United States District Court, N.D. New York
LINCOLN LAWRENCE PLAINTIFF, PRO SE
DECISION AND ORDER
K. SANNES UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
Clerk has sent to the Court for review a Complaint filed by
pro se plaintiff Lincoln Lawrence ("Plaintiff")
pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 ("Section 1983")
and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, 29 U.S.C.
§ 794, asserting claims arising out of his confinement
in the custody of the New York State Department of
Corrections and Community Supervision ("DOCCS").
Dkt. No. 1 ("Compl."). By Order filed on March 14,
2018, United States District Judge Ann M. Donnelly
transferred this action from the Eastern District of New York
to the Northern District of New York ("Northern
District"). Dkt. No. 4 (the "Transfer Order").
Plaintiff, who is presently incarcerated at Bare Hill
Correctional Facility ("Bare Hill C.F."), has not
paid the filing fee for this action and seeks leave to
proceed in forma pauperis. Dkt. No. 11 ("IFP
U.S.C. § 1915 permits an indigent litigant to commence
an action in a federal court without prepayment of the filing
fee that would ordinarily be charged." Cash v.
Bernstein, No. 09-CV-1922, 2010 WL 5185047, at *1
(S.D.N.Y. Oct. 26, 2010). Upon review of Plaintiff's IFP
Application, the Court finds that Plaintiff has demonstrated
sufficient economic need and filed the inmate authorization
form required in the Northern District of New York.
Plaintiff's IFP application (Dkt. No. 11) is
found that Plaintiff meets the financial criteria for
commencing this action in forma pauperis, and because
Plaintiff seeks relief from an officer or employee of a
governmental entity, the Court must consider the sufficiency
of the allegations set forth in the Complaint in light of 28
U.S.C. §§ 1915(e) and 1915A. Section 1915(e) of
Title 28 of the United States Code directs that, when a
plaintiff seeks to proceed in forma pauperis, "the court
shall dismiss the case at any time if the court determines
that - . . . (B) the action . . . (I) is frivolous or
malicious; (ii) fails to state a claim on which relief may be
granted; or (iii) seeks monetary relief against a defendant
who is immune from such relief." 28 U.S.C. §
under 28 U.S.C. § 1915A, a court must review any
"complaint in a civil action in which a prisoner seeks
redress from a governmental entity or officer or employee of
a governmental entity" and must "identify
cognizable claims or dismiss the complaint, or any portion of
the complaint, if the complaint . . . is frivolous,
malicious, or fails to state a claim upon which relief may be
granted; or . . . seeks monetary relief from a defendant who
is immune from such relief." 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(b);
see also Carr v. Dvorin, 171 F.3d 115, 116 (2d Cir.
1999) (per curiam) (noting that Section 1915A applies to all
actions brought by prisoners against government officials
even when plaintiff paid the filing fee).
when reviewing a complaint, the Court may also look to the
Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. Rule 8 of the Federal Rules
of Civil Procedure provides that a pleading which sets forth
a claim for relief shall contain, inter alia,
"a short and plain statement of the claim showing that
the pleader is entitled to relief." See Fed. R.
Civ. P. 8(a)(2). The purpose of Rule 8 "is to give fair
notice of the claim being asserted so as to permit the
adverse party the opportunity to file a responsive answer,
prepare an adequate defense and determine whether the
doctrine of res judicata is applicable." Hudson v.
Artuz, No. 95 Civ. 4768, 1998 WL 832708, at *1 (S.D.N.Y.
Nov. 30, 1998) (quoting Powell v. Marine Midland
Bank, No. 95-CV-0063 (TJM), 162 F.R.D. 15, 16 (N.D.N.Y.
June 23, 1995) (other citations omitted)).
should not dismiss a complaint if the plaintiff has stated
"enough facts to state a claim to relief that is
plausible on its face." 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."
Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009). While
the court should construe the factual allegations in the
light most favorable to the plaintiff, "the tenet that a
court must accept as true all of the allegations contained in
a complaint is inapplicable to legal conclusions."
Id. "Threadbare recitals of the elements of a
cause of action, supported by mere conclusory statements, do
not suffice." Id. (citing Twombly, 550
U.S. at 555). Rule 8 "demands more than an unadorned,
Id. Thus, a pleading that contains only allegations
which "are so vague as to fail to give the defendants
adequate notice of the claims against them" is subject
to dismissal. Sheehy v. Brown, 335 Fed.Appx. 102,
104 (2d Cir. 2009).
SUMMARY OF THE COMPLAINT
April 8, 2015, while in DOCCS' custody, Plaintiff
underwent surgery for a cataract in his right eye. Compl. at
5. On June 23, 2015, defendant Gary Torbey, M.D.
("Torbey") examined Plaintiff and provided
post-surgical care at Upstate Correctional Facility.
Id. On April 25, 2016, defendant Sai Gandham, O.P.H.
("Gandham") examined Plaintiff and provided
post-surgical care at Coxsackie Correctional Facility
("Coxsackie C.F."). Id. On May 25, 2016,
June 22, 2016, and August 24, 2016, defendant Paul Phelps,
O.P.H. ("Phelps") examined Plaintiff and provided
post-surgical care at Coxsackie C.F. Id.
confined at Bare Hill C.F., Plaintiff submitted sick call
requests on August 19, 2017, August 22, 2017, August 24,
2017, and August 29, 2017. Compl. at 6. Plaintiff asked for
an appointment with an ophthalmologist and requested medical
treatment to address complications that arose after surgery
including significant pain and suffering caused by hair
growing at the surgical site. Id. at 5-6. At each
sick call, Plaintiff was examined by a member of the Bare
Hill Nursing Staff (Nurses Jane Doe 1 through 5).
Id. at 6.
the Complaint liberally, Plaintiff alleges defendants failed
to adhere to DOCCS' Directives related to medical care
and were deliberately indifferent to his serious medical
needs in violation of the Eighth Amendment. See
Compl. at 8-13. Specifically, Plaintiff claims that
defendants: (i) failed to follow post-surgical instructions;
(ii) failed to provide adequate post surgical care; (iii)
failed to provide access to specialists for postoperative
care of plaintiff's eye; and (iv) failed to respond to
plaintiff's medical condition. Plaintiff also asserts
that claims under Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act and
state law claims for medical malpractice and negligence.
See Id. Plaintiff seeks monetary damages. See
Id. at 14.
brings this action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, which
establishes a cause of action for &uot; 'the deprivation
of any rights, privileges, or immunities secured by the
Constitution and laws' of the United States."
German v. Fed. Home Loan Mortgage Corp., 885 F.Supp.
537, 573 (S.D.N.Y. 1995) (citing Wilder v. Virginia Hosp.
Ass'n, 496 U.S. 498, 508 (1990) (quoting 42 U.S.C.
§ 1983)) (footnote omitted); see also Myers v.
Wollowitz, No. 6:95-CV-0272 (TJM/RWS), 1995 WL 236245,
at *2 (N.D.N.Y. Apr. 10, 1995) (stating that "§
1983 is the vehicle by which individuals may seek redress for
alleged violations of their constitutional rights."
(citation omitted)). "Section 1983 itself creates no
substantive rights, [but] . . . only a procedure for redress
for the deprivation of rights established elsewhere."
Sykes v. James, 13 F.3d 515, 519 (2d Cir. 1993)
(citation omitted). The Court will construe the allegations
in the Complaint with the utmost leniency. See,
e.g., Haines v. Kerner, 404 U.S. 519, 520
(1972) (holding that a pro se litigant's complaint is to
be held "to less stringent standards than formal
pleadings drafted by lawyers.").
Eleventh Amendment has long been construed as barring a
citizen from bringing a suit against his or her own state in
federal court, under the fundamental principle of
"sovereign immunity." U.S. Const. amend. XI
("The Judicial power of the United States shall not be
construed to extend to any suit in law or equity, commenced
or prosecuted against one of the United States by Citizens of
another State, or by Citizens or Subjects of any Foreign
State."); see also Idaho v. Coeur d'Alene Tribe
of Idaho, 521 U.S. 261, 267 (1997); Pennhurst State
Sch. & Hosp. v. Halderman, 465 U.S. 89, 100 (1984);
Hans v. Louisiana, 134 U.S. 1, 10-21 (1890).
Eleventh Amendment immunity is lost only if Congress
unequivocally abrogates states' immunity or a state
expressly consents to suit. Gollomp v. Spitzer, 568
F.3d 355, 365-66 (2d Cir. 2009). It is well-settled that
Congress did not abrogate states' immunity through
Section 1983, see Quern v. Jordan, 440 U.S. 332,
343-45 (1979), and that New York State has not waived its
immunity from suit on the type of claims asserted in
plaintiff's complaint. See generally Trotman v.
Palisades Interstate Park Comm'n, 557 F.2d 35, 38-40
(2d Cir. 1977); see also Dawkins v. State of New
York, No. 93-CV-1298 (RSP/GJD), 1996 WL 156764 at *2
(N.D.N.Y. 1996). Actions for damages against a state official
in his or her official capacity are essentially actions
against the state. See Will v. Mich. Dep't. of State
Police, 491 U.S. 58, 71 (1989).
claims for money damages pursuant to Section 1983 against
Annucci in his "representative" capacity
(see Compl. at 2) are barred by the Eleventh
Amendment and are dismissed with prejudice pursuant to 28
U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B) and 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(b).
Plaintiff's claims for money damages pursuant to Section
1983 against the State of New York are also dismissed as
Plaintiff seeks relief from a defendant immune from suit
under section 1983. See LeGrand v. Evan, 702 F.2d
415, 417 (2d Cir. 1983).
that prison officials have intentionally disregarded an
inmate's medical needs fall under the umbrella of
protection from the imposition of cruel and unusual
punishment afforded by the Eighth Amendment. Estelle v.
Gamble, 429 U.S. 97, 102, 104 (1976). The Eighth
Amendment prohibits punishment that involves the
"unnecessary and wanton infliction of pain" and is
incompatible with "the evolving standards of decency
that mark the progress of a maturing society."
Id.; see also Whitley v. Albers, 475 U.S.
312, 319 (1986) (citing, inter alia, Estelle). While
the Eighth Amendment does not mandate comfortable prisons,
neither does it tolerate inhumane treatment of those in
confinement. Farmer v. Brennan, 511 U.S. 825, 832
(1994) (citing Rhodes v. Chapman, 452 U.S. 337, 349
order to establish an Eighth Amendment claim arising out of
inadequate medical care, a prisoner must prove
'deliberate indifference to [his] serious medical
needs.'" Chance v. Armstrong, 143 F.3d
698, 702 (2d Cir. 1998) (quoting Estelle, 429 U.S.
at 104). "First, the alleged deprivation must be, in
objective terms, sufficiently serious." Chance,
143 F.3d at 702 (internal quotation marks and citations
omitted). Addressing the objective element, to prevail a
plaintiff must demonstrate a violation sufficiently serious
by objective terms, "in the sense that a condition of
urgency, one that may produce death, degeneration, or extreme
pain exists." Hathaway v. Coughlin, 99 F.3d
550, 553 (2d Cir. 1996). "Second, the defendant must act
with a sufficiently culpable state of mind,"
Chance, 143 F.3d at 702 (internal quotation marks
and citations omitted); that is, the plaintiff must
demonstrate that the defendant "kn[ew] of and
disregard[ed] an excessive risk to inmate health or
safety." Farmer, 511 U.S. at 837; see also
Blyden v. Mancusi, 186 F.3d 252, 262 (2d Cir. 1999)
(With respect to the subjective element, a plaintiff must
also demonstrate that defendant had "the necessary level
of culpability, shown by actions characterized by
protections afforded by the Eighth Amendment do not extend to
remedy harms which may be inflicted as a result of conduct
amounting to negligence or medical malpractice but not
encompassing conscious disregard of an inmate's health.
An "inadvertent failure to provide adequate medical
care" does not constitute "deliberate
indifference." Estelle, 429 U.S. at 105-06.
Moreover, "a complaint that a physician has been
negligent in diagnosing or treating a medical condition does
not state a valid claim . . . under the Eighth
Amendment." Id. Stated another way,
"medical malpractice does not become a constitutional
violation merely because the victim is a prisoner."
Id.; see also Smith v. Carpenter, 316 F.3d
178, 184 (2d Cir. 2003) ("Because the Eighth Amendment
is not a vehicle for ...