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Crowder v. Farinella

United States District Court, D. Connecticut

August 7, 2017

DR. FARINELLA, et al., Defendants.



         Christopher H. Crowder (“Plaintiff”), currently incarcerated at MacDougall-Walker Correctional Institution in Suffield, Connecticut, filed this Complaint pro se under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. The Court received Mr. Crowder's Complaint on July 10, 2017 and granted his motion to proceed in forma pauperis on July 18, 2017. The Complaint sets forth various allegations against Dr. Farinella, Dr. Freston, Dr. Naqvi, Dr. Ruiz, Health Services Administrator Raquel Lightner, FOI Liaison Correctional Counselor Moore, Nurse Supervisor Heidi Greene, and Recreation Supervisor Rudi Alvarez (together “Defendants”). Mr. Crowder alleges that all Defendants have been deliberately indifferent to his medical needs.


         Under Section 1915A of Title 28 of the United States Code, 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. 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(b). When reviewing a pro se complaint, the Court must assume the truth of the allegations, and interpret them liberally to “raise the strongest arguments [they] suggest[].” Abbas v. Dixon, 480 F.3d 636, 639 (2d Cir. 2007). Although detailed allegations are not required, the complaint must include sufficient facts to afford the defendants fair notice of the claims and the grounds upon which they are based and to demonstrate a right to relief. Bell Atlantic v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555-56 (2007). Conclusory allegations are not sufficient. Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009).

         The plaintiff must plead “enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.” Twombly, 550 U.S. at 570. 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).


         A. Provision of Medical Care

         The Complaint states that Mr. Crowder suffers from multiple sclerosis (“MS”). In April 2013, Mr. Crowder allegedly submitted a medical request because he was experiencing difficulty breathing. A nurse allegedly checked his lungs in the housing unit. He claims that, although his lungs sounded clear, the nurse stated that she would put him on the list to see a doctor. Compl., ECF No. 1 at 12, ¶ 18. However, Mr. Crowder was allegedly not called to see a doctor.

         In May 2013, he claims that he submitted two additional medical requests complaining of tightness in his chest. Mr. Crowder was allegedly called to the medical unit and examined by a male nurse. The nurse allegedly listened to his chest and stated that his lungs sounded clear. Id. at ¶ 19.

         In September 2014, Mr. Crowder states that he saw Dr. O'Halloran. After listening to Mr. Crowder's chest, Dr. O'Halloran allegedly stated that he could not understand why it took the nursing staff so long to schedule a doctor exam. Dr. O'Halloran allegedly ran tests, submitted paperwork for lab work and gave Mr. Crowder an inhaler to try for a month. Id. at 12-13, ¶ 20. Mr. Crowder claims that he returned to see Dr. O'Halloran in November 2014 and reported that the inhaler was ineffective. According to Mr. Crowder, his chest would hurt when it tightened up or when he sneezed. Id. at 13, ¶ 21.

         At the November visit, Dr. O'Halloran allegedly submitted a request to the Utilization Review Committee (“URC”) for examination by a pulmonologist. The request was allegedly denied. Id. at ¶¶ 22-23. In December 2014, Mr. Crowder claims that he wrote to Defendant Lightner and to Ms. Castro, the Director of Medical Quality and Resource Management, complaining about the issues with his breathing and the URC denial. Id. at ¶¶ 24-25. In February 2015, Defendant Lightner allegedly responded to Mr. Crowder's letter and stated that there were no entries in his medical records showing that he had been seen by any medical staff. Id. at ¶ 26.

         On April 8, 2015, Mr. Crowder states that he had an x-ray of his lungs. He was allegedly never told the results. Id. at ¶ 28. Mr. Crowder claims that, on April 25, 2015, Defendant Lightner again told him that his file contained no references to breathing issues or URC requests. Id. at 14, ¶ 31. The following day, Mr. Crowder claims that he wrote to Ms. Castro again questioning why he had received blood tests, x-rays and inhalers if he had no breathing issues. Id. at ¶32.

         On May 17, 2016, Mr. Crowder allegedly met with Dr. Pillai, who was taking over for Dr. O'Halloran. After Mr. Crowder explained his breathing issues, Dr. Pillai allegedly stated that the breathing issues might be caused by age. Id. at ¶ 33. On June 1, 2015, he claims that he underwent an EKG and was told his heart seemed fine. Id. at ¶ 29.

         In July 2015, a nurse allegedly checked Mr. Crowder's medical file and told him that the URC request was there and marked received. Id. at ¶ 30. On August 19, 2016, Dr. Pillai allegedly told Mr. Crowder that the URC denied the request. Id. at ¶ 34. In December 2016, Mr. Crowder filed a medical habeas action in state court. Id. at 15, ¶ 38. On February 1, 2017, Mr. Crowder states that he also wrote to Defendant Lightner describing problems that he experienced obtaining his MS medication, including allegations that Dr. Pillai refused to provide stronger pain medication for MS pain and that the URC prevented him from seeing a pulmonologist. Id. at ¶ 40.

         On April 7, 2017, Dr. Pillai allegedly examined Mr. Crowder in response to the medical habeas. According to Mr. Crowder, Dr. Pillai pretended to be unaware of Mr. Crowder's issues. Dr. Pillai allegedly checked his vital signs, listened to his breathing and said that he would schedule lab work. Id. at ¶ 41. Mr. Crowder states that the lab work was done on April 10, 2017. Id. at ¶ 43. On April 25, 2017, Mr. Crowder alleges that Dr. Pillai told him that he would submit another URC request. Id. at 16, ¶ 46. Mr. Crowder states that he then underwent another EKG and chest x-ray. Id. at ¶¶ 47, 49. According to Mr. Crowder, Defendant Lightner denied receiving Mr. Crowder's February 1, 2017 letter. Id. at ¶ 48.

         Mr. Crowder claims that he submitted a Freedom of Information (“FOI”) request to Defendant Moore seeking the names of all persons on the URC. Id. at ¶ 50. Defendant Moore allegedly denied the request and denied knowledge of the URC. Id. at ¶ 51. On May 10, 2017, the judge in the state habeas action informed Mr. Crowder that he would be seen by a pulmonologist and a cardiologist. Id., ¶ 53.

         B. Prison Job

         Mr. Crowder states that he had a job in the gym, and that his supervisor was Defendant Alvarez. In April and May 2015, Defendant Alvarez was allegedly overheard asking correctional staff and inmate workers why Mr. Crowder went to the medical unit every week. Id. at 17, ¶¶ 54-56. On May 20, 2015, Defendant Alvarez allegedly followed Mr. Crowder to the medical unit and asked him what medication he was taking and whether he would change the time of his medication so he would not have to leave his work assignment. Mr. Crowder allegedly responded that the type of medication was none of Defendant Alvarez' business and that he was not willing to change the medication schedule that had been in place since 2005. Id., ΒΆΒΆ 57-58. That afternoon, Mr. Crowder ...

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