Rodriguezv.Rosner

This case is not covered by Casetext's citator
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT NORTHERN DISTRICT OF NEW YORKDec 5, 2012
9:12-CV-958 (TJM/ATB) (N.D.N.Y. Dec. 5, 2012)

Cases citing this case

How cited

  • Toliver v. Stefinik

    …No. 249 at 26. Specifically, Magistrate Judge Baxter informed Plaintiff that "FAILURE TO OBJECT TO THIS…

  • Casey v. Brockley

    …See Ford v. Smith, No. 9:12-CV-1109 (TJM/TWD), 2014 WL 652933, at *3, 2014 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 20581, at *8-9…

lock 9 Citing caseskeyboard_arrow_right

Summaries written by judges

Summaries

  • dismissing complaint for failure to exhaust where prisoner filed appeal with CORC on May 4, filed federal civil rights complaint on June 10, and received CORC response dated September 26

    Summary of this case from Casey v. Brockley

9:12-CV-958 (TJM/ATB)

12-05-2012

JESUS RODRIGUEZ, Plaintiff, v. DAVID ROSNER, Medical Doctor, Watertown Correctional Facility, Defendant.

JESUS RODRIGUEZ, Plaintiff, pro se CHRISTOPHER W. HALL, AAG, for the Defendants


JESUS RODRIGUEZ, Plaintiff, pro se
CHRISTOPHER W. HALL, AAG, for the Defendants

ORDER and REPORT-RECOMMENDATION

This matter has been referred to me for Report and Recommendation, pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(b) and Local Rules N.D.N.Y. 72.3(c), by the Honorable Thomas J. McAvoy, Senior United States District Judge.

In this civil rights complaint, plaintiff alleges that defendant Rosner denied plaintiff constitutionally adequate medical care when he refused to prescribe orthopedic boots for plaintiff. (Compl. ¶ 6; Dkt. No. 1). Plaintiff subsequently filed a substantial number of documents in support of his complaint. (Dkt. No. 13). Plaintiff seeks injunctive as well as substantial monetary relief. (Compl. ¶ 8).

Presently before the court is defendant's motion to dismiss this action pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(6). (Dkt. No. 16). Plaintiff has responded in opposition to the motion to dismiss and has filed a separate motion for appointment of counsel. (Dkt. Nos. 19, 20). For the following reasons this court will recommend granting defendant's motion and dismissing this action without prejudice to plaintiff re-filing the action. The court will also order the denial of plaintiff's motion for appointment of counsel without prejudice.

DISCUSSION

I. Facts

In his complaint, plaintiff alleges that he is a Type II diabetic, who has had skin grafts taken from the soles of his feet, leaving him with abnormally thin skin on the bottom of his feet. (Compl. Facts ¶¶ 2-3). Plaintiff states that he is in constant discomfort due to his condition, and in May of 2011, while he was incarcerated at Oneida Correctional Facility, he was referred to Dr. Baldauf, a podiatrist, who determined that plaintiff suffered from plantar fascitis. (Id. ¶¶ 8-9). Plaintiff states that Dr. Baldauf recommended that plaintiff be fitted for orthopedic boots. (Id. ¶ 11). Impressions of plaintiff's feet were taken while he was still at Oneida, and the boots were ordered in July of 2011. (Id. ¶ 12).

Prior to receiving his boots, plaintiff was transferred to Watertown Correctional Facility, where he was examined by defendant Dr. Rosner. (Id. ¶¶ 13-15). Plaintiff states that he made several requests, but was never given the boots. (Id. ¶ 14). Dr. Rosner, who is not a podiatrist, conducted his own examination of plaintiff's feet and determined that plaintiff did not require orthopedic boots. (Id. ¶ 16). Plaintiff claims that the medical records supporting Dr. Baldauf's diagnosis and prescription of orthopedic boots was missing from plaintiff's file. (Id. ¶ 20). Plaintiff believes that defendant Rosner has intentionally destroyed or hidden these records. (Id. ¶ 21).

Plaintiff states that defendant Rosner refused to locate these records, even though plaintiff filed a grievance. (Id. ¶ 22). Plaintiff also claims that defendant Rosner "deflects" all investigations by stating that plaintiff refused new state-issued boots, but never mentions that these "new" boots were not the orthopedic boots that plaintiff had been prescribed at Oneida. (Id. ¶ 23).

II. Motion to Dismiss

A. Legal Standards

To survive dismissal for failure to state a claim, the complaint must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to state a claim that is "plausible on its face." Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (quoting Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007)). "[T]hreadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action, supported by mere conclusory statements," do not suffice. Id. (citing Bell Atl. Corp., 550 U.S. at 555). Plaintiff's factual allegations must also be sufficient to give the defendant "'fair notice of what the . . . claim is and the grounds upon which it rests.'" Bell Atl. Corp., 550 U.S. at 555 (citation omitted).

When ruling on a motion to dismiss, the court must accept as true all of the factual allegations contained in the complaint and draw all reasonable inferences in the non-movant's favor. Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 94 (2007) (citations omitted); Int'l Audiotext Network, Inc. v. Am. Tel. & Tel. Co., 62 F.3d 69, 71 (2d Cir. 1995). The court must heed its particular obligation to treat pro se pleadings with liberality. Phillips v. Girdich, 408 F.3d 124, 128 (2d Cir. 2005); Tapia-Ortiz v. Doe, 171 F.3d 150, 152 (2d Cir. 1999) (per curiam).

To survive dismissal for failure to state a claim, the complaint must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to state a claim that is "plausible on its face." Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (quoting Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007)). "[T]hreadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action, supported by mere conclusory statements," do not suffice. Id. (citing Bell Atl. Corp., 550 U.S. at 555). Plaintiff's factual allegations must also be sufficient to give the defendant "'fair notice of what the . . . claim is and the grounds upon which it rests.'" Bell Atl. Corp., 550 U.S. at 555 (citation omitted).

When ruling on a motion to dismiss, the court must accept as true all of the factual allegations contained in the complaint and draw all reasonable inferences in the non-movant's favor. Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 94 (2007) (citations omitted); Int'l Audiotext Network, Inc. v. Am. Tel. & Tel. Co., 62 F.3d 69, 71 (2d Cir. 1995). The court must heed its particular obligation to treat pro se pleadings with liberality. Phillips v. Girdich, 408 F.3d 124, 128 (2d Cir. 2005); Tapia-Ortiz v. Doe, 171 F.3d 150, 152 (2d Cir. 1999) (per curiam).

In deciding a motion to dismiss, the court may review documents integral to the complaint upon which the plaintiff relied in drafting his pleadings, as well as any documents attached to the complaint as exhibits and any statements or documents incorporated into the complaint by reference. Rothman v. Gregor, 220 F.3d 81, 88 (2d Cir. 2000); Int'l Audiotext Network, Inc. v. Am. Tel. & Tel. Co., 62 F.3d at 72 (the court may take into consideration documents referenced in or attached to the complaint in deciding a motion to dismiss, without converting the proceeding to one for summary judgment).

B. Application

Subsequent to the filing of his complaint, plaintiff submitted documents in support of the complaint, including a substantial number of medical records, many of which address the issue of his request for special boots. (Dkt. No. 13). Among the records submitted by plaintiff are his grievance documents. (Dkt. No. 13 at 34-43). Plaintiff also included a complaint that he made to the New York State Department of Health, Office of Professional Misconduct, regarding defendant's denial of orthopedic boots and a complaint to the New York State Office of the Inspector General. (Dkt. No. 13 at 44-47, 48). On October 25, 2012, plaintiff filed a letter, attaching a copy of the final response to his grievance by the Central Office Review Committee. (Dkt. No. 15). This court may consider all of the documents attached to the complaint, or submitted in conjunction with the complaint in its decision, although it need not consider all of them in order to decide this motion.

This set of documents includes plaintiff's complaint, the Department's response, plaintiff's letter objecting to the Department's conclusion, and the Department's review of its action. (Dkt. No. 13 at 44-47).

III. Exhaustion of Administrative Remedies

A. Legal Standards

The Prison Litigation Reform Act, (PLRA), 42 U.S.C. §1997e(a), requires an inmate to exhaust all available administrative remedies prior to bringing a federal civil rights action. This requirement applies to all inmate suits about prison life, whether they involve general circumstances or particular episodes, and regardless of the subject matter of the claim. See Giano v. Goord, 380 F.3d 670, 675-76 (2d Cir. 2004) (citing Porter v. Nussle, 534 U.S. 516, 532 (2002) (exhaustion requirement applies, inter alia, to excessive force claims)). Inmates must exhaust their administrative remedies even if they are seeking only money damages that are not available in prison administrative proceedings. Id. at 675.

The failure to exhaust is an affirmative defense that must be raised by the defendants. Jones v. Bock, 549 U.S. 199, 216 (2007); Johnson v. Testman, 380 F.3d 691, 695 (2d Cir. 2004). As an affirmative defense, it is the defendants' burden to establish that plaintiff failed to meet the exhaustion requirements. See, e.g, Key v. Toussaint, 660 F. Supp. 2d 518, 523 (S.D.N.Y. 2009) (citations omitted).

The Supreme Court has held that in order to properly exhaust an inmate's administrative remedies, the inmate must complete the administrative review process in accordance with the applicable state rules. Jones v. Bock, 549 U.S. at 218-19 (citing Woodford v. Ngo, 548 U.S. 81 (2006)). In Woodford, the Court held that "proper" exhaustion means that the inmate must complete the administrative review process in accordance with the applicable procedural rules, including deadlines, as a prerequisite to bringing suit in federal court. 548 U.S. at 90-103. In Neal v. Goord, 267 F.3d 116, 122 (2d Cir. 2001), overruled on other grounds by Porter v. Nussle, 534 U.S. 516 (2002), the Second Circuit specifically held that completion of the administrative review process includes receiving the decision on the final appeal of a grievance prior to filing the federal action.

The grievance procedure in New York is a three-tiered process. The inmate must first file a grievance with the Inmate Grievance Resolution Committee (IGRC). N.Y. Comp. Codes R. & Regs., tit. 7 §§ 701.5(a)(1) and (b). An adverse decision of the IGRC may be appealed to the Superintendent of the Facility. Id. § 701.5(c). Adverse decisions at the Superintendent's level may be appealed to the Central Office Review Committee (CORC). Id. § 701.5(d). The court also notes that the regulations governing the Inmate Grievance Program encourage the inmate to "resolve his/her complaints through the guidance and counseling unit, the program area directly affected, or other existing channels (informal or formal) prior to submitting a grievance." Id. § 701.3(a) (Inmate's Responsibility).

At the same time that the Second Circuit decided Giano, it also decided four other related cases, clarifying the law in the Second Circuit regarding the PLRA's exhaustion requirement, and specifying various instances in which the requirement could be waived or excused. Based on these cases, the Second Circuit developed a "three part inquiry" to determine whether an inmate has fulfilled the PLRA exhaustion requirement. See Brownell v. Krom, 446 F.3d 305, 311-12 (2d Cir. 2006) (citing Hemphill, 380 F.3d at 686). The inquiry asks (1) whether the administrative remedies were available to the inmate; (2) whether defendants' own actions inhibiting exhaustion estops them from raising the defense; and (3) whether "special circumstances" justify the inmate's failure to comply with the exhaustion requirement. Id.

See Hemphill v. State of New York, 380 F.3d 680 (2d Cir. 2004) (remanding case to determine if defendant's alleged threats constituted "special circumstances" justifying plaintiff's failure to exhaust); Abney v. McGinnis, 380 F.3d 663 (2d Cir. 2004) (whether failure to exhaust may be justified because plaintiff obtained favorable rulings on his grievances, but the relief that he was supposed to obtain was never forthcoming); Johnson v. Testman, 380 F.3d 691 (2d Cir. 2004) (whether including claims in a disciplinary appeal may suffice for the exhaustion requirement); Ortiz v. McBride, 380 F.3d 649 (2d Cir. 2004) (complete dismissal is not required when plaintiff brings both exhausted and unexhausted civil rights claims).

Although the Second Circuit has not explicitly held that Hemphill remains good law after Woodford, it has applied the three-part inquiry in recent cases. See, e.g., Macias v. Zenk, 495 F.3d 37 (2d Cir. 2007); Davis v. State of New York, 311 F. App'x 397, 399 (2d Cir. 2009); Snyder v. Whittier, 428 F. App'x 89, 91 (2d Cir. 2011).

This court also notes that, based upon the concurring opinion in Woodford, it appears that the Second Circuit decisions have not been overruled in that respect. In his concurring opinion in Woodford, Justice Breyer specifically noted that two circuits, the Second Circuit and the Third Circuit that have interpreted the PLRA "in a manner similar to that which the [Supreme] Court today adopts [in Woodford] have concluded that the PLRA's proper exhaustion requirement is not absolute." Woodford, 548 U.S. at 104 (citing Spruill v. Gillis, 372 F.3d 218, 232 (3d Cir. 2004); Giano v. Goord, 380 F.3d 670, 677 (2d Cir. 2004)) (Breyer, J. concurring). Justice Breyer then stated that on remand, the lower court should "similarly" consider any claims that the inmate might have concerning whether his case "falls into a traditional exception that the statute implicitly incorporates." Id. (emphasis added). This statement implies that there are still exceptions that a court may consider. --------

2. Application

Defendant argues that plaintiff has admittedly failed to exhaust his administrative remedies. In his complaint, signed on June 10, 2012, and filed on June 13, 2012, plaintiff states that he filed his grievance on April 2, 2012, received an adverse decision and appealed to the Superintendent on April 26, 2012. (Compl. ¶ 4(b)(i)). Plaintiff states that he appealed the Superintendent's decision to the CORC on May 4, 2012, but that "[n]o decision [was] rendered to date." (Id. ¶ 4(b)(ii)). Plaintiff specifically states that the "appeal [is] still pending at CORC in Albany." (Id.) Thus, at the time plaintiff filed his complaint, he had not exhausted his administrative remedies.

In the complaint, plaintiff cited no reason for failing to wait for the CORC's decision. The first two Brownell factors do not apply to this case. Plaintiff does not claim that the grievance procedure was not "available," nor does he claim that defendant's actions prevented plaintiff from utilizing the available procedures. Thus, the court must consider whether there are "special circumstances" justifying plaintiff's failure to exhaust. Based on the facts in this case, the inquiry will be whether there are special circumstances justifying plaintiff's failure to await the CORC decision.

Plaintiff ultimately received a decision by the CORC, dated September 26, 2012, accepting his grievance to the extent that "a referral was submitted for a consult for special boots for the grievant on 9/18/12." (Dkt. No. 15). Plaintiff filed the CORC decision with the court on October 25, 2012. (Id.) While it is true that this decision means that plaintiff has now exhausted his administrative remedies, the Second Circuit has held that a plaintiff must exhaust his remedies before filing his federal action, and that the court must dismiss plaintiff's complaint notwithstanding his subsequent exhaustion. 267 F.3d at 122-23.

In plaintiff's response to the motion to dismiss, he argues that he did everything he could to exhaust his remedies, and that he should be excused from obtaining the final decision of the CORC because he had already filed the appeal to the CORC when he filed his federal action, and there were "extenuating medical circumstances." (Dkt. No. 19 at 1-2). The court understands that plaintiff claims he was in pain, however, he received the CORC decision before the court even had an opportunity to rule on any of the merits of his claims. Thus, plaintiff's premature filing of this federal action did not benefit plaintiff or solve his medical problem. The CORC noted that plaintiff was referred for his medical boots in September of 2012. In fact, if plaintiff had waited, he would not have had to request injunctive relief because it appears that he will be afforded his special boots if medically appropriate.

Because plaintiff failed to exhaust his administrative remedies by failing to wait for the CORC's decision, this court is constrained to recommend dismissing this complaint without prejudice. Plaintiff may immediately re-file his action for damages because he has now exhausted his remedies. As in Neal, plaintiff may find that requiring him to initiate a new law suit is "judicially inefficient." 267 F.3d at 123. However, the Second Circuit specifically rejected such an argument, finding that "if during the pendency of a suit, the administrative process were to produce results benefitting plaintiff, the federal court will have wasted its resources adjudicating claims that could have been resolved within the prison grievance system at the outset." Id. The scenario envisioned by the court in Neal occurred in this case, even before the CORC accepted the grievance because plaintiff received the referral to the specialist in September of 2012. This is true, notwithstanding that plaintiff may still file a complaint for damages alone if he chooses to do so. IV. Appointment of Counsel

Because this court is recommending dismissal without prejudice at this time, plaintiff's motion for appointment of counsel (Dkt. No. 20) is denied as moot. If plaintiff re-files his action, he may request appointment of counsel at the appropriate time.

WHEREFORE, based on the findings above, it is

RECOMMENDED, that defendant's motion to dismiss (Dkt. No. 16) be GRANTED, and the complaint DISMISSED WITHOUT PREJUDICE TO REFILING, and it is further

ORDERED, that plaintiff's motion for appointment of counsel (Dkt. No. 20) is DENIED AS MOOT AT THIS TIME.

Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1) and Local Rule 72.1(c), the parties have fourteen days within which to file written objections to the foregoing report. Such objections shall be filed with the Clerk of the Court. FAILURE TO OBJECT TO THIS REPORT WITHIN FOURTEEN DAYS WILL PRECLUDE APPELLATE REVIEW. Roldan v. Racette, 984 F.2d 85, 89 (2d Cir. 1993) (citing Small v. Secretary of Health and Human Services, 892 F.2d 15 (2d Cir. 1989)); 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1); Fed. R. Civ. P. 6(a), 6(e), 72. Dated: December 5, 2012

/s/ _________


Hon. Andrew T. Baxter


U.S. Magistrate Judge


An alternative to Lexis that does not break the bank.

Casetext does more than Lexis for less than $65 per month.