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Council v. Chapdelaine

United States District Court, D. Connecticut

August 28, 2017

ISAAC M. COUNCIL, Plaintiff,
WARDEN CHAPDELAINE, et al., Defendants.


          Stefan R. Underhill United States District Judge.

         Plaintiff, Isaac M. Council, currently confined at MacDougall-Walker Correctional Institution in Suffield, Connecticut, filed a complaint pro se under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 challenging his medical care. The named defendants are Warden Chapdelaine, Unit Manager Davis, Dr. Pillai, [1] and Lieutenant Doe. Council's complaint was received on July 12, 2017, and his motion to proceed in forma pauperis was granted on July 13, 2017.

         Under section 1915A of Title 28 of the United States Code, I 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. 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 plausible 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 “[p]ro 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).

         I. Allegations

         Council, an amputee, wears a prosthetic left leg. When he arrived at MacDougall-Walker Correctional Institution on April 26, 2016, he was told that he would be housed in N-Pod and would be permitted to go to the medical unit to use the handicap-accessible shower. That procedure was followed until May 4, 2016.

         On May 4, 2016, Council was not permitted to go to use the medical unit shower because he did not have a shower pass. A correctional officer told Council that, until he was seen by Dr. Pillai, he would need to use the non-handicapped shower in the housing unit. Upon Council's request, the correctional officer contacted Lieutenant Doe. Lieutenant Doe reviewed Council's medical file and agreed that he was required to see the doctor. Council was told to use a plastic chair from his cell for support in the unit shower.

         While showering, Council lost his balance, fell out of the chair, and landed on his back on the shower floor. A code was called and Council was taken to the medical unit in a wheelchair. His vital signs were taken and he was given Motrin before being wheeled back to his cell.

         The following morning, Council awoke with severe pain in his lower back. Council asked the correctional officer to contact the medical unit about his pain and to ask whether he was on the list to see the doctor that day. Council was told to submit a request. Council asked to speak with Unit Manager Davis, but she did not come to the housing unit to speak with him.

         On May 9, 2016, Council filed a grievance for lack of medical attention for a back injury. On May 14, 2016, he submitted a second request explaining the severity of his pain and his urgent need to be seen. Also on May 14, 2016, Council spoke to Unit Manager Davis while she was touring the unit. Unit Manager Davis told him to submit another medical request and to purchase Ibuprofen from the commissary.

         On May 27, 2016, Council filed a Health Emergency Grievance because he had not yet been seen. To date, he has received no relief for his injuries. He continues to experience pain and inability to sleep as a result of the fall.

         II. Analysis

         A. Defendants Davis and Doe

         Council's claim against Unit Manager Davis and Lieutenant Doe appears to be a claim for deliberate indifference to safety. Prison officials have a duty to “take reasonable measures to guarantee the safety of the inmates.” Farmer v. Brennan, 511 U.S. 825, 832 (1994). To state a claim, Council must show (i) that the conditions of his incarceration posed a “substantial risk of serious harm, ” and (ii) that prison officials were “deliberate[ly] indifferen[t]” to his safety. Id. at 834. Deliberate indifference exists where prison officials “know[] of and disregard[] an excessive risk to inmate health or safety.” Id. at 837.

         Council alleges that that prison officials permitted him to use the medical unit shower upon his arrival at the facility, which constitutes an acknowledgment of the risk of requiring him to use the unit showers. Unit Manager Davis and Lieutenant Doe were aware that the practice was terminated, but they made no effort to schedule a visit with Dr. Pillai so that Council could obtain the required shower pass, nor did they assist Council in doing so. At the present stage of the litigation, those ...

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