Monday, March 17, 2008, defendant Chris Aikin, the nurse practitioner at NCJ, reviewed plaintiff's chart, cleared him for the use of over-the-counter medications, and instructed the nursing staff to fax a request to the Veteran's Administration ("VA") to verify plaintiff's medications. Later that day, plaintiff was seen by Jeremy Johnson, RN, who took plaintiff's medical history and conducted a physical examination. Plaintiff did not exhibit any signs or symptoms of drug withdrawal and reported no suicidal ideations.

On March 18, 2008, plaintiff was seen by Cindy Quigley, RN, a mental health nurse with the Niagara County Department of Mental Health Services. She met with plaintiff because of his mental health issues which had been documented during a previous incarceration in 2007. At the time of her evaluation, plaintiff was neither displaying nor complaining of any symptoms or signs of drug withdrawal. It did not appear that plaintiff was in any distress and he specifically denied any intention of harming himself. Additionally, on March 18, 2008, plaintiff completed a request to be seen by medical personnel.

On March 19, 2008, in response to plaintiff's request to be seen by the Medical Department, Mr. Aikin went to plaintiff's cell. Mr. Aikin found plaintiff on his bed, unresponsive, and with shoelaces wrapped around his neck. Mr. Aikin and other NCJ personnel provided first aid. Plaintiff was stabilized and transported to Lockport Memorial Hospital. At the hospital, plaintiff's vital signs were normal and a CT scan of his cervical spine indicated no acute fracture or subluxation. Plaintiff was discharged that afternoon, prescribed Zoloft, an anti-depressant, and was placed on active supervision.[2]

That same day, Mr. Aikin received plaintiff's records from the VA, verified plaintiff's medications, and wrote orders for Prilosec, aspirin, colace, and MS Contin, an opiate pain reliever. On March 20, 2008, Mr. Aikin wrote an order for Zoloft, the dosage of which was increased by the Mental Health Department on March 20, 2008 and again on March 24, 2008. Plaintiff was transferred to state custody on March 24, 2008.

In support of his motion, plaintiff has submitted documents from the VA purporting to indicate that no person from the NCJ requested medical records from the VA during March 2008 (Item 250, Exh. 2). He has also submitted letters from a VA physician and pharmacist indicating, in general terms, the possible consequences of the abrupt discontinuation of certain medications (Item 250, Exh. 6). In her letter, Dr. Alison Sastry specifically stated that she was "unable to speculate on a causal relationship" between the discontinuation of plaintiff's medications and plaintiff's complaints ...


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