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Rucano v. Koenigsmann

United States District Court, N.D. New York

March 3, 2014

CARL J. KOENIGSMANN, Deputy Commissioner and Chief Medical Officer, RITA GRINBERGS, Regional Health Services Administrator, MARY D'SILVA, Director of Correctional Dental Services, KAREN BELLAMY, Director of Inmate Grievance Program, TAMIR R. FAROOKI, Dental Director, Clinton Correctional Facility, ROGERIO A. OLIVEIRA, Facility Dentist; Clinton Correctional Facility, BRIAN FISCHER, Commissioner, THOMAS LAVALLEY, Superintendent; Clinton Correctional Facility, PAUL J. KULLMAN, Regional Dental Director at Clinton Correctional Facility, Defendants.

ANTHONY RUCANO Plaintiff, Pro Se 11-A-0528 Clinton Correctional Facility Dannemora, NY.

CHRISTOPHER W. HALL, ESQ. Assistant Attorney General, ERIC T. SCHNEIDERMAN Attorney General of the State of New York Attorney for Defendants The Capitol Albany, NY.


RANDOLPH F. TREECE, Magistrate Judge.

Pro se Plaintiff Anthony Rucano brings this civil rights action, pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, alleging that Defendants failed to provide adequate dental care, or created and countenanced policies and procedures that led to the inadequate provision of dental care. See generally Dkt. No. 60, Second Am. Compl. Now before this Court is Defendants' Motion to Dismiss, pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6). Dkt. No. 64. Plaintiff opposes the Motion. Dkt. No. 68. For the reasons that follow we recommend that Defendants' Motion be GRANTED in part and DENIED in part.


On a motion to dismiss, the allegations of the complaint must be accepted as true. See Cruz v. Beto, 405 U.S. 319, 322 (1972). The trial court's function "is merely to assess the legal feasibility of the complaint, not to assay the weight of the evidence which might be offered in support thereof." Geisler v. Petrocelli, 616 F.2d 636, 639 (2d Cir. 1980). "The issue is not whether a plaintiff will ultimately prevail but whether the claimant is entitled to offer evidence to support the claims." Scheuer v. Rhodes, 416 U.S. 232, 236 (1974), overruled on other grounds by Davis v. Scherer, 468 U.S. 183 (1984).

"Generally, in determining a 12(b)(6) motion, the court may only consider those matters alleged in the complaint, documents attached to the complaint, and matters to which the court may take judicial notice." Spence v. Senkowski, 1997 WL 394667, at *2 (N.D.N.Y. July 3, 1997) (citing Kramer v. Time Warner Inc., 937 F.2d 767, 773 (2d Cir. 1991)). Moreover, "even if not attached or incorporated by reference, a document upon which [the complaint] solely relies and which is integral to the complaint ' may be considered by the court in ruling on such a motion." Roth v. Jennings, 489 F.3d 499, 509 (2d Cir. 2007) (quoting Cortec Indus., Inc. v. Sum Holding L.P., 949 F.2d 42, 47 (2d Cir. 1991)).

The court is bound to give the plaintiff the benefit of every reasonable inference to be drawn from the "well-pleaded" allegations of the complaint. See Retail Clerks Intern. Ass'n, Local 1625, AFL-CIO v. Schermerhorn, 373 U.S. 746, 754 n.6 (1963); see also Arar v. Ashcroft, 585 F.3d 559, 567 (2d Cir. 2009). Nevertheless, "the tenet that a court must accept as true all of the allegations contained in a complaint is inapplicable to legal conclusions." Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009). Therefore, "[t]hreadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action, supported by mere conclusory statements, do not suffice." Id. (citation omitted).

A motion to dismiss pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6) may not be granted so long as the plaintiff's complaint includes "enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face." Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007); Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 697 (citing Twombly ). "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, 556 U.S. at 678. This plausibility standard "is not akin to a probability requirement, ' but it asks for more than a sheer possibility that a defendant has acted unlawfully." Id. In this respect, to survive dismissal, a plaintiff "must provide the grounds upon which his claim rests through factual allegations sufficient to raise a right to relief above the speculative level.'" ATSI Commc'ns, Inc. v. Shaar Fund, Ltd., 493 F.3d 87, 98 (2d Cir. 2007) (quoting Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 440 U.S. at 555). Thus, in spite of the deference the court is bound to give to the plaintiff's allegations, it is not proper for the court to assume that "the [plaintiff] can prove facts [which he or she] has not alleged, or that the defendants have violated the... laws in ways that have not been alleged." Assoc. Gen. Contractors of California, Inc. v. California State Council of Carpenters, 459 U.S. 519, 526 (1983). The process of determining whether a plaintiff has "nudged [his] claims... across the line from conceivable to plausible, " entails a "context-specific task that requires the reviewing court to draw on its judicial experience and common sense." Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 679-80.

With this standard in tow, we consider the plausibility of Plaintiff's Complaint.


A. Background

The following facts are derived from Plaintiff's Second Amended Complaint.[1]

On February 5, 2011, Plaintiff entered Downstate Correctional Facility ("DCF"). Second Am. Compl. at ¶ 13. During the week of February 8, Plaintiff requested and received a visit with DCF's Dentist.[2] Id. at ¶ 14. At that appointment, Plaintiff relayed that prior to his incarceration, his personal dentist had started work on crowns[3] in three of his teeth by inserting temporary fillings, which were now "past due to be replaced with crowns, and [are] affecting the way I eat. I chew slowly, carefully and am constantly nervous and afraid I will lose the fillings and the teeth." Id. at ¶ 15. Plaintiff also informed DCF's Dentist that his periodontist had told him that he had "advanced periodontal disease that required bone grafts to prevent continuing bone loss which would eventually result in the loss of my teeth, and work was scheduled to begin once my crowns were completed." Id. at ¶ 16. DCF's Dentist informed Plaintiff that "it was not within [New York State Department of Corrections and Community Supervision's ("DOCCS")] Policy to provide crowns or bone grafts." Id. at ¶ 17. On February 23, 2011, Plaintiff filed a grievance regarding DCF's Dentist's refusal to provide him with crowns. Id. at ¶ 18.

On April 19, 2011, Plaintiff was put on the draft list to be transferred to Clinton Correctional Facility ("CCF"). Id. at ¶ 22. On May 17, 2011, Plaintiff received a letter from Defendant Grinbergs in response to a letter he wrote, concerning his dental issues, to Defendant Koenigsmann, Deputy Commissioner and Chief Medical Officer of DOCCS. Id. at ¶¶ 5 & 25. On June 13, 2011, Plaintiff wrote another letter to Defendant Grinbergs "to thank her for responding for Dr. Koenigsmann[, ]" and received a response, dated June 27, informing him that "the Division of Health Services has investigated [his] concerns with the Health ervice staff at Clinton, and stated [he] was receiving treatment" and that he had been scheduled to see the Dentist. Id. at ¶¶ 27-29.

On September 9, 2011, Plaintiff met with Defendant Oliveira, the Dentist at CCF. Plaintiff explained to Defendant Oliveira that he had three teeth that required crowns, and stated that he was concerned he would lose his teeth if the work was not completed. Defendant Oliveira told Plaintiff that pursuant to § 7.02 of the Health Services Policy Manual ("HSPM") Plaintiff could get his own dentist to handle the crowns, but that he would not provide crowns for Plaintiff. Id. at ¶¶ 31-32. Plaintiff informed Defendant Oliveira that he could not afford to pay a private dentist to perform the procedure. Id. at ¶ 33. Defendant Oliveira's assistant, Louise Jerdo, [4] informed Plaintiff that if his temporary "fillings fell out they would just pull the teeth[.]" Id. at ¶¶ 31 & 34. On September 9, 2011, Plaintiff wrote to Defendants Grinbergs and Koenigsmann, however, neither Defendant responded. Id. at ¶¶ 39-40 & 42-43.

On October 4, November 18, and December 23 of 2011, Defendant Oliveira conducted a systematic periodontal root planing of each of the four quadrants of Plaintiff's mouth; however, he continued to refuse to provide Plaintiff with crowns. Id. at ¶¶ 47, 48, & 49. After his final treatment, Plaintiff inquired about a follow up treatment, but was told by Defendant Oliveira that his treatment was complete and no other work was scheduled. Id. at ¶ 50.

In February and March of 2012, Plaintiff made "multiple"[5] requests for a dental appointment to treat tooth pain and to begin bi-annual root plaining. Eventually, an appointment was made for April 5, 2012. However, Plaintiff arrived at his appointment late and consequently was told by an unidentified guard that he would have to reschedule. Id. at ¶¶ 51-56. On April 23, 2012, Plaintiff requested an appointment with a doctor other than Dr. Oliveira, for root planing and pain in his tooth. Id. at ¶ 59. Plaintiff also filed a grievance regarding the events of April 5, stating that "[he] wrote [a] letter to Mary D'Silva (Director of Corr. Dental Services) requesting my semi-anual root planing for advanced periodontal disease and appt. for tooth pain by a dentist other th[a]n Dr. Oliveira, due to issues of retaliation and substandard treatment complained of in the past. Need appt. ASAP. Delay will result in unnecessary infection, pain and loss of teeth that is unnecessary and serves no penological purpose, in violation of my constitutional right to adequate medical care." Id. at ¶ 60 & Ex. F-3, Grievance #CL-62243-12, dated Apr. 23, 2012 (emphasis in original). On May 10, 2012, Plaintiff received a response to his grievance from the Inmate Grievance Resolution Committee ("IGRC ") stating "that [Plaintiff] did have a call-out on 4/5/12 for Dental but he was late. The grievant has been rescheduled." Id. at Ex. F-5. I.G.R.C. Response, dated May 10, 2012.

On May 11, Plaintiff was seen by Defendant Dr. Kullman, CCF's Regional Dental Director, who examined Plaintiff and discovered that he had a cavity which required treatment; Plaintiff also informed Defendant Kullman of his need to replace his temporary fillings with permanent crowns in three of his teeth. Id. at ¶¶ 63-64. A dental treatment form filled out by Dr. Kullman notes that root planing was needed, tooth #5 required treatment for a cavity, and he would schedule another appointment for the treatment. Id. at ¶ 64A & Ex. G2, Dental Treatment Record, at entry dated May 11, 2012. When asked by Plaintiff to explain the function of crowns, Defendant Kullman

explained that when a tooth receives a root canal, the inside of the tooth down to the root is removed which weakens the structural integrity of the tooth; and the placement of a post, permanent filling and crown secures the tooths integrity to prevent it from breaking apart.... [and] that having the crown placed on my teeth was not necessary now, but in a few years if you are still here we will give you crowns."

Id. at ¶ 66.

On June 12, 2012, Plaintiff was called to the dental clinic at CCF for an "emergency callout." Although his cavity was not treated, Defendant Oliveira took a full set of x-rays of Plaintiff's mouth. Id. at ¶ 68. On June 14, Plaintiff received a letter from Defendant Oliveira, stating in part, "Generalized Advanced Chronic Adult Periodontal disease is present' and Teeth #04 and #19 are poorly endodontic treated. These teeth need retreatment of root canals, post and core and crowns. Stainless steel crowns are not indicated for these teeth. DOCCS does not provide offenders with root canals in posterior teeth.... You can either follow Form HSPM-7.02 and bring a dentist into the facility to treat them or alternatively we can extract and replace them with a partial removal denture.'" Id. at ¶ 69 & Ex. F6, Lt. dated June 14, 2012.

On October 26, 2012, Plaintiff saw Dr. Kullman for a second time. Notwithstanding Plaintiff's protestations that he was experiencing a problem with a tooth on the left side of his mouth, Defendant Kullman refused to look at Plaintiff's x-rays and put "another filling on top of a temporary filling in tooth #4" located on the right side of Plaintiff's mouth. Id. at ¶¶ 72-75. On November 26, 2012, Plaintiff submitted a sick call request form stating:

I have cavity on upper left side of mouth, diagnosed on May 11, 2012. I saw dentist on 10-26-12 who refused to look at full mouth x-rays until after he treated a temp filling on the right side of my mouth not causing pain. My cavity is worsening, causing daily pain and I have had no treatment in it for over 6 months

Id. at ¶ 76.

On December 27, 2012 Plaintiff submitted an additional sick call request form stating that he had a "[c]avity on front left top of mouth untreated for over 6 months... [and] [a]dvanced Periodontal disease not treated with root scaling since Oct-Dec 2011. Please schedule appt." Id. at ¶ 77. Plaintiff also submitted a note to Defendant Farooki regarding his concerns. On December 31, Plaintiff received a memo from the Dental Department notifying him that he was on the list to be seen but that it was a "[l]ong list, long wait.'" Id. at ¶ 78.

On April 9, 2013, Plaintiff submitted his Second Amended Complaint. As of that date, Plaintiff had not received crowns, treatment for his cavity, nor any additional root planing for treatment of his periodontal ...

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