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Bramson v. Sulayman

January 23, 2007


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Hillman, District Judge


This matter has come before the Court on Defendants' motion for summary judgment on Plaintiff's medical malpractice claims and claims that Defendants violated his Eighth Amendment right to adequate medical care. For the reasons expressed below, Defendants' motion will be granted.


In his Complaint, Plaintiff, Martin Bramson, claims that while he was incarcerated at FCI Fort Dix, various doctors and staff violated his constitutional rights and committed medical malpractice. Plaintiff claims that Dr. Sulayman, a physician at FCI Fort Dix, did not treat him properly for his chronic bronchitis and lung problems that he experienced since 1969. Plaintiff argues that Dr. Sulayman's failure to prescribe him inhalers contributed to his cardiomyopathy, and that Dr. Sulayman failed to diagnose his on-going and worsening congestive heart failure, where it progressed "to the point of risk of death" and immediate hospitalization was required. Plaintiff also claims that another doctor, Dr. Chung, did not recognize his symptoms.

Plaintiff further contends that Dr. Loranth, the clinical director, implicated a BOP policy that "actively discouraged and limited the use of outside medical consultants and tests which prevent Plaintiff from receiving prompt access to a lung specialist until his medical condition turned critical." Plaintiff complains that the other Defendants, S.P.A. Patel, a physician's assistant, M. Mangalindan, a mid-level practitioner, and E. Magallon, another mid-level practitioner, also misdiagnosed or mistreated him.

As a result of these doctors' mistreatment, Plaintiff claims that he was hospitalized and suffered permanent damage to his heart and lungs. He is now required to use a pacemaker and defibrillator, and his life expectancy has been reduced. Plaintiff also claims that he cannot participate in the same activities as he did in the past.

Defendants have filed a motion for summary judgment on Plaintiff's claims. Defendants argue that they did not violate Plaintiff's Eighth Amendment right to be free from cruel and unusual punishment because Plaintiff was provided with adequate medical care, and that they are otherwise entitled to qualified immunity. Defendants also argue that they are entitled to judgment in their favor on Plaintiff's medical malpractice claim because Plaintiff failed to timely file a proper affidavit of merit as required by New Jersey law.


A. Plaintiff's Eighth Amendment Claim

Plaintiff has brought his constitutional violation claim against Defendants pursuant to Bivens v. Six Unknown Named Agents of the Federal Bureau of Narcotics, 403 U.S. 388 (1971), which provides that a right of action against federal officials exists parallel to the right of action against state actors under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. See Couden v. Duffy, 446 F.3d 483, 491 (3d Cir. 2006); see also Carlson v. Green, 446 U.S. 14, 20 (1980) (holding that Bivens provides a remedy for violations of the Eighth Amendment for the deliberate indifference to a serious medical need).*fn1

The Eighth Amendment proscription against cruel and unusual punishment requires that inmates are provided with adequate medical care. To establish a violation of his Eighth Amendment right to adequate medical care, Plaintiff must show (1) a serious medical need, and (2) acts or omissions by prison officials that indicated deliberate indifference to that need. Estelle v. Gamble, 429 U.S. 97, 103-04 (1976); Natale v. Camden County Corr. Facility, 318 F.3d 575, 582 (3d Cir. 2003).

(1) Serious Medical Need

To prove his claim, Plaintiff must first show that he had a serious medical need. "Because society does not expect that prisoners will have unqualified access to health care, deliberate indifference to medical needs amounts to an Eighth Amendment violation only if those needs are 'serious.'" Hudson v. McMillian, 503 U.S. 1, 9 (1992). A serious medical need is a need diagnosed by a physician that the physician believes to require medical treatment, or a need that is "so obvious that a lay person would easily recognize the necessity for a doctor's attention." Monmouth County Corr. Inst. Inmates v. Lanzaro, 834 F.2d 326, 347 (3d Cir. 1987) (citation omitted); see also Atkinson v. Taylor, 316 F.3d 257, 273 (3d Cir. 2003). Additionally, the medical need is considered serious where denial or delay causes an inmate to suffer a life-long handicap or permanent loss. Monmouth County, 834 F.2d at 347.

Here, Defendants do not contest that Plaintiff required treatment for a serious medical need.

(2) Deliberate Indifference

Plaintiff must also show that Defendants' behavior constituted deliberate indifference to his serious medical need. "Deliberate indifference" is more than mere malpractice or negligence; it is a state of mind equivalent to reckless disregard of a known risk of harm. Farmer v. Brennan, 511 U.S. 825, 837-38 (1994). Furthermore, a prisoner's subjective dissatisfaction with his medical care does not in itself indicate deliberate indifference. Andrews v. Camden County, 95 F. Supp. 2d 217, 228 (D.N.J. 2000). Similarly, "mere disagreements over medical judgment do not state Eighth Amendment claims." White v. Napoleon, 897 F.2d 103, 110 (3d Cir. 1990). "Courts will disavow any attempt to second-guess the propriety or adequacy of a particular course of treatment . . . [which] remains a question of sound professional judgment." Inmates of Allegheny County Jail v. Pierce, 612 F.2d 754, 762 (3d Cir. 1979) (internal quotation and citation omitted). Even if a doctor's ...

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