United States District Court, D. Connecticut
RULING ON DEFENDANTS' MOTIONS TO DISMISS [DOC.
NOS. 29 AND 34]
C. HALL UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
December 19, 2016, the plaintiff, Victor Smalls
(“Smalls”), filed a Complaint pursuant to title
42, section 1983 of the United States Code against Dr. Carson
Wright (“Dr. Wright”), Nurse Vicki Scruggs
(“Scruggs”), and two other unnamed nurses at
MacDougall Walker Correctional Institution. Smalls alleged
that the four defendants violated his Eighth Amendment
protection against cruel and unusual punishment by acting
with deliberate indifference to his serious medical needs.
This court granted Smalls' Motion to Proceed in forma
pauperis on December 22, 2016. See Order (Doc.
No. 6). Thereafter, on February 7, 2017, this court issued
its Initial Review Order dismissing Smalls' claims
against the two unnamed nurses pursuant to title 28 section
1915A(b)(1) of the United States Code, but permitting his
deliberate indifference claim to proceed against Dr. Wright
and Scruggs in their individual and official capacities.
See Initial Review Order (Doc. No. 8).
March 7, 2017, Attorney Stephen R. Finucane appeared on
behalf of Dr. Wright and Scruggs in their official capacities
only. That same day, this court referred this case to Hon.
Sarah A. L. Merriam for a settlement conference. See
Order (Doc. No. 15). A settlement conference was held on
April 5, 2017, but the parties were not able to reach a
settlement. See Order (Doc. No. 28). Thereafter, on
April 11, 2017, Dr. Wright and Scruggs, through counsel,
filed their first Motion to Dismiss Smalls' Complaint.
Mot. to Dismiss (Doc. No. 29). Smalls responded to that
Motion by written opposition on April 21, 2017. Opp'n to
Mot. to Dismiss (Doc. No. 30). Thereafter, Dr. Wright and
Scruggs were served individually with the Complaint, and
Attorney Finucane filed an appearance on their behalf in
their individual capacities. See (Doc. Nos. 31- 33).
On May 14, 2017, Dr. Wright and Scruggs, through counsel,
filed their second Motion to Dismiss the Complaint. Mot. to
Dismiss (Doc. No. 34). Smalls filed an Opposition to that
Motion on June 6, 2017. Opp'n to Mot. to Dismiss (Doc.
No. 38). The two Motions to Dismiss essentially raise the
same arguments regarding Smalls' Complaint, with minor
differences arising from the pursuit of claims against Dr.
Wright and Scruggs in their official versus their individual
capacities. As shown below, because Smalls'
Complaint cannot survive either Motion to Dismiss, both
Motions to Dismiss are GRANTED.
STANDARD OF REVIEW
deciding a motion to dismiss pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6), the
court must determine whether the plaintiff has stated a
legally cognizable claim by making allegations that, if true,
would show that the plaintiff is entitled to relief. See
Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 557 (2007)
(interpreting Rule 12(b)(6), in accordance with Rule 8(a)(2),
to require allegations with “enough heft to
‘sho[w] that the pleader is entitled to
relief'”). The court takes all factual allegations
in a complaint as true and draws all reasonable inferences in
the plaintiff's favor. Crawford v. Cuomo, 796
F.3d 252, 256 (2d Cir. 2015). However, the tenet that a court
must accept a complaint's allegations as true is
inapplicable to “[t]hreadbare recitals of the elements
of a cause of action, supported by mere conclusory
statements.” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662,
678 (2009) (citing Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555).
survive a motion pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6), “a
complaint must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as
true, to ‘state a claim to relief that is plausible on
its face.'” Id. (quoting Twombly,
550 U.S. at 570). “A claim has facial plausibility when
the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to
draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable
for the misconduct alleged. The plausibility standard is not
akin to a ‘probability requirement, ' but it asks
for more than a sheer possibility that a defendant has acted
unlawfully.” Id. (quoting Twombly,
550 U.S. at 556). “Where . . . the complaint was filed
pro se, it must be construed liberally with
‘special solicitude' and interpreted to raise the
strongest claims that it suggests.” Hogan v.
Fischer, 738 F.3d 509, 515 (2d Cir. 2013) (quoting
Hill v. Curcione, 657 F.3d 116, 122 (2d Cir. 2011)).
facts, construed in the light most favorable to Smalls, are
housed at MacDougall-Walker Correctional Institution
(“MacDougall”) in 2014, Smalls experienced
difficulty getting off the top bunk. Pl.'s Compl. ¶
11. Smalls is six feet three inches tall and overweight.
Id. His height and weight made it difficult for him
to use the narrow ladder on the bunk. Id. On
December 4, 2014, Smalls submitted a request to the medical
department seeking a bottom bunk pass. Id. On
December 8, 2014, in response to the request, Smalls was
placed on the sick call list. Id. at ¶ 12. That
same day, Smalls submitted another request seeking a bottom
bunk pass. Id. at ¶ 13. Smalls was not called
to the medical unit. Id. at ¶ 14. On December
11, 2014, his request for accommodation was denied.
December 19, 2014, Smalls slipped on the ladder while getting
off the top bunk. Pl.'s Comp. ¶ 15. He fell and
twisted his right ankle. Id. Smalls made his way
down the stairs to the bottom tier and asked a correctional
officer to call for medical assistance. Id. ¶
16. Smalls was taken to the medical unit by wheelchair.
Id. ¶ 17. There, a nurse gave Smalls an ice
bag, an ace bandage, a pair of crutches, and a bottle of
Motrin. Id. ¶ 18-20. Smalls later submitted a
grievance about the incident complaining that he had twisted
his ankle because his previous request for a bottom bunk pass
had not been addressed. Id. ¶ 21. He attempted
to sleep on the floor of his cell but was ordered to sleep in
his bunk. Id.
November 5, 2016, nearly two years after his injury, Smalls
was still experiencing pain in his right ankle and,
therefore, “wrote a request to [Dr. Wright] about the
ankle pain.” Pl.'s Comp. ¶ 24. Scruggs
responded to his request two days later, telling him that he
was on the list to see Dr. Wright. Id. at ¶ 25.
November 25, 2016, Smalls filed a grievance alleging severe
ankle pain that limited him to attending outdoor recreation
only once per month. Pl.'s Comp. ¶ 26. He requested
an MRI and a consultation with a podiatrist. Id.
Four days later, Smalls was told that he did not need an MRI
on his ankle because Dr. Wright “said [that] he
specializes in feet.” Id. at ¶ 27.
Scruggs thereafter signed Dr. Wright's name on the
grievance disposition and returned the grievance back to
Smalls. Id. at ¶ 28.
claims that the actions of Dr. Wright and Scruggs amounted to
deliberate indifference to his serious medical needs, in
violation of his Eighth Amendment protection against cruel
and unusual punishment. In support of their Motions to
Dismiss, Dr. Wright and Scruggs argue that Smalls has failed
to state a plausible Eighth Amendment claim because his
allegations against them (1) are conclusory with insufficient
factual support and (2) amount to nothing more than a
disagreement over the proper form of treatment for his
injury. Mem. in Supp. of Mot. to Dismiss (Doc. No. 29-1) at
6-9; Mem. in Supp. of Mot. to Dismiss (Doc. No. 34-1) at 6-9.
Smalls counters that he has stated a plausible Eighth
Amendment claim because “Dr. Wright knowingly persisted
in a course of treatment that was ineffective and left
[Smalls] in extreme pain and . . . Scruggs knowingly
interfered with [Smalls'] ability to receive treatment by
diagnosing [Smalls] and . . . forging . . . Dr. Wright's
name.” Opp'n to Mot. to Dismiss (Doc. No. 38) at
¶ 5. Moreover, Smalls argues that he continues to suffer
pain in his ankle, which shows that he did not receive