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Williams v. Williams

United States District Court, S.D. New York

February 11, 2015



RONNIE ABRAMS, District Judge.

Plaintiff Thomas Williams, proceeding pro se, brings this action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against Defendants Kelly Keane and Dr. Rhondina Williams, both of whom work at the medical clinic at Sing Sing Correctional Facility, where Plaintiff was incarcerated at all times relevant to this case. Plaintiff alleges that Defendants violated his Eighth Amendment right to be free from cruel and unusual punishment when they were deliberately indifferent to his serious medical needs by delaying treatment of his broken finger. Plaintiff filed an amended complaint on March 7, 2014.[1] (Dkt. 51.) Defendants each moved to dismiss the amended complaint pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6), Fed. R. Civ. P., for failure to state a claim on which relief may be granted or, alternatively, based on the doctrine of qualified immunity. (Dkt. 59 and 61.) For the reasons that follow, the Court finds that Plaintiff has failed to state a claim on which relief may be granted and, accordingly, Defendants' motions are GRANTED.


For purposes of this motion, the Court accepts as true all facts alleged by Plaintiff. See Kassner v. 2nd Ave. Delicatessen Inc., 496 F.3d 229, 237 (2d Cir. 2007). In determining whether Plaintiff states a claim on which relief may be granted, the Court considers facts alleged in his amended complaint, his opposition to Defendants' motions to dismiss, and the medical records attached to his opposition.[2]

As noted above, Plaintiff was incarcerated at Sing Sing at all times relevant to his complaint. He alleges that on May 20, 2010, while he was in the clinic awaiting a physical therapy appointment for his spinal problems, he suffered "serious pains throughout his back and neck" that caused him to fall against the wall. (Am. Compl. at 5 ¶ 2.)[3] Plaintiff injured the middle finger on his left hand when he tried to break his fall. (Id.) He signed up for sick hall to address, among other concerns, his "left-hand middle finger that swelled up and the bone was poking up under the skin and causing [him] serious pain." (Id. ¶ 5.) Although Plaintiff attended morning sick hall the next day, he began to experience "intense" pain and dizziness while he waited to see a nurse and had to return to his cell because he was "unable to sit or stand anymore." (Id. ¶ 7.) Plaintiff returned to emergency sick hall that afternoon after a correctional officer saw him in pain in his cell and signed him up. (Id. at 6 ¶ 9.)

Nurse Keane saw Plaintiff in the medical clinic that afternoon-Friday, May 21, 2010. He alleges that Nurse Keane was "verbally rude" to him, stating that "she just saw [him] the other day. She can't do anything for [him], [and that] she'll put [him] down to see [his medical provider]." (Id. ¶ 11.) She then ordered him to leave the clinic. (Id.) Plaintiff alleges that Nurse Keane refused to look at his finger despite his efforts to show her and that she did not note any of his concerns in his medical records. (Id. ¶ 13.) There is no record of this visit in the medical records that Plaintiff submitted, which appear to cover his clinic visits and physical therapy sessions between April 29, 2010 and October 21, 2010. (Pl. Opp'n, Exh. A at 17-27.) According to Plaintiff, Nurse Keane "lied about putting [him] in to see [his] medical provider" and never actually made such a referral. (Id. at 50, 52.) Although Plaintiff saw a doctor the following business day, he contends that "[t]his appointment was not triggered' by any actions on behalf of Nurse Keane. There is no medical report of referral in Plaintiff's medical records reflecting [that] [N]urse Keane ever [saw] plaintiff on May 21, 2010, or scheduled plaintiff to see Dr. Williams on May 24, 2010." (Id. at 49.) In his May 21 Inmate Grievance Complaint filed against Nurse Keane, Plaintiff alleges that "at this time, I was in serious pain with [the] wrong low dosage of pain medication of 50 m.g. when I [was] suppose[d] to have 100 m.g. twice a day." (Am. Compl. at 12.) Plaintiff asserts that he returned to his cell in "serious pain" earlier that day, after Nurse Keane intentionally denied him any medical attention or pain medication. (Id. at 6 ¶ 15.)

Plaintiff was seen by Dr. Williams in the medical clinic on Monday, May 24, at which time he informed her of his finger injury, the serious pain that he was in, and the "swelling and bone sticking up under the skin of [the] finger." (Id. at 7 ¶ 18.) Dr. Williams asked whether he could move his finger, to which he responded, "a little." (Id. ¶ 19.) She then visually inspected his hand and told him that "there was nothing wrong with [his] finger." (Id.) Plaintiff alleges that Dr. Williams did not provide him with any medical treatment, including X-rays or pain medication, for his finger on that day. (Id. ¶ 20.)

Plaintiff saw Dr. Williams again 21 days later, on June 14, and informed her that he continued to experience serious pain and injury to his finger. (Id. ¶¶ 21-22.) She conducted a "hands on examination" of his finger and ordered an X-ray of his left hand, which was conducted two days later. (Id. ¶ 23.) On June 21, Dr. Williams informed him that the X-ray revealed that his finger was broken and placed a splint on his finger. (Id. at 7-8 ¶¶ 25-27.) She also referred Plaintiff to physical therapy for his finger, which he attended from August 30 through October 21. (Id. at 8 ¶¶ 28-29.) A report from an X-ray conducted on July 14 indicates that Plaintiff's finger was 70 percent healed after the splint was applied (Pl. Opp'n, Exh. A at 21), and his physical therapy records indicate that his finger was healed upon his discharge on October 21 (id., Exh. B at 38-39). He alleges that Dr. Williams' intentional failure to order an X-ray on May 24 and to increase his pain medication contributed to the serious pain in his finger. (Am. Compl. at 8 ¶ 30.)

Plaintiff alleges that Defendants intentionally deprived him of medical care to treat his broken finger and the resulting pain, and that this deprivation constitutes a deliberate indifference to his serious medical need in violation of the Eighth Amendment. (Id. at 3.) Plaintiff alleges that he experiences "present pain and suffering and loss of full strength in [his] left hand." (Id. at 3.) He is seeking compensatory and punitive damages in the amount of $500, 000. (Id. at 9.)


On a Rule 12(b)(6) motion, the Court must accept all factual allegations in the complaint as true and draw all reasonable inferences in Plaintiff's favor. Tellabs, Inc. v. Makor Issues & Rights, Ltd., 551 U.S. 308, 322 (2007). "This rule applies with particular force where the plaintiff alleges civil rights violations or where the complaint is submitted pro se. " Thompson v. Carter, 284 F.3d 411, 416 (2d Cir. 2002) (quoting Chance v. Armstrong, 143 F.3d 698, 701 (2d Cir. 1998)). "To survive a motion to dismiss, a complaint must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.'" Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (quoting Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007)). "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." Id. Where the plaintiff is pro se, his complaint "must be construed liberally with special solicitude and interpreted to raise the strongest claims that it suggests. Nonetheless, a pro se complaint must state a plausible claim for relief." Hogan v. Fischer, 738 F.3d 509, 515 (2d Cir. 2013) (internal quotation marks and citation omitted). A pleading, whether pro se or not, that offers "labels and conclusions" or only provides "naked assertion[s]" devoid of "further factual enhancement" is insufficient to state a claim. Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555, 557.


A. Legal Standards Governing Eighth Amendment Claims of Deliberate Indifference to Serious Medical Needs

The Cruel and Unusual Punishment Clause of the Eighth Amendment imposes a duty upon prison officials to ensure that inmates "receive adequate... medical care." Farmer v. Brennan, 511 U.S. 825, 832 (1994). Significantly, however, "not every lapse in medical care is a constitutional wrong." Salahuddin v. Goord, 467 F.3d 263, 279 (2d Cir. 2006). Rather, Plaintiff must show a "deliberate indifference to [his] serious medical needs, " Estelle v. Gamble, 429 U.S. 97, 104 (1976), which is understood as "the unnecessary and wanton infliction of pain' proscribed by the Eighth Amendment." Id. (quoting Gregg v. Georgia, 428 U.S. 153, 173 (1976)). A prison official only violates the Eighth Amendment when both the objective and subjective prongs of the test enunciated in Farmer are met. Specifically, a prisoner must allege both that (1) he suffered an "objectively, sufficiently serious'" ...

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