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Allah v. Switz

United States District Court, S.D. New York

February 7, 2017

KHALAIRE ALLAH, Plaintiff,
v.
SWITZ, Physician Assistant, Sullivan OPINION & Correctional Facility; DR. CARL J. KOENIGSMANN, Medical Chief, Department of Corr. Services; MICHAEL HOGAN, Mental Health Dep., OMH, Defendants.

          Khalaire Allah Attica, NY Pro Se Plaintiff

          David John Galalis, Esq. New York State Office of the Attorney General New York, NY Counsel for Defendants

          OPINION & ORDER

          KENNETH M. KARAS, District Judge

         Plaintiff Khalaire Allah (“Plaintiff”), an incarcerated individual proceeding pro se, filed the instant Complaint in the United States District Court for the Northern District of New York pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and the Americans with Disabilities Act (the “ADA”), 42 U.S.C. § 12101, et seq., against a number of Defendants working at the various correctional facilities in which Plaintiff has been incarcerated. (See Dkt. No. 1.) On July 28, 2014, Judge Frederick J. Scullin, Jr. of the Northern District of New York severed and transferred Plaintiff's claims against Defendant Switz and all claims against Dr. Carl. J. Koenigsmann and Michael Hogan arising out of Switz's alleged misconduct occurring at Sullivan Correctional Facility to the Southern District of New York. (See Mem. Decision & Order (Dkt. No. 16).) Before the Court is Switz's, Koenigsmann's, and Hogan's (“Defendants”) Motion To Dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6) for failure to state a claim. (Dkt. No. 33.) For the following reasons, the Motion is granted in part.

         I. Background

         A. Factual Background

         Because the bulk of Plaintiff's allegations relate to claims not transferred to the Court, the Court will recite only those allegations necessary to resolving the instant Motion.

         Plaintiff suffers from “severe right hand dysfunction.” (Compl. ¶ 2.)[1] A physician assistant at Wende Correctional Facility, where Plaintiff was committed in November 2009, evaluated Plaintiff's right hand and prescribed medication and wrote a permit for a glove or brace to be worn on the hand to treat pain. (See Id. ¶ 3.) Separately, in December 2009, Plaintiff injured his left pinky finger playing ball during a recreational period at Wende Correctional Facility. (See Id. ¶ 6.) In March 2010, he received “[t]endon graftation surgery” to repair mobility in his left pinky finger, requiring him to wear a cast on his arm for a minimum of seven weeks. (Id. ¶ 10.) The surgeon also ordered eight weeks of post-surgery occupational therapy on Plaintiff's left pinky finger. (See Id. ¶ 12.) While at Wende Correctional Facility, Plaintiff's therapy sessions were interrupted by his commitment to the special housing unit, where he was told that an escort was unavailable to take him to his sessions. (See Id. ¶ 13.) Plaintiff's brace on his right hand was also confiscated due to its design. (See Id. ¶ 14.) Although Plaintiff was told by another doctor that she had designed a brace that could accommodate the restrictions imposed in the special housing unit, Plaintiff was transferred to Great Meadow Correctional Facility in June 2010 before receiving the modified brace. (See Id. ¶¶ 15-17.)

         At Great Meadow Correctional Facility, Plaintiff met with a Dr. Thomas, who ordered occupational therapy, medication, and the use of a brace. (See Id. ¶¶ 20-21.) Although Plaintiff received a wrist wrap and sleeve from Dr. Thomas, he never received the treatment ordered by Dr. Thomas. (See Id. ¶¶ 22-23, 25.) Plaintiff filed a grievance, but did not receive the requested treatment as a result. (See Id. ¶¶ 23-24.) In August 2010, Plaintiff was transferred to Sullivan Correctional Facility, where the allegations pertinent to the claims transferred to this district allegedly arose. (See Id. ¶ 25.)

         At Sullivan Correctional Facility, Plaintiff met with Defendant Switz, a physician assistant. (See Id. ¶ 26.) Switz did not read Plaintiff's chart or evaluate the severity of Plaintiff's injuries. (See Id. ¶ 27.) Instead, she denied therapy for Plaintiff's left pinky finger and instructed Plaintiff that he needed to complete ten days of self-therapy on his right hand in order to receive occupational therapy. (See id.) Switz informed Plaintiff that if he was able to move his thumb and index finger within ten days, she would order occupational therapy. (See id.) Although Plaintiff insisted that the condition of his right hand was more complex, he was disregarded. (See id.) Ten days later, Plaintiff saw Switz again, who determined that because Plaintiff was still unable to move his thumb and index finger, occupational therapy was not warranted. (See Id. ¶ 28.)[2] Plaintiff states that he filed a grievance related to this incident. (See Id. ¶ 29.)

         Plaintiff was transferred out of Sullivan Correctional Facility (and out of the Southern District of New York) in October 2010. (See Id. ¶ 30.) He continued to suffer from chronic pain, and he encountered additional pushback and harassment from prison officials who refused to provide him with the necessary treatment and who allegedly retaliated against him for his frequent requests for sick call and for his complaints to prison officials related to his medical treatment. Plaintiff alleges that as of the filing of the Complaint, he has not received either the brace or the occupational therapy ordered by a number of doctors, which he alleges has caused the condition in his right hand to worsen. (See Id. ¶ 84.) Plaintiff also alleges that the lack of occupational therapy on his left pinky finger has limited its motion. (See id.) He alleges also that that the abuse of various prison officials has had a “profound psychological effect” on him, and that as a result, he attempted self-harm, which resulted in him being transferred to the Office of Mental Health for observation. (Id. ¶ 85.)

         In his Complaint, Plaintiff also includes a claim under the ADA. (See Id. at 18.)[3]Though Plaintiff relies primarily on the allegations raised in the statement of facts appended to his § 1983 complaint, Plaintiff makes additional allegations with respect to Defendants. Specifically, Plaintiff alleges that his right hand is disabled as the result of a nerve injury suffered in the 1990s, impairing the “general function of [his] dominant hand.” (See Id. at 19.) Plaintiff also alleges that the tendon graftation procedure performed on his left pinky finger, administered to repair mobility and general function of his finger, qualifies as a disability. (See Id. at 20.) With respect to Defendant Carl Koenigsmann, the Chief Medical Officer at the New York State Department of Corrections and Community Supervision (“DOCCS”), Plaintiff alleges that “[a]s the Chief Medical Staff for DOCCS, he has a responsibility under the 8th [A]mend[ment] of [the Constitution] to ensure that medical treatment is provided, ” and that such responsibility includes the provision of “[e]ffective pain meds, [occupational therapy, ] and a glove/brace (as ordered by several ortho specialist[s]) to treat a severe neuropathy condition.” (Id. at 21.) Against Michael Hogan, the Former Commissioner of the New York State Office of Mental Health, Plaintiff alleges that “chronic pain can and has in fact trigger[ed] mental health issues and those matters were not properly addressed through mental health services.” (Id. at 22.) And, as to Switz, Plaintiff alleges that she “refused to review [Plaintiff's] chart and learn of the extent of [his] injures, ” and, instead, “placed impossible stipulations[] as a condition for [him] to receive adequate treatment for [his] disabilities.” (Id.)

         Plaintiff identifies five causes of action under § 1983: violation of his Eighth Amendment rights for failure of Defendants to provide adequate medical treatment and for cruel and unusual punishment; violation of his Fourteenth Amendment due process rights; violation of his First Amendment right to be free from retaliation for filing grievances; violation of his Fourth Amendment right against unreasonable searches and seizures; and violation of his Sixth Amendment right to an impartial hearing. (See Id. at 16.) For relief, Plaintiff seeks $7 million and injunctive and declaratory relief. (See Id. at 17.) For his claim under the ADA, Plaintiff seeks injunctive relief ordering Defendants Van Buren (not a party to the claims transferred to the Southern District) and Koenigsmann to arrange for Plaintiff to be examined by an orthopedic specialist for evaluation and diagnosis. (See Id. at 23.)

         B. Procedural Background

         Plaintiff filed his initial Complaint on July 15, 2013, naming 27 defendants from the various correctional facilities in which he resided at the time his causes of action arose. (See Dkt. No. 1.) The Complaint was filed in the United States District Court for the Northern District of New York. (See id.) Plaintiff filed a simultaneous Motion for Preliminary Injunction, seeking to prevent the enforcement of a draft DOCCS directive, (see Dkt. No. 2), and also moved for in forma pauperis status, (see Dkt. No. 3). Two days later, Judge Scullin entered an order directing Plaintiff to pay the full $400 filing fee or submit a corrected in forma pauperis application within 30 days and instructed Plaintiff that failure to comply would result in dismissal of his case without prejudice. (See Dkt. No. 5.) On September 27, 2013, Judge Scullin entered judgment dismissing the case without prejudice for failure to comply with the order. (See Dkt. No. 6.) Shortly thereafter, Plaintiff filed a Motion to Reopen the Case and provided the $400 filing fee. (See Dkt. Nos. 7, 8.) Judge Scullin granted the Motion on July 28, 2014. (See Dkt. No. 16.) In the Order, Judge Scullin severed the claims against Switz, Koenigsmann, and Hogan arising out of Plaintiff's stay at Sullivan Correctional Facility, which is in the Southern District of New York, and transferred those claims to this Court. (See Id. at 9-10.) Specifically, Judge Scullin determined that it was

appropriate to sever Plaintiff's claims against Defendant Switz, as well as any claims asserted against Defendants Koenigsmann and Hogan that arise out of wrongdoing that occurred, if at all, at Sullivan [Correctional Facility], from this complaint and . . . transfer[] venue of those claims to the Southern District in the interests of justice and judicial efficiency.

(Id. at 9.)

         After the claims were transferred to this Court, on February 19, 2016, Defendants requested leave to file a motion to dismiss. (See Dkt. No. 31.) Leave was granted shortly thereafter. (See Dkt. No. 32.) On April 1, 2016, Defendants filed their Motion To Dismiss and accompanying papers, arguing that the Complaint should be dismissed because Plaintiff failed to exhaust his administrative remedies, Plaintiff failed to state a claim for deliberate indifference to a serious medical need against Switz, Plaintiff failed to allege that Koenigsmann or Hogan were personally involved in any constitutional violations arising out of Plaintiff's treatment at Sullivan Correctional Facility, and all Defendants are entitled to qualified immunity. (See Dkt. Nos. 33- 37.) Plaintiff did not file an opposition to the Motion, and on May 24, 2016, Defendants indicated that they did not intend to file a reply brief. (See Dkt. No. 38.)

         II. Discussion

         A. Standard of Review

         The Supreme Court has held that although a complaint “does not need detailed factual allegations” to survive a motion to dismiss, “a plaintiff's obligation to provide the grounds of his entitlement to relief requires more than labels and conclusions, and a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action will not do.” Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007) (alteration and internal quotation marks omitted). Indeed, Rule 8 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure “demands more than an unadorned, the-defendant-unlawfully-harmed-me accusation.” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009). “Nor does a complaint suffice if it tenders naked assertions devoid of further factual enhancement.” Id. (alteration and internal quotation marks omitted). Rather, a complaint's “[f]actual allegations must be enough to raise a right to relief above the speculative level.” Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555. Although “once a claim has been stated adequately, it may be supported by showing any set of facts consistent with the allegations in the complaint, ” id. at 563, and a plaintiff must allege “only enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face, ” id. at 570, if a plaintiff has not “nudged [his] claims across the line from conceivable to plausible, the[] complaint must be dismissed, ” id.; see also Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 679 (‚ÄúDetermining whether a complaint states a plausible claim for relief will . . . be a context-specific task that requires the reviewing court to draw on its judicial experience and common sense. But where the well-pleaded facts do not permit the court to infer more than the mere possibility of ...


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