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Gaines v. Wright

United States District Court, D. Connecticut

October 19, 2017

NORMAN GAINES, Plaintiff,
v.
DOCTOR WRIGHT, et al., Defendants.

          INITIAL REVIEW ORDER OF AMENDED COMPLAINT

          Hon. Vanessa L. Bryant, United States District Judge.

         Plaintiff, Norman Gaines, currently confined at MacDougall-Walker Correctional Institution in Suffield, Connecticut, filed the original complaint pro se under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, alleging that he was denied adequate medical care. On September 15, 2017, the Court dismissed the complaint without prejudice for failure to state a plausible claim. Plaintiff sought, and was granted, an extension of time to file a motion for reconsideration. Instead of doing so, he has filed a proposed amended complaint. Plaintiff states that the proposed amended complaint is intended to cure the deficiencies identified in the order dismissing the complaint. The Court considers the allegations in the proposed amended complaint and will determine whether the case should be reopened as to the claims against any of the defendants.

         In the original complaint, plaintiff named eight defendants: Doctors Wright, Ruiz, Freston, Farinella, John Doe and Naqvi and Nurses Hollie and Jane Doe. Plaintiff list all of these defendants except Nurse Jane Doe in the body of the proposed amended complaint.

         Under 28 U.S.C. § 1915A (2000), 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. Id. 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). 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).

         I. Allegations

         On December 8, 2014, while confined at Northern Correctional Institution, Plaintiff injured his right knee. He was taken to the medical unit where Nurse Doe noted the swelling and diagnosed a sprained knee. She gave Plaintiff an ace bandage and ibuprofen. Doc. #11, ¶¶ 12-14. Between December 20, 2014, and January 20, 2015, Plaintiff submitted several requests to the medical unit complaining of swelling and loss of motion in his knee and an inability to support his body weight on the knee. The requests were not answered. Id., ¶ 15.

         On February 18, 2015, at Osborn Correctional Institution, Plaintiff's knee gave out, causing him to fall. Dr. Wright examined Plaintiff's knee. Although Plaintiff stated that his knee seemed to be moving in and out of place, Dr. Wright concluded that Plaintiff had a sprain. Dr. Wright recommended strengthening the muscles around the knee but did not prescribe any specific exercises to be performed after the swelling resolved. Plaintiff requested pain medication but Dr. Wright told him that the medical unit did not prescribe medications, such as ibuprofen, that could be purchased in the commissary. Id., ¶¶ 16-19.

         Plaintiff began doing stretching and strengthening exercises. On March 1, 2015, Plaintiff's knee again failed causing him to experience severe pain. Id., ¶¶ 20-21. Plaintiff asked a custodial officer to call the medical unit, but the officer told Plaintiff to submit a sick call request. Id., ¶¶ 22-23.

         Plaintiff wrote to Dr. Wright that day, asking for an immediate examination because his knee was getting worse. Plaintiff stated that it felt as if he had torn something and was in severe pain. By March 20, 2015, Plaintiff had received no response from Dr. Wright or any medical staff member. Plaintiff's knee was swollen and his leg was stiff. His pain prevented him from walking to the dining hall, approximately two or three city blocks from the housing unit. Id., ¶¶ 24-25. Plaintiff remained in his cell eating only items he purchased at the commissary. As he was assigned to the top bunk in a cell on the top tier, Plaintiff left his cell only for showers and phone calls. Id., ¶¶ 26-27. Plaintiff asked custodial staff to be moved to the lower tier and a bottom bunk. He was told that there were no empty cells and he did not have a bottom bunk pass. Id., ¶ 28.

         Through March and April 2015, Plaintiff's cellmate helped him get into and out of the top bunk and to the showers. His cellmate also assisted Plaintiff on the stairs and picked up Plaintiff's commissary bags. Id., ¶ 29.

         On April 1, 2015, Plaintiff's knee gave out as he was coming down from the bunk, causing severe pain. Plaintiff asked a correctional officer to contact the medical unit. The officer told Plaintiff that the medical unit would call him down later in the day, and that he should elevate the knee and stay off his leg. Plaintiff was not called to the medical unit. Id., ¶¶ 30-32.

         The following day, the officer again called the medical unit, but Plaintiff was not called down. On April 3, 2015, Plaintiff submitted an administrative remedy complaining that he was left in extreme pain and his complaints were ignored. Plaintiff asked to be permitted to eat in his cell as he could not walk to the dining hall, for an examination and pain medication. He did not receive a response. Id., ¶¶ 35-36.

         In June 2015, Plaintiff saw Dr. Wright, who stated that he could not prescribe pain medication that was available from the commissary. Dr. Wright told Plaintiff that he could issue him an “ace bandage like brace” but would not submit a request to the Utilization Review Committee (“URC”) for an orthopedic consult because, as Plaintiff had only been suffering for a few months, any request would be denied. Dr. Wright also stated that the URC would not approve an MRI as the procedure was too costly. Plaintiff requested an order that he be housed on the bottom tier in a bottom bunk and be permitted to eat in his cell. Dr. Wright refused to issue such an order. Id., ¶¶ 37-39.

         At some time after the examination by Dr. Wright, Plaintiff went to the University of Connecticut Health Center for treatment of a ruptured bicep. His arm was in a cast and sling. While there, Plaintiff was examined by an orthopedist, Dr. Doe, and underwent an x-ray of his right knee. Dr. Doe diagnosed a sprained knee. Id., ¶¶ 41-44.

         On July 1, 2016, Plaintiff's knee was swollen and he was in severe pain. Plaintiff wrote to the medical unit complaining that he was experiencing difficulty walking up and down the stairs because his arm was in a sling from the bicep surgery and the knee pain caused him to have to hop up and down the stairs. Plaintiff requested movement to the lower tier, permission to eat in his cell, braces to support his knee, an MRI and pain medication. The request was not answered. Plaintiff alleges that he submitted medical requests at least once per month since he injured his knee and only received two responses. Id., ¶¶ 45-47.

         On September 23, 2016, Plaintiff again went to the University of Connecticut Health Center for his bicep injury. While there, he saw Dr. Doe for a follow-up consultation on his knee. Id., ΒΆ 48. Dr. Doe asked Plaintiff whether he had ever undergone a knee exam. Plaintiff said no. Dr. Doe asked about the last time Plaintiff's knee gave out. Plaintiff stated that it was a few weeks earlier while he was on the basketball court attempting to rehabilitate his bicep injury. Dr. Doe examined Plaintiff's knee, ...


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