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Abbas Elcheikhali v. C.C.A.

March 31, 2011


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Katharine S. Hayden, U.S.D.J.



Plaintiff Abbas Elcheikhali ("Elcheikhali") brings this action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, alleging that three prison doctors and an administrator at two New Jersey jails violated his Eighth Amendment rights by failing to provide him with reasonable medical care for his depression and anxiety. Elcheikhali's complaint names Charles Meyers ("Meyers"), the Warden of the Passaic County Jail ("PCJ"), and PCJ's medical director, Magdy Wahba ("Dr. Wahba") (collectively, "PCJ defendants"), as well as two psychiatrists at the Hudson County Jail ("HCJ"), Manuel Sanchez, ("Dr. Sanchez") and Mariza Del Rosario Garcia ("Dr. Garcia") (collectively, "HCJ defendants").*fn1

Elcheikhali acknowledges that while incarcerated at each institution, he met with physicians and was provided medication for depression and anxiety, but he claims that the defendants failed to adequately address his mental health issues by not prescribing the particular medication he preferred. [Am. Compl., D.E. 14 at 2--3.] Both sets of defendants now move for summary judgment [D.E. 82, 83], arguing that Elcheikhali received reasonable medical care for his depression and anxiety and that his allegations merely reflect a disagreement with the chosen treatment.

Factual Background:*fn2

Plaintiff was a federal prisoner incarcerated at the Passaic County Jail from June 1, 2007, to January 8, 2008. [Am. Compl. at 1.] He was then transferred to the Hudson County Jail, where he was incarcerated until July 19, 2008, at which time he was transferred to the Metropolitan Detention Center in Brooklyn. [Am. Compl. at 2.] Prior to his incarceration, Elcheikhali had been prescribed Xanax and Paxil. [Am. Compl. at 1.]


Throughout his seven months of incarceration at PCJ, Elcheikhali made approximately eleven formal complaints about panic attacks and depression and requested medication changes. [See Am. Compl. at 1--2.] According to PCJ Defendants' undisputed material facts, Elcheikhali received care from several medical professionals, including Dr. Nafeesa Siddiqui, M.D. and Dr. David Tutone, a PCJ psychologist, neither of whom is a named defendant in this action. [PCJ Def.'s Statement of Material Facts, D.E. 82 ("PCJ SOMF") at 4, ¶ 5--6.]

Upon entering PCJ on June 1, 2007, Elcheikhali requested Paxil and Xanax. After his initial medical screening with Dr. Siddiqui on June 5, 2007, Elcheikhali was prescribed Paxil and Vistaril. [PCJ SOMF at 4, ¶ 7.] Approximately one week later, he began complaining that Vistaril was not helping his depression and panic attacks. [Id. at 4, ¶ 8.] Dr. Siddiqui recommended switching Elcheikhali to Xanax, but Dr. Wahba, with the ultimate decision-making authority, denied this initial request to switch medications. [Id. at 4, ¶ 11.]

On June 24, 2007, Elcheikhali complained of chest pains and was taken to the emergency room the next day. [Id. at 4, ¶ 13.] After returning to PCJ, Dr. Wahba ordered that Elcheikhali's Paxil dosage be increased and that he switch from Vistaril to Xanax three times a day. [Id. at 5, ¶ 14--15.] Subsequently, Elcheikhali stopped complaining about his medication and refused other treatment from Dr. Wahba. [Id. at 5, ¶ 16.] In early August, 2007, Elcheikhali met with Dr. Tutone for psychological treatment. [Id. at 5, ¶ 17.] On August 10, 2007, Elcheikhali met with Dr. Siddiqui, again complaining of panic attacks and an inability to sleep. [Id. at 5, ¶ 18.] In response, Dr. Siddiqui gave Elcheikhali Trazodone, a sleep medication to resolve his sleeping issues. [Id. at 5, ¶ 18.] Additionally, Dr. Siddiqui added Vistaril, because Elcheikhali was still experiencing panic attacks. [Id. at 5, ¶ 21.]

On September 24, 2007, Elcheikhali met with Dr. Tutone again, but did not complain about his treatment. [Id. at 6, ¶ 23.] On October 4, 2007, however, he complained that his medication was not working. [Id. at 6, ¶ 22.] Dr. Siddiqui increased his dosage of Xanax and switched him from Paxil to Cymbalta, another anti-anxiety medication. [Id. at 6, ¶ 24.] Shortly thereafter, Elcheikhali acknowledges that he voluntarily chose to stop taking all of the prescribed medication because he felt that it was not helping him. [Id. at 6, ¶ 25.]

As a result of Elcheikhali's decision not to take any of the prescribed medication, Dr. Siddiqui consulted with Elcheikhali's outside psychiatrist and, on October 11, 2007, prescribed Klonopin. [Id. at 6, ¶ 26.] Initially, Elcheikhali complained of side-effects from the Klonopin, and he was prescribed medications to counteract them. [Id. at 6, ¶ 28.] On October 25, 2007, Elcheikhali met with Dr. Tutone and did not express any complaints. [Id. at 6, ¶ 30.] On January 8, 2008, Elcheikhali was released from PCJ and transferred to HCJ. [Id. at 7, ¶ 32.]


Upon his transfer to HCJ, Elcheikhali requested Klonopin and Paxil. [HCJ Def.'s Statement of Material Facts, D.E. 83-1 ("HCJ SOMF"), at 2 ¶ 4.] While at HCJ, Elcheikhali was under the regular treatment of HCJ psychiatrists, Drs. Garcia and Sanchez. [HCJ SOMF at 2, ¶ 5.] Both doctors refused to prescribe Klonopin for Elcheikhali because Klonopin is not routinely given. [Id. at 3, ¶ 6.] Instead, inmates who arrive at HCJ ...

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