United States District Court, E.D. New York
MEMORANDUM DECISION AND ORDER
M. Cogan, USD.J.
Anthony Jones brings this action under 42 U.S.C. § 1983,
alleging deliberate indifference to his safety in violation
of the Eighth Amendment, against Denise Rivera, a corrections
officer at Queensboro Correctional Facility
(“Queensboro”), where plaintiff was formerly
incarcerated. Plaintiff alleges that, while he was
incarcerated, he underwent foot surgery, and that defendant
subsequently denied him use of the elevator, thus requiring
him to take the stairs and causing him to fall and sustain
injuries. Defendant moved for summary judgment on the basis
that plaintiff has failed to establish a claim of deliberate
indifference and that in any event, qualified immunity
shields Rivera from liability. For the following reasons, the
Court finds that Rivera is entitled to qualified immunity,
and defendant's motion is granted.
following undisputed facts are from the parties' Local
Rule 56.1 Statements.
Anthony Jones is a former inmate in the New York State
Department of Corrections and Community Supervision
(“DOCCS”) prison system and assigned to
Queensboro. Defendant Rivera was a corrections officer at
Queensboro between 2012 and 2015. She was assigned to serve
as a medical escort at Queensboro at various points in her
tenure, including the date of plaintiff's fall.
is a seven-story facility with inmates housed on the fifth
and sixth floors and with activities, including the mess
hall, on the bottom floors. The mess hall, where all meals
are served, is on the first floor. To travel between the
floors, inmates generally use the stairs. However, Queensboro
does have one elevator, which a medical escort operates. The
medical escort is responsible for transporting inmates on
that elevator. Inmates are not permitted to ride the elevator
alone and must be accompanied by corrections staff. The
medical escort, however, is part of the corrections staff,
not the medical staff.
disputes the existence of an official elevator policy, as
well as the role of the medical staff at Queensboro.
Nevertheless, there is no dispute that only medical staff may
issue elevator passes and that corrections staff may not
issue elevator passes. In addition, the medical staff
generates an “elevator pass list, ” identifying
all of the inmates with active elevator passes, and provides
this list to the medical escort. However, the elevator pass
list is not always updated contemporaneously to reflect
real-time changes. The medical staff, not the corrections
staff, is responsible for updating the elevator pass list.
Notwithstanding the use of elevator passes and the elevator
pass lists, medical escorts have discretion to allow inmates
on the elevator based on their own observations.
14, 2015, Jones underwent a surgical procedure on his right
foot to remove an extra bone. This surgery occurred at the
office of an outside medical provider. When Jones returned
from the outside medical provider to Queensboro, he met with
Nurse Carol Chaveron Angeron, a member of the Queensboro
medical staff. During this meeting, Jones was wearing an
orthopedic shoe that he received from the outside medical
provider. The particular orthopedic shoe Jones wore had an
open toe and open heel with Velcro on top, and a portion to
protect plaintiff's ankle, with the top of the shoe
stopping at the malleolus. Additionally, Jones had a bandage
dressing on his foot.
the May 14, 2015 meeting, Nurse Angeron issued, inter
alia, a “Medical Pass / Elevator Pass” to
Jones that authorized him to ride the elevator, use a cane
and an orthopedic shoe, abstain from gym activities and work,
and sleep on the bottom bunk in his cell. The pass had an
expiration date of May 22, 2015. After the meeting, Nurse
Angeron updated the elevator pass list by hand to reflect
that Jones had authorization to ride the elevator until May
22, 2015. The medical staff also generated a typed version of
that list, dated May 18, 2015.
21, 2015, Jones visited the outside medical provider again.
Later that day, Jones again met with Nurse Angeron, during
which time Nurse Angeron renewed Jones's pass. The new
expiration date for the renewed pass was May 29, 2015.
Despite this renewal, neither Nurse Angeron nor anyone else
on the medical staff updated the elevator pass list in any
way to reflect the new expiration date.
25, 2015, at the beginning of her shift, Rivera, who was
serving as the medical escort for the elevator that day,
visited the medical department to pick up a copy of the most
recent elevator pass list. The particular list Rivera
received that day contained an entry for Jones that showed
his elevator pass had expired on May 22, 2015. When lunch
time arrived, Jones sought to ride the elevator down to the
mess hall. He did not show Rivera his pass and claimed that
his pass was “outdated.” At the time, Jones was
walking with his cane, exhibiting a limp, and wearing his
not being shown an elevator pass and not having Jones on the
elevator pass list, Rivera permitted Jones to ride the
elevator from his housing floor to the mess hall. While
plaintiff was in the mess hall, Rivera called the medical
department and spoke to Nurse Anait Yerknapetian. Rivera
inquired as to whether Jones had authorization to ride the
elevator and whether he had a valid elevator pass for that
day. Nurse Yerknapetian informed Rivera that Jones did not
have a valid elevator pass for May 25, 2015.
lunch concluded, Jones once again sought use of the elevator,
asking Rivera for a ride back to his housing floor. Rivera
refused to permit him to ride the elevator, advising Jones
that he was not on the elevator pass list and that he did not
have a valid pass for the day. Rivera told Jones to take the
stairs. Thereafter, Jones walked away from the elevator and
to the ...