Hathaway v. Coughlin, 1530

Decision Date29 September 1994
Docket NumberNo. 1530,D,1530
Citation37 F.3d 63
PartiesWilliam HATHAWAY, Plaintiff-Appellee, v. Thomas A. COUGHLIN, Commissioner of the Department of Correctional Services, Everett W. Jones, Superintendent of Great Meadow Correctional Facility; Benjamin Dyette and James Sullivan, Defendants, Joseph Foote, Defendant-Appellant. ocket 93-2732.
CourtU.S. Court of Appeals — Second Circuit

Jacobs, Circuit Judge, dissented and filed opinion.

Michael S. Buskus, Asst. Atty. Gen., Albany, NY (G. Oliver Koppell, Atty. Gen., Peter H. Schiff, Deputy Sol. Gen., Peter G. Crary, Asst. Atty. Gen., of counsel), for defendant-appellant.

Edward Z. Menkin, Syracuse, NY, for plaintiff-appellee.

Before: ALTIMARI, McLAUGHLIN, and JACOBS, Circuit Judges.

ALTIMARI, Circuit Judge:

Defendant-appellant Joseph Foote ("Foote") appeals from an order of the United States District Court for the Northern District of New York (Scullin, J.), denying his motions for a directed verdict. Plaintiff-appellee William Hathaway ("Hathaway"), an inmate at a New York State correctional facility, instituted this action under 42 U.S.C. Sec. 1983, alleging that Foote, who was a prison doctor, and other defendants exhibited deliberate indifference to his serious medical needs in violation of the Eighth Amendment. After the jury could not reach a verdict, the district court declared a mistrial and denied Foote's motions to dismiss. Because we conclude that a rational jury could find that Foote was deliberately indifferent to Hathaway's serious medical needs, we affirm the order of the district court.

BACKGROUND

Hathaway was an inmate at the Great Meadow Correctional Facility ("Great Meadow") operated by New York State. In 1973, prior to his incarceration, Hathaway underwent hip fusion surgery for his arthritic left hip. During the surgery, three metal pins were inserted to stabilize his left hip joint. Hathaway continued to experience pain after this surgery and first sought medical attention at Great Meadow on June 17, 1977, when he was evaluated by Dr. Schlesinger ("Schlesinger"). Schlesinger found that Hathaway's left leg was shorter than his right, and prescribed orthopedic shoes to effect a height equalization. Shortly thereafter, Foote, a general practitioner, consulted with Schlesinger regarding Hathaway's condition.

On November 22, 1977, Hathaway was referred to Dr. Quellman ("Quellman"), an orthopedic specialist, based on a radiology report revealing that Hathaway suffered from a degenerative disease in the left hip joint. Quellman confirmed that Hathaway's hip had not fused properly and noted in his report that three metal pins crossed the hip joint. Quellman also noted that he offered Hathaway the option of surgery to refuse the hip, which Hathaway declined on February 3, 1978. Although he declined surgery at that time, Hathaway continued to seek medical attention for recurrent pain in his hip six times over the next several months. In response to Hathaway's complaints, Foote prescribed new orthopedic shoes and recommended that Hathaway be housed on a first-floor cell and exempted from heavy lifting.

Hathaway's medical record does not reveal any complaints of pain in 1979. Beginning in May 1980, however, Hathaway complained about his hip pain to Foote with increasing regularity. Shortly after he began to suffer hip pain, x-rays taken on July 10, 1980 revealed that two of the three pins in Hathaway's hip had broken. Based on this x-ray, Foote authorized a consultation with Quellman on September 12, 1980. Quellman determined that although the pins had broken, the condition of the hip and the arthritis had not changed otherwise.

Neither Foote nor Quellman informed Hathaway of the broken pins or discussed the option of surgery with him. Hathaway's pain persisted; he complained about his hip pain on ten occasions in 1980 and on twenty-three occasions in 1981, and once was kept for two nights in the prison infirmary because of hip pain. Foote, who saw Hathaway on most of these occasions, typically gave him pain killers.

Hathaway ultimately learned of the broken pins in his hip in July 1981 from a nurse at Great Meadow, one year after Foote and Quellman initially discovered the broken pins. Hathaway testified at trial that within one to two weeks after learning of his condition, he told Foote that he would consent to surgery. Foote referred him to Quellman and did not discuss the option of surgery with him at that time or subsequently. Hathaway claimed that he did not previously request surgery because he was not aware of his condition.

Hathaway's hip pain persisted and he continued to complain to Foote and others. In fact, on January 21, 1982, a Prisoners' Legal Services student attorney wrote to Everett Jones ("Jones"), the superintendent of Great Meadow, on behalf of Hathaway. The letter stated that two independent physicians determined that the treatment Hathaway was receiving--anti-inflammatory medicine and orthopedic shoes--was inadequate given his frequent complaints of pain. The student attorney requested that Hathaway be evaluated and given more extensive treatment. A second student attorney wrote on Hathaway's behalf on October 12, 1982, informing Jones that Hathaway would consent to hip surgery and requesting a new evaluation and treatment plan. Foote responded to Jones by memorandum with respect to both letters. By this time, Hathaway had complained about his pain sixteen times in 1982.

Two weeks later, Hathaway filed an action pro se pursuant to 42 U.S.C. Sec. 1983 against several defendants, including Jones and Foote, alleging a denial of medical care. Shortly thereafter, Foote informed Jones that although Hathaway had declined a previous offer of surgery, Foote would refer Hathaway to Quellman for a re-evaluation for surgery. Hathaway met with Quellman on February 4, 1983, and as a result, more sophisticated tests were performed. Quellman testified at trial that as a result of these tests, he concluded that surgery to remove the pins was not medically necessary, but that surgery might reduce Hathaway's pain. Hathaway was then given the option of surgery. He received a second opinion from Schlesinger, who advised that surgery would be appropriate to remove the pins and to perform a bone graft to correct certain deformities. On October 13, 1983, Quellman performed the surgery, during which he removed the accessible portions of the broken pins and repaired portions of the hip by bone graft.

Initially, the district court granted defendants' motion for summary judgment and dismissed Hathaway's complaint on the grounds that he failed to state a claim of deliberate indifference to his serious medical needs as required by Estelle v. Gamble, 429 U.S. 97, 97 S.Ct. 285, 50 L.Ed.2d 251 (1976). We reversed the district court's grant of summary judgment because Hathaway's allegation of a two-year delay in arranging hip surgery could constitute the required deliberate indifference. See Hathaway v. Coughlin, 841 F.2d 48 (2d Cir.1988).

Upon remand, counsel was appointed for Hathaway and the case proceeded to trial. At the close of evidence, the district court dismissed the complaint against the defendants other than Foote pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 50(a) because of their lack of personal involvement in his care and reserved decision with respect to Foote's motion to dismiss. After the jury ultimately deadlocked, the district court declared a mistrial, at which point Foote moved for dismissal under Fed.R.Civ.P. 50(b). The district court denied Foote's motions, stating that it could not "find that the evidence presented at trial was so overwhelming in favor of [Foote] that reasonable and fair-minded individuals could not arrive at a verdict against [him]." Foote now appeals.

DISCUSSION

On appeal, Foote contends that the district court should have granted his motions to dismiss because Hathaway (1) did not introduce sufficient evidence of a departure from accepted medical practices and (2) failed to adduce proof of the requisite mental state of culpability associated with deliberate indifference. In reviewing the denial of Foote's motion to dismiss, we apply the same standard as did the district court. See Sarus v. Rotundo, 831 F.2d 397, 400 (2d Cir.1987). A directed verdict is proper only when, viewing the evidence in a light most favorable to the non-moving party and resolving all reasonable inferences in that party's favor, "there is such overwhelming evidence to support the moving party's position that fair and reasonable people could not arrive at a verdict against him." Hendricks v. Coughlin, 942 F.2d 109, 112 (2d Cir.1991) (citations omitted).

The Eighth Amendment prohibits the infliction of "cruel and unusual punishments" on those convicted of crimes, which includes punishments that "involve the unnecessary and wanton infliction of pain." Gregg v. Georgia, 428 U.S. 153, 173, 96 S.Ct. 2909, 2925, 49 L.Ed.2d 859 (1976) (citations omitted). The Eighth Amendment also applies to prison officials when they provide medical care to inmates. See Estelle v. Gamble, 429 U.S. 97, 103, 97 S.Ct. 285, 290, 50 L.Ed.2d 251 (1976). To establish an unconstitutional denial of medical care, a prisoner must prove "deliberate indifference to [his] serious medical needs." Id. at 104, 97 S.Ct. at 291.

The deliberate indifference standard embodies both an objective and a subjective prong. First, the alleged deprivation must be, in objective terms, "sufficiently serious." Wilson v. Seiter, 501 U.S. 294, 298, 111 S.Ct. 2321, 2324, 115 L.Ed.2d 271 (1991). See Nance v. Kelly, 912 F.2d 605, 607 (2d Cir.1990) (Pratt, J., dissenting) (standard contemplates "a condition of urgency, one that may produce death, degeneration, or extreme pain") (citations omitted). Second, the charged official must act with a sufficiently culpable state of mind. See Wilson, 501 U.S. at 298, 111 S.Ct. at 2324. Deliberate indifference requires more than...

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