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Case Name McKenna v. Wright PC-NY-0055
Docket / Court 1:01-cv-06571-KMK ( S.D.N.Y. )
State/Territory New York
Case Type(s) Prison Conditions
Case Summary
In 1999, plaintiff, a New York state prisoner, was diagnosed by prison medical staff as having Hepatitis C virus ("HCV"). Based on prison policies, treatment of the condition was denied him at least twice--first, because prison officials thought he was to be released within a year (he was not, ... read more >
In 1999, plaintiff, a New York state prisoner, was diagnosed by prison medical staff as having Hepatitis C virus ("HCV"). Based on prison policies, treatment of the condition was denied him at least twice--first, because prison officials thought he was to be released within a year (he was not, however) and, then, because he was not enrolled in a prison substance abuse program. (A third denial resulted from his liver condition.) In late 2002, he enrolled in a prison substance abuse program and was approved for HCV treatment beginning in January 2003; however, by then his medical condition had deteriorated and he was too weak to continue treatment. He exhausted his administrative remedies and, on July 19, 2001, filed a pro se suit in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York. On November 16, 2001, he moved for a permanent injunction, enjoining delay of his medical treatment by a specialist. On March 5, 2002, District Judge P. Whitman Knapp denied plaintiff's motion. On July 29, 2003, the matter was reassigned to District Judge Harold Baer, Jr. Plaintiff then filed an amended complaint, with the assistance of pro bono private counsel, on August 21, 2003.

The new complaint alleged a series of failures to test for plaintiff's condition despite known danger signs of his disease, failure to initiate treatment when the need for treatment was apparent, failure to send plaintiff for follow-up visits ordered by doctors, and denial of treatment on the basis of inapplicable or flawed prison policies. The new complaint sought an order (a) requiring defendants to provide plaintiff with medical treatment for his HCV, including treatment by a specialist in HCV and cirrhosis, (b) declaring that defendants violated his Eight Amendment rights, (c) declaring that defendants violated his Fourteenth Amendment right to substantive due process, (d) enjoining defendants from conditioning medical care on non-medical criteria, (e) requiring defendants to pay compensatory damages of no less than $3,000,000, (f) requiring defendants to pay punitive damages of no less than $3,000,000, (g) requiring defendants to pay plaintiff's attorneys' fees and costs; and (h) providing any further relief that the district court deemed fair and equitable.

On October 3, 2003, the defendants moved to dismiss for failure to state a claim. Their motion asserted lack of personal involvement as to some defendants, qualified immunity as to all defendants, and insufficiency of the constitutional claims. In an unpublished ruling on January 24, 2004, the district court (Judge Baer) dismissed the Fourteenth Amendment substantive due process claim, dismissed the complaint as to one defendant for lack of personal involvement, upheld the sufficiency of the Eighth Amendment claim, and rejected the qualified immunity defense as to all other defendants (given the preliminary stage of the litigation). The defendants filed an interlocutory appeal with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit.

On October 18, 2004, a panel of the Second Circuit issued its' opinion. First, it held that the defendants could raise a defense of qualified immunity as part of their motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim but, in that procedural setting, it would be very difficult for a court to have sufficient information to rule that the defense warranted dismissal. Next, the appellate court agreed with the district judge that, based on the amended complaint's allegations, the plaintiff had made a sufficient claim that the defendants were deliberately indifferent to his serious medical needs. Such a claim, if proven, establishes an Eighth Amendment violation based on denial of adequate medical care for prisoners. Because the availability of the qualified immunity defense could not then be established as a matter of law, the appeal was dismissed and the case remanded to the district court. McKenna v. Wright, 386 F.3d 432 (2d Cir. 2004) (Circuit Judge Jon O. Newman).

Just prior to the remand, the case had been administratively reassigned on September 3, 2004, at the district court to District Judge Kenneth M. Karas. Discovery procedures continued over the following months but, also, in October 2005, DOCS revised its policy regarding HCV treatment. No longer would such treatment be conditioned on a prisoner's participation in a DOCS substance abuse program. Likely in anticipation of this policy change, on September 9, 2005, Judge Karas referred the case to Magistrate Judge Theodore H. Katz for settlement. The PACER docket sheet shows that on November 17, 2005, Judge Karas signed an order of settlement and dismissal, in accordance with the parties' stipulation for dismissal. The order was filed by the clerk on November 28, 2005, together with a directive from the court that the defendants pay $100,000 to the plaintiff, as part of the settlement.

We do not have a copy of the settlement or further details as to its terms, nor any information indicating further activity in this case.

Other cases in the Civil Rights Litigation Clearinghouse database addressing similar claims in New York federal and state courts include PC-NY-51, -52, and -53.

Mike Fagan - 05/01/2008


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Issues and Causes of Action
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Issues
Affected Gender
Male
Medical/Mental Health
Hepatitis
Medication, administration of
Plaintiff Type
Private Plaintiff
Type of Facility
Government-run
Causes of Action 42 U.S.C. ยง 1983
Defendant(s) Department of Correctional Services
Plaintiff Description Male inmate at the New York Department of Correctional Services' Green Haven Correctional Facility who was diagnosed with the Hepatitis C virus and later with cirrhosis of the liver.
Indexed Lawyer Organizations None on record
Class action status sought None on record
Class action status granted No
Prevailing Party Plaintiff
Public Int. Lawyer No
Nature of Relief Damages
Source of Relief Settlement
Form of Settlement Court Approved Settlement or Consent Decree
Order Duration not on record
Case Closing Year 2005
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 ]

Docket(s)
1:01-cv-06571-KMK (S.D.N.Y.) 11/28/2005
PC-NY-0055-9000.pdf | Detail
PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
General Documents
Memorandum and Order [Denying Plaintiff's Motion for a Preliminary Injunction] 03/04/2002 (2002 WL 338375 / 2002 U.S.Dist.LEXIS 3489) (S.D.N.Y.)
PC-NY-0055-0004.pdf | WESTLAW| LEXIS | Detail
Opinion [Directing Defendants to Reply to Plaintiff's Motion for Reconsideration] 03/27/2002 (2002 U.S.Dist.LEXIS 5001) (S.D.N.Y.)
PC-NY-0055-0008.pdf | LEXIS | Detail
Document Source: LexisNexis
Order [Reiterating Guidelines for Response to Plaintiff's Motion for Reconsideration] 06/10/2002 (2002 U.S.Dist.LEXIS 10537) (S.D.N.Y.)
PC-NY-0055-0009.pdf | LEXIS | Detail
Document Source: LexisNexis
Order [Directing Defendants to Submit a Supplemental Response Re: Proposed Medical Treatment] 02/10/2003 (2003 WL 549398 / 2003 U.S.Dist.LEXIS 2201) (S.D.N.Y.)
PC-NY-0055-0005.pdf | WESTLAW| LEXIS | Detail
Memorandum & Order [Granting Plaintiff's Application for Appointment of Counsel] 02/11/2003 (2003 WL 302225 / 2003 U.S.Dist.LEXIS 2197) (S.D.N.Y.)
PC-NY-0055-0006.pdf | WESTLAW| LEXIS | Detail
Opinion & Order [Granting in Part and Denying in Part Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment] 01/21/2004 (2004 WL 102752 / 2004 U.S.Dist.LEXIS 725) (S.D.N.Y.)
PC-NY-0055-0007.pdf | WESTLAW| LEXIS | Detail
Appellate Opinion 10/18/2004 (386 F.3d 432)
PC-NY-0055-0003.pdf | WESTLAW| LEXIS | Detail
Document Source: Google Scholar
Memorandum Hepatitis C Primary Care Guideline 10/13/2005
PC-NY-0055-0002.pdf | Detail
Revised Hepatitis C Guideline 10/18/2005
PC-NY-0055-0001.pdf | Detail
Judges Baer, Harold Jr. (S.D.N.Y.)
PC-NY-0055-0007
Karas, Kenneth M. (S.D.N.Y.)
PC-NY-0055-9000
Katz, Theodore H. (S.D.N.Y.) [Magistrate]
PC-NY-0055-9000
Katzmann, Robert A. (Second Circuit)
PC-NY-0055-0003
Knapp, Percy Whitman (S.D.N.Y.)
PC-NY-0055-0004 | PC-NY-0055-0005 | PC-NY-0055-0006 | PC-NY-0055-0008 | PC-NY-0055-0009
Miner, Roger Jeffrey (N.D.N.Y., Second Circuit)
PC-NY-0055-0003
Newman, Jon Ormond (D. Conn., Second Circuit)
PC-NY-0055-0003
Monitors/Masters None on record
Plaintiff's Lawyers Alestra, Mary Florence (New York)
PC-NY-0055-9000
Aronowitz, Stacey P. (New York)
PC-NY-0055-0003
Cocariu, Dacia Christina (New York)
PC-NY-0055-9000
Jones, Kristina Michele (Georgia)
PC-NY-0055-0003 | PC-NY-0055-9000
Suh, Sung-Hee (New York)
PC-NY-0055-0003 | PC-NY-0055-9000
Wade, Jeffrey P. (New York)
PC-NY-0055-9000
Defendant's Lawyers Belohlavek, Michael S. (New York)
PC-NY-0055-0003
Knudsen, John E. (New York)
PC-NY-0055-0004 | PC-NY-0055-0005 | PC-NY-0055-0006 | PC-NY-0055-0008 | PC-NY-0055-0009 | PC-NY-0055-9000
Oxhorn, Melanie L. (New York)
PC-NY-0055-0003
Spitzer, Eliot (New York)
PC-NY-0055-0003
Other Lawyers None on record

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