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Jackson v. Farinella

United States District Court, D. Connecticut

November 28, 2016



          Jeffrey Alker Meyer United States District Judge

         Plaintiff Kevin Jackson is a prisoner of the New Haven Correctional Center, and he has filed a pro se complaint under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, alleging that his mental health counselor was deliberately indifferent to his mental health needs in violation of the Eighth Amendment to the United States Constitution. For the reasons set forth below, the complaint will proceed against defendant Monica Farinella in her individual and official capacities.


         The following facts are alleged in the complaint and accepted as true only for purposes of this initial ruling. When plaintiff arrived at New Haven Correctional Center on February 11, 2014, he suffered from various mental health conditions, including bipolar disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder, and schizophrenia. He informed the mental health department that he had these disorders and that mental health officials at a prison in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania had diagnosed him as suffering from these conditions; plaintiff then requested medication to stave off symptoms of those conditions. After plaintiff was informed that he would need copies of his prior mental health records before he could be seen by a mental health worker, he signed a medical records release form and provided the street address of the pharmacy that he had used prior to his incarceration.

         During plaintiffs first month of confinement, and while waiting for mental health officials to receive plaintiffs prior health records, he suffered from hallucinations. He informed mental health officials about his hallucinations and his need for medication to treat his symptoms.

         On May 27, 2014, defendant Mental Health Counselor Monica Farinella met with plaintiff. Plaintiff informed defendant about his hallucinations and that he was experiencing thoughts of suicide. He also gave defendant the names of medications that had been previously prescribed to treat his mental health conditions.

         Instead of evaluating plaintiff, defendant accused him of lying about his symptoms and indicated that mental health staff had been unable to secure his previous mental health records or locate the pharmacy that had previously prescribed him medication. Defendant stated that she did not believe him to suffer from mental disorders because he “looked clean” and, with respect to his symptoms, he should go back to his “cell and deal with it like a man.” Doc. #1 at 3. Defendant also stated that plaintiff would not be put on any medications no matter what he did, and that nobody would let him see a doctor because the request had to go through her. Ibid.

         From March 2014 to December 2014, plaintiffs mental health allegedly deteriorated for lack of mental health treatment and medication. His symptoms manifested in hallucinations, depression, and poor behavior, which led to his punitive segregation. In June 2015, mental health officials placed him on suicide watch for three days. In August 2015, a physician examined plaintiff, confirmed his mental health diagnoses, and prescribed medication and therapy to treat him. Despite having received some mental health care, plaintiff asserts that he continues to be denied adequate medical treatment, causing him further injury.


         Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(b), the Court must review prisoner civil complaints against governmental actors and “dismiss . . . any portion of [a] complaint [that] is frivolous, malicious, or 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.” Id. Rule 8 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure requires that a complaint contain “a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2).

         Although detailed allegations are not required, “a complaint must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face. A claim has facial plausibility when plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged.” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009). A complaint that includes only “‘labels and conclusions, ' ‘a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action' or ‘naked assertions]' devoid of ‘further factual enhancement, '” does not meet the facial plausibility standard. Ibid. (quoting Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555, 557 (2007)). Although courts still have an obligation to interpret “a pro se complaint liberally, ” the complaint must include sufficient factual allegations to meet the standard of facial plausibility. See Harris v. Mills, 572 F.3d 66, 72 (2d Cir. 2009).

         For relief, plaintiff requests compensatory damages as well as declaratory and injunctive relief. To the extent that he seeks monetary damages from defendant in her official capacity, the claims are barred by the Eleventh Amendment. See Kentucky v. Graham, 473 U.S. 159 (1985); Quern v. Jordan, 440 U.S. 332, 342 (1979). All such claims are dismissed pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(b)(2).

         The Court concludes that plaintiff has stated a plausible Eighth Amendment claim of deliberate indifference to mental health needs against defendant. 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 requirements. “The first requirement is objective: the alleged deprivation of adequate medical care must be sufficiently serious. The second requirement is subjective: the charged officials must be subjectively reckless in their denial of medical care.” Spavone v. New York State Dep't of Corr. Servs., 719 F.3d 127, 138 (2d Cir. 2013). In order to meet the subjective requirement, “the charged official [must] act or fail to act while actually aware of a substantial risk that serious inmate harm will result.” Ibid.

         Without prejudice to defendant's right to seek dismissal as allowed under the federal rules, I conclude at this initial review stage that the complaint adequately alleges facts that-if true-would give rise to plausible grounds for relief under the Eighth Amendment. Accordingly, plaintiffs claim will proceed at this time against defendant Farinella in her individual ...

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