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Williams v. Geraci

United States District Court, E.D. New York

January 31, 2017

STOKER OLUKOTUN WILLIAMS, Plaintiff,
v.
DR. VINCENT GERACI, CHARLES EWALD, DEPUTY ALLEN SHAPIRO, MARION WEBSTER, OFFICER ROBERT “BOB” KOCH, SUFFOLK COUNTY, and DEPUTY DOUGLAS MEHRMAN, Defendants.

          For Plaintiff: Stoker Olukotun Williams, pro se.

          For Defendants: Brian C. Mitchell, Esq. Suffolk County Attorney.

          MEMORANDUM & ORDER

          JOANNA SEYBERT, U.S.D.J.

         Currently pending before the Court is defendants Dr. Vincent Geraci (“Dr. Geraci”), Warden Charles Ewald (“Warden Ewald”), Deputy Allen Shapiro (“Deputy Shapiro”), Marion Webster (“Nurse Webster”), Officer Robert “Bob” Koch (“Officer Koch”), Suffolk County (the “County”), and Deputy Douglas Mehrman's (“Deputy Mehrman”) (collectively, “Defendants”) motion for summary judgment. (Defs.' Mot., Docket Entry 127.) For the following reasons, Defendants' Motion is GRANTED IN PART and DENIED IN PART.

         BACKGROUND

         I. Factual Background[1]

         On September 8, 2013, Plaintiff was admitted to the Suffolk County Correctional Facility (“SCCF”). (Defs.' 56.1 Stmt., Docket Entry 112-1, ¶ 1.) Defendants allege that Plaintiff was periodically treated for a gunshot wound and a hand injury during 2013 and did not complain about back pain. (Defs.' 56.1 Stmt. ¶¶ 1-2.) Plaintiff alleges that he handed in at least two medical “chits” per week from mid-September 2013 through mid-February 2014, and he filed his first medical grievance on February 23, 2014. (Pl.'s 56.1 Counterstmt., Docket Entry 112-2, ¶ 3.) Plaintiff alleges that his medical chits were ignored. (Pl.'s 56.1 Counterstmt. ¶ 4.) However, it is undisputed that between September 2013 and June 2014, Plaintiff played basketball two to three times per week and was able to dunk the basketball. (Defs.' 56.1 Stmt. ¶¶ 5-6.)

         Defendants allege that the first time Plaintiff complained of back pain was on February 26, 2014, when he was seen at the Jail Medical Unit and reported a discharge from his nipple and lower back pain. (Defs.' 56.1 Stmt. ¶ 3.) Defendant alleges that Plaintiff's history regarding prior back pain was “inconsistent, ” he did not have any “outward manifestations [of] any pain or diminished range of motion, ” and he was prescribed ibuprofen and given physical therapy exercises to build neck and back strength. (Defs.' 56.1 Stmt. ¶ 3.)

         Plaintiff alleges that on April 2, 2014, he had a “writ of habeas corpus hearing” in which he sought an MRI and orthopedic evaluation. (Pl.'s 56.1 Counterstmt. ¶ 4.) On April 3, 2014, Plaintiff was examined at the Jail Medical Unit. (Defs.' 56.1 Stmt. ¶ 4.) Defendants allege that Plaintiff was “observed to be in no apparent distress, ” was prescribed Naprosyn because he alleged that his prior medication was not working. (Defs.' 56.1 Stmt. ¶ 4.) Plaintiff was also advised to use sports cream, take hot showers, and continue lower back exercises. (Defs.' 56.1 Stmt. ¶ 4.)

         On June 18, 2014, Plaintiff was examined at the Jail Medical Unit after he complained that he was injured while trying to dunk a basketball. (Defs.' 56.1 Stmt. ¶ 7.) Plaintiff alleges that he fell and could not stand or straighten his back. (Pl.'s 56.1 Counterstmt. ¶ 7.) Defendants allege that while Plaintiff did not demonstrate “apparent distress, ” he was taken to Peconic Bay Hospital for follow up treatment. (Defs.' 56.1 Stmt. ¶ 8.) Plaintiff avers that medical notes documented that he was not able to rise without assistance and displayed high blood pressure. (Pl.'s 56.1 Counterstmt. ¶ 8.) Defendants allege that on June 19, 2014, a corrections officer advised a nurse that Plaintiff “was able to ambulate without any difficulty and no physical impairments were noted.” (Defs.' 56.1 Stmt. ¶ 9.) Plaintiff alleges that on that date he was “walking hunched over.” (Pl.'s 56.1 Counterstmt. ¶ 9.)

         On June 20, 2014, Dr. Geraci saw Plaintiff and prescribed a muscle relaxant but determined that a wheelchair was not necessary and instead prescribed a walker. (Defs.' 56.1 Stmt. ¶ 10.) Plaintiff alleges that Dr. Geraci stated that he would not order an MRI because it was too expensive and told Plaintiff to “man up” when he complained that the walker hurt his back. (Pl.'s 56.1 Counterstmt. ¶ 10.) However, Defendants allege that cost was not a factor in determining Plaintiff's medical treatment. (Defs.' 56.1 Stmt. ¶ 28.) Defendants allege that observation reports indicate that on June 24, 2014, Plaintiff was able to stand and walk without mobility issues. (Defs.' 56.1 Stmt. ¶ 11.) Plaintiff alleges that records indicate he was “hunched over using a walker” and used a walker and shower chair. (Pl.'s 56.1 Counterstmt. ¶ 11.)

         Progress notes dated July 13, 2014, indicate that Plaintiff did not display any mobility issues and was observed going to the yard without his walker. (Defs.' 56.1 Stmt. ¶ 12.) Plaintiff does not dispute that allegation and avers that he “felt better.” (Pl.'s 56.1 Counterstmt. ¶ 12.) Plaintiff only used the walker to travel to the medical unit and on July 13, 2014, his walker was discontinued. (Defs.' 56.1 Stmt. ¶ 13.) Plaintiff concedes that he advised that he no longer needed the walker. (Pl.'s 56.1 Counterstmt. ¶ 13.) Defendants allege that observation reports were reviewed by the medical unit on four occasions between November 14, 2014, and January 16, 2015, and “[o]n each occasion the reports indicated that the [P]laintiff displayed no signs of abnormal mobility issues.” (Defs.' 56.1 Stmt. ¶ 14.) Plaintiff alleges that he has spent twenty-three hours per day in his cell since September 8, 2013, and typically walks three steps to a chair or five steps to a shower. (Pl.'s 56.1 Counterstmt. ¶ 14.)

         On February 11, 2015, Plaintiff went to the medical unit and complained that he was unable to walk through the tunnel to court. (Defs.' 56.1 Stmt. ¶ 15.) However, Defendants allege that medical unit personnel observed Plaintiff walking in the hall corridor without assistance. (Defs.' 56.1 Stmt. ¶ 15.) Plaintiff alleges that he told Nurse Webster that he had spinal stenosis, sciatica, and herniated discs, but she did not permit him to use a wheelchair. (Pl.'s 56.1 Counterstmt. ¶ 15.) The parties do not dispute that Plaintiff was prescribed Amitriptyline; however, it is disputed whether that medication is a muscle relaxant. (Defs.' 56.1 Stmt. ¶ 15; Pl.'s 56.1 Counterstmt. ¶ 15.)

         Defendants allege that Plaintiff remained on the medical tier after he was seen on February 11, 2015, and observation reports indicate that he did not display mobility problems. (Defs.' 56.1 Stmt. ¶ 16.) Plaintiff alleges that he was not on the medical tier, as he was precluded from certain housing areas for security reasons. (Pl.'s 56.1 Counterstmt. ¶ 16.) Observation reports for April 17, 2015, indicate that Plaintiff advised a corrections officer that he “felt fine” and he was able to “ambulate without difficulty.” (Defs.' 56.1 Stmt. ¶ 17.)

         On May 27, 2015, Plaintiff refused to attend a physical examination in connection with his criminal case and alleged that he needed a wheelchair. (Defs.' 56.1 Stmt. ¶ 18.) Defendants allege that Dr. Geraci examined Plaintiff and determined that he did not need a wheelchair. (Defs.' 56.1 Stmt. ¶ 18.) Plaintiff alleges that he had not seen Dr. Geraci since June 20, 2014. (Pl.'s 56.1 Counterstmt. ¶ 18.) However, pursuant to a request from the District Attorney's Office and the court, Dr. Geraci approved a wheelchair for Plaintiff to use on that single occasion “to facilitate the interview.” (Defs.' 56.1 Stmt. ¶ 18.) Defendants allege that observation reports reviewed by the medical unit on June 23, 2015, indicated that Plaintiff did not have any difficulty ambulating. (Defs.' 56.1 Stmt. ¶ 19.)

         Plaintiff was seen by members of SCCF's Mental Health Unit on five occasions between July 7, 2015, and October 20, 2015, and he did not complain about back pain. (Defs.' Suppl. 56.1 Stmt., Docket Entry 127-3, ¶ 42.) Plaintiff alleges that he asked “Jane and Joe” if they could order an MRI but was told “that is up to Dr. Geraci.” (Pl.'s Suppl. 56.1 Counterstmt. ¶ 42.) Defendants allege that on August 28, 2015, Plaintiff filed a written complaint with the medical unit with respect to “alleged maltreatment by officers, ” but did not complain about his back or any pain. (Defs.' 56.1 Stmt. ¶ 44.) Plaintiff alleges that he complained about a lack of treatment. (Pl.'s Suppl. 56.1 Counterstmt. ¶ 44.) Defendants allege that on November 6, 2015, and November 7, 2015, Plaintiff received a blood pressure check at the medical unit but did not complain about his back or indicate that he was in pain. (Defs.' Suppl. 56.1 Stmt. ¶ 46.) Defendants allege that Plaintiff was seen by the SCCF Mental Health Unit on four occasions between November 16, 2015, and March 29, 2016, and did not complain about his back or indicate that he was in pain. (Defs.' Suppl. 56.1 Stmt. ¶ 48.) Plaintiff alleges that he asked the mental health staff for an MRI and pain medication and they stated that Dr. Geraci was responsible for those determinations. (Pl.'s Suppl. 56.1 Counterstmt. ¶ 48.)

         On April 22, 2016, Dr. Geraci met with Plaintiff to discuss a grievance in which he alleged that he was denied an MRI based on cost. (Defs.' Suppl. 56.1 Stmt. ¶¶ 49, 52.) Defendants allege that Plaintiff appeared to be in “good spirits” and “was not in any distress.” (Defs.' Suppl. 56.1 Stmt. ¶ 52.) Defendants allege that Plaintiff advised Dr. Geraci of his family history of spinal stenosis and opined that he may have spinal stenosis; however, Plaintiff also indicated that he continued to play basketball and walk to the law library. (Defs.' 56.1 Suppl. Stmt. ¶¶ 53-54.) Plaintiff appears to dispute that allegation by alleging that he has not played basketball since June 2014 and “the Law Library is less than 60 seconds away.” (Pl.'s Suppl. 56.1 Counterstmt. ¶ 54.) Plaintiff complained of periodic “severe” lower back pain with spasms and stated that he continued to take Amitriptyline and Zyprexa, which helped him. (Defs.' Suppl. 56.1 Stmt. ¶¶ 56, 58.) Although Dr. Geraci felt Plaintiff's complaints did not correspond with his physical abilities, he prescribed Robaxin for muscle spasms, Tylenol as needed for back pain, and requested an MRI of the lower spine to rule out stenosis. (Defs.' Suppl. 56.1 Stmt. ¶ 59.) Plaintiff alleges that he requested an MRI of his entire spine but Dr. Geraci indicated that he would order an MRI of the lumbar spine and request an MRI for the remainder of his spine at a later date. (Pl.'s Suppl. 56.1 Counterstmt. ¶ 60.)

         Plaintiff received an MRI of the lower back in May 2016, which ruled out stenosis. (Defs.' Suppl. 56.1 Stmt. ¶ 62.) Plaintiff alleges that stenosis in his lumbar spine was ruled out but it is unclear if he suffers from stenosis in his thoratic or cervical spine. (Pl.'s Suppl. 56.1 Counterstmt. ¶ 62.) Dr. Geraci discussed the MRI results with Plaintiff and Plaintiff insisted he receive a full MRI of his entire spine. (Defs.' Suppl. 56.1 Stmt. ¶ 63.) Dr. Geraci declined, as a full MRI “was not medically indicated.” (Defs.' Suppl. 56.1 Stmt. ¶ 63.) Plaintiff alleges that Dr. Geraci said he would order an MRI of the entire spine and approve spinal surgery. (Pl.'s 56.1 Suppl. Counterstmt. ¶ 63.) Dr. Geraci scheduled a follow-up appointment with a neurosurgeon to determine if Plaintiff needed surgery. (Defs.' Suppl. 56.1 Stmt. ¶ 64.) Plaintiff was seen at Peconic Bay Medical Center on July 20, 2016, where “it was recommended that the proper course of care would be conservative therapy including physical therapy as an appropriate modality of care.” (Defs.' Suppl. 56.1 Stmt. ¶ 64.)

         A. Plaintiff's Grievances

         On March 22, 2015, Plaintiff filed a grievance regarding a disciplinary infraction and included a claim that he had been denied medical care and a wheelchair. (Defs.' 56.1 Stmt. ¶ 29.) Plaintiff's grievance was returned to him with an indication that “the grievance concerned the disposition, surcharge or sanctions of a disciplinary hearing and accordingly was not a grievable issue.” (Defs.' 56.1 Stmt. ¶ 30.) Plaintiff did not appeal the determination of this grievance and alleges that “[i]t was not possible to appeal it.” (Defs.' 56.1 Stmt. ¶ 32; Pl.'s 56.1 Counterstmt. ¶ 32.) The parties dispute whether Plaintiff filed a grievance “relating specifically” to Dr. Geraci's conduct. (Defs.' 56.1 Stmt. ¶ 33; Pl.'s 56.1 Counterstmt. ¶ 33.) Defendants allege that even if Plaintiff filed a grievance that specifically addressed Dr. Geraci's conduct, he did not file an appeal. (Defs.' 56.1 Stmt. ¶ 34.) Plaintiff alleges the determination “was not an appealable issue.” (Pl.'s 56.1 Counterstmt. ¶ 34.)

         On August 17, 2015, Plaintiff filed a grievance against Officer Koch. (Defs.' 56.1 Stmt. ¶ 35.) Plaintiff alleges that he previously filed multiple grievances against Officer Koch that were accepted and then “lost.” (Pl.'s 56.1 Counterstmt. ¶ 35.) Plaintiff's August 17, 2015, grievance was returned based on untimeliness. (Defs.' 56.1 Stmt. ¶ 36.) Plaintiff did not appeal that determination. (Defs.' 56.1 Stmt. ¶ 37.)

         On January 14, 2016, Plaintiff completed a grievance alleging that he was denied an MRI based on cost. In February 2016, Plaintiff's grievance grievance was forwarded to the SCCF medical unit. (Defs.' Suppl. 56.1 Stmt. ¶ 49.) Defendants allege that Plaintiff did not file grievances regarding conduct by Nurse Webster or Warden Ewald. (Defs.' 56.1 Stmt. ¶ 38.) Plaintiff alleges that he filed a medical grievance that was returned to him on February 11, 2015. (Pl.'s 56.1 Counterstmt. ¶ 38.) The parties also dispute whether Plaintiff filed a grievance regarding “any policy procedure or custom of the County of Suffolk that was the cause of violation of his constitutional rights.” (Defs.' 56.1 Stmt. ¶ 40.)

         B. Warden Ewald

         Defendants allege that Warden Ewald does not supervise Dr. Geraci and “has never been personally involved in the medical care or treatment of [Plaintiff].” (Defs.' Suppl. 56.1 Stmt. ¶ 70.) Plaintiff alleges that he is in Warden Ewald's “custody” and he “sent [Warden Ewald] a certified letter requesting that he step[ ] in.” (Pl.'s Suppl. 56.1 Counterstmt. ¶ 68.)

         C. Deputy Sheriffs Shapiro and Mehrman

         On June 18, 2014, Deputy Sheriffs Shapiro and Mehrman transported Plaintiff from SCCF to Peconic Bay Hospital in Riverhead, an approximately five to ten minute ride. (Defs.' Suppl. 56.1 Stmt. ¶¶ 71-72.) Defendants allege that Deputy Sheriffs Shapiro and Mehrman did not advise medical personnel at Peconic Bay Hospital how to treat Plaintiff, nor did they suggest that hospital personnel withhold treatment. (Defs.' Suppl. 56.1 Stmt. ¶¶ 73-74.) However, Plaintiff alleges that Deputy Sheriffs Shapiro and Mehrman told him that he did not “deserve to see a specialist and they are not waiting for [him] to see the orthopedist, ” and had guns, screamed at him, and intimidated him. (Pl.'s Suppl. 56.1 Counterstmt. ¶¶ 73-74, 16.) Defendants allege that Deputy Sheriffs Shapiro and Mehrman did not force Plaintiff to leave prior to receiving treatment. (Defs.' Suppl. 56.1 Stmt. ¶¶ 75-76.)

         II. The Instant Action

         On September 26, 2014, Plaintiff commenced this action asserting claims for deliberate indifference to medical needs pursuant to 42 U.S.C. Section 1983 (“Section 1983”). On April 16, 2015, Plaintiff filed a motion to amend the Complaint. (Docket Entry 23.) On May 11, 2015, Magistrate Judge Arlene R. Lindsay granted Plaintiff's unopposed motion (see May 11, 2015 Electronic Order) and Plaintiff subsequently filed his Amended Complaint on the docket (See Am. Compl., Docket Entry 44). Plaintiff's Amended Complaint added, inter alia, a claim against Officer Koch for intentional infliction of emotional distress and a state law medical negligence claim. (Am. Compl. at 8, 32.) Particularly, the Amended Complaint alleges that Officer Koch told Plaintiff he wanted to “execute [him] with his pistol, ” wrote down addresses of his visitors, refused to contact the medical staff when Plaintiff was having chest pains, and told Plaintiff “I don't care if you die.” (Am. Compl. at 24.)

         On September 16, 2015, Plaintiff filed a motion for leave to amend his Amended Complaint. (Docket Entry 60.) On May 5, 2016, Judge Lindsay granted in part and denied in part Plaintiff's motion to amend. (May 6, 2016 Order, Docket Entry 114.) Judge Lindsay granted Plaintiff's motion to the extent he sought to add Shapiro and Mehrman as defendants and add Nurse Webster to the caption in place of “Jane Doe Nurse.” (May 2016 Order at 1 n.1; 4.) Judge Lindsay denied Plaintiff's request to add an Assistant County Attorney as a defendant as well as his request to assert a claim for “medical negligence.” (Order at 4-7.) On June 28, 2016, Plaintiff filed his Second Amended Complaint (the “Second Amended Complaint”).[2] (Sec. Am. Compl., Docket Entry 123.)[3]

         III. Defendan ...


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