Sanchez v. Graham

Decision Date12 September 2016
Docket NumberCiv. No. 9:12-CV-1646 (NAM/DJS)
PartiesEDWARD SANCHEZ, Plaintiff, v. HAROLD GRAHAM, et al., Defendants.
CourtU.S. District Court — Northern District of New York



Plaintiff, Pro Se

326-49th Street, No. 2

Brooklyn, New York 11220


Attorney General of the State of New York

Attorney for Defendants

The Capitol

Albany, New York 12224



Assistant Attorney General

DANIEL J. STEWART United States Magistrate Judge


On November 5, 2012, pro se Plaintiff Edward Sanchez commenced this action, pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, asserting claims under the Eighth Amendment arising from his conditions of confinement at Auburn Correctional Facility and the medical care he received at Clinton Correctional Facility. Dkt. No. 1, Compl. Presently before the Court is Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment pursuant to FED. R. CIV. P. 56. Dkt. No. 40, Defs.' Mot. Summ. J. Plaintiff opposed the Motion and Defendants filed a Reply. Dkt. Nos. 56, Pl.'s Resp.; 58, Defs.' Reply. For the reasons that follow, the Court recommends that Defendants' Motion be granted in part and denied in part.


Plaintiff's Complaint asserts claims arising from his incarceration, while in the custody of the New York Department of Corrections and Community Supervision ("DOCCS"), at Auburn Correctional Facility ("Auburn") and Clinton Correctional Facility ("Clinton") from November 12, 2010 to September 2012. Compl. at ¶¶ 28-82. The Court herein summarizes the undisputed material facts.

A. Plaintiff's Failure to File a Rule 7.1(a)(3) Statement of Material Facts

Under Local Rule 7.1(a)(3), on a motion for summary judgment a non-movant must respond to the movant's statement of material facts "by admitting and/or denying each of the movant's assertions in matching numbered paragraphs" and "set forth a specific citation to the record where the factual issue arises." N.D.N.Y.L.R. 7.1(a)(3). "The Court shall deem admitted any properly supported facts set forth in the Statement of Material Facts that the opposing party does not specifically controvert." Id. Defendants request that the Court deem their Rule 7.1(a)(3) Statement of Material Facts admitted due to Plaintiff's failure to file an opposing statement of material facts. Defs.' Reply at pp. 3-4. However, the Second Circuit, acknowledging the court's broad discretion to determine whether to overlook a failure to comply with local rules, has held that the court may in its discretion opt to conduct a review of the entire record even where one of the parties has failed to file a 7.1 statement. Holtz v. Rockefeller & Co., Inc., 258 F. 3d 62, 73 (2d Cir. 2001). Therefore, in deference to Plaintiff's pro se status, the Court has opted to review the entire summary judgment record.

B. Plaintiff's Medical History

On January 21, 2004, when Plaintiff was incarcerated at Southport Correctional Facility, he was sent for a CT scan of his lumbar spine, due to persistent low back pain radiating down both legs, which was subsequent to a fall down a flight of stairs said to have occurred in 2001. Compl. at ¶¶ 14-15; Dkt. No 1-1, Pl.'s Exs. at pp. 2 & 5.1 The CT scan revealed suspicion of a herniated disc at L5-S1. Pl.'s Exs. at. p. 2. Plaintiff was then transferred to Auburn, and his incoming health screening, conducted on February 3, 2004, indicated that he had "low back pain possible herniated disk" and further indicated that he was to be assigned to a bottom bunk. Id. at p. 3. Plaintiff was also provided other accommodations for his back pain at Auburn, including an extra mattress and a back brace. Id. at p. 4 & 6. An MRI was conducted on December 9, 2004, which indicated grade one spondylolisthesis and left posterior disc protrusion at L5-S1. Id. at p. 10. Plaintiff was then released from DOCCS custody, but was incarcerated again in late 2009. See Compl. at ¶ 28. On January 15, 2010, a "problem list" listing Plaintiff's medical complaints while in DOCCS custody was generated, which listed chronic lower back pain as late as December 18, 2009. Id. at ¶ 29; Pl.'s Exs. at pp. 18-19. An x-ray report prepared on February 12, 2010 indicated, inter alia, that Plaintiff had grade one anterolisthesis at L5-S1. Pl.'s Exs. at p. 20. An orthopedic consult was recommended, and while Plaintiff agreed to it, the consult form is notated at the top "Albany denied." Id. at pp. 21-22.

C. Auburn Correctional Facility

According to the Plaintiff, he was transferred to Auburn on November 12, 2010. Compl. at ¶ 33. Plaintiff was initially assigned to a single cell. Dkt. No. 40-5, Harold Graham Decl., datedSept. 4, 2014, at ¶ 6. That same day, a "Screening and Physical Assessment for Placement in a Double Cell" form was filled out and signed by Defendant Nurse Cornall. Dkt. No. 40-13, Joshua Farrell Decl., Ex. 1.2 The Form contained two sections: (1) a medical record screening review and (2) a physical assessment.3 Id. In connection with the review of an inmate's medical records, the Form specifically asked:

Are there any known medical indications requiring him to be placed in the bottom bunk bed? (E. G. Medically documented - back problems (through radiological or physician review). . . ).

The Form is marked "no." Id. The second section of the Form deals with a physical assessment of the inmate and inquires whether such examination disclosed medical indications requiring the inmate to be placed in the bottom bunk. Id. The Form was again marked "no." Id. Plaintiff asserts in the Complaint that Defendant Cornall never conducted a physical assessment of him. Compl. at ¶ 35. In addition to the Screening and Physical Assessment Form, Defendant Cornall also completed a "Health Screening for Intrasystem Transfer" form on November 12, 2010. Dkt. No. 40-9, Noreen Cornall Decl., dated Sept. 26, 2014, at ¶ 6; Farrell Decl., Ex. 8. Defendant Cornall is unable to recall examining Plaintiff, but believes that he did not mention any back problems at the screening because it was her practice to record all of an inmate's health complaints on the Health Screening form. Cornall Decl. at ¶ 6. She further notes that on the Health Screening form Plaintiffwas noted to "ambulate without assistance." Id.; Farrell Decl., Ex. 8.

On this same date, a counselor in Auburn's Guidance Unit began to complete a form4 (the "Double Cell Information Sheet") to review Plaintiff's status for double celling; at that time, all Auburn inmates were reviewed for double celling. Graham Decl. at ¶ 9; Farrell Decl., Ex. 2. The counselor completed the "Suitability" and "Compatibility" sections of the Information Sheet, and then forwarded the Information Sheet to Health Services for completion of the "Health Services Review Results." Graham Decl. at ¶ 9. In completing the "Health Services Review Results," a nurse would review the inmate's Medical Problem List and determine whether the inmate was suitable for double bunking consistent with DOCCS Policy No. 1.49.5 Dkt. No. 40-8, Mary Coryer Decl., dated Sept. 8, 2014, at ¶ 11. The nurse who completed Plaintiff's "Health Services Review Results" approved Plaintiff for double celling and indicated that he did not need a bottom bunk. Farrell Decl., Ex. 2. Defendant Nurse Cornall denies that she was the nurse who completed the "Health Services Review Results." Cornall Decl. at ¶¶ 8-9. As explained by Defendant Nurse Coryer, although Plaintiff's Medical Problem List indicated "Back Pain with Radiating Symptoms," the associated code did not require bottom bunk placement under Policy No. 1.49; bottom bunk placement was only required if the code was "SRID." Coryer Decl. at ¶ 11; Farrell Decl., Ex. 6. On November 19, 2010, a captain at Auburn, who is not a defendant to this action, approved Plaintiff for double celling. Graham Decl. at ¶ 7; Farrell Decl., Ex. 2.

Plaintiff was not assigned to a double cell until March 2, 2011. Graham Decl. at ¶ 11. The decision to assign Plaintiff to a specific double cell was made by the Movement Control Officer who was on duty that date. Id. The Movement Control Officer is supervised by the Lieutenant Watch Commander. Id. at ¶ 16. Defendant Graham, the Superintendent of Auburn, explains that the decision to assign an inmate to a specific double cell is made chronologically; that is, inmates who have been housed at Auburn longer are assigned to a double cell before inmates who have arrived more recently. Id. at ¶ 12. Plaintiff was assigned to a top bunk. Compl. at ¶ 41. Plaintiff claims that placement in the top bunk caused him "extreme back pains" because there was no ladder and he had to climb and jump in order to reach his bed. Id. at ¶ 43.

Plaintiff sent letters requesting to be removed from the top bunk and his double cell assignment to Defendants Coryer and Graham on March 7, 16, and 24, 2011. Id. at ¶¶ 43-45; Farrell Decl., Exs. 3 & 7. On April 5, 2011, Plaintiff filed a grievance, assigned No. AUB-58370-11, which complained that he had been assigned to a top bunk without consideration of his chronic lower back pain. Farrell Decl., Ex. 4. On April 7, 2011, Plaintiff alleges that he fell while trying to reach the top bunk, aggravating his back injury. See Compl. at ¶¶ 48-49. Plaintiff was taken to sick call, where he was given Motrin and ordered to have one day of bed rest. Pl.'s Exs. at pp. 42-43. Plaintiff returned to sick call on April 8, 2011, and was excused from programs and work for three more days. Id. at pp. 44-45.

On April 12, 2011, Defendant Coryer responded to Plaintiff's complaint letters. Coryer Decl. at ¶ 18. Reviewing Plaintiff's Medical Problem List and current medical chart, Defendant Coryer determined that Plaintiff did not meet the criteria for bottom bunk placement under DOCCS Policy No. 1.49 and advised Plaintiff as such. Id. Defendant Coryer directed Plaintiff to "go to sickcall to address concerns." Farrel Decl., Ex. 7. She explains that she intended Plaintiff to attend sick...

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