Fuller v. Ranney et al
DECISION AND ORDER re 47 Motion for Summary Judgment; 60 Motion for Summary Judgment; 77 Motion for Summary Judgment; 86 Motion. The Clerk of Court is directed to close this case. Signed by Hon. H. Kenneth Schroeder, Jr. on February 17, 2010. (APG)
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT WESTERN DISTRICT OF NEW YORK
STACY FULLER, 06-B-2675, Plaintiff, v. MICHAEL RANNEY, et al., Defendants. 06-CV-00033(Sr)
DECISION AND ORDER Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(c), the parties have consented to the assignment of this case to the undersigned to conduct all proceedings in this case, including the entry of final judgment. Dkt. #38.
Currently before the Court are the following motions: (1) (2) Plaintiff's Motion for Summary Judgment (Dkt. #47); Plaintiff's "Motion to Grant Summary Judgment Due to Lack of Opposition Thereto" (Dkt. #60); Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment (Dkt. #77); and Plaintiff's "2nd Notice of Motion" requesting the Court treat Plaintiff's Response (Dkt. ##82-85) to Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment as a Cross-Motion for Summary Judgment (Dkt. #86).
Plaintiff commenced this pro se action on or about January 17, 2006 pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Dkt. #1. Thereafter, plaintiff filed two amended complaints (Dkt. ##3 and 15). At all times relevant to the allegations in plaintiff's amended complaint, plaintiff was incarcerated at the Erie County Holding Center. Specifically, plaintiff was
incarcerated at the Erie County Holding Center from on or about September 14, 2005 to October 4, 2006 when he was transferred to the custody of the New York State Department of Correctional Services. Plaintiff is currently in the custody of the New York State Department of Correctional Services and is being housed at the Eastern Correctional Facility. Plaintiff alleges that while he was incarcerated at the Erie County Holding Center, he was denied adequate psychiatric and psychological treatment in violation of the Eighth Amendment to the United States Constitution. Dkt. #15.
Plaintiff's "2nd Notice of Motion" (Dkt. #86) requesting the Court treat Plaintiff's Response to Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment (Dkt. ##82-85) as a Cross-Motion for Summary Judgment is granted. The Court notes that it has fully considered each and every motion and opposition thereto filed by the parties. For the following reasons, plaintiff's motion for summary judgment (Dkt. #47), plaintiff's "Motion to Grant Summary Judgment Due to Lack of Opposition Thereto" (Dkt. #60), and plaintiff's response to defendants' motion for summary judgment (Dkt. ##82-85) (cross motion for summary judgment (Dkt. #86)) are denied and defendants' motion for summary judgment (Dkt. #77) is granted.
FACTUAL BACKGROUND Plaintiff, proceeding pro se, commenced this action on or about January 16, 2006 against "Michael Ranney, Forensic Director, Dr. Joseph, and July, Forensic Counselor." Dkt. #1. Thereafter, plaintiff amended his complaint once as of right (Dkt. #3) on July 24, 2006 and defendants filed their answer on October 31, 2006 (Dkt. #9). -2-
What purports to be a second amended complaint was filed on January 22, 2007 (Dkt. #15), however, the Court notes that the document filed is neither a motion to amend the complaint nor was the plaintiff ever granted permission from this Court to amend his complaint. Moreover, the Court further notes that it has carefully compared the amended complaint (Dkt. #3) and the purported second amended complaint (Dkt. #15) and has concluded that there were no changes to the substantive factual allegations presented in the amended complaint (Dkt. #3). Compare Dkt. ## 3 and 15. Accordingly, this Court concludes that although a purported second amended complaint was filed by the Clerk's Office, it is not an operational document insofar as plaintiff neither sought nor received permission from this Court to file a second amended complaint. The Court further notes, however, that for purposes of deciding the pending motions, the Court has fully considered the allegations in the purported second amended complaint (Dkt. #15).
On or about September 15, 2005, plaintiff was admitted to the Erie County Holding Center. Dkt. #55, ¶ 1. In his amended complaint, however, plaintiff alleges that he was arrested and brought to the Erie County Holding Center on or about September 14, 2005 and was immediately housed in a "Constant Observation Unit." Dkt. #3, p.3. On September 16, 2005, plaintiff was evaluated by defendant Juli Van Woert1 in the
Defendant Juliann Van Woert, MS, CRC, LMHC named in the complaint and amended complaint as "July," was at all times relevant to the allegations in the amended complaint a nationally Certified Rehabilitation Counselor and licensed in the State of New York as a Mental Health Counselor. She was employed as a Forensic Mental Health Specialist for the County of Erie Department of Mental Health in the Forensic Mental Health Service and was assigned to the Erie County Holding Center. -3-
Erie County Holding center's constant observation unit. Dkt. #55, ¶ 2. In her affidavit, defendant Van Woert explained that plaintiff was initially housed in the constant observation unit by the deputies involved in his booking because plaintiff was threatening to hurt himself. Dkt. #79-8, ¶ 6. Defendant Van Woert further noted in her affidavit that prior to her evaluation of plaintiff, plaintiff was evaluated by Dr. Ronald Moscati of the Erie County Holding Center's medical department and plaintiff was prescribed drug withdrawal controlling medication. Id. Defendant Van Woert completed a three-page Screening and Admission Summary following her evaluation of plaintiff. Id. On the Screening and Admission Summary, defendant Van Woert noted that plaintiff reported a history of depression, drug and alcohol abuse, drug and alcohol withdrawal and lifestyle and other problems. Id. In addition, defendant Van Woert checked the line for "Forensic Housing" and placed a question mark next to "Psychiatric Assessment/Med Assessment." Id. Defendant Van Woert discontinued constant observation for plaintiff and approved him to be moved to either the Delta Long or Delta Short housing unit with routine supervision. Dkt. #79-8, ¶ 7. In his amended complaint, plaintiff alleges that "on or about September 16, 2005, the Plaintiff was transferred from "Constant Observation" ... to a forensic block ..." Dkt. #3, p.3.
On September 23, 2005, plaintiff was again seen by defendant Van W oert, as well as Dr. Brian Joseph.2 Dkt. #79-8, ¶ 3; Dkt. #79-10, ¶ 6. At that time,
Dkt. #79-8, ¶ 1. At all times relevant to the allegations in plaintiff's complaint and amended complaint, defendant Joseph was a physician licensed to practice medicine in New -42
defendant Van Woert completed a Forensic Mental Health Service Medication/Psychiatric Consultation Form. Dkt. #55, ¶ 3. On the form, defendant Van W oert noted that the reason for the consultation was "eval for depression, meds [questionable hx psychosis]". In the section titled Counselor Comments & Observations, defendant Van Woert stated "c/o 8 depression and ... states recent meds of Celexa Depakote and Seroquel Heavy ETOH, cocaine + marijuana to 9/14/05 multiple X hospital locally and in NYC per client." Dkt. #55, ¶ 3; Dkt. #59, p.24. On the same form, defendant Van Woert completed the section "Psychiatric Response" with extensive notes reflecting her evaluation of plaintiff. Dkt. #55, ¶ 4; Dkt. #59, p.24. In her affidavit, defendant Van Woert noted that plaintiff had advised her that he was receiving mental health treatment in Chautauqua County and had been taking Celexa, Depakote and Seroquel until three weeks prior to his incarceration. Dkt. #79-8, ¶ 7. However, plaintiff was unable to provide defendant Van Woert with any further information concerning the dosage of the medication or pharmacy information. Id.
In his affidavit submitted in support of his motion for summary judgment, defendant Brian Joseph described his September 23, 2005 interaction with plaintiff as follows: I became involved in Mr. Fuller's care on September 23, 2006 [sic] pursuant to a referral made at the plaintiff's
York since 1969 and board certified by the American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology, as well as sub-certified in Forensic Psychiatry. Dkt. #79-11, ¶ 1. In addition to maintaining a private psychiatric practice, Dr. Joseph was at all times relevant, employed by Erie County on a part-time basis as the Chief Psychiatrist for the Forensic Mental Health Service. Id. -5-
request to be evaluated by a Psychiatrist. Mr. Fuller was evasive during our interview. He advised me about what medications he allegedly had been taking before his incarceration, but did not provide me with specific information regarding dosages or medical providers. He informed me of a long history of mental illness, but was vague about where he had received treatment, only saying that he had been a patient at the Erie County Medical Center on numerous occasions years ago. With regard to illegal drug use, Mr. Fuller advised that he uses "everything", but refused to tell me what his source of money was. We discussed the charges against him also. During our interaction, Mr. Fuller appeared calm and appropriate. One of the inconsistent findings that I noted was that Mr. Fuller's speech was slowed; however, his overall body movement was normal. Also, he frequently stated that he did not know the answers to questions that he really could have answered. In addition to his evasiveness, Mr. Fuller was manipulative. My impression was that Mr. Fuller suffered from a poly-substance abuse disorder, particularly severe with regard to cocaine, and an antisocial personality disorder. My orders to the FMHS [Forensic Mental Health Service] staff were, "no medications, observe only for now, patient to return as needed". Dkt. #79-10, ¶ 6.
On October 5, 2005, plaintiff was again evaluated by defendant Van W oert, wherein defendant Van Woert completed a Medication/Psychiatric Renewal Form. Dkt. #55, ¶ 5; Dkt. #59-2, p.6. On the form, defendant Van Woert noted that plaintiff continued to complain about depression and mood swings. Id. On October 7, 2005, defendant Joseph again evaluated plaintiff and noted on the Medication/Psychiatric Renewal Form that plaintiff was calm and appropriate and his mood was stable in the interview. Dkt. #59,-2, p.6; Dkt. #79-10, ¶ 7. In addition, defendant Joseph noted that plaintiff should return after his psychiatric records were -6-
received. Dkt. #79-10, ¶ 7. Specifically, defendant Joseph stated in his affidavit that, "I was unable to diagnose any mental illness requiring medication and was interested to see the reasoning behind the other physicians prescribing the medications which plaintiff alleged to have been taking." Id.
Defendant Van Woert noted in her affidavit that the Erie County Holding Center Medical Department contacted her on October 19, 2005 to advise her that plaintiff was requesting pain medication for back pain secondary to scoliosis. Dkt. #798, ¶ 9. When the medical department found no evidence of scoliosis, plaintiff complained of falling prior to his incarceration. Id. Thereafter, the medical department prescribed plaintiff Motrin for seven days. Id. On October 31, 2005, defendant Van W oert met with plaintiff in response to his requests. Dkt. #79-8, ¶ 10. Plaintiff requested medication for depression and anxiety and expressed anger that defendant Joseph had not prescribed medication for him. Id. Notwithstanding his anger, defendant Van Woert described that plaintiff "presented himself as animated and talkative, appearing rested and focused, and able to manage the stress of his legal case." Id. Moreover, defendant Van Woert concurred with the observations of the deputies on the housing unit concerning plaintiff's condition and how well he was functioning on the unit. Id. Because of plaintiff's subjective complaints of depression and anxiety, it was decided that plaintiff would remain on the Delta unit. Id. Finally, at defendant Van Woert's request, plaintiff executed an authorization form allowing the
Forensic Mental Health Service to obtain plaintiff's most recent medical records from the Chautauqua County Mental Health Service. Id.
On November 23, 2005, a staff review of plaintiff's case was conducted in response to his numerous requests for prescription medication. Dkt. #79-8, ¶ 11. The Delta housing unit deputies advised that plaintiff was doing well, was active on the unit, exhibited familiarity with prison routine and maintained himself well. Id. Although it was felt that plaintiff could be transferred into the Erie County Holding Center's general population, because the deputies felt that plaintiff was not a problem on the unit and because of his complaints of stress related to his pending criminal charges, the Forensic Mental Health Service allowed plaintiff to remain housed on the Delta unit. Id.
On or about November 25, 2005, defendant Van Woert learned from the Chautauqua County Mental Health Service that plaintiff reported to them that he had been receiving Celexa in prison, however, Chautauqua County Mental Health Service was never provided with any records to confirm plaintiff's statement. Dkt. #79-8, ¶ 12. Plaintiff was seen by the Chautauqua County Mental Health Service on December 20, 2004, January 10, 2005, January 19, 2005 and January 26, 2005; plaintiff cancelled his February 10, 2005 and February 16, 2005 appointments. Id. Defendant Van Woert was advised that plaintiff was prescribed Celexa on January 3, 2005 "on the client's word" because he had not yet been evaluated by their psychiatrist. Id. Thereafter, plaintiff was evaluated on March 29, 2005, May 17, 2005 and June 16, 2005. Id.
Plaintiff failed to keep his July 28, 2005 appointment and Chautauqua County Mental Health Service closed their file on August 26, 2005 because they had not heard from plaintiff since June 16, 2005. Id. The staff at Chautauqua County Mental Health Service characterized plaintiff as being "stable and med-seeking" and their working diagnosis for plaintiff was "rule-out bipolar disorder" and the last medications they prescribed for plaintiff were Depakote ER 1000mg, Celexa 40mg and Seroquel 25mg. Id. Based on the information supplied by Chautauqua County Mental Health Service, defendant Van Woert referred plaintiff for another psychiatric examination on November 30, 2005. Dkt. #79-8, ¶ 13.
Defendant Joseph next saw plaintiff on December 2, 2005 and at that time, Forensic Mental Health Service had received plaintiff's medical records from Chautauqua County Behavioral Health Services indicating that plaintiff had last been seen on June 16, 2005 and that their working diagnosis was "Major Depression, ruleout Bipolar Disorder." Dkt. #79-10, ¶ 8. In addition, plaintiff's medications and dosages were confirmed. Id. Notwithstanding the foregoing, defendant Joseph stated in his affidavit that, "during this incarceration Mr. Fuller appeared stable, which the examination on this date revealed once again. Although plaintiff was claiming depression and mood swings, there was nothing about his presentation which would allow me, with a reasonable degree of medical certainty, to make any such diagnosis and medically justify restarting medications." Id. Following his evaluation by defendant Joseph, plaintiff threatened to "act out in some way in response to Forensic Dr not ordering medications." Dkt. #79-8, ¶ 13. Thereafter, defendant Van Woert completed a -9-
Suspected Suicidal Inmate Notification Form and requested that an enhanced watch of plaintiff begin for the safety of the plaintiff, other inmates and the staff. Id.
On December 8, 2005, during a routine discussion with an evening deputy on the Delta unit, defendant Van Woert was advised the plaintiff appeared more agitated and irritable possibly due to the pending charges. Dkt. #79-8, ¶ 14. As a result, defendant Van Woert referred plaintiff to defendant Joseph for another evaluation. Id. Indeed, defendant Joseph evaluated plaintiff the following day, December 9, 2005. Id.
Defendant Joseph conducted his final evaluation of plaintiff on December 9, 2005. Dkt. #79-10, ¶ 9. During his final evaluation, defendant Joseph noted the information from Forensic Mental Health Service and Erie County Holding Center staff concerning plaintiff pacing and frequently requesting to be locked in his cell at night, as well as his exhibiting increased agitation. Id. In addition, defendant Joseph understood that plaintiff wanted his medication request to be reconsidered. Id. As with his previous encounters with the plaintiff, defendant Joseph found the plaintiff to be calm and appropriate during the evaluation. Id. Indeed, defendant Joseph noted that although plaintiff stated that he was having negative thoughts, he refused to share specific information concerning those thoughts. Id. Significantly, defendant Joseph explains in his affidavit that although he had received information concerning plaintiff's medications
several times, Chautauqua County Mental Health Service refused to send their actual records. Id.
Finally, defendant Joseph provides the following information concerning his conclusions about plaintiff's treatment, As a physician, I must exercise my clinical judgment when dealing with any patient which is based upon my education, training, and years of experience. I concluded with a reasonable degree of medical certainty that at no point in any of my contacts with Mr. Fuller could I diagnose him with a mental illness and justify, for any medical reason, the prescription of medication. It is not my customary practice to prescribe medication at the insistence of any patient. I am further certain that Mr. Fuller had an ulterior motive for wanting a mental health diagnosis and medication. It is not uncommon in prison settings to have inmates demanding medications for a variety of reasons, not the least of which is to obtain a mental health diagnosis in order to be perceived as "sick vs. criminal". In a patient with a significant abuse disorder such as Mr. Fuller had, the preferred therapeutic approach is to refrain from administering psychotropic medications until the patient is cleared from all substances and can be evaluated for any underlying true mental health issues. Mr. Fuller, even during his detoxification period early in this incarceration, was not exhibiting mental health symptoms. Dkt. #79-10, ¶ 11 (emphasis in original). Moreover, defendant Joseph notes that he is unaware of any injury suffered by plaintiff as a result of his alleged inadequate medical treatment. Id. at ¶ 12.
At defendant Joseph's request, defendant Van Woert again verified the medications previously taken by plaintiff and as prescribed by "Chautauqua Co. Beh. Health" as "Celexa 40 mg, Seroquel 25 mg and Depakote ER 550 2 @hs." Dkt. #55, -11-
¶ 15; Dkt. #59, p.40. On or about February 16, 2006, defendant Van Woert received a telephone call from Justice Timothy Drury's Chambers inquiring about plaintiff's medication. Dkt. #79-8, ¶ 15. Apparently, plaintiff had complained during an appearance before Justice Drury that he was not being permitted to take his medication and therefore, he was unable to proceed in Court. Id. Defendant Michael R. Ranney, MS, CRC, LMHC, the Director of Intensive Adult Mental Health Services with Erie County's Forensic Mental Health Service, returned the call to Justice Drury's Chambers. Dkt. #79-9, ¶ 8. Defendant Ranney advised the Court that plaintiff had been evaluated by defendant Joseph on four separate occasions and that defendant Joseph did not diagnose anything that defendant Joseph felt, in his clinical judgment, warranted prescribed medication. Id.
On February 23, 2006, Evelyn M. Coggins, M.D. conducted a Court ordered psychiatric evaluation of plaintiff at the request of Justice Drury. Dkt. #79-11, ¶ 6. At the time she submitted her affidavit in support of defendants' motion for summary judgment, Dr. Coggins maintained a private psychiatric practice and served as a consultant for the Erie County Forensic Mental Health Service. Dkt. #79-11, ¶ 1. Defendant Van Woert was present during that Court ordered evaluation. Dkt. #79-8, ¶ 16. In her affidavit submitted in support of defendants' motion for summary judgment, Dr. Coggins states that she found plaintiff's history of depression and anxiety to be questionable and further that "it was unclear, although likely, that his mood and anxiety symptoms did not occur separately from his multi-substance abuse and addictions." Dkt. #79-11, ¶ 6. Moreover, Dr. Coggins noted that although plaintiff complained of a -12-
depressed mood, there was nothing in his appearance nor did anything arise during his mental status evaluation to indicate an active depressive syndrome. Id. at ¶ 7. Dr. Coggins did state, however, that plaintiff presented as an individual with Antisocial Personality Disorder. Id. Finally, upon the completion of her evaluation, Dr. Coggins opined with a reasonable degree of medical certainty that there was no diagnostic indication to medicate plaintiff. Id. at ¶ 8.
On March 3, 2006, at the request of Justice Drury, John M. Wadsworth, M.D. conducted a second competency evaluation of plaintiff. Dkt. #79-12, ¶ 6. At the time he submitted his affidavit, Dr. Wadsworth maintained a private psychiatric practice and acted as a consultant for the Erie County Forensic Mental Health Service. Id. at ¶ 1. In his affidavit submitted in support of defendants' motion for summary judgment, Dr. Wadsworth states, Mr. Fuller reported that prior to his incarceration he had been receiving psychiatric care and receiving three medications which he had not taken since his present imprisonment. However, Mr. Fuller did not offer any significant complaints during my evaluation, did not request that I prescribe any medications for him, and he did not provide me with evidence of any illnesses for which I would have prescribed medication at that time. My evaluation of Mr. Fuller failed to reveal any suggestions that he was suffering from psychosis, significant depression, or manicdepressive illness. Mr. Fuller did exhibit significant symptoms of personality disorder difficulties. Dkt. #79-12, ¶¶ 6-7. At the conclusion of his evaluation, Dr. Wadsworth opined with a reasonable degree of medical certainty that there was no diagnostic indication to medicate plaintiff. Id. at ¶ 8. -13-
In response to plaintiff's request to be evaluated by a physician other than defendant Joseph, Dr. Wadsworth evaluated plaintiff on June 28, 2006. Id. at ¶ 9. At that time, plaintiff was concerned about a long prison sentence and the medical department questioned whether his physical complaints of headaches and heartburn were related to psychiatric issues. Id. As detailed in Dr. Wadsworth's affidavit submitted in support of defendants' motion for summary judgment, plaintiff was not talkative during Dr. Wadsworth's evaluation, although plaintiff did state that he was experiencing negative thoughts concerning his childhood, family life and people he had hurt. Id. In addition, Dr. Wadsworth noted that plaintiff cried during the evaluation and complained about poor concentration and moodiness. Id. At this time, Dr. Wadsworth concluded that plaintiff "did present with symptoms of clinical depression." Id. Due to the change in his clinical presentation, Dr. Wadsworth prescribed plaintiff 10 mg of Celexa to be administered daily. Id.
Approximately one month later, Dr. Wadsworth evaluated plaintiff's response to the 10 mg of Celexa. Id. at ¶ 10. Plaintiff stated that he continued to suffer from physical symptoms, including headaches and heartburn which were also being addressed by the Erie County Holding Center Medical Department. Id. Plaintiff further advised Dr. Wadsworth that although his mind was still racing, he was not feeling as helpless. Id. Dr. Wadsworth discontinued the 10mg of Celexa and ordered that 100mg of Elavil be given at bedtime. Id. Approximately one month later, on or about August 23, 2006, Dr. Wadsworth evaluated plaintiff's response to the 100mg of Elavil. Id. at
¶ 11. Although plaintiff did not share any physical complaints and stated that he was sleeping better, plaintiff still complained of racing thoughts and again reminded Dr. W adsworth that in his opinion 40mg of Celexa works better for him. Id. Thereafter, Dr. W adsworth discontinued the Elavil and prescribed 40mg of Celexa to be administered daily. Id. Finally, Dr. Wadsworth notes that at no time did plaintiff report to him that he had considered or attempted suicide during his period of incarceration at the Erie County Holding Center. Id. at ¶ 12. Prior to plaintiff's next scheduled appointment with Forensic Mental Health Service, plaintiff was transferred to the New York State Department of Correctional Services on or about October 4, 2006 to begin serving his sentence. Id. at ¶ 13.
DISCUSSION AND ANALYSIS Summary Judgment Summary judgment is appropriate "if the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with the affidavits, if any, show that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c). "In reaching this determination, the court must assess whether there are any material factual issues to be tried while resolving ambiguities and drawing reasonable inferences against the moving party, and must give extra latitude to a pro se plaintiff." Thomas v. Irvin, 981 F. Supp. 794, 798 (W .D.N.Y. 1997) (internal citations omitted).
A fact is "material" only if it has some effect on the outcome of the suit. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986); see Catanzaro v. Weiden, 140 F.3d 91, 93 (2d Cir. 1998). A dispute regarding a material fact is genuine "if the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party." Anderson, 477 U.S. at 248; see Bryant v. Maffucci, 923 F.2d 979 (2d Cir.), cert. denied, 502 U.S. 849 (1991).
Once the moving party has met its burden of ?demonstrating the absence of a genuine issue of material fact, the nonmoving party must come forward with enough evidence to support a jury verdict in its favor, and the motion will not be defeated merely upon a
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