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Sides v. Paolano

United States District Court, N.D. New York

March 29, 2018

DOCTOR PAOLANO, Doctor; Coxsackie Medical Unit, individually and officially, DR. JON MILLER, Doctor; Coxsackie Medical Unit, individually and officially, P. SNYDER, Nurse; Coxsackie Medical Unit, individually and officially, and P. SCHMIDT, Nurse; Coxsackie Medical Unit, individually and officially, Defendants.

          DARRICK LEE SIDES Elmira Correctional Facility Plaintiff, pro se

          OFFICE OF THE NEW YORK CHRISTOPHER J. HUMMEL, AAG STATE ATTORNEY GENERAL The Capitol Albany, New York 12224 Attorney for Defendants



         On October 5, 2015, [1] Plaintiff pro se Darrick Lee Sides commenced this civil rights action, pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, in the Northern District of New York. See Dkt. No. 1. Plaintiff alleges that Defendants Doctor Paolano, Dr. Jon Miller, Nurse P. Snyder, and Nurse P. Schmidt were deliberately indifferent to his serious medical needs in violation of the Eighth Amendment. See Id. Presently before the Court is Magistrate Judge Christian F. Hummel's Report-Recommendation and Order recommending that the Court grant Defendants' motion for summary judgment. See Dkt. No. 48. Plaintiff submitted objections to the Report-Recommendation and Order. See Dkt. No. 49. For the following reasons, the Report-Recommendation and Order is adopted in its entirety.

         Plaintiff's claims arise out of alleged medical indifference at Coxsackie Correctional Facility ("Coxsackie CF"). See Dkt. No. 1 at 1.[2] On July 31, 2012, Plaintiff went to the Coxsackie CF infirmary due to hemorrhoids, a medical condition that had afflicted Plaintiff since 2009. See Dkt. No. 40-5 at ¶ 8; Dkt. No. 40-6 at ¶ 7. Defendant Paolano ordered blood tests and recommended a surgical consultation after he determined that Plaintiff's symptoms were no longer responding to treatment. See Dkt. No. 40-5 at ¶ 8. On August 8, 2012, Defendant Miller reviewed the results of the blood tests and noted to the nursing staff that Plaintiff should be scheduled for an additional evaluation appointment. See Dkt. No. 40-6 at ¶ 14.

         At some point in August, Plaintiff filed a grievance regarding his condition because he was suffering excessive rectal bleeding and feeling anemic. See Dkt. No. 41 at 13. However, Plaintiff did not pursue this grievance after a grievance supervisor told Plaintiff that he was scheduled to see a specialist. See id. On August 22, 2012, Plaintiff had a consultation with a non-party doctor who recommended a colonoscopy and an excisional hemorrhoidectomy. See Dkt. No. 40-5 at ¶ 12. Defendant Miller received and reviewed this recommendation on August 28, 2012. See Dkt. No. 40-6 at ¶ 18. On September 25, 2012, Plaintiff met with Defendant Paolano who ordered additional blood tests. See Dkt. No. 40-5 at ¶ 16.

         On September 28, 2012, Defendant Miller sent Plaintiff to Albany Medical Center ("AMC") for further treatment after reviewing the second round of blood tests. See Dkt. No. 40-6 at ¶ 24. Upon arrival at AMC, Plaintiff was given a blood transfusion and a colonoscopy. See Id. at ¶ 25. The colonoscopy revealed that Plaintiff had stage III hemorrhoids. See Id. On October 4, 2012, Plaintiff underwent a hemorroidectomy. See Id. October 6, 2012, Plaintiff was discharged from AMC and returned to Coxsackie CF. See Id. On October 9, 2012, Plaintiff was discharged from the Coxsackie CF infirmary. See Dkt. No. 40-5 at ¶ 20.

         In October 2012, Plaintiff requested a copy of his medical records. See Dkt. No. 41 at 15. In July 2013, Plaintiff initiated a grievance because he had still not received them. See Dkt. No. 40-3 at 8. On July 25, 2013, the Inmate Grievance Resolution Committee accepted Plaintiff's grievance and made Plaintiff's medical records available to him. See Id. at 9.

         On March 1, 2017, Defendants filed a motion for summary judgment. See Dkt. No. 40. In their motion, Defendants argue that Plaintiff's claims should be dismissed for the following reasons: (1) Plaintiff failed to file his complaint within the applicable statute of limitations; (2) Plaintiff failed to exhaust his administrative remedies; (3) Defendants were not deliberately indifferent to Plaintiff's medical needs; and (4) Defendants are entitled to qualified immunity. See Dkt. No. 40-8 at 2. On April 5, 2017, Plaintiff filed a response in opposition to Defendants' motion. See Dkt. No. 43. With respect to the statute of limitations, Plaintiff argues that his claim is timely because he did not discover that his medical treatment had been delayed until July 2013. See Dkt. No. 43-1 at 12-13. Magistrate Judge Hummel interpreted Plaintiff's argument as a challenge to the accrual date and a claim for equitable tolling. See Dkt. No. 48 at 9.

         On January 8, 2018, Magistrate Judge Hummel issued a Report-Recommendation and Order recommending that this Court dismiss Plaintiff's claims as time-barred. See Id. at 18. Magistrate Judge Hummel determined that Plaintiff's claim accrued when he knew, or had reason to know, of his injury. See Id. at 9 (quoting Whitfield v. O'Connell, No. 09 Civ. 1925, 2010 WL 1010060, *5 (S.D.N.Y. Mar. 18, 2010), aff'd, 402 Fed.Appx. 563 (2d Cir. 2010)). The Report-Recommendation and Order explained that "[d]elay in discovering the cause of the injury does not prevent the claim from accruing because it is discovery of the injury, not discovery of the other elements of the claim, [that] starts the clock." Id. (quoting Rotella v. Wood, 528 U.S. 549, 555 (2000)). Thus, Plaintiff became aware of the violation in "August 2012, when he knew he suffered from a physical condition or injury and believed he was not obtaining adequate attention for that condition or injury and filed a grievance about such care." Id. at 12 (citing Curtis v. Williams, No. 11 Civ. 1186, 2013 WL 1915447, *8 (S.D.N.Y. May 9, 2013)). However, under the continuing violations doctrine, a medical indifference claim does not accrue until an inmate begins to receive proper medical treatment. See Id. at 15 (citing Jervis v. Mitcheff, 258 Fed.Appx. 3, 5-6 (7th Cir. 2007)). As Plaintiff's treatment did not begin until he was admitted to AMC, Magistrate Judge Hummel found that the effective accrual date was September 28, 2012. See Id. at 16.

         Magistrate Judge Hummel rejected Plaintiff's equitable tolling argument. See Id. at 16-18. He noted that even though Plaintiff requested to see his medical records in October 2012 and did not receive them until July 2013, "[o]nce [Plaintiff] realized he was not obtaining the records, he failed to act diligently." Id. at 17. As such, Plaintiff failed to demonstrate the necessary diligence required for equitable tolling. See Id. at 18. Given that Plaintiff filed his complaint on October 5, 2015, the three year statute of limitations for a 42 U.S.C. § 1983 claim expired on September 28, 2015, and Plaintiff was not entitled to equitable tolling, Magistrate Judge Hummel recommended that the Court find Plaintiff's claims time barred and grant Defendants' motion for summary judgment. See id.

         A court may grant a motion for summary judgment only if "the court determines that there is no genuine issue of material fact to be tried and that the facts as to which there is no such issue warrant judgment for the moving party as a matter of law." Chambers v. TRM Copy Ctrs. Corp., 43 F.3d 29, 36 (2d Cir. 1994) (citations omitted). When analyzing a summary judgment motion, the court "'cannot try issues of fact; it can only determine whether there are issues to be tried.'" Id. at 36-37 (quotation and other citation omitted).

         In assessing the record to determine whether any such issues of material fact exist, the court is required to resolve all ambiguities and draw all reasonable factual inferences in favor of the nonmoving party. See Id. at 36 (citing Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 255, 106 S.Ct. 2505, 2513-14, 91 L.Ed.2d 202 (1986)) (other citations omitted). Where the non-movant either does not respond to the motion or fails to dispute the movant's statement of material facts, the court may not rely solely on the moving party's statement of material facts; rather, the court must be satisfied that the citations to evidence in the record support the movant's assertions. See Giannullo v. City of N.Y., 322 F.3d 139, 143 n.5 (2d Cir. 2003).

         Moreover, "in a pro se case, the court must view the submissions by a more lenient standard than that accorded to 'formal pleadings drafted by lawyers.'" Govan v. Campbell, 289 F.Supp.2d 289, 295 (N.D.N.Y. 2007) (quoting Haines v. Kerner, 404 U.S. 519, 520, 92 S.Ct. 594, 30 L.Ed.2d 652 (1972)) (other citations omitted). "Indeed, the Second Circuit has stated that '[i]mplicit in the right to self-representation is an obligation on the part of the court to make reasonable allowances to protect pro se litigants from inadvertent forfeiture of important rights because of their lack of legal training.'" Govan, 289 F.Supp.2d at 295 (quoting Traguth v. Zuck, 710 F.2d 90, 95 (2d Cir. 1983)). "This liberal standard, however, does not excuse a pro ...

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