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Stewart v. City of New York

United States District Court, S.D. New York

March 31, 2018

CITY OF NEW YORK, et al., Defendants.

          OPINION & ORDER

          RONNIE ABRAMS, United States District Judge

         Plaintiff Wayne Stewart, a paraplegic pretrial detainee at Rikers Island Correctional Center, brings this action against the City of New York, various individuals (Tanisha Bo wen, Raul Ramos, Elizabeth Parboo, Zachary Rosner, Nina Edwards, Zulfiquar Bhuiyan, and two "John Does, " collectively, the "Individual Defendants"), and a private corporation (Corizon Health, Inc.). Individual Defendants and Corizon were responsible for providing medical care to or arranging medical accommodations for Rikers detainees during the relevant time period. Stewart claims that the City, Individual Defendants, and Corizon all violated his right to constitutionally adequate medical care under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, and that the City also refused to adequately accommodate his disability under Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act and § 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973. Plaintiff asserts various other state-law claims, including negligent hiring, training, and retention, conversion, negligent infliction of emotional distress, and general negligence. Defendants now move to dismiss the case under Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6). For the following reasons, that motion is granted with prejudice as to Plaintiff's § 1983 claims and without prejudice as to his ADA and Rehabilitation Act claims. The Court declines to exercise jurisdiction over Plaintiff's state-law claims and thus dismisses them without prejudice.


         The following facts are drawn from the Second Amended Complaint (the "Complaint") and its accompanying exhibits. Compl. (Dkt. 73, 73-1, 73-2); Decl. (Dkt. 62). These facts are assumed to be true for the purposes of resolving Defendants' motion to dismiss. See Stadnick v. Vivint Solar, Inc., 861 F.3d 31, 35 (2d Cir. 2017).

         I. Factual Background

          In 2001 and 2002, as a result of a series of gunshot wounds, Stewart injured his wrists and became paraplegic. Compl. ¶¶ 14, 50. Over time, Plaintiff's immobility has caused him to suffer from chronic decubitus ulcers, also known as pressure ulcers or bedsores, which are prone to infection. At some point (and prior to his detention at Rikers), Stewart's right leg had to be amputated "due to an infection in his ulcers that went to the bone." Id. ¶¶ 285, 389. In 2009, the Mount Sinai Rehabilitation Center recommended that he begin using a motorized wheelchair due to his "severe upper extremity pain [and] imbalance, " with the goal of "encouraging wound healing and good skin integrity." Id. ¶ 51. Stewart used the motorized wheelchair until 2014, when he was arrested and the wheelchair was confiscated.

         After his arrest, Stewart was admitted to Bellevue Hospital Center for treatment of (and surgery on) his ulcers. Id. ¶ 246. The doctors at Bellevue gave Plaintiff a treatment plan for his ulcers that "included the use of the motorized wheelchair; the need for a Hill-Rom rental Clinitron Rite Hite Fluidized air bed with trapeze; and wound care dressing changes, which included instructions for properly cleaning and dressing" the ulcers every three days. Id. ¶¶ 59-60. According to Stewart, Defendants failed to comply with each one of those three requests as described below.

         First, when Plaintiff was discharged from Bellevue, he was deprived access to a motorized wheelchair. Instead, he was provided with a manual wheelchair that lacked a safety belt, had "unstable" arm rests, and had "unsteady" front wheels that "caught in the grooves on the floor." Id. ¶¶ 72, 125. After he complained about the wheelchair in 2015, he received a new manual wheelchair that was also purportedly "defective." Id. ¶¶ 234-36. "Stewart ... use[d] his weak upper body and injured wrists to maneuver the wheelchair from one place to the next." Id. ¶ 73. Defendants refused to provide Stewart with a motorized wheelchair or an Inmate Mobility Assistant to assist him getting around, which has allegedly "subject[ed] Mr. Stewart to harm as he manually wheels himself from place to place." Id. ¶ 402.

         Second, Stewart was not provided with the Clinitron bed or a trapeze to "assist [him] in sitting up in the bed and repositioning himself ... to avoid additional pressure sores" when he returned to Rikers. Id. ¶¶ 167, 171. Instead, he was transferred "to a bed that had a mattress bigger than the bed frame, no trapeze, and no side rails to prevent him from falling out of the bed." Id. ¶ 171. According to Stewart, the absence of a Clinitron bed and trapeze "made it difficult for [him] to heal his ulcers, " and additional bedsores formed. Id. ¶¶ 177-79. As a result, he was readmitted to Bellevue Hospital a few weeks after his initial discharge. Plaintiff alleges that he was "frequently admitted to Bellevue for follow-up care" for his ulcers, as well as for other issues such as urinary tract infections. Id. ¶¶ 182, 277, 280, 290.

         Stewart further alleges that, as a consequence of the "defective" manual wheelchair and the non-Clinitron bed, he has "suffered multiple injuries from several falls from the wheelchair and the bed." Id. ¶ 211. For example, he alleges several instances where he fell from his bed or wheelchair, including one time where he fell "as [he] wheeled himself to the law library" and was going down a ramp. Id. ¶ 231. Injuries from his various falls allegedly included "injuries to his back and left knee, " id. ¶¶ 223, 227, to "the left side of his head and left foot, " id. ¶ 232, and to his ankle, id. ¶ 237. In February or March 2015, after repeated complaints, Stewart finally received a bed with a trapeze. Id. ¶ 186. He also appears to have been provided with bed side rails at some point in 2015. Id. ¶ 242 ("Mr. Stewart remained in a bed without side rails from August 2014 thr[ough] early to mid-2015.").

         Third, Plaintiff asserts that Defendants failed to comply with the Bellevue doctors' instructions regarding his wound care. Bellevue had specified a "meticulous wound care" plan for his chronic ulcers. Id. ¶ 250. According to Stewart, Defendants did not follow these instructions. "When Defendants John Doe #1 and John Doe #2 performed the dressing change on Mr. Stewart, " it was generally a "basic" "wet-to-dry dressing instead of the three step process ordered by the Bellevue specialist." Id. ¶¶ 256, 344. Stewart purportedly submitted several grievances claiming that the John Does "either would not comply" with the Bellevue plan "or refused to change his dressings period." Id. ¶26l. The John Does allegedly "disagreed on the care needed for Mr. Stewart." Id. ¶¶ 270-73. During one of Stewart's frequent stays at Bellevue, he asked the wound care specialist to show him how to change his own dressings because he was afraid of infection. He changed his own dressings from March 2015 to May 2016, and his ulcers improved as a result. M¶¶ 286-88.

         Plaintiff also identifies a few other ways in which Defendants purportedly failed to provide him adequate medical care. He alleges that his ulcers and frequent falls caused him "extreme chronic pain" in his lower back and extremities. Id. ¶ 289. He admits that he received Tylenol, and then Tylenol with Codeine, for his pain, but he alleges that these prescriptions were "not strong enough." Id. ¶¶ 295-96. Plaintiff asked Defendant Ramos (a doctor who often treated Stewart at Rikers) for stronger medication, but his requests were denied. Id. ¶ 307. On November 24, 2014, a few months after his arrest, a different doctor prescribed him MS Contin which "consistently managed" his pain from that point on. Id. ¶ 310.

         Stewart also alleges that, during medical treatment at Rikers, Ramos, Defendant Bowen (a nurse at Rikers), and others failed to keep his body steady and thus caused him to fall. During one of those incidents, he alleges that he broke his leg as a result of the fall. Id. ¶¶ 217-19. He further alleges that he was incorrectly prescribed diabetes medication which caused him to have an "adverse result" once, id. ¶ 318, and that when he had a fever one day in December 2014, prison medical staff failed to correctly diagnose that he had a urinary-tract infection for which he was later treated at Bellevue, id. ¶¶ 331-33. Stewart also alleges other delays in treatment and care, which he asserts caused him to develop additional bed sores. Id. ¶¶ 301-02. Throughout his detention at Rikers, Stewart has repeatedly complained (often to Individual Defendants) about his treatment and the lack of appropriate medical equipment. See, e.g., Id. ¶¶ 93-94, 103, 118, 127, 187, 193, 203.

         II. Procedural History

          Plaintiff, proceeding pro se, filed his original complaint on May 29, 2015, and an amended complaint on January 25, 2016. Stewart asked the Court to request pro bono counsel on his behalf, and that request was granted. Before pro bono counsel appeared, Defendants filed a motion to dismiss. See Dkt. 27. The Court thereafter granted Plaintiff, proceeding through his pro bono counsel, leave to amend his complaint again. The Second Amended Complaint, as filed, is over 75 pages long with more than 450 paragraphs asserting nine causes of action. Defendants now move to dismiss that complaint. See Dkt. 77. Stewart responded in opposition through counsel, and Defendants replied. See Dkts. 87, 90.


         "To survive a motion to dismiss, a complaint must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to 'state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.'" Ashcroft v. Iqbal,556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (quoting Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly,550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007)). "A claim has facial plausibility when the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged." Id. (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556). Although the Court must accept as true all non-conclusory factual allegations and draw all reasonable inferences in Plaintiff's favor, Goldstein v. Pataki,516 F.3d 50, 56 (2d Cir. 2008), it need not credit "[t]hreadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action, supported by mere conclusory statements, " Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678 (citing Twombly, 550 U.S. at ...

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