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Darrel Reeves v. Hudson Co. Jail Medical Dept

June 30, 2011

DARREL REEVES PLAINTIFF,
v.
HUDSON CO. JAIL MEDICAL DEPT., DR. HEMSLEY, MED. DIRECTOR, OSCAR AVILES, DIRECTOR, D.R. AND ALL THAT'S INVOLVE IN THIS MATTER, CFG HEALTH SYSTEMS, LLC, ESSEX CO. CORR. MEDICAL DIRECTOR, WARDEN/DIR.HENDRICKS, HUDSON CO CORR. MEDICAL DIRECTOR,
DEFENDANTS.



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

NOT FOR PUBLICATION

OPINION

I. Introduction

In this prisoner's rights case, plaintiff Darrel Reeves asserts claims under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against four defendants: (1) Dr. Michael Hemsley, the Medical Director at Hudson County Correctional Center ("Hudson"); (2) Oscar Aviles, the Warden/Director at Hudson; (3) Lionel Annicette, the Essex County Correction Medical Director; and (4) Roy Hendricks, the Warden/Director of Essex County Correctional Center ("Essex"). Reeves also includes an unnamed doctor at Hudson who allegedly made a joke about his eye without examining him or giving him anything for the swelling and itching. Reeves initially filed two separate actions, one against the Hudson defendants*fn1 [D.E. 1] and one against the Essex defendants [D.E. 9]. The lawsuits were consolidated on August 19, 2009. [D.E. 8.] The complaints alleged that, because he complained to the Hudson and Essex medical staffs regarding his eye, arm and leg, but failed to receive treatment, he suffered cruel and unusual punishment. On November 20, Hendricks filed an answer and third party complaint naming CFG Health Systems, LLC ("CFG") as a third party defendant. [D.E. 24.] CFG is the contracted medical provider for Essex. (Hendricks Third Party Compl. ¶ 2.) The remaining defendants, as well as CFG, have all moved for summary judgment. [D.E. 93, 97, 99, 100.]

The Court notes that in his opposition brief, Reeves has stated, "Never did Mr. Reeves complain about any arm and leg condition concerning this complaint." (Opp'n Br. at 30.) The Court therefore deems Reeves's claim abandoned as it relates to arm or leg issues; this opinion focuses solely on Reeves's alleged eye injuries.

II. Statement of Facts

Reeves asserts that his troubles began in a vacant lot in Jersey City. There, between 1 and 2 a.m. on February 24, 2009, Reeves lit a cigarette while fixing an unplugged air conditioner unit, causing the air conditioner to explode in his face. (Reeves Dep. 19:15.) He immediately went home, where his alarmed girlfriend called 911; an ambulance took him to Jersey City Medical Center at approximately 4:30 a.m. (Id. 21:8--29:4.) According to hospital records, Reeves was diagnosed with first-degree thermal burns on his face and corneal abrasions in both eyes. (Jersey City Medical Center Records, attached to Annicette/CFG Notice of Motion as Ex. F, at 9.) He was given Vigamox eye drops for the abrasions, Bacitracin ointment for his face, and Percocet for the pain. (Id. at 10.) The doctors predicted that the corneal abrasions would heal in one to three days and sent Reeves home at 9:30 a.m. (Id. at 7, 14.) The records indicate that Reeves was instructed to follow up at the Columbus Health Center or Metropolitan Family Health Network. (Id. at 8.) He did not, however, receive follow-up treatment, though he testified that he filled the prescription given to him by the emergency room doctor at a Walgreens pharmacy. (Reeves Dep. 39:22-40:14.) During discovery in this action, Walgreens could find no records for Reeves. (Walgreens Custodian of Records Aff., attached to Annicette/CFG Notice of Motion as Ex. G.)

A. Hudson

Two months after the accident, on April 28, 2009, Reeves was arrested pursuant to a burglary charge*fn2 and sent to Hudson; there, he had an intake visit with a nurse. (Reeves Dep. 7:10--18; Hemsley Answers to Interrogs., attached to Hemsley Statement of Uncontested Material Facts as Ex. D.) According to Dr. Hemsley's answers to interrogatories, Dr. Zara noted that no skin issues, such as scarring, were present that would indicate a past burn to Reeves's face, nor did Reeves indicate the burns to the nurse. (Hemsley Certif., attached to Hemsley Statement of Uncontested Material Facts as Ex. F; Hudson Medical Records, attached to Hemsley Statement of Uncontested Material Facts as Ex. E.) Reeves was seen again on May 3 by a physician's assistant, Joseph Deraville, who ordered Motrin and Zantac. (Hemsley Answers to Interrogs., attached to Hemsley Statement of Uncontested Material Facts as Ex. D; Hudson Medical Records, attached to Hemsley Statement of Uncontested Material Facts as Exhibit E.) Reeves did not complete a visual acuity test, nor did Deraville record any eye abnormalities or scars. (Hudson Medical Records, attached to Hemsley Statement of Uncontested Material Facts as Exhibit E.) Reeves indicated in a letter of complaint sent to Judge Maurice Gallipoli, that on May 3 he told the doctor about his eye, whereupon the doctor flashed a light in his eye, laughed, said there was nothing wrong, and told Reeves to leave his office. (Letter to Judge Gallipoli, attached to Hudson Compl.) However, Dr. Hemsley states in his answers to interrogatories that on May 3 Reeves did not mention his prior burn or eye injury. (Hemsley Answers to Interrogs., attached to Hemsley Statement of Uncontested Material Facts as Ex. D.)

On May 8, Reeves had an appointment with Dr. Zara at Hudson. He reported that he had been exposed to an electrical fire, which he claimed caused him third- and fourth-degree burns to his face. (Id.) He claimed he suffered from headaches and blurring in his left eye and requested an eye exam. (Hudson Medical Records, attached to Hemsley Statement of Uncontested Material Facts as Exhibit E.) Reeves was prescribed Tylenol 500 mg as needed. (Id.) According to Reeves, he was called back to medical to address his eye pain and eyesight. (Reeves Compl. at 23.) He claims "nothing was done," though he admits receiving "eye water." (Id.) Dr. Hemsley states in his interrogatories that Reeves was referred to an eye clinic on May 8 to address the complaints of blurriness in his left eye. (Hemsley Answers to Interrogs., attached to Hemsley Statement of Uncontested Material Facts as Ex. D.) On May 11, Reeves saw Dr. Zara again. (Id.) Dr. Hemsley states in his answers to interrogatories that Dr. Zara recommended expediting Reeves's eye clinic referral to address his blurry vision. (Id.)

Reeves attached to his complaint several grievance forms he claims to have filed. One, dated May 16 and addressed to Aviles, stated that he was forced to take medicine that was "harming," that nothing had been done to treat his eyes, and that his eyesight was getting worse. (Grievance Form, May 16, 2009, attached to Hudson Complaint.) In another, sent to a Mr. Howard and dated May 22, Reeves complained about his eyes and stated that he had yet to receive any medical attention. (Request Form, May 22, 2009, attached to Hudson Complaint.) In a third form, sent to Aviles and dated May 27, he indicated that his eyesight was getting worse, that he had sent numerous grievance requests and sick call slips, and that nothing had been done. (Grievance Form, May 27, 2009, attached to Hudson Complaint.) On the same form, Reeves mentioned that Judge Gallipoli had sent a letter to Aviles and Aviles had still not done anything regarding Reeves's eye condition. (Id.) Also on May 27, Reeves sent an Inmate Request Form to Aviles asking why he had yet to be treated and stating that he could only see blurry colors and could not lift his arms above his head. (Request Form, May 27, 2009, attached to Hudson Complaint.)

Reeves had another appointment with Dr. Zara on June 1. (Hemsley Answers to Interrogs., attached to Hemsley Statement of Uncontested Material Facts as Ex. D.) Dr. Hemsley states in his answers to interrogatories that on that day, Reeves complained of a burn in his eye. (Id.) Dr. Zara did not indicate any tenderness, discharge, or redness, nor any need for immediate treatment. (Id.) On June 8, Reeves met with Dr. Barry Lerner, an optometrist at the Eye Clinic at Hudson. (Id.) Dr. Lerner's note mentioned that Reeves said his eye was burned, but that there was no injury to the cornea or sclera. (Id.; Hudson Medical Records, attached to Hemsley Statement of Uncontested Material Facts as Ex. E.) Dr. Lerner noted that Reeves had 20/200 vision in one eye and 20/400 vision in the other eye. (Hudson Medical Records, attached to Hemsley Statement of Uncontested Material Facts as Ex. E.) He also stated that Reeves may have been "malingering" and had photophobia, a fear of bright light. (Id.) He also recommended that Reeves see an ophthalmologist to examine his visual acuity, but did not recommend an emergency appointment. (Id.) Dr. Hemsley never personally examined Reeves during his incarceration at Hudson. (Hemsley Answers to Interrogs., attached to Hemsley Statement of Uncontested Material Facts as Ex. D.)

B. Essex

On June 9, Reeves was transferred to Essex after he claimed a guard at Hudson was being abusive by shining a light in his eyes. (Reeves Dep. 58:21--5.) That day, Reeves had an initial intake with nurse Nkechi Orjiungo, but he never mentioned his eye issue and "denie[d]" any eye problems. (Essex Medical Records, attached to Annicette Notice of Motion as Ex. C.) The only medical complaints Reeves reported were of a herniated disc and two artificial discs in his back. (Id.) Reeves stated in his deposition that he mentioned his eye problem to the nurse but that she was busy flirting with an officer and ignored him. (Reeves Dep. 62:12--63:9.) On June 17, Reeves met with Advanced Practice Nurse Stephanie Zdanowski. (Essex Medical Records, attached to Annicette Notice of Motion as Ex. C.) She noted that his only physical problems were tooth decay, chronic back pain, laminectomy, and a ...


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