Martinez v. Mancusi

Decision Date08 October 1970
Docket NumberDocket 35017.,No. 242,242
Citation443 F.2d 921
PartiesLouis MARTINEZ, Appellant, v. Vincent R. MANCUSI, Warden, Attica Prison, Dr. Williams, Dr. Stamburg, and Nurse Hoffman, Attica Prison, Appellees.
CourtU.S. Court of Appeals — Second Circuit

Herman Schwartz, Buffalo, N. Y., for appellant.

Frank I. Strom, II, Deputy Asst. Atty. Gen. (Louis J. Lefkowitz, Atty. Gen., State of N. Y., and Samuel A. Hirshowitz, First Asst. Atty. Gen., on the brief), for appellee.

Before LUMBARD, Chief Judge, and ANDERSON and FEINBERG, Circuit Judges.

LUMBARD, Chief Judge:

This is an action under the Federal Civil Rights Act, 42 U.S.C. § 1983, for willful violation by prison officials of appellant's right to adequate medical care. The District Court for the Western District of New York dismissed appellant's complaint on the ground that the facts alleged were insufficient under the Civil Rights Act to state a cause of action. We reverse the district court's dismissal of the complaint and, without deciding the merits of appellant's complaint, remand for a hearing, at which appellant should be given the opportunity to show the responsibility and liability which his allegations assert.

Since the defendants filed no answer to appellant's complaint, and since the district court dismissed that complaint solely on the basis of the facts alleged, we look only to the facts as alleged by the appellant to determine whether the dismissal was warranted. Appellant Martinez, a young inmate of Attica Prison, suffers from infantile paralysis of the right leg. On December 16, 1966, he was indicted for the crime of murder in the first degree. On September 5, 1967, he pleaded guilty to the crime of manslaughter in the first degree. He was sentenced on October 3, 1967 to a term of imprisonment of ten to twenty years.

In his complaint, Martinez alleges that on June 26, 1969, he was taken from Attica Prison to Meyer Memorial Hospital in Buffalo, where, on June 28, he underwent surgery on his right leg by Doctors Papademetrius and Rigni. After the operation, the surgeons directed that in order for the operation to be successful, appellant lie flat on his back and move his legs as little as possible, and that he be given fifty milligrams of demarol and fifty of morphine as long as he was in pain.

Martinez alleges that on August 9, 1969, defendant Mancusi, the prison warden, ordered him transferred back to the prison. He further alleges that he was removed from the hospital on that day by two prison guards without a discharge from Doctors Papademetrius and Rigni. When the guards arrived at the hospital, the surgeons had left for the day. The person or persons in charge of Martinez warned the guards that he could not walk and was not even to be moved. In blatant disregard of these instructions, and without checking with the surgeons for either a formal discharge from the hospital or advice as to his treatment, the guards handcuffed appellant and made him walk out of the hospital. Appellant was taken back to Attica Prison and placed in the prison hospital.

Martinez further alleges that on the very next day he was discharged from the prison hospital by defendant Dr. Williams, the prison doctor, and was placed in a cell with no facilities for his care. Despite the specific orders by the surgeons, appellant was forced to move his leg and to stand to receive his meals, with the result that the operation ultimately proved unsuccessful. Moreover, he was not given the demarol or morphine prescribed to alleviate his pain, and has thus been in constant and unrelieved pain.

On August 14, 1969, Martinez commenced the instant civil rights action in the district court, seeking an order enjoining the named defendants from depriving him of the care and treatment prescribed by the surgeons, and seeking $25,000 damages against Warden Mancusi, Dr. Williams, and the two unnamed prison guards who removed him from the hospital. On the facts alleged, the district court dismissed the complaint.

Although federal courts are reluctant to interfere in the normal processes of state prison administration, they will not hesitate to intervene when action is clearly necessary to protect a prisoner's constitutional rights. Wright v. McMann, 387 F.2d 519, 522 (2d Cir. 1967). Hence an action against prison officials for inadequate medical care may be brought under the Civil Rights Act in the federal district courts when the prisoner's allegations rise to the level of cruel and unusual punishment in violation of the Eighth Amendment.

In Church v. Hegstrum, 416 F.2d 449 (2d Cir. 1969), we delineated the applicable criteria for determining whether a prisoner's claim of inadequate medical care is sufficient to allege an Eighth Amendment violation and thus to constitute a cause of action under the Civil Rights Act. In that case, we upheld the dismissal of the complaint because the facts alleged in that complaint sounded only in negligence. There was no allegation of "severe and obvious injuries," and no allegation "that any of the defendants knew that treatment was required for the preservation of Church's life, that Church ever requested such treatment, or even that any defendant was aware of his condition." We held that "a complaint claiming failure...

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