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Olivares v. United States

September 15, 2008

ANGEL OLIVARES, PLAINTIFF,
v.
UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, ET AL., DEFENDANTS.



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

OPINION

Plaintiff is a prisoner confined at the Federal Correctional Institution in Fort Dix, New Jersey ("FCI Fort Dix") who alleges that Defendants violated his Eighth Amendment right to be free from cruel and unusual punishment through their deliberate indifference to his medical needs. He filed this action pursuant to Bivens v. Six Unknown Named Agents of Fed. Bureau of Narcotics, 403 U.S. 388 (1971), naming as Defendants the United States, as well as various FCI Fort Dix and Bureau of Prisons ("BOP") employees in their individual and official capacities.

Presently before the Court is the motion to dismiss [Docket Item 23] filed by Defendants Patel, Sulayman, Iwuagwu, and Phillips in their individual capacities (the "Individual Defendants" or "Defendants" hereinafter). For the reasons explained below, Defendants' motion will be denied.

I. BACKGROUND

A. Facts

Plaintiff is a federal prisoner who is presently confined at FCI Fort Dix. According to the Complaint, Plaintiff has a rare and disabling bone disorder called osteogenesis imperfecta. (Compl. ¶ 6.) As is explained in the Complaint, osteogenesis imperfecta is a condition which causes bones to be extremely fragile and easily susceptible to fracturing. (Id.)

Plaintiff was arrested in New York on October 2, 2002 and was confined at the Metropolitan Detention Center in Brooklyn ("MDC Brooklyn"). (Id. at ¶ 7.) Upon his arrival at MDC Brooklyn, Plaintiff informed the MDC staff of the fact that he suffered from osteogenesis imperfecta. (Id.) As a result of an accident that took place on September 2, 2003 at the detention center, Plaintiff injured his left knee, and in late 2003 and early 2004, Plaintiff was taken to see two orthopedic surgeons. (Id. at ¶¶ 8-12.) The first orthopedist performed an MRI on Plaintiff's knee, which revealed that Plaintiff was suffering from a medial meniscus tear, a lateral meniscus tear, and chronic anterior cruciate ligament ("ACL") tear. (Id. at ¶ 11.) The second of these surgeons determined on February 17, 2004 that Plaintiff's knee was very unstable, and on account of Plaintiff's osteogenesis imperfecta, recommended "urgent surgery" to correct the problem and to prevent bone deformation and worsening of Plaintiff's knee. (Id. at ¶ 12.) The medical staff at MDC Brooklyn subsequently classified Plaintiff's medical condition as a care level 4 condition, which, according to the Complaint, "meant that his medical condition was very critical and required immediate attention to avoid further injuries to Plaintiff." (Id. at ¶ 16.)

According to the Complaint, notwithstanding the fact that the second orthopedist recommended that Plaintiff's need for surgery was "urgent," the surgery was never scheduled, prompting Plaintiff to file a series of administrative complaints. (Id. at ¶¶ 13-18.) According to Plaintiff, by August or September 2004, his administrative complaints regarding the urgency of his medical needs and the failure of MDC Brooklyn's staff to address those needs had reached Defendant Phillips in the BOP's Office of Medical Designations and Transportation. (Id. at ¶¶ 79-80.)

On September 28, 2004, Plaintiff was sentenced for his conviction on federal charges, and, according to Plaintiff, the sentencing judge recommended that Plaintiff be placed in a facility capable of treating his serious medical condition. (Id. at ¶ 81.) In spite of this recommendation from the sentencing court, and despite her awareness of Plaintiff's urgent need for surgery, Plaintiff alleges that Defendant Phillips designated Plaintiff to a correctional institution incapable of meeting his medical needs -- FCI Fort Dix -- rather than a federal medical center. (Id. at ¶¶ 82-90.) When Defendant Phillips ultimately approved Plaintiff for transfer to a medical facility in August 2005, she classified Plaintiff's need for surgery as elective rather than emergent, notwithstanding her alleged knowledge of the urgent nature of Plaintiff's need, which resulted in a seven-month delay in Plaintiff's access to surgery. (Id. at ¶¶ 86-87.) Plaintiff alleges that Defendant Phillips' decisions were driven by budgetary considerations rather than concerns over the critical nature of Plaintiff's medical needs, and was made in spite of Defendant Phillips' awareness that Plaintiff's condition required immediate medical attention that could not be provided at FCI Fort Dix. (Id. at ¶¶ 85, 90.)

Plaintiff arrived at FCI Fort Dix on October 27, 2004. (Id. at ¶ 20.) From the time Plaintiff arrived at FCI Fort Dix until March 21, 2006, when he was transferred to the Federal Medical Center in Rochester, Minnesota ("FMC Rochester"), (id. at ¶ 88), Plaintiff alleges that the two physician Defendants, Drs. Patel and Sulayman, refused to provide Plaintiff with certain orthopedist-recommended treatments, and that the failure to provide these treatments exacerbated Plaintiff's condition. (Id. at ¶¶ 25, 27, 47.) Plaintiff specifically alleges that Drs. Patel and Sulayman refused to provide Plaintiff with bilateral knee braces, which multiple consulting orthopedists recommended were necessary to prevent Plaintiff's knees from buckling, (id. at ¶¶ 25, 44), and that Dr. Sulayman refused to provide Plaintiff with a walker. (Id. at ¶ 47.) Plaintiff alleges that these Defendants' conduct was "sadistic[]" and motivated by "malic[e]," and he further alleges that these treatment decisions were driven by "budgetary reasons," not medical considerations. (Id. at ¶¶ 1, 65, 91, 93.) Plaintiff also appears to allege that similarly improper motives led these physician Defendants to mischaracterize Plaintiff's allegedly urgent need for knee surgery as an elective procedure, rather than an emergent medical need, which delayed Plaintiff's knee surgery by seven months and contributed to the deterioration of his condition. (Id. at ¶¶ 50, 90, 95, 98.)

Plaintiff asserts similar allegations against Defendant Iwuagwu, the Health Services Administrator ("HSA") at FCI Fort Dix. (Id. at ¶ 60.) According to Plaintiff, as the institution's HSA, Defendant Iwuagwu's approval was necessary for the provision of certain medical services which the consulting orthopedists recommended be provided to Plaintiff, including the bilateral knee braces the orthopedists had prescribed. (Id. at ¶ 65.) Plaintiff also alleges that Defendant Iwuagwu's approval was necessary before Plaintiff could be transferred to a federal medical center for surgery. (Id. at ¶ 69.) Plaintiff alleges that Defendant Iwuagwu "intentionally and sadistically" refused to approve the request for knee braces and delayed Plaintiff's transfer to a medical center for seven months, and further alleges that Defendant Iwuagwu's interference with Plaintiff's urgent need for these medical services was motivated by budgetary, not medical, considerations. (Id. at ¶¶ 65, 68, 70, 73.)

As a result of these decisions by Defendants, Plaintiff alleges that his condition deteriorated to the point that his knee gave way on November 16, 2005, causing him to fall, fracture his left patella, and rupture his left quadricept muscle. (Id. at ¶ 37.) By the following day, Plaintiff was "at the brink of losing his leg if surgery was not immediately performed," and Plaintiff was admitted to a local hospital for surgery. (Id. at ¶¶ 39-41.) The orthopedic surgeon who performed the surgery upon Plaintiff's patella and quadricept recommended that Plaintiff receive the long-prolonged ACL surgery within four weeks, but Plaintiff was not transferred to FMC Rochester for four months. (Id. at ¶¶ 42-43.)

B. Procedural History

Plaintiff filed this action pursuant to Bivens v. Six Unknown Named Agents of Fed. Bureau of Narcotics on July 26, 2007, alleging that Defendants violated his Eighth Amendment rights. The Individual Defendants subsequently filed the motion to dismiss presently under consideration in lieu of an answer [Docket Item 23]. Plaintiff filed a motion requesting an extension of time to file a ...


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