University of Michigan Law School
Civil Rights Litigation Clearinghouse
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Case Name Hilton v. Wright PC-NY-0053
Docket / Court 9:05-cv-01038-DNH-DEP ( N.D.N.Y. )
State/Territory New York
Case Type(s) Prison Conditions
Case Summary
On August 17, 2005, two New York state prisoners filed a lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of New York under 42 U.S.C. §1983 (the Civil Rights Act of 1871), 42 U.S.C. § 12132 (the Americans with Disabilities Act, or ADA), and 29 U.S.C. § 794 (the Rehabilitation Act, ... read more >
On August 17, 2005, two New York state prisoners filed a lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of New York under 42 U.S.C. §1983 (the Civil Rights Act of 1871), 42 U.S.C. § 12132 (the Americans with Disabilities Act, or ADA), and 29 U.S.C. § 794 (the Rehabilitation Act, Section 504) against New York's Department of Correctional Services (DOCS) and its chief medical officer. The plaintiff, represented by private counsel, asked the court for declaratory relief, injunctive relief, compensatory damages, and punitive damages, as well as class action status for the case, claiming that the defendants' failure to administer medical treatment constituted cruel and unusual punishment in violation of Eighth and Fourteenth Amendment rights, according to the plaintiffs. The defendants refused to provide needed treatment for their medical conditions, Hepatitis C, because the plaintiffs had not completed a DOCS-sponsored substance abuse program. The plaintiffs amended the complaint on September 2, 2005.

The state had recently lost similar lawsuits in federal and state courts (see, for example, case PC-NY-52 in the Civil Rights Litigation Clearinghouse database) and, in October 2005, revised its policies so that completion of DOCS substance abuse programs was not required prior to provision of Hepatitis C treatment to prisoners. The defendants thus argued that, as the plaintiffs were now receiving treatment under the revised policy, the plaintiffs' equitable claims were now moot and that class action status should not be accorded the case.

District Judge David N. Hurd rejected the defense arguments in a memorandum and order filed on February 27, 2006. He found that the plaintiffs' claims were not moot, because the defendants had failed to show (1) there was no reasonable expectation of re-institution of the substance abuse treatment policy and (2) complete eradication of the prior policy's effects. The court noted that the revised policy expressly changed due to litigation losses, not due to the defendants' medical judgment, making it difficult for the court to accept that the defendants might not again revise the policy, at some point, to the plaintiffs' detriment. Additionally, Judge Hurd found class certification appropriate, as some 500 of the approximately 9,000 Hepatitis C-positive prisoners in defendants' custody had been deprived of treatment due to the prior policy making treatment contingent upon meeting the substance abuse program requirement. Plaintiffs' counsel were appointed to serve as class counsel. Hilton v. Wright, 235 F.R.D. 40 (N.D. N.Y. 2006).

In the following months, the parties engaged in settlement discussions, including conferences with the court. On July 25, 2007, the parties filed with the court their interim settlement agreement. It made explicit the parties' joint agreement that participation in DOCS' substance abuse programs was not a precondition to provision by DOCS of treatment for Hepatitis C and required notification to DOCS medical personnel and known Hepatitis C-positive prisoners of this policy. Prisoners previously denied treatment under the old policy would now be re-evaluated and would receive treatment, if doing so was medically appropriate. Also under the agreement, DOCS had to report its compliance with the agreement's terms to class counsel, and had to pay class counsel's fees stemming from the case, including those incurred over the two year compliance monitoring period established by the agreement. The period could be extended by agreement of the parties or by order of the court.

On January 2, 2008, Judge Hurd approved the settlement, but denied the plaintiff's class application for permission to amend their complaint to assert a claim for damages. On December 14, 2009, Judge Hurd dismissed the first amended complaint in its entirety. Plaintiffs appealed this decision and the order was vacated on May 11, 2013 by the Court of Appeals.

On May 25, 2010, Judge Hurd awarded the plaintiffs attorney's fees of $23,152. Judge Hurd had also denied attorney's fees beyond the sum of $23,152, but the plaintiffs appealed this order and it was vacated on May 11, 2013 by the Court of Appeals.

On April 20, 2012, the Second Circuit vacated in part the judgment and remanded the case on the basis that the district court did not adequately explain why it granted the defendants' motion for summary judgment on the plaintiff's claims for damages. In addition, because the district court misinterpreted the parties' settlement agreement with respect to the recovery of reasonable costs, the Court of Appeals vacated the part of the order denying the plaintiffs' application for reimbursement of out-of-pocket expenses and remanded the issue to the district court for it to determine in its discretion whether to grant, full or partially, the plaintiffs' application for such costs. Hilton v. Wright, 673 F.3d 120 (2d Cir. 2012).

On May 11, 2013, Judge Hurd issued an opinion vacating the previous orders that the first amended complaint be dismissed and the portion of the order denying attorneys' fees beyond the sum of $23,152. Judge Hurd also granted in part and denied in part the defendants' motion for summary judgment. All claims relating to the 2003 denial of Hepatitis C treatment based on the length of incarceration requirement was waived. Judge Hurd dismissed all of the claims against the chief medical officer. Judge Hurd awarded additional attorneys' fees of $17,385.45, for a total fee award of $40,537.45. Hilton v. Wright, 928 F. Supp. 2d 530 (N.D.N.Y. 2013).

On August 28, 2013 Judge Hurd ordered the defendants to pay to the plaintiff $120,000 in full settlement of any and all claims, inclusive of any and all damages, fees, and costs of any kind. Judge Hurd also ordered that all claims or counterclaims were discontinued.

Mike Fagan - 05/01/2008
Jessica Kincaid - 02/14/2014

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Issues and Causes of Action
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Affected Gender
Constitutional Clause
Cruel and Unusual Punishment
Equal Protection
Medical/Mental Health
Medical care, general
Plaintiff Type
Private Plaintiff
Type of Facility
Causes of Action Section 504 (Rehabilitation Act), 29 U.S.C. § 701
Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), 42 U.S.C. §§ 12111 et seq.
42 U.S.C. § 1983
Defendant(s) New York State Department of Correctional Services
Plaintiff Description All prisoners with Hepatitis C who must now or in the future meet defendants’ substance abuse therapy requirement to obtain treatment.
Indexed Lawyer Organizations None on record
Class action status sought Yes
Class action status granted Yes
Prevailing Party Plaintiff
Public Int. Lawyer No
Nature of Relief Injunction / Injunctive-like Settlement
Source of Relief Settlement
Form of Settlement Court Approved Settlement or Consent Decree
Order Duration 2007 - 2013
Case Closing Year 2013
Case Ongoing No
Additional Resources
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Case Studies Civil Rights Injunctions Over Time: A Case Study of Jail and Prison Court Orders
N.Y.U. Law Review
By: Margo Schlanger (Washington University)
Citation: 81 N.Y.U. L. Rev. 550 (2006)
[ Detail ] [ PDF ] [ External Link ]

  Judicial Policy Making and the Modern State: How the Courts Reformed America's Prisons
By: Malcolm M. Feeley & Edward Rubin (UC Berkeley Boalt Hall School of Law & Vanderbilt School of Law Faculty)
Citation: (1998)
[ Detail ]

9:05-cv-01038-DNH-DEP (N.D.N.Y.) 08/28/2013
PC-NY-0053-9000 PDF | Detail
PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
General Documents
Order to Show Cause Why Application for Temporary Restraining Order and Preliminary Injunction Should Not Be Granted 08/01/2005 (N.D.N.Y.)
PC-NY-0053-0008 PDF | Detail
Class Action Complaint 08/17/2005
PC-NY-0053-0003 PDF | Detail
Plaintiff's Memorandum of Law in Support of Application for Temporary Restraining Order and Preliminary Injunction 08/17/2005
PC-NY-0053-0007 PDF | Detail
First Amended Class Action Complaint 09/02/2005
PC-NY-0053-0001 PDF | Detail
Plaintiffs' Memorandum of Law in Support of Motion for Class Certification 09/02/2005
PC-NY-0053-0005 PDF | Detail
Affirmation 09/02/2005
PC-NY-0053-0006 PDF | Detail
Notice of Motion 09/02/2005
PC-NY-0053-0010 PDF | Detail
Plaintiffs' Memorandum of Law in Opposition to Defendants' Cross Motion to Dismiss and in Further Support of Motion for Class Certification 10/28/2005
PC-NY-0053-0009 PDF | Detail
Memorandum- Decision and Order 02/27/2006 (235 F.R.D. 40) (N.D.N.Y.)
PC-NY-0053-0002 PDF | WESTLAW| LEXIS | Detail
Interim Settlement Agreement 07/25/2007
PC-NY-0053-0004 PDF | Detail
Order 12/02/2008 (2008 WL 53670) (N.D.N.Y.)
PC-NY-0053-0011 PDF | WESTLAW | Detail
Document Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
USCA Mandate [Remanding Case] 03/09/2012 (673 F.3d 120)
PC-NY-0053-0012 PDF | WESTLAW| LEXIS | Detail
Document Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Memorandum Decision and Order 03/11/2013 (928 F.Supp.2d 530) (N.D.N.Y.)
PC-NY-0053-0013 PDF | WESTLAW| LEXIS | Detail
Document Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
So-Ordered Stipulation of Dismissal Pursuant to FRCP 41(a) 08/23/2013 (N.D.N.Y.)
PC-NY-0053-0014 PDF | Detail
Document Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Judges Hall, Peter W. (Second Circuit)
Hurd, David N. (N.D.N.Y.) [Magistrate]
PC-NY-0053-0002 | PC-NY-0053-0004 | PC-NY-0053-0011 | PC-NY-0053-0013 | PC-NY-0053-0014 | PC-NY-0053-9000
Peebles, David E. (N.D.N.Y.) [Magistrate]
Pooler, Rosemary S. (Second Circuit, N.D.N.Y.)
Winter, Ralph K. Jr. (FISCR, Second Circuit)
Monitors/Masters None on record
Plaintiff's Lawyers Donoghue, Keith M. (New York)
PC-NY-0053-0001 | PC-NY-0053-0002 | PC-NY-0053-0003 | PC-NY-0053-0007 | PC-NY-0053-9000
Koob, Elizabeth L. (New York)
PC-NY-0053-0001 | PC-NY-0053-0003 | PC-NY-0053-0007 | PC-NY-0053-0014 | PC-NY-0053-9000
Magoolaghan, Joan (New York)
PC-NY-0053-0001 | PC-NY-0053-0003 | PC-NY-0053-0007 | PC-NY-0053-9000
Reinert, Alexander A. (New York)
PC-NY-0053-0001 | PC-NY-0053-0002 | PC-NY-0053-0003 | PC-NY-0053-0004 | PC-NY-0053-0005 | PC-NY-0053-0006 | PC-NY-0053-0007 | PC-NY-0053-0009 | PC-NY-0053-0010 | PC-NY-0053-9000
Defendant's Lawyers Cuomo, Andrew M. (New York)
Mankes, Karen Marcoux (New York)
Schneiderman, Eric T. (New York)
Seaman, James (New York)
Sheingold, Nelson (New York)
PC-NY-0053-0002 | PC-NY-0053-0010 | PC-NY-0053-9000
Spitzer, Eliot (New York)
Viglucci, Risa L. (New York)
Wagner, Belinda A (New York)
PC-NY-0053-0004 | PC-NY-0053-0014 | PC-NY-0053-9000
Other Lawyers None on record

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