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Green v. Maldonodo

United States District Court, D. Connecticut

August 17, 2017




         Plaintiff Courtney Green, currently incarcerated at Osborn Correctional Institution ("Osborn") in Somers, Connecticut, filed this complaint pro se pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. He has named as Defendants Warden Edward Maldonado, Deputy Warden Gary Wright, Dr. Johnny Wright, Health Services Administrator Richard Furey, and Correctional Officer Kopacz. Each Defendant is sued only in his or her individual capacity. Plaintiff contends that Defendants have discriminated against him based on his disability and subjected him to unconstitutional conditions of confinement.


         Under section 1915A of title 28 of the United States Code, the Court must review all prisoner civil complaints against governmental actors, and dismiss any portion of the 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.” 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(b)(1), (2). In 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); see also 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)). 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. Bell Atlantic v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555-56 (2007). A plaintiff must plead "enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face." Id. at 570. "Even in a pro se case, however . . . threadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action, supported by mere conclusory statements, do not suffice." Chavis v. Chappius, 618 F.3d 162, 170 (2d Cir. 2010) (internal quotation marks and citation omitted). Nor may the Court "invent factual allegations" plaintiff has not pleaded. Id.


         The factual allegations contained in Green's Complaint are recounted herein, recited in the light most favorable to Green. On or about October 21, 2016, Green was transferred to Osborn. Doc. 1 ¶ 1. He was housed in "E-Unit, 24 cell, " which was in emergency lockdown. Id. After three days, he was allowed to shower. Id. When he entered the shower, it was a small room with a grated steel door and a window that allowed him to see into the corridor and those in the corridor to see him. Id. The floor of the shower appears to be made of tile over a concrete floor that is always very wet and slippery. Id. There is nothing to hold onto in the shower to keep ones balance and prevent one from falling over. Id. There is also about a three foot wall that Green has to step over to enter and exit the shower. Id.

         In the middle of November 2016, Green wrote to "counselor supervisor Long, " the American Disabilities Act ("ADA") coordinator at Osborn through an inmate request regarding the shower seeking an accommodation. Id. ¶ 2. Long did not respond to Green's request for a shower accommodation. Id. On or about December 1, 2016, Green was sent to Dr. Wright regarding an unrelated issue to the claim of ADA discrimination; however, during the meeting Green asked for assistance in obtaining accommodations for a shower in the housing unit that would not require him to step over the wall to get in and out of the shower. Id. ¶ 3. Dr. Wright explained that he was unaware of the wall and inquired as to why Green needed the accommodations. Id. Green showed Dr. Wright his surgically repaired leg and ankle, which are also arthritic. Id. Dr. Wright agreed that Green's leg was impaired and issued him a bottom bunk pass. Id. Dr. Wright informed Green that he did not meet the criteria or requirements for specialized housing where there are handicap-accessible showers despite admitting that Green had a physical impairment. Id. ¶ 4. Green asked about the requirements and Dr. Wright expressed that an inmate must be wheelchair bound, missing a limb, on crutches, or require the use of a cane to obtain the specialized housing. Id. Dr. Wright informed Green that there were inmates in far worse shape than him. Id. Dr. Wright never examined or treated Green's leg or ankle and did not log any complaint about Green's leg or ankle. Id. ¶ 5.

         On or about December 5, 2016, Green wrote to his unit counselor McMillian via an inmate request, seeking a facility transfer to accommodate his needs for a shower due to his physical impairment. Id. ¶ 6. McMillian responded that Green had been submitted for a facility transfer, which was subsequently denied. Id. On or about December 6, 2016, Green filed an appeal based on Long's failure to reply to his request in a timely manner, violating Administrative Directive 9.6(6)(C). Id. ¶ 7. Shortly thereafter, Green wrote to Deputy Warden Gary Wright via an inmate request seeking a change in housing for a unit that had a shower without the three foot wall. Id. ¶ 8. Deputy Warden Wright did not respond to Green's complaint, which is a common practice at Osborn. Id. On December 15, 2016, Green requested reasonable accommodations by filing "CN 101902 form pursuant to CT Department of Corrections." Id. ¶ 9.

         On or about January 10, 2017, Green's ADA appeal was returned by Correctional Officer Administrative Remedies Coordinator Kopaz. Id. ¶ 10. The disposition reflects the wrong year in its date by mistake. Id. ¶ 11. The reason for the rejection of the appeal was because an appeal can be filed only when a decision by the ADA coordinator had been made. Id. Because no such decision had been made at the time of the appeal, Green's appeal was rejected. Id. Kopaz signed Green's ADA form explaining that he had exhausted his Administrative Remedies even though he never received a formal decision. Id. Green believes this was done to "create impediments" in his request to obtain remedies and accommodations. Id. Warden Maldonado also signed Green's ADA appeal. Id.

         Shortly thereafter Green saw Captain Manning, the first shift commander, during a tour of B-Unit, Green's current housing unit. Doc. 1 ¶ 12. He asked Manning if Kopacz was trained or certified in ADA compliance and Manning told him that Kopacz was not; only Captain Colon and Long are trained and certified in ADA compliance. Id. On February 1, 2017, Green received his "CN 101901 form" and it was denied because Green did not meet the requirements for specialized housing based on Dr. Wright's review. Id. ¶ 13. Deputy Warden Wright and Richard Furey signed this declination. Id. In the later part of February 2017, Green became aware of a December 30, 2016 email regarding his ADA accommodations. Id. ¶ 14. In the email, which was between Furey, Elizabeth Mahar, and Dr. Wright, Furey emailed Mahar saying that Green should be seen by a doctor to determine if he needs a handicapped shower. Id. Furey remarked that Green "[c]laims he has a rod in his leg that does not allow him to step over the shower wall" and that "[t]his is an ADA request so once seen, contact Devonia Long, as she has to close out the ADA accommodation form." Id. Dr. Wright later responded saying "I have already seen this inmate and he questioned me in regards to ADA accommodation. I informed him that he did not meet the criteria for ADA accommodations. This was noted in his chart because it was informal, oh by the way inquiry. If necessary, I can make a formal documentation in his chart." Id. Green is currently still subjected to these "dangerous shower conditions, " which have forced "him to walk on very slippery surfaces and step over a 3ft wall to participate in the benefits of the services, programs or activities of a public entity (shower)." Id. ¶ 15.

         Green's Complaint contains three specific causes of action. Doc. 1 at 5-6. However, the Court will construe his causes of action liberally to raise the strongest claim suggested. Green asserts a § 1983 claim based on the negligence and actions of each of the Defendants in failing to accommodate his serious needs in violation of the Eighth Amendment. Id. at 6. According to Green, he was deprived of the "minimal civilized measure of life's necessities (shower accommodations)" by Defendants and this violated his right to be free from cruel and unusual punishment. Id. at 5. Green also asserts that he been discriminated against based on his disability/impairment and has not been provided a reasonable accommodation for his medical needs. Id. at 5. He asserts this claim against each of the Defendants. Id. Although he labels it a § 1983 claim based on a violation of his Eighth Amendment rights, his allegations are more properly construed as an ADA violation claim, 42 U.S.C. § 12101, et seq. Finally, he asserts a § 1983 claim based on the denial of his rights under the Fourteenth Amendment because he was denied equal treatment and discriminated against because of his disability/impairment. Id. at 6. He also asserts this claim against each of the Defendants. Id. Green seeks declaratory relief, compensatory and punitive damages as well as reasonable attorneys's fees and costs. Id. at 7.


         The Court will assess each of Green's three claims to determine whether any claim “is frivolous, malicious, or fails to state a claim upon which relief may be granted, ” or a claim that “seeks monetary relief from a defendant who is immune from such relief.” 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(b)(1), (2). The Court will address each claim.

         A. Eighth ...

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