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Benjamin v. Pillai

United States District Court, D. Connecticut

November 28, 2016

OMPRAKASH PILLAI, et al., Defendants.


          Jeffrey Alker Meyer United States District Judge.

         Plaintiff Ezra Benjamin is confined at the MacDougall-Walker Correctional Institution in Connecticut. He has filed a complaint pro se and in forma pauperis under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 alleging that he has been unconstitutionally denied medical treatment and threatened with retaliation for complaining. After an initial review, the Court concludes that the complaint should be served on all defendants.


         Plaintiff names four defendants, Dr. Omprakash Pillai, Rikel Lightner, Nurse Heidi, and Health Services Administrative Remedies Coordinator Lydia, all of whom work at MacDougall-Walker Correctional Institution (“MacDougall”). All defendants are named in individual capacities only.

         The following allegations from plaintiff's complaint are accepted as true for purposes of the Court's initial review. During his current term of incarceration, plaintiff began experiencing lower back pain that radiated down the back of his right leg. Doc. #1 at 4 (¶ 12). He first sought treatment in 2015 while confined at Corrigan Correctional Institution. Id. at 4 (¶ 13). On June 2, 2016, plaintiff was transferred to MacDougall along with his medical records. Id. at 4 (¶¶ 14- 15). During the medical intake screening, plaintiff informed the medical staff of his severe back pain. He was told that Dr. Pillai would review his medical record within one month. Id. at 4-5 (¶ 16).

         On June 13, 2016, plaintiff wrote to the medical department asking to be seen for his severe back pain. Plaintiff stated that the Motrin 600 mg he had been given did not cure his pain and requested an MRI. Id. at 5 (¶ 17). Plaintiff stated that the pain had begun in his left lower back and at first affected only his left leg but now affected both legs. He had limited mobility, walking with a severe limp. The pain and discomfort affected his sleep. Plaintiff requested an MRI, a cane, a back brace, and also a high-protein diet to address weight gain from limited mobility. Id. at 5 (¶¶ 18-19). On June 17, 2016, plaintiff submitted an additional request seeking medical treatment for pain. Id. at 6 (¶ 20).

         On July 7, 2016, plaintiff submitted a health services administrative remedy seeking a health services review for denial of medical care. Plaintiff restated his medical complaints and asked for a cane, back brace, and proper pain medication. Id. at 6 (¶ 21). Dr. Pillai saw plaintiff on July 15, 2016. Plaintiff requested an MRI during that visit. Id. at 6 (¶ 22). Dr. Pillai ordered blood and urine tests and an x-ray, but he refused to order an MRI. Id. at 6 (¶ 23). When plaintiff requested a cane, Dr. Pillai called him a “pain in the ass” and told plaintiff that he would get no treatment if he continued writing grievances. Id. at 7 (¶¶ 25-26).

         On July 28, 2016, plaintiff wrote to the medical unit to inform medical staff that, although he had provided blood and urine samples, he had not received the x-ray or naproxen that had been ordered by Dr. Pillai. Id. at 7 (¶¶ 27-28). On August 10, 2016, plaintiff was informed that the pharmacy does not fill naproxen prescriptions in the manner ordered and that Dr. Pillai would have to resubmit the order in the proper manner. No reference was made to the x-ray. Id. at 7-8 (¶ 29).

         On August 22, 2016, plaintiff submitted a second health services administrative remedy seeking a health services review in accordance with Administrative Directive 8.9. Plaintiff cited extreme back and leg pain, loss of sleep, and lack of diagnostic testing to determine the cause of his condition. Id. at 8 (¶ 30). Plaintiff also complained that he never received the x-ray and was being denied prescribed medication. Id. at 8 (¶ 31). Defendant Lydia failed to respond. Id. at 8 (¶ 32).

         On August 30, 2016, plaintiff was unable to stand to lift himself from the toilet. He was brought to the medical unit in a wheelchair. Id. at 8 (¶ 33). The nurse wrote a note for Dr. Pillai informing him that he needed to order naproxen to be given twice per day rather than as needed. She also requested a cane for plaintiff and gave him a box of Motrin 200 mg. Id. at 9 (¶¶ 34- 35).

         On September 7, 2016, plaintiff still had not received the naproxen, x-ray, back brace, or cane. Id. at 9 (¶ 36). Plaintiff wrote several requests addressed to Nurse Heidi (the first shift supervisor) seeking medical treatment, a back brace and a cane. Id. at 9 (¶ 37). Plaintiff also wrote to Health Services Director Lightner. Id. at 9 (¶ 38).


         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 for 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). 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).

         Plaintiff includes, nominally, six counts in his complaint: (1) Dr. Pillai violated the Eighth Amendment by ignoring plaintiff's repeated complaints of pain, not performing essential tests, refusing to consult a specialist, denying plaintiff a cane and back brace, and not providing naproxen; (2) Dr. Pillai was deliberately indifferent to plaintiff's medical needs by considering him a nuisance, threatening a denial of treatment, and failing to investigate his complaints to properly diagnose plaintiff's condition; (3) Dr. Pillai retaliated against plaintiff by refusing to provide plaintiff a cane, back brace, and medication because plaintiff complained about his medical care; (4) Dr. Pillai delayed plaintiff's medical treatment by disregarding repeated requests for treatment; (5) defendant Lydia violated plaintiff's Eighth Amendment rights by failing to respond to his grievances; and (6) defendants Lydia, Heidi, and Lightner were deliberately indifferent to plaintiff by failing to provide adequate medical care and treatment and failing to report misconduct by medical staff, including Dr. Pillai's failure to provide medication and staff ...

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