United States District Court, D. Connecticut
RULING ON DEFENDANTS' MOTION FOR SUMMARY
A. BOLDEN UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
Wendell Minnifield, is currently incarcerated at
MacDougall-Walker Correctional Institution, in Suffield,
Connecticut (“MacDougall-Walker”). Mr. Minnifield
initiated this action by filing a Complaint pro se
against Defendants, Nursing Supervisor Erin Dolan, Nursing
Supervisor Heidi Greene, and Dr. James O'Halloran, under
42 U.S.C. § 1983. On February 9, 2015, the Court
dismissed Mr. Minnifield's claims against Ms. Greene and
Dr. O'Halloran, as well as the claims for money damages
against Ms. Dolan in her official capacity. The Court
concluded that Mr. Minnifield's claims of deliberate
indifference to medical needs would proceed against Ms. Dolan
in her individual capacity and official capacity. The Court
then permitted Mr. Minnifield to file an Amended Complaint
within thirty days, provided that he could describe the
nature of his alleged serious medical condition and
specifically allege how Dr. O'Halloran and Nursing
Supervisor Greene were involved in the claimed deliberate
indifference to his serious medical need.
March 24, 2015, Mr. Minnifield filed an Amended Complaint
that listed Nursing Supervisor Erin Dolan, Nursing Supervisor
Heidi Greene and Dr. O'Halloran as Defendants. On
November 24, 2015, the Court dismissed the claims against all
Defendants for monetary damages in their official capacities
pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(b)(2). The Court concluded
that the claims of deliberate indifference to medical needs
would proceed against Defendants Dolan, Greene and
O'Halloran in their individual and official capacities.
before the Court is a motion for summary judgment filed by
Defendants. For the reasons set forth below, the motion will
Standard of Review
motion for summary judgment, the burden is on the moving
party to establish that there are no genuine issues of
material fact in dispute and that it is “entitled to
judgment as a matter of law.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). A
fact is “material” if it “might affect the
outcome of the suit under the governing law, ” and is
“genuine” if “a reasonable jury could
return a verdict for the nonmoving party” based on it.
Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248
motion for summary judgment is supported by documentary
evidence and sworn affidavits and “demonstrates the
absence of a genuine issue of material fact, ” the
nonmoving party must do more than vaguely assert the
existence of some unspecified disputed material facts or
“rely on conclusory allegations or unsubstantiated
speculation.” Robinson v. Concentra Health Servs.,
Inc., 781 F.3d 42, 44 (2d Cir. 2015) (citation omitted).
Thus, the party opposing the motion for summary judgment
“must come forward with specific evidence demonstrating
the existence of a genuine dispute of material fact.”
reviewing the record, the Court must “construe the
evidence in the light most favorable to the non-moving party
and to draw all reasonable inferences in its favor.”
Gary Friedrich Enters., L.L.C. v. Marvel Characters,
Inc., 716 F.3d 302, 312 (2d Cir. 2013) (citation
omitted). If there is any evidence in the record from which a
reasonable factual inference could be drawn in favor of the
opposing party on the issue on which summary judgment is
sought, however, summary judgment is improper. See
Security Ins. Co. of Hartford v. Old Dominion Freight Line
Inc., 391 F.3d 77, 83 (2d Cir. 2004).
one party is proceeding pro se, the court reads the
pro se party's papers liberally and interprets
them “to raise the strongest arguments that they
suggest.” Willey v. Kirkpatrick, 801 F.3d 51,
62 (2d Cir. 2015) (internal quotation marks and citation
omitted). Despite this liberal interpretation, however,
“[u]nsupported allegations do not create a material
issue of fact” and cannot overcome a properly supported
motion for summary judgment. See Weinstock v. Columbia
Univ., 224 F.3d 33, 41 (2d Cir. 2000), cert.
denied, 540 U.S. 811 (2003).
1999, Mr. Minnifield has suffered from a chronic condition
called folliculitis that is also known as dissecting
cellulitis. The condition causes hair follicles to grow into
the scalp instead of out of the scalp. As a result of this
condition, Mr. Minnifield's scalp is subject to chronic
bacterial infection which manifests itself in swelled lesions
and chronic areas of drainage.
Mr. Minnifield's transfer to MacDougall-Walker in June
2014, the nursing staff at Cheshire Correctional Institution
(“Cheshire”) provided Mr. Minnifield with daily
scalp scrubs, which included the manual expression, or
squeezing, of pus from lesions or abscesses on his scalp. At
Cheshire, medical staff also prescribed antibiotics and pain
medication, as necessary, to treat Mr. Minnifield's
5, 2014, prison officials at Cheshire transferred Mr.
Minnifield to MacDougall-Walker. At the time of his arrival
at MacDougall-Walker, Mr. Minnifield signed a receipt
indicating that he had received an Inmate Handbook which
included an explanation of the inmate grievance procedures.
Mr. Minnifield had received similar inmate handbooks, which
also included explanations of the inmate grievance
procedures, at other facilities in which he had been confined
6, 2014, Dr. O'Halloran prescribed two antibiotics to
treat infection, one medication to treat pain, and a topical
steroid to treat inflammation of the skin. He also ordered
the nursing staff to apply warm compresses to Mr.
Minnifield's scalp, to express as much pus as possible
from the lesions/abscesses on his scalp, to cleanse his scalp
with a special shampoo and to apply a dry sterile dressing
over the area every day for a year.
10, 2014, Nursing Supervisor Erin Dolan issued an order
directing the nursing staff at MacDougall-Walker to perform
Mr. Minnifield's scalp care in a sick call room instead
of in the medical unit. Mr. Minnifield did not want to have
the scalp treatment performed in the sink of the sick call
room because he thought the sink was unsanitary and the room
lacked privacy. He refused treatment for his scalp for three
13, 2014, medical staff called Mr. Minnifield to the medical
unit. Mr. Minnifield met with Nursing Supervisor Dolan and
Dr. James O'Halloran. During the meeting, Nursing
Supervisor Dolan and Dr. O'Halloran told Mr. Minnifield
that he should be engaging in his own scalp care. Dr.
O'Halloran stated that expressing or squeezing lesions
was beyond the scope of practice for the nursing staff at
MacDougall Walker. He approved an order that required Mr.
Minnifield to perform his own scalp care, including the
expression of scalp lesions while he was taking a shower.
Medical staff at MacDougall-Walker continued to prescribe
antibiotics and pain medication as well as the special
shampoo as necessary. Dr. O'Halloran informed Mr.
Minnifield that he should notify the nursing staff if he
observed any adverse changes in the condition of his scalp
and suggested that the nursing staff would be changing the
dressings on his scalp.
10, 2014, Mr. Minnifield submitted an inmate request form to
Health Services Administrator Lightner, claiming that the
sick call room was unsanitary and that he refused to perform
the scalp care in the room. On June 17, 2014, Adminstrator
Lightner authorized Mr. Minnifield to use the shower in the
medical unit to perform his scalp treatment.
the next year, the nursing staff at MacDougall-Walker would
make a notation in his medical records when Mr. Minnifield
came to the medical department for his shower and to pick up
supplies to treat his scalp condition. Mr. Minnifield
observed that his scalp condition became worse at times. When
unusual or excess discharge became visible on the bandages,
he would show the nursing staff his scalp and the bandages
that he had applied to his scalp. If the nurses observed a
problem with the condition of his scalp, they would make
notations in Mr. Minnifield's medical records and would
refer Mr. Minnifield to be seen by a physician.
17, 2014, Mr. Minnifield complained that he had a headache
and asked to be seen by someone in the medical department. He
saw Nurse Aimee Chofay, who determined that Mr. Minnifield
had already been prescribed Motrin for pain and that his
condition was not an emergency. Nurse Chofay directed Mr.
Minnifield to submit a request to be seen at sick call the
27, 2014, Mr. Minnifield complained that he had not received
or been permitted to use a shaver that the medical department
had purchased for him to shave his scalp. On September 4,
2014, Health Services Administrator Lightner disposed of the
grievance by providing a shaver to Mr. Minnifield due to his
medical need to keep hair off of his scalp.
August 28, 2014, Mr. Minnifield informed a nurse that he was
concerned that his abscesses had become worse. The nurse
scheduled Mr. Minnifield to see a physician, and on August
29, 2014, Dr. O'Halloran met with Mr. Minnifield. Mr.
Minnifield discussed his concerns about performing his own
scalp care with Dr. O'Halloran.
the period from June 5, 2014 to April 30, 2015, Mr.
Minnifield was not considered to be indigent, thus the
governing policy permitted medical officials at
MacDougall-Walker to charge Mr. Minnifield a $3.00 co-pay for
every medical visit. The policy also provided that medical
staff are not permitted to deny an inmate treatment on the
basis that the inmate cannot pay the $3.00 co-pay.
9, 2015, Dr. Naqvi saw Mr. Minnifield in response to Mr.
Minnifield's request to be able to use a head shaver. Dr.
Naqvi noted that Mr. Minnifield's chronic scalp infection
appeared to be in better shape.
assert two arguments in support of their motion for summary
judgment. They contend that: (1) Mr. Minnifield has failed to
exhaust his administrative remedies as to two claims in the
Amended Complaint; and (2) Mr. Minnifield has failed to
allege sufficient facts to demonstrate deliberate
indifference to his medical need.
preliminary matter, the Court notes that Mr. Minnifield's
reply brief in support of his memorandum in opposition to the
motion for summary judgment includes a claim that he served
interrogatories on Defendants in June 2016, but Defendants
did not respond to this discovery request. See
Pl.'s Reply Br. at 4, ECF No. 48. In addition, ...