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Acosta v. Schultz

United States District Court, D. New Jersey

April 7, 2017

GABRIEL ACOSTA, Plaintiff,
v.
WARDEN SCHULTZ, et al., Defendants.

          GABRIEL ACOSTA Appearing pro se.

          FRANCES C. BAJADA OFFICE OF THE U.S. ATTORNEY On behalf of Defendants.

          OPINION

          NOEL L. HILLMAN United States District Judge.

         Plaintiff, Gabriel Acosta, claims that two current employees and one former employee of the Federal Correctional Institution at Fairton, New Jersey, violated his Eighth Amendment rights relating to his medical care. Plaintiff was treated after a physical altercation with another FCI Fairton inmate on October 19, 2010.[1]

         Defendants have moved for summary judgment, arguing that they are entitled to judgment in their favor on Plaintiff's claims because Plaintiff has failed to exhaust his administrative remedies. They also argue that Plaintiff has failed to offer sufficient disputed material facts on the issue of whether Defendants were deliberately indifferent to his serious medical needs. For the reasons expressed below, Defendants' motion will be granted.

         BACKGROUND

         On October 19, 2010, at about 6:40 p.m., Plaintiff was involved in a physical altercation with another inmate at FCI Fairton. A Recreation Specialist and Correctional Counselor noticed that Plaintiff appeared to be severely beaten around the face. The staff members then secured Plaintiff in the gym office and escorted him to the Health Services Unit (the “HSU”) for medical evaluation.

         At around 6:50 p.m., Registered Nurse Sharon Cooke evaluated Plaintiff:

Inmate claims he lost consciousness and does not know how long he was out. Inmate presents with left eye bruised and swollen shut. Multiple abrasions on back and right forearm. Abrasions bilateral knees laterally. Upper lip split medially. Puncture wound lateral 5th metacarpal area. Lump left side of head behind left ear, lump right temporal area, abrasions and lump occipital bone. Bruising left upper arm.
Inmate is awake and is alert to person. Very confused. Unable to ambulate unassisted. Nausea. Follows simple commands. Decreased strength left upper extremity. Hemodynamically stable. Right eye with pupil reactive to light. Unable to assess left eye at this time.

(Docket No. 55-2, BOP 000230.)

         After evaluating Plaintiff, Nurse Cooke called Dr. Ruben B. Morales, the Clinical Director of FCI Fairton, by telephone to report Plaintiff's medical condition, and Dr. Morales gave a verbal order authorizing Plaintiff's transport by ambulance to an outside hospital. On October 19, 2010, at 8:00 p.m., emergency medical services were called to transport Plaintiff to the hospital. Somewhere between 8:04 p.m. and 8:17 p.m., Plaintiff was transported by ambulance to the South Jersey Healthcare Regional Medical Center in Vineland, New Jersey, arriving at 8:58 p.m.

         After an examination, which included a CT scan of the brain, Plaintiff was diagnosed with a nasal bone fracture with extensive left periorbital soft tissue swelling, hand sprain, abrasion and joint pain of the pelvis. The discharge instructions recommended a follow-up examination as soon as possible to re-check his complaints. It was noted that Plaintiff could take Tylenol for pain, and he needed to see an Ear, Nose and Throat (“ENT”) specialist for the nasal bone fracture. The medical notes further provided that the x-rays were preliminary, and an official reading would be released from the hospital at a later time. The records stated that during the next 24 hours, someone had to stay with Plaintiff, and this person should wake him every two hours. The report from the CT scan performed at the hospital provides, in pertinent part: “Moderately extensive left cheek, periorbital and supraorbital scalp soft tissue swelling. Left periorbital extracoronal dematous/hemorrhagic infiltration with preservation of intraconal fat. Left lobe is grossly intact, ophthalmologic evaluation advised.”

         Plaintiff returned to FCI Fairton on October 20, 2010, at 2:34 a.m. Upon his return to FCI Fairton, Plaintiff was placed in a single-person cell in the SHU.[2] At 7:30 a.m. on October 20, 2010, SIS staff interviewed Plaintiff in the SHU about the physical altercation, and Plaintiff gave an oral statement. When Dr. Morales reported to work at 7:30 a.m. on October 20, 2010, he reviewed Plaintiff's hospital discharge records. At approximately 9:26 a.m., Dr. Morales performed a follow-up examination of Plaintiff in the SHU. In the Clinical Encounter notes from October 20, 2010, Dr. Morales indicated that Plaintiff had suffered a head concussion, nose fracture, hand sprain and abrasion, and he complained of pain in the face and nose. He further noted: “apparently injuries were the result of an assault, inmate was immediately transferred to emergency room last night, discharge report indicated this inmate was diagnosed to have sustained concussion with wake up, fracture, nose (with X-ray), abrasion and sprain hand.” (Docket No. 55-2 at 17, BOP 00027.)

         Dr. Morales noted that Plaintiff reported a pain level of five, and he was alert and oriented as to person, place and time. Dr. Morales noted that Plaintiff had symmetry of motor function, tenderness on palpation, raccoon eyes, deformity, abrasion(s), trauma and swelling, while noting there was no facial asymmetry, fluid/blood from his ears, or fluid/blood from his nose. Dr. Morales further observed that while the left orbit, upper eyelid, and zygoma were severely swollen and tender, Plaintiff had full ocular movement, could read letters from a distance of five feet, and could open his mouth without difficulty. Dr. Morales diagnosed Plaintiff with “[c]oncussion w/prolong loss of conscious and return” as well as a “[n]ose, fracture, closed.” Dr. Morales prescribed Meloxicam (a non-steroidal anti- inflammatory drug) for Plaintiff's shoulder pain. He instructed Plaintiff to place ice on his left eye to relieve swelling. Dr. Morales noted that he would “follow up for the official report of the CT scan and nasal bone X-ray and will continue monitoring.” He noted that he would “consider ENT consult for nasal fracture if necessary.”

         On October 22, 2010, at 9:12 a.m., Dr. Morales conducted a follow-up examination of Plaintiff in the HSU. Plaintiff complained of pain in the back of his neck. He also reported forgetfulness and difficulty breathing through his nose due to severe congestion. Dr. Morales' notes reflect that Plaintiff sustained a brain concussion from an assault, suffered a nasal fracture and a CT scan of the brain showed no hemorrhage. During this examination, Dr. Morales conducted a cover-uncover test and determined that Plaintiff's eyes were normal, although he suffered periorbital swelling, tenderness and hematoma. In addition, Plaintiff had full ocular movement, and his pupils reacted equally to light. Dr. Morales decided not to refer Plaintiff for an ophthalmology consultation based upon his clinical impression that such a referral was not medically necessary.

         As to Plaintiff's nose, Dr. Morales noted “[l]eft turbinate swollen, ridge of nose slightly swollen and tender, some blood clot in the wall/turbinates.” He diagnosed Plaintiff with a closed nasal fracture. He prescribed Ibuprofen and one puff per nostril two times daily for 30 days of Flunisolide Nasal (Nasalide) for the nasal fracture. Dr. Morales requested an Otolaryngology consultation because Plaintiff sustained a nasal bone fracture and complained of difficulty breathing, and the ridge of his nose was slightly swollen and tender. Dr. Morales instructed Plaintiff to return immediately if his condition worsened.

         On November 4, 2010, at 8:46 a.m., Plaintiff was examined by mid-level practitioner Satish Limbekar in the SHU. Plaintiff complained of nasal congestion, a sore throat and myalgia. It was noted that he had a nasal bone fracture after an assault, and he was pending an ENT consult. After an examination, he was diagnosed with an acute upper respiratory infection. He was prescribed Erythromycin, and his prescription ...


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