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Quinones v. City of New York

United States District Court, S.D. New York

February 28, 2017

WALLEY QUINONES, Plaintiff,
v.
CITY OF NEW YORK; CO JOHN DOE, Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM DECISION AND ORDER

          GEORGE B. DANIELS, United States District Judge

         Pro se Plaintiff Walley Quinones initially filed this action against City of New York (the "City") and a CO. [correction officer] "John Doe" (collectively, "Defendants") on February 8, 2016. (Compl., ECF No. 1.) Plaintiff seeks $100 million in damages. (Id. ¶ 42.) He alleges that Defendants violated his constitutional rights[1] by depriving him of adequate medical care at Bellevue Hospital ("Bellevue") while he was in the custody of the New York City Department of Correction ("DOC") in violation of 42 U.S.C. § 1983. (Id. ¶¶ 33-39.) Plaintiff alleges that a laser lithotripsy and follow-up procedure resulted in the insertion and unsuccessful removal of a long slender tool into his urethra, (id. ¶ 23), causing chronic urethral pain, urinary problems, sexual dysfunction, mental anguish, and depression. (Id., at 12 ¶ 32 - 13 ¶ 34.) Plaintiff alleges that these injuries resulted from Correction Officer John Doe's decision to interrupt his medical care pursuant to a City "policy" that requires permission before an individual in DOC can receive surgery, even in an emergency. (Pl's Opp. to Defs.' Mot. to Dismiss ("Pl's Opp."), ECF No. 24, at 1-2); see also Pl's Sur-Reply, ECF No. 32, at 1-2.)

         This matter was referred to Magistrate Judge Debra Freeman on February 11, 2016. (ECF No. 3.) Before this Court is Magistrate Judge Freeman's Report and Recommendation, ("Report, " ECF No. 34), recommending that this Court deny Defendants' motions to dismiss and deem Plaintiffs Complaint amended to include supplemental allegations contained in his opposition and sur-reply submissions. (Id. at 26.)[2] This Court is satisfied that the Report contains no clear error of law and adopts the Report in full.

         I. LEGAL STANDARD

         This Court may accept, reject or modify, in whole or in part, the findings and recommendations set forth within the Report. See 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(C). When no objections to a Report are made, the Court may adopt the Report if "there is no clear error on the face of the record." Adee Motor Cars, LLC v. Amato, 388 F.Supp.2d 250, 253 (S.D.N.Y.2005) (citation omitted).

         The pleadings of parties appearing pro se are generally accorded leniency and should be construed "to raise the strongest arguments that they suggest." See Belpasso v. Port Auth. of N.Y. & N.J., 400 F.App'x 600, 601 (2d Cir. 2010) (quoting McPherson v. Coombe, 174 F.3d 276, 280 (2d Cir. 1999); see also Harris v. Mills, 572 F.3d 66, 72 (2d Cir. 2009) ("Even after Twombly...we remain obligated to construe a pro se complaint liberally."). This leniency is especially true in the context of civil rights complaints. See Gregory v. Daly, 243 F.3d 687, 691 (2d Cir. 2001) (noting that a court must be "mindful of the care exercised in this Circuit to avoid hastily dismissing complaints of civil rights violations.").

         Magistrate Judge Freeman advised the parties that failure to file timely objections to the Report would constitute a waiver of those objections on appeal. (Report, at 27); see also 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(C); Fed.R.Civ.P. 72(b). As of the date of this Order, no party has filed objections.

         II. DELIBERATE-INDIFFERENCE CLAIM[3] AGAINST JOHN DOE

         Defendants first contend that Plaintiffs claim against Correction Officer John Doe failed to establish a sufficiently serious medical condition caused by Doe's conduct. (See Mem. of Law in Supp. of Mot. to Dismiss ("Def. Mem."), ECF No. 17, at 3-6.) According to Defendants, Plaintiff only suffered a "transient moment" of "excruciating pain" while the doctors at Bellevue Hospital tried to remove a tool from his urethra. (See Id. at 4.) Defendants further allege that this "excruciating pain" cannot be associated with Defendants' act or failure to act, as Doe was not present during this time, and Plaintiff does not allege that the pain continued while awaiting the follow-up procedure. (See Id. at 4-5.)

         At the outset, Plaintiffs Complaint plausibly articulates a sufficiently serious medical condition by demonstrating that he was experiencing extreme pain. Hill v. Curcione, 657 F.3d 116, 122 (2d Cir. 2011); see, e.g., White v. Ulloa, No. 15cv8875, 2016 WL 7351895, at *4 (S.D.N.Y. Dec. 19, 2016) (denying motion to dismiss deliberate-indifference claim where plaintiff alleged that defendant's deprivation of medical care caused an infection and swelling "so painful that it was difficult or impossible for [him] to sleep during the three weeks he was not treated"); Rivera v. Goord, 119 F.Supp.2d 327, 332, 337 (S.D.N.Y. 2000) (finding allegations of deprivation of pain medication for "severe, " "unbearable, " and "great" pain to be sufficient at the pleading stage where the side effects included migraine headaches, infections, severe burning in his eyes, impaired vision, and partial loss of hearing). Plaintiffs Complaint similarly alleges excrutiating pain, bleeding, and urination from the stent remaining in his urethra. (Compl. ¶ 23-30.) There is no support found in Plaintiffs Complaint for Defendants' characterization that this pain was merely a "transient moment" lasting only during the procedure. (See Def Mem., at 5.) Rather, Plaintiff alleges that he screamed in pain in front of Doe after the initial surgery occurred. (Pl's Sur-Reply, at 1-2 ("the CO. was there[, ] [and] saw me and heard me").) While this information was not initially in Plaintiffs Complaint, "where a pro se plaintiff has submitted other papers to the [c]ourt, such as legal memoranda, the [c]ourt may consider statements in such papers to supplement or clarify the plaintiffs pleaded allegations."). Sommersett v. City of New York, No. 09cv5916, 2011 WL 2565301, at *3 (S.D.N.Y. June 28, 2011).

         Moreover, Plaintiffs Complaint articulates a plausible connection between Defendants' conduct and Plaintiffs extreme pain, as Plaintiff contends that Defendants' decision to interrupt his care to seek approval for treatment caused the injuries underlying his claims. (Pl's Sur-Reply, at 1.) See, e.g., Jones v. Westchester Cty. Dep't of Corr. Med. Dep't, 557 F.Supp.2d 408, 415 (S.D.N.Y. 2008) (finding it plausible that prison officials' refusal to allow plaintiff to undergo surgery "caused [plaintiff] to suffer, or at least exacerbated, a 'serious medical condition'"); cf Law v. Corizon Med. Serv., No. 134cv5286, 2014 WL 2111675, at *4 (S.D.N.Y. May 9, 2014) (noting that, where the basis of a plaintiffs deliberate-indifference claim is a "temporary delay or interruption in the provision of otherwise adequate medical treatment, it is appropriate to focus on the challenged delay or interruption in treatment rather than the prisoner's underlying medical condition alone" (internal quotation marks and citation omitted)). Therefore, irrespective of whether Doe originally caused Plaintiffs harm, an interruption in medical treatment can plausibly prolong or add to the injuries suffered. (See Report, at 16.)

         Defendants argue that even if this Court finds that Plaintiffs Complaint satisfies the first element of deliberate-indifference, Plaintiff fails to establish the second element: that Defendant acted with a "sufficiently culpable state of mind" in depriving Plaintiff of medical treatment. (See Def. Mem., at 5.) Defendants contend that Plaintiff has not sufficiently alleged any statement or explanation purporting to demonstrate Doe's motives for preventing the follow-up procedure. (Id.) However, Plaintiff plausibly articulates Defendants' culpable state of mind by alleging that Defendant: (1) heard his screams as he was bleeding, (Pl's Sur-Reply, at 1-2); (2) was told by a doctor that the situation was an emergency, (Pl's Opp., at 1); (3) was told that "they had to correct the problem immediately, " (Pl's Sur-Reply, at 1); and (4) Defendant "did not care." (Pl's Opp., at 1.) Instead, Defendant acted to prevent the surgery from occurring promptly. With allegations that Defendant possessed this information, Plaintiffs Complaint plausibly alleges that Doe acted knowingly in depriving Plaintiff of necessary medical treatment. (Report, at 19.)

         At this early pleading stage, Plaintiffs claim supports a plausible inference of cruel and unusual punishment in violation of his constitutional rights. Accordingly, this Court accepts Magistrate Judge Freeman's recommendations that Plaintiffs Complaint be deemed to include allegations from the opposition and sur-reply, and that Defendants' motion to dismiss against the John Doe Correction Officer be denied. (Id. at 20.)

         III. CLAIM ...


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