Zikianda v. Cnty. of Albany, 1:12-CV-1194

CourtUnited States District Courts. 2nd Circuit. United States District Court of Northern District of New York
Writing for the CourtThomas J. McAvoy, Senior District Judge.
PartiesYODI ZIKIANDA, as Administrator of the Estate of Irene Bamenga, Plaintiff, v. COUNTY OF ALBANY, et al., Defendants.
Docket Number1:12-CV-1194
Decision Date15 September 2015

YODI ZIKIANDA, as Administrator of the Estate of Irene Bamenga, Plaintiff,
COUNTY OF ALBANY, et al., Defendants.



September 15, 2015


Thomas J. McAvoy, Senior District Judge.

Plaintiff Yodi Zikianda, as Administrator of the Estate of Irene Bamenga ("Plaintiff") commenced this action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and state law, alleging that Defendants violated the rights of Irene Bamenga while she was in their custody on an immigration detainer, causing her death. Defendants have filed motions for summary judgment, which are presently before the Court. The Court has determined that oral argument on the motions is not necessary and will render its decision based on the filings.


This case arises out of the detention of Decedent Irene Bamenga ("Decedent" or "Bamenga"). On July 15, 2011, Decedent was taken into custody at the Lewiston Bridge Port of Entry in Lewiston, New York, by the United States Customs and Border

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Patrol. Decedent had attempted to reenter the United States after being denied entry into Canada. Officials determined that Decedent had overstayed a visa and was ineligible to remain in the county. While she was in the custody of immigration officials, Decedent advised officers that she had been diagnosed with congestive heart failure ("CHF") and needed to take medication daily.

Decedent had traveled with her husband, the Plaintiff, and another man to Lewiston. The two men were released, but Decedent was transferred to the custody of the Allegany, New York, County Jail. Customs and Border Patrol Officers informed the Jail that Decedent had been diagnosed with CHF, had six different medications with her, and appeared to be in good health.

Decedent arrived that the Allegany County Jail ("ACJ") at around 10:30 p.m. on July 15, 2011. The ACJ officer who took Decedent into custody signed a federal form that indicated that Decedent had CHF controlled by the medications she carried with her. An intake receipt executed by that officer indicated that Decedent was on "lots of" medication. The intake officer delivered the medication that had been in Decedent's possession to the desk of Nurse Practioner Cheryl Ralyea. Ralyea was not present because of the late hour, and no other medical officer was there to receive Decedent.

The next day, Debra Harrington, a registered nurse, conducted an initial screening of decedent. Harrington noticed that Plaintiff had two large medication organizers that contained various medications. Decedent informed her that she had taken her medication the previous day, but she was not sure of the dosages she was to take or the names of the medication. Decedent told Harrington that she was concerned about being able to take her medication. Ralyea saw Decedent on July 18, 2011 and

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prescribed a number of medications to be started on that day. Decedent did not actually receive the medication until July 19, 2011.

On July 21, 2011, Customs and Border Patrol officials transferred custody of Decedent to officers from the Albany County Correctional Facility ("ACCF") in Albany, New York. Federal Agents informed ACCF agents of Decedent's medications and heart condition. The Federal Officials transferred Plaintiff and her medications to the Albany County officers. ACCF medical staff reviewed Decedent's health and medications. They continued the medications prescribed at the ACJ, though two of the medications were not started until July 25 and July 26, 2011.

On July 25, 2011, Decedent completed two request forms, complaining that she had not been provided her full dosage of medications and that she had been suffering from shortness of breath, palpitations when lying down, and dizziness when standing. During a medical interview the next day, July 26, 2011, Decedent complained that she had not been receiving her medication.

On July 27, 2011, inmates in Decedent's housing area notified officers that she was sick. When officers entered her cell at around 12:20 a.m., they noted that she was unresponsive. Officers attempted CPR, to no avail. Eventually, emergency medical technicians arrived and transported Decedent to Albany Memorial Hospital. There, she was pronounced dead. The Certificate of Death indicates that Decedent's cause of death was cardiomyopathy. The time of death was 1:17 a.m.

Plaintiff filed the instant Complaint in this Court on July 26, 2012. See dkt. # 1. After the Defendants answered the Complaint, the parties engaged in discovery and extensive motion practice surrounding that discovery. Eventually, the parties agreed

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that Plaintiff should be permitted to file an amended complaint. Plaintiff filed an Amended Complaint on March 15, 2013. See dkt. # 109. The Defendants answered that Complaint. Defendants Christopher Depner, M.D., Debra Harrington, County of Allegany, Cheryl Ralyea, and Rick L. Whitney also filed cross claims against various Defendants. See dkt. ##s 112, 114. After additional discovery and additional extensive motion practice, Defendants filed the instant motions for summary judgment. See dkt. ##s 304, 307, 308, 311.2

II. Legal Standard

Defendants have moved for summary judgment. It is well settled that on a motion for summary judgment, the Court must construe the evidence in the light most favorable to the non-moving party, see Tenenbaum v. Williams, 193 F.3d 581, 593 (2d Cir. 1999), and may grant summary judgment only where "there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and ... the moving party is entitled to a judgment as a matter of law." FED. R. CIV. P. 56(a). An issue is genuine if the relevant evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986).

A party seeking summary judgment bears the burden of informing the court of the basis for the motion and of identifying those portions of the record that the moving

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party believes demonstrate the absence of a genuine issue of material fact as to a dispositive issue. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323 (1986). If the movant is able to establish a prima facie basis for summary judgment, the burden of production shifts to the party opposing summary judgment who must produce evidence establishing the existence of a factual dispute that a reasonable jury could resolve in his favor. Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 587 (1986). A party opposing a properly supported motion for summary judgment may not rest upon "mere allegations or denials" asserted in his pleadings, Rexnord Holdings, Inc. v. Bidermann, 21 F.3d 522, 525-26 (2d Cir. 1994), or on conclusory allegations or unsubstantiated speculation. Scotto v. Almenas, 143 F.3d 105, 114 (2d Cir. 1998).


Various of the Defendants have filed motions for summary judgment. The Court will address each in turn, addressing first the facts relevant to each motion, as appropriate, and then turning to the legal arguments each party makes.

A. Motion of Dr. Christopher Depner, M.D.

I. Facts Relevant to the Motion

Since 2007, Allegany County has used the services of private physicians in the role of County Medical Director. (Defendant Christopher Depner's Statement of Material Facts ("Depner's Statement"), dkt. # 304-4, at ¶ 2). The Medical Director has a variety of roles, overseeing the County's family planning clinic, public health clinic, sexually transmitted diseases clinic, and a number of environmental programs. (Id. at ¶ 3). Plaintiff emphasizes that the Defendant "specifically contracted to serve as 'Medical

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Director for the Allegany County Jail as provided for by law.'" (Plaintiff's Response to Defendant's Statement of Material Facts, dkt. # 337, ("Plaintiff's Response") at ¶ 3). The Medical Director also attends meetings of the County Health Board. (Depner's Statement at ¶ 4). The Director additionally serves as "advisor" to the preschool program, the Medical Director for the Children with Special Needs Program, and the Allegany County Jail. (Id. at ¶ 5). Plaintiff again disputes this language, pointing out that Defendant's title was "Medical Director[,]" not "Advisor." (Plaintiff's Response at ¶ 5). Defendant Christopher Depner, MD, became County Medical Director in October 2007. (Depner's Statement at ¶ 6).

The Allegany County Jail has the capacity to house 164 inmates, but on average holds between 135 and 145 inmates. (Id. at ¶ 7). In addition to inmates from Albany County and surrounding counties, the ACJ also houses federal prisoners on a temporary basis,3 both for the United States Marshals Service and for Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). (Id. at ¶¶ 8-9). Plaintiff expands on this statement, pointing out that the Jail houses prisoners from a variety of agencies, including other counties, prisoners detained by the United States Marshal's Service and persons in the custody of the Department of Homeland Security ("DHS") and ICE. (Plaintiff's Response at ¶ 8). Allegany County-connected prisoners comprise only about one-third of the jail's population. (Id.). The County is paid a per-diem fee for all other prisoners. (Id.). Further, while the County's population has decreased over the past twenty years, the jail...

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