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Casilla v. New Jersey State Prison

July 15, 2009


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Wolfson, United States District Judge


This case involves Plaintiff Bienvenido Casilla's ("Plaintiff" or ""Casilla") Eighth Amendment deliberate indifference claims, arising from allegedly inadequate medical care he received in connection with his knee and stomach complaints while incarcerated at New Jersey State Prison ("NJSP"). Presently before the Court are summary judgment motions by Defendants St. Francis Medical Center ("St. Francis"), Correctional Medical Services, Inc. ("CMS") and its employee, Dr. Allan Martin, M.D. (collectively "CMS Defendants"), and former NJSP Superintendent Roy Hendricks ("Hendricks") to dismiss Plaintiffs claims pursuant to Fed R. Civ. P. 56. For the following reasons, the Court grants all Defendants' motions for summary judgment.

I. Procedural History and Statement of Facts

The current matter has an extensive procedural history in addition to Plaintiff's voluminous medical records. While there are numerous occasions where Plaintiff has seen medical personnel, the following facts are the most relevant to the allegations underlying Plaintiff's claims.

Plaintiff is a state prisoner confined to NJSP and originally filed this civil rights action in United States District Court in the District of New Jersey on September 20, 2005. Plaintiff subsequently filed an Amended Complaint on June 29, 2007, and on December 11, 2007, Plaintiff was permitted to file a second amended complaint. After receiving correspondence from Plaintiff in Spanish on November 28, 2008, and appreciating Plaintiff's illiteracy, this Court appointed pro bono counsel to represent Plaintiff on April 24, 2009. The Court also directed counsel to apply to this Court's pro bono fund to defray the costs for the services of an interpreter to assist counsel in communicating with Plaintiff.

On September 28, 2000, Plaintiff was given an intake evaluation by CMS at NJSP with no immediate complaints. Declaration of Paula Azara ("Azara Decl."), Exhibit A, (Plaintiff's Medical Records), September 28, 2000 Entry. Plaintiff's first indication of knee pain occurred on May 15, 2002, and on August 18, 2003, he underwent a magnetic resonance imaging ("MRI") on both of his knees. Id. at May 15, 2002 Entry. While the MRI results indicated no tear of the meniscus or any ligaments in Plaintiff's knees, the MRI did reveal a "small osteochrondral defect at the intercondylar notch interiorly." Id. at August 29, 2003 Entry. Thereafter, on August 29, 2003, Plaintiff was recommended for arthroscopic surgery. Id. On February 11, 2004, Plaintiff underwent surgery on his right knee at St. Francis Medical Center,*fn1 and subsequently began physical therapy on May 21, 2004. Id. at February 11, 2004 and May 21, 2004 Entries. On December 2, 2004 Plaintiff was seen by Dr. Arlene Tinker, a CMS orthopedist. Following the consultation, a second knee surgery was recommended and approved for Plaintiff's right knee.

Id. at December 2, 2004 Entry.

On December 20, 2005, one year after surgery was recommended, Plaintiff was re-admitted to St. Francis Medical Center and a "right knee total replacement surgery" was performed on December 21, 2005. The diagnostic report of the x-ray on Plaintiff's right knee resulted in "satisfactory alignment and radiologic appearance." Id. at December 27, 2005 Entry. On March 8, 2006, Plaintiff's right knee was X-rayed again. The results indicated that the prosthesis was in "satisfactory position," and that the surgery was successful. Id. at May 8, 2006 Entry.

Plaintiff's first indication of abdominal pain occurred on August 13, 2002. On June 18, 2003, Plaintiff was referred to a gastroenterologist to determine the severity of his stomach ailments. The examination occurred on July 31, 2003, and revealed no abnormalities. Id. at July 31, 2003 Entry. On August 12, 2003, after again complaining of stomach pains, Plaintiff was diagnosed with "gastritis, pylore infection and reflux disease." Id. at August 12, 2003 Entry. On August 22, 2003, it was recommended that Plaintiff undergo an abdominal X-ray, which was accomplished on August 27, 2003. Plaintiff's X-ray results came back normal. Id. at August 27, 2003 Entry.*fn2

On September 4, 2003, Plaintiff was diagnosed with Gastroesphegeal Reflux Disease ("GERD"). Id. at September 4, 2003 Entry. On November 24, 2003, Plaintiff underwent a colonoscopy, which resulted in a diagnosis of a "sliding hiatus hernia, gastritis, gastric antrum nodule and functional bowel disorder." Id. at November 24, 2003 Entry. On June 24, 2004, Plaintiff again consulted with a gastroenterologist. The consultation report attributed Plaintiff's discomfort to Irritable Bowl Syndrome ("IBS"). Id. at June 24, 2004 Entry. On July 23, 2004, Plaintiff was diagnosed with diverticulosis. Id. at July 23, 2004 Entry.

The medical records also reveal that although Plaintiff regularly complained of both knee and abdominal pain from 2003-2008, Plaintiff continued to be treated at all relevant times. Specifically, Plaintiff was treated by a CMS doctor on more than forty-seven occasions; seen by a CMS nurse on more than forty-four occasions; sent for diagnostic and/or laboratory testing on at least twenty occasions; underwent arthroscopic and arthroplastic surgery; and was added to the Chronic Care Clinic roster for cardiac care. See generally Azara Decl., Plaintiff's Medical Records. Plaintiff was also seen by a CMS nurse for a myriad of problems including, but not limited to: difficult urination, foot pain, lower back pain, sprained ankle, cough, cold symptoms, sore throat, chest pain, right index finger pain, allergies, constipation, and diarrhea. Id. Furthermore, Plaintiff was prescribed medicine on numerous occasions for both his knee and stomach ailments from 2003 until 2008. Id.

Germane to Plaintiff's claim against Hendricks are three letters sent to various medical personnel within the prison facility and/or Superintendent Hendricks. Assistant Deputy Public Defender James K. Smith, Jr. wrote the first letter, dated March 17, 2003, on behalf of Plaintiff and addressed to Hendricks. This letter was answered by Assistant Superintendent Donald Mee on April 8, 2003, and referred to CMS for resolution. On May 19, 2003, Plaintiff's mother, Ana Pagan, wrote a second letter. This letter was answered on May 29, 2003 by James Barbo, Director of the Division of Operations in a letter to Plaintiff. Barbo subsequently referred Ana Pagan's correspondence to the Health Services Unit and Hendricks for review. Lastly, Assistant Deputy Public Defender Smith sent a third and final letter addressed to Hendricks, dated August 6, 2003, which allegedly was not answered.*fn3

II. Discussion

A. Standard of Review for ...

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