United States District Court, W.D. New York
HUGH B. SCOTT, Magistrate Judge.
Before the Court are the following motions: defendants' motion for summary judgment (Docket No. 62) and plaintiff's (proceeding pro se) cross motion for summary judgment (Docket No. 64). Responses to the defense motion were due by April 25, 2014, with replies initially due May 2, 2014 (Docket No. 63), while responses to plaintiff's motion were due by May 9, 2014, and replies to both motions were due by May 16, 2014 (Docket No. 69). The parties consented to proceed before the undersigned as Magistrate Judge on September 24, 2013 (Docket No. 50).
In this pro se civil rights action, plaintiff alleges that defendants (corrections officers and officials at Southport Correctional Facility ("Southport") and the Department of Corrections and Community Supervision ("DOCCS")) were deliberately indifferent in treating various ailments he had while in their custody at Southport. Plaintiff filed his initial Complaint on June 18, 2012 (Docket No. 1), and amended that Complaint (Docket No. 6) to allege claims against defendant John vonHagn on July 27, 2012. Most of the defendants answered the original Complaint (Docket No. 9) and vonHagn answered the amended pleading (Docket No. 10; see Docket No. 62, Defs. Statement ¶¶ 4-5). Plaintiff, on April 12, 2013, moved to amend the Complaint (Docket No. 13), which was granted (Docket Nos. 18 (Order), 21 (Amended Complaint)). Defendants answered that amended pleading (Docket No. 30). Plaintiff again moved to amend the Complaint (Docket No. 27) to add additional ailments, which was granted (Docket No. 31 (Order), 32 (Third Amended Complaint)). Defendants answered this amended pleading (Docket No. 33).
The Third Amended Complaint names Dr. Canfield, Benjamin Oakes, Dr. Koenigsmann, regional health administrator Peter Bogarski, and nurse administrator John vonHagn. In this Third Amended Complaint (Docket No. 32) plaintiff alleges that defendant Dr. Canfield wrote a letter denying plaintiff pain medication for his lower back. Plaintiff then wrote to the DOCCS chief medical officer, defendant Dr. Koenigsmann, and Dr. Koenigsmann responded that plaintiff needed to follow normal sick call procedures to make his requests. Plaintiff then filed numerous sick call slips, but claims they were all ignored. On May 8, 2012, plaintiff saw defendant physician assistant Oakes for pain medication but plaintiff remained in pain. Plaintiff then claims that he was authorized to receive physical therapy but it was denied by Dr. Koenigsmann, as well as plaintiff's request for a specialist to examine him. On July 22, 2012, plaintiff's claims that his back "went out" and that he hit his head (id. at third unnumbered page). On January 9, 2013, plaintiff was diagnosed with nerve dysfunction at the wrist and carpel tunnel syndrome. On May 21, 2013, he was diagnosed with mild back pain in the lower back (id.).
Defense Motion for Summary Judgment
Plaintiff filed his statement of disputed facts (Docket No. 67) but it appears to agree in relevant parts with defendants' statement of material facts (Docket No. 62), save disputing facts dispositive of his claim. Where there is no material difference, defendants' statement will be cited and differences will be noted.
Plaintiff was an inmate at Southport during the period at issue (Docket No. 62, Defs. Statement ¶ 14). Dr. Canfield was the facility services health director at Southport, while Dr. Koenigsmann was the chief medical officer for DOCCS (id. ¶¶ 15-16) and Peter Bogarski was regional health service administrator (id. ¶ 19). Defendants Benjamin Oakes and vonHagn were physician's assistants at Southport (id. ¶¶ 17, 18).
Plaintiff alleges that his Eighth Amendment rights were violated by defendants providing inadequate medical care to him while at Southport (id. ¶ 20). Plaintiff claims defendants did not properly treat his back pain related to his scoliosis, refused to address his medical needs, denying him pain medication, and refusing to send him either to a specialist or physical therapy (id. ¶ 21). Plaintiff's scoliosis was treated with a plan to address current symptoms with physical therapy, home exercise, and medication (id. ¶¶ 23, 24). Plaintiff received treatment for this condition when he was previously at the Attica Correctional Facility (id. ¶¶ 25-31) until he was transferred to Southport (see id. ¶ 32). Upon his arrival at Southport, on October 21, 2011, plaintiff denied that he had any chronic medical conditions and his current medication was only Claritin (id. ¶ 32; see also Docket No. 70, Defs. Response to Pl. Statement of Fact ¶ 30). Plaintiff's Statement of Disputed Facts does not discuss whether he mentioned any chronic medical conditions upon his arrival at Southport (cf. Docket No. 67, Pl. Statement ¶ 30).
While at Southport, plaintiff's medical record included low back pain, shoulder pain, neck pain, rash, and ear pain (Docket No. 62, Defs. Statement ¶ 33; Docket No. 62, Canfield Decl. ¶ 17). Defendants point out that plaintiff was treated for his rash (Docket No. 62, Defs. Statement ¶ 34), ear complaints (id. ¶ 35), and low back pain (id. ¶¶ 36-37). Plaintiff stated in 2012 (as he was seen over 70 times for his back) that he was "putting in sick call every day until Albany approves my stuff" (id. ¶ 39). He was offered over-the-counter medication on three instances May 29 to June 2, 2012 (id. ¶¶ 40, 41), and plaintiff declined that medication (id. ¶ 40).
Defendants then reviewed the treatment plaintiff received for his rash and back by Dr. Canfield and Oakes from October 25, 2011, to July 11, 2013 (id. ¶¶ 42-78). They then discussed Dr. Koenigsmann and his role as chief medical officer, responsible for an 80-person staff and overseeing 1, 680 health care staff (id. ¶ 79) and receiving thousands of letters from inmates complaining of their care (id. ¶ 80). They then recounted plaintiff's stream of correspondence to Dr. Koenigsmann (id. ¶¶ 81-95, 98-108). In some instances, Dr. Koenigsmann referred plaintiff's letters to Bogarski to investigate (e.g., id. ¶¶ 90, 95-96).
Defendant vonHagn is a nurse administrator at Southport (id. ¶ 109) whose duties include supervising nursing staff there and responding to sick call responses and grievances regarding inmate medical care (id. ¶ 111). Although plaintiff does not specifically allege anything against vonHagn, plaintiff alleges that he submitted sick call slips that he claims were ignored by medical staff (id. ¶ 110). VonHagn responded to sick calls plaintiff filed in May 2012 (id. ¶¶ 112-13), November and December 2012 (id. ¶¶ 114-16) and to grievances plaintiff filed (id. ¶¶ 118-21, 117).
Defendants in this motion argue that they provided adequate medical care to plaintiff (Docket No. 62, Defs. Memo. at 3-6), in particular, that Dr. Canfield and Oakes, as primary providers, treated plaintiff. Plaintiff differs with the techniques Dr. Canfield performed and with the efforts of Oakes to seek treatment (id. at 6-8, 8-11), and thus plaintiff fails to establish that either the objective or subjective components for a deliberate indifference claim. Since the treating personnel were not deliberately indifferent, defendants conclude that the supervisory officials and employees (Dr. Koenigsmann, Bogarski, vonHagn) cannot be held liable for violating plaintiff's civil rights (id. at 14). Additionally, those defendants were not personally involved in plaintiff's treatment (id. at 14-18), as conceded by plaintiff (Docket No. 66, Pl. Memo. at eighteenth unnumbered page) despite his argument that Dr. Koenigsmann is liable because he is chief medical officer of DOCCS (id. at twenty-first unnumbered page); therefore defendants argue ...