United States District Court, N.D. New York
JOHN JONES, Pro se Plaintiff, Franklin Correctional Facility, Malone, New York.
HON. ERIC T. SCHNEIDERMAN, Attorney General of the State of New York, KELLY L. MUNKWITZ, ESQ., Assistant Attorney General, Attorney for Defendants, Albany, New York.
REPORT-RECOMMENDATION and ORDER
RANDOLPH F. TREECE, Magistrate Judge.
On January 7, 2013,  pro se Plaintiff John Jones, while incarcerated at Marcy Correctional Facility ("Marcy"), commenced a civil rights action, pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, alleging an Eighth Amendment medical indifference claim against Marcy's Facility Health Services Director, Dr. Krishna Vadlamudi, and Nurse Administrator Sandra Martin-Smith,  as well as a First Amendment retaliation claim against Nurse Martin-Smith. See generally Dkt. No. 1, Compl. On April 18, 2014, Defendants filed a Motion for Summary Judgment. Dkt. No. 55, Defs.' Mot. for Summ. J. Plaintiff submitted his Response in Opposition thereto. Dkt. No. 61, Pl.'s Resp. in Opp'n. As set forth below, the Court recommends granting Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment.
A. Standard of Review
Pursuant to FED. R. CIV. P. 56(a), summary judgment is appropriate only where "there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." The moving party bears the burden to demonstrate through "pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with [ ] affidavits, if any, " that there is no genuine issue of material fact. F.D.I.C. v. Giammettei, 34 F.3d 51, 54 (2d Cir. 1994) (quoting Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323 (1986)). "When a party has moved for summary judgment on the basis of asserted facts supported as required by [Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56(e)] and has, in accordance with local court rules, served a concise statement of the material facts as to which it contends there exist no genuine issues to be tried, those facts will be deemed admitted unless properly controverted by the nonmoving party." Glazer v. Formica Corp., 964 F.2d 149, 154 (2d Cir. 1992).
To defeat a motion for summary judgment, the non-movant must set out specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial, and cannot rest merely on allegations or denials of the facts submitted by the movant. FED. R. CIV. P. 56(c); see also Scott v. Coughlin, 344 F.3d 282, 287 (2d Cir. 2003) ("Conclusory allegations or denials are ordinarily not sufficient to defeat a motion for summary judgment when the moving party has set out a documentary case."); Rexnord Holdings, Inc. v. Bidermann, 21 F.3d 522, 525-26 (2d Cir. 1994). To that end, sworn statements are "more than mere conclusory allegations subject to disregard... they are specific and detailed allegations of fact, made under penalty of perjury, and should be treated as evidence in deciding a summary judgment motion" and the credibility of such statements is better left to a trier of fact. Scott v. Coughlin, 344 F.3d at 289 (citing Flaherty v. Coughlin, 713 F.2d 10, 13 (2d Cir. 1983) & Colon v. Coughlin, 58 F.3d 865, 872 (2d Cir. 1995)).
When considering a motion for summary judgment, the court must resolve all ambiguities and draw all reasonable inferences in favor of the non-movant. Nora Beverages, Inc. v. Perrier Group of Am., Inc., 164 F.3d 736, 742 (2d Cir. 1998). "[T]he trial court's task at the summary judgment motion stage of the litigation is carefully limited to discerning whether there are any genuine issues of material fact to be tried, not to deciding them. Its duty, in short, is confined at this point to issue-finding; it does not extend to issue-resolution." Gallo v. Prudential Residential Servs., Ltd. P'ship, 22 F.3d 1219, 1224 (2d Cir. 1994). Furthermore, where a party is proceeding pro se, the court must "read [his or her] supporting papers liberally, and... interpret them to raise the strongest arguments that they suggest." Burgos v. Hopkins, 14 F.3d 787, 790 (2d Cir. 1994); accord Soto v. Walker, 44 F.3d 169, 173 (2d Cir. 1995). Nonetheless, mere conclusory allegations, unsupported by the record, are insufficient to defeat a motion for summary judgment. See Carey v. Crescenzi, 923 F.2d 18, 21 (2d Cir. 1991). 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).
B. Material Facts
Plaintiff is an inmate in the custody of the New York State Department of Corrections and Community Supervision ("DOCCS"). Dkt. No. 55-8, Defs.' Mem. of Law, at p. 2. Dr. Vadlamudi is a medical doctor employed by DOCCS as a Facility Health Services Director at Marcy Correctio nal Facility. Dkt. No. 55-4, Krishna Vadlamudi Decl., dated Mar. 20, 2014, at ¶ 2. Throughout the relevant time period, Martin-Smith was employed as a Nurse Administrator at Marcy Correctional Facility. Dkt. No. 55-5, Sandra Martin-Smith Decl., dated Mar. 19, 2014, at ¶ 3. As a Nurse Administrator, she did not have the authority to prescribe narcotic medication, nor the authority to discontinue a course of treatment issued by a primary care provider. Id. at ¶ 7. Generally, Plaintiff's Eighth Amendment claims arises out of treatment received and/or denied for his back pain. During his deposition, Plaintiff further testified that he was denied treatment for his conjunctivitis and enlarged prostate.
1. Back Pain
Plaintiff's back pain stems from a 1993 car accident. Compl. at STATEMENT OF FACTS ¶ 2. In 2008, doctors at Albany Medical Center implanted a neurostimulator in Plaintiff's back to ease his back pain. Id. at STATEMENT OF FACTS ¶ 8. In July 2011, Dr. German, a neurology specialist at Albany Medical Center, operated on Jones to remove a titanium rod from his spine. Dkt. No. 56-2, Kelly Munkwitz, Esq., Decl., Ex. A, John Jones Dep., dated Nov. 26, 2013, at p. 37. Dr. German told Jones that he would see him in six months for a follow-up appointment. Compl. at STATEMENT OF FACTS ¶ 10. Following surgery, Plaintiff returned to Mount McGregor Correctional Facility, was subsequently transferred to Mohawk Correctional Facility for approximately two months, and then transferred to Marcy on October 31, 2011, where he remained until April 2, 2013. Id. at STATEMENT OF FACTS ¶¶ 11-12; Jones Dep. at p. 10.
On October 31, 2011, the day Plaintiff was transferred to Marcy, the health services staff noted that Plaintiff had a neurostimulator implant and was on several narcotic medications including, Neurotin, Percocet, and Morphine. Dkt. No. 55-6, Krishna Vadlamudi & Sandra Martin-Smith Decls., Ex. A, Ambulatory Health Record Progress Note (hereinafter "Progress Note"), dated Oct. 31, 2011, at p. 3; Martin-Smith Decl. at ¶ 11. On November 3, 2011, a consultation was submitted for Plaintiff to visit with a neurosurgery specialist at Walsh Regional Medical Center ("Walsh"). Progress Note, dated Nov. 3, 2011, at p. 9; Vadlamudi Decl. at¶ 11. In response, Plaintiff stated that only Dr. German may provide him with continuing care, and he signed a form entitled, "Refusal of Medical Examination and/or Treatment, " in which he refused to accept continuing care from specialists and neurological providers except for Dr. German. Dkt. No. 55-6, Vadlamudi & Martin-Smith Decls., Ex. A, Form 3195, dated Nov. 3, 2011, at p. 10. Shortly after signing this form, he sent a letter to DOCCS Commissioner Brian Fischer complaining about the medical staff at Marcy. See Dkt. No. 55-6, Vadlamudi & Martin-Smith Decls., Ex. A, DOCCS Lt., dated Nov. 17, 2011, at p. 14. Replying on behalf of the Commissioner, DOCCS Deputy Commissioner/Chief Medical Officer informed Plaintiff that he "cannot dictate what ...