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Santos v. Nicholls

United States District Court, Second Circuit

July 1, 2013

ARGENIS SANTOS, Plaintiff,
v.
ALICIA NICHOLLS, R.P.A., et al., Defendants.

OPINION AND ORDER

J. PAUL OETKEN, District Judge.

This is a civil rights case brought pursuant to 42 U.S.C. ยง 1983 in which Plaintiff Argenis Santos alleges that he was denied medical care while incarcerated at Rikers Island. Specifically, he alleges that Defendants - physicians, physician assistants, and other medical staff - failed to properly and speedily provide treatment for both a cavity and an ear infection resulting from removal of his tooth. That ear infection caused permanent hearing loss. Defendants have filed a motion to dismiss pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6). For the reasons that follow, their motion is granted.

I. Background[1]

Plaintiff is an inmate in the custody of the New York Department of Correctional Services and Community Supervision and is currently confined in the Wyoming Correctional Facility. Certain defendants worked in the GMDC facility on Rikers Island during the relevant time period: Nicholls and Auguste as physician assistants; Tse as a physician; and Greenman as a dental provider. Other defendants worked in the OBCC facility on Rikers Island during the relevant time period: Anim-Nance and Calvo as physician assistants; Minn, Khan, Teli, and Sargeant as physicians; and Latunji as on-site medical director. Defendant Towner served as the physician in the West Facility on Rikers Island.

On May 21, 2009, Plaintiff was seen by Nicholls and complained of a severe toothache due to a hole in his tooth. Nicholls prescribed him Motrin, 400mg twice a day for four days, and referred him to the on-site dental office. On May 27, 2009, he was seen by Tse regarding the toothache and complained that he was out of medication; Tse prescribed another cycle of Motrin at a higher dosage and noted a preexisting referral to the dentist. Plaintiff suffered "excruciating pain" between May 25 and May 27, and was unable to "eat, drink and sleep." This prescription expired on June 1, 2009, however, and Plaintiff was forced to endure terrible pain until June 8, 2009, at which point he saw the dentist, Greenman. Greenman concluded that the tooth could not be saved and proposed that it be removed or left in place. It was then removed.

Greenman did not follow up with Plaintiff after the tooth removal. As a result of the removal, Plaintiff suffered an ear infection that caused hearing loss. On July 31, 2009, Plaintiff was seen by Anim-Nance, who noted a decrease in hearing and - in response to learning from Plaintiff that he had experienced fluid draining out of his ear - referred him to an ENT specialist. Latunji approved this referral and graded its priority value as routine. On August 1, 2009, Plaintiff complained to Minn of pain radiating from his left ear to his right ear; Minn then prescribed 10 days of antibiotics and five days of Motrin. On August 21, 2009, Plaintiff complained to Auguste about the month-long ear infection and ear pain; Auguste informed Plaintiff that he was scheduled to see the ENT specialist on August 25, 2009. This consultation was rescheduled by Calvo to August 27, 2009 - but on that date, "the plaintiff did not see the ENT due to no fault of his own and was left in a state of uncertainty."

On September 2, 2009, Plaintiff told Teli that he wanted to see the ENT because he still had ear pain and was losing his hearing. Teli told Plaintiff that he was on a list to see the specialist. On September 13, 2009, Plaintiff told Sargeant that he was experiencing continuous ear pain and could hear little from his left ear. Sargeant indicated that Plaintiff was on the waiting list for the ear specialist and prescribed three days of Motrin. On September 27, 2009, Plaintiff complained about his ear situation to Khan, who prescribed Motrin, and then Plaintiff spoke again with Auguste on September 28, 2009.

On September 30, 2009, Plaintiff was seen by non-defendant Dr. Janvier, who re-submitted a consultation/referral to the ENT. On October 8, 2009, Plaintiff was seen by the ENT specialist, Towner. Towner prescribed 10 days of antibiotics and recommended a follow-up appointment within 4 weeks. On November 6, 2009, an ENT appointment with Towner was ordered. Plaintiff saw Towner again on November 12, 2009, at which point Towner prescribed medication for 30 days and submitted a referral to audiology. The audiologist, non-defendant Dr. Kenul, saw Plaintiff on November 23, 2009. After an examination, Kenul concluded that Plaintiff had suffered untreatable hearing loss.

Plaintiff alleges that as a result of Anim-Nance, Minn, Auguste, Calvo, Teli, Sargeant, Khan, and Latunji's "deliberate indifference to plaintiff's medical needs, pain and suffering, plaintiff was forced to continue to suffer in pain for approximately 3 months and a delay of medical treatment from 7/31/2009 to 10/8/09... [causing] unnecessary pain and the [cruel] and unusual punishment of [losing] his hearing in his left ear."

II. Standard of Review

Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 8(a)(2) requires "a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief." To survive a motion to dismiss pursuant to Federal Rule 12(b)(6), a plaintiff must plead sufficient factual allegations "to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face." Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007). A claim is facially plausible "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, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009). The Court must accept as true all well-pleaded factual allegations in the complaint, and "draw[ ] all inferences in the plaintiff's favor." Allaire Corp. v. Okumus, 433 F.3d 248, 250 (2d Cir. 2006) (quotations omitted). That said, "the tenet that a court must accept as true all of the allegations contained in a complaint is inapplicable to legal conclusions. Threadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action, supported by mere conclusory statements, do not suffice." Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678 (citation omitted). "It is well established that the submissions of a pro se litigant must be construed liberally and interpreted to raise the strongest arguments that they suggest. " Triestman v. Fed. Bureau of Prisons, 470 F.3d 471, 474 (2d Cir. 2006) (quotation marks and citations omitted). The pleadings filed by pro se litigants merit "special solicitude." Ruotolo v. I.R.S., 28 F.3d 6, 8 (2d Cir. 1994).

III. Discussion

A. Legal Standard

The Eighth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution provides that "cruel and unusual punishments [shall not be] inflicted." U.S. Const. amend. VIII. "That rule, applicable to the states through the Fourteenth Amendment, is violated by unnecessary and wanton inflictions of pain and suffering." Walker v. Schriro, No. 11 Civ. 9299, 2013 WL 1234930, at *11 (S.D.N.Y. Mar. 26, 2013) (citations omitted). To state an Eighth Amendment claim, a prisoner must allege both (1) that he suffered a sufficiently, objectively serious deprivation and (2) that officials who caused the harm acted or failed to act ...


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