United States District Court, W.D. New York
DECISION AND ORDER
FRANK P. GERACI, Jr., District Chief Judge.
Pro se Plaintiff Leon Wise ("Wise") brings this action under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, alleging that his Constitutional rights were violated while he was an inmate at the Livingston Correctional Facility ("Livingston") in Sonyea, New York. ECF No. 1 at 1. Wise claims that Defendants Paul Daugherty ("Daugherty") and Joanne M. Nowinski ("Nowinski"), both nurses at Livingston, were deliberately indifferent to his medical needs in violation of the Eighth Amendment when they failed to properly diagnose and treat a stroke Wise claims he suffered on August 22, 2012. Id. at 5. Daugherty and Nowinski have moved for summary judgment pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 56, and because there are no facts to demonstrate that Daugherty or Nowinski were deliberately indifferent to any of Wise's serious medical needs, their Motion for Summary Judgment (ECF No. 10) is GRANTED and this case is dismissed with prejudice.
Wise commenced this pro se action against Daugherty and Nowinski on August 9, 2013, ECF No. 1, and seeks monetary damages for "permanent pain and impairment" he claims to have suffered as a result of Daugherty and Nowinski's failure to provide him with adequate medical care on August 22, 2012. Id. at 6.
At all relevant times, Wise was an inmate in the custody of the New York State Department of Corrections and Community Supervision ("DOCCS"). ECF No. 1 at 1. Daugherty and Nowinski were employed by DOCCS at Livingston while Wise was housed at that facility. Id. at 5. Daugherty is a registered nurse practitioner ("N.P.") and has been employed by DOCCS and the New York State Office of Mental Health since 1994. ECF No. 10-5 at 1. Nowinski is a registered nurse and as of August 2014 had been employed by DOCCS for at least three years. ECF No. 10-4 at 1.
The Complaint alleges that Daugherty and Nowinski failed to properly respond to a stroke Wise claims he suffered in August 2012. ECF No. 1 at 5. Wise claims that on August 22, 2012, Nowinski and Daugherty were "negligent and deliberately indifferent in providing [...] adequate medical care in the course of a medical emergency." Id. Wise alleges that on that date he "suffered a stroke" while he was "in the dorm area." Id. He claims that Daugherty and Nowinski violated his rights under the Eighth Amendment when they deprived him of "proper medical care by refusing [him] treatment, " did not "properly access the emergency, " and failed to "make a professional and adequate diagnosis" of what he claims was a stroke. Id.
Wise expounds on his allegations regarding this medical episode in an Inmate Grievance Complaint that he prepared on September 19, 2012, which he attached to his Complaint. Id. at 8. Wise claims that when he initially presented to prison medical staff on August 22, 2012, he had "a slur" and his "left hand wouldn't work right." Id. According to Wise, he was "checked out, given an aspirin, and sent back to [his] housing unit." Id. When "another of the same incident happened" one week later, Wise was sent to Erie County Medical Center ("ECMC") in Buffalo, New York for treatment of a "possible stroke." Id. According to Wise, Daugherty and Nowinski's inadequate treatment on August 22, 2012 was the cause of this "subsequent stroke, " which he claims "could have been prevented" if not for Daugherty and Nowinski's failure to properly care for him during the August 22, 2012 incident. Id.
Daugherty and Nowinski filed their Motion for Summary Judgment on August 4, 2014, ECF No. 10, and provided Wise with a Notice to Pro Se Litigant Opposing Summary Judgment pursuant to Local Rule 56(b), as well as a statement of material facts not in dispute pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 56 and Local Rule 56(a)(1). See ECF Nos. 10-1, 10-2.
Daugherty and Nowinski argue that Wise's allegations amount to, at worst, negligence or medical malpractice, both of which are not actionable under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. ECF No. 10-3 at 8-9. They claim that Wise was examined "several times on August 22, 2012 and in the days thereafter." ECF No. 10-2 at ¶ 13. During these observations, Wise "did not present with any symptoms of a stroke." Id. Wise's medical records show that during the August 22, 2012 exam, Wise's facial symmetry was equal, his pupils were equal and reacted to light, his grip was strong and equal, and his speech was clear and coherent. ECF No. 10-4, Exhibit A at 2. Wise told Daugherty that he felt dehydrated and did not drink enough water that day, and Daugherty then "instructed [Wise] on the importance of adequate fluid intake." Id. Livingston medical staff observed Wise during daily "sick call" on each of the two days following the August 22, 2012 episode. ECF No. 10-2 at ¶ 40-50. Wise showed "no signs of a stroke" during these follow-up observations. Id. at ¶ 45.
Daugherty and Nowinski also contend that Wise did not suffer a stroke a week later, on August 28, 2012, but a similar episode called a trans ischemic attack ("TIA"). Id. at ¶ 12. Livingston medical staff observed Wise during an emergency sick call on August 28, 2012. ECF No. 10-4, Exhibit A at 4. This time, Wise complained of weakness in his left side, and Daugherty noted slurred speech and weakness in Wise's left hand grips. Id. After assessing his condition, Daugherty had Wise taken to ECMC by ambulance. ECF No. 10-2 at ¶ 56. Medical staff provided aspirin to Wise for what they believed to be a TIA, which Daugherty explains is "like a stroke" but "causes no permanent damage" because a TIA does not involve bleeding in the brain. ECF No. 10-5 at ¶¶ 55-56.
Wise was admitted to ECMC on August 31, 2012. ECF No. 10-2 at ¶ 62. Susan Elrich, M.D., observed Wise at ECMC and found that he likely suffered two TIA's in the week before his admission. ECF No. 10-4, Exhibit A at 50. Elrich did not find that Wise had suffered a stroke. Id. Wise was discharged from ECMC on September 7, 2012. Id. at 41. Wise's medical records note that Livingston officials contacted Wise's treatment providers at ECMC to keep abreast of his condition during his stay at the hospital. See ECF No. 10-4, Exhibit A at 5. Medical records also demonstrate that Livingston staff continued to treat and provide necessary medications for Wise's various ailments in the months following his return to the facility, even authorizing a second transfer to ECMC on September 11, 2012 when Wise's condition warranted a higher level of care. ECF No. 10-2 at ¶¶ 72-92.
Wise filed his opposition to Daugherty and Nowinski's summary judgment motion on September 9, 2014. ECF No. 12. Wise's Response claims that his medical records were "doctored" to "fit [Daugherty and Nowinski's] story, " and that on August 22, 2012, "N.P. Daugherty misdiagnosed me." ECF No. 12, at 3, 4. Though Wise accuses Daugherty and Nowinski of "perjury and mis-leading (sic) the" Court, he does not point to any specific fact about which they were allegedly untruthful. Id. at 4. Wise's Response also attached a three-page, mostly unattributed "Affirmation" purporting to offer medical background on strokes, TIA's, and accompanying symptoms that appears to be copied from a medical reference publication. Id. at 6-8. Wise acknowledges that Daugherty and Nowinski provided him medical treatment and ...