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Davis v. Falcone

United States District Court, D. Connecticut

July 18, 2016

HENRY FALCONE, et al., Defendants.


          Jeffrey Alker Meyer United States District Judge

         Plaintiff Michael Davis is a prisoner in the custody of the Connecticut Department of Correction. He has filed a complaint pro se and in forma pauperis under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. The complaint was received on July 5, 2016, and plaintiff’s motion to proceed in forma pauperis was granted on July 11, 2016. After an initial review, the Court concludes that the complaint should be served on all defendants.


         Plaintiff names four defendants: Warden Henry Falcone, Deputy Warden Nathan Hein, Captain McDaniel, and Nurse Chastity Rosado. All defendants work at Garner Correctional Institution where plaintiff is incarcerated. Plaintiff principally contends that defendants wrongfully denied him access to necessary dental care.

         The following allegations from plaintiff’s complaint are accepted as true for purposes of the Court’s initial review. On May 8, 2016, after waiting eight months to see a dentist, plaintiff submitted a formal request to each defendant seeking dental care and follow-up. During the eight-month wait, plaintiff experienced severe dental pain. Plaintiff submitted several more requests but received no written response.

         Plaintiff spoke to defendants Falcone and Hein in the hallway about his serious pain. They advised him to file a formal grievance with the medical unit, and plaintiff did so. Defendant Rosado refused to respond to the grievance in writing, but told plaintiff that budget cuts were the reason he was unable to see a dentist.

         Plaintiff then received notification through the Inmate Request System that he had been scheduled for a dental appointment. On June 20, 2016, plaintiff asked defendant Rosado about that notification. Defendant Rosado told plaintiff that, regardless of the severity of his dental pain, he could not see a dentist because he had no money in his inmate account to cover the co-pay, and there were budget cuts. Plaintiff also informed defendant McDaniel, the Unit Manager, that he was being denied dental care. She did nothing to address this issue.

         Plaintiff is still suffering extreme pain, often waking up at night because of the pain, and fears losing his teeth. He seeks damages as well as paid-for private dental care from a specialist.


         Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(a), the Court must review prisoner civil complaints and dismiss any portion of the complaint that is frivolous or malicious, that fails to state a claim upon which relief may be granted, or that seeks monetary relief from a defendant who is immune from such relief. The Court must accept as true all factual matters alleged in a complaint, although a complaint may not survive unless its factual recitations state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face. See, e.g., Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009); Mastafa v. Chevron Corp., 770 F.3d 170, 177 (2d Cir. 2014) (same). Nevertheless, it is well-established that “pro se complaints ‘must be construed liberally and interpreted to raise the strongest arguments that they suggest.’” Sykes v. Bank of Am., 723 F.3d 399, 403 (2d Cir. 2013) (quoting Triestman v. Fed. Bureau of Prisons, 470 F.3d 471, 474 (2d Cir. 2006)); see also Tracy v. Freshwater, 623 F.3d 90, 101-02 (2d Cir. 2010) (discussing special rules of solicitude for pro se litigants).

         It is well established that “[a] prison official's ‘deliberate indifference’ to a substantial risk of serious harm to an inmate violates the Eighth Amendment.” Farmer v. Brennan, 511 U.S. 825, 828 (1994). A deliberate indifference claim has two component requirements. The first requirement is objective: the alleged deprivation must be serious. The second requirement is subjective: the charged officials must act with a subjectively reckless state of mind in their denial of medical care. See Spavone v. New York State Dept. of Correctional Servs., 719 F.3d 127, 138 (2d Cir. 2013); Hilton v. Wright, 673 F.3d 120, 127 (2d Cir. 2012).

         Prisoners are not entitled to perfect dental care, but a denial of dental care may constitute a sufficiently serious deprivation to state a claim for deliberate indifference. The Second Circuit has held that “dental conditions (like other medical conditions) vary in severity and that a decision to leave a condition untreated will be constitutional or not depending on the facts of the particular case.” Harrison v. Barkley, 219 F.3d 132, 136-37 (2d Cir. 2000). In evaluating a dental claim, the court should consider the pain suffered by the plaintiff, whether the teeth have deteriorated as a result of lack of treatment, and whether the plaintiff is able to engage in normal activities. See Chance v. Armstrong, 143 F.3d 698, 703 (2d Cir. 1998). While some delay in providing dental treatment does not necessarily rise to the level of deliberate indifference, see Glover v. Greenman, 2013 WL 1294698, at *9 (S.D.N.Y. 2013) (ten week delay in providing dental treatment does not constitute deliberate indifference), extended delays in treatment may constitute a constitutionally unreasonable deprivation of dental care. See, e.g., Harrison, 219 F.3d at 183 (one-year delay in treating tooth cavity can constitute deliberate indifference); Williams v. Jacobson, 2016 WL 2733136, at *4 (S.D.N.Y. 2016) (facts alleging over one year delay in receiving properly fitting dentures survive motion to dismiss).

         Plaintiff alleges that he was in severe pain for eight months before getting an appointment. The Inmate Request Form, filled out by plaintiff and attached to the complaint, indicates that he had an appointment sometime in March 2016 that was cancelled and then was rescheduled for June 20 after the request form was filed on May 8. Plaintiff also alleges that the pain prevented him from sleeping though the night. Plaintiff alleges no facts regarding whether his teeth have deteriorated or whether he was prevented from engaging in other activities. The Inmate Request Form does reflect that plaintiff has a “hole in his mouth (GUM).” See Doc. #1 at 7.

         The Court will assume, for purposes of this ruling, that plaintiff had a serious dental need. According to the complaint, that serious need was not addressed for a period of over eight months, through no delay on the part of plaintiff. This extended delay, while the plaintiff had a ...

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