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Cosby v. Morin

United States District Court, D. Connecticut

November 6, 2017

MARK MORIN Defendant.


          Janet C. Hall, United States District Judge.

         On September 25, 2017, the plaintiff, Howard Cosby (“Cosby”), an inmate currently housed at Corrigan-Radgowski Correctional Institution in Uncasville, Connecticut, filed a pro se complaint pursuant to title 42, section 1983 of the United States Code against Mark Morin (“Morin”), a phlebotomist at Cheshire Correctional Institution, in his individual and official capacities for monetary relief. Cosby is suing Morin for taking blood and urine samples from him without his consent, in violation of his Eighth Amendment protection against cruel and unusual punishment. On September 26, 2017, this court granted Cosby's Motion to Proceed in forma pauperis. See Order (Doc. No. 6). That same day, Cosby filed a Motion to Amend his Complaint in order to add a claim that Morin violated his Fourteenth Amendment right to due process. Mot. to Amend Complaint (Doc. No. 7). This court granted Cosby's Motion to Amend on September 28, 2017. See Order (Doc. No. 8). On October 13, 2017, Cosby filed a document styled as an Amended Complaint. (Doc. No. 9). However, the text of that filing and Cosby's Motion to Amend both clearly indicate that Cosby intended the document styled as an Amended Complaint to supplement to the initial Complaint, rather than replace it. See Mot. to Am. at ¶ 2 (requesting leave to add a claim). Given the plaintiff's pro se status, the court will treat the Amended Complaint as incorporating by reference the initial Complaint, and will address the facts and arguments contained in both the initial Complaint (Doc. No. 1) and the Amended Complaint (Doc. No. 9).

         For the reasons articulated below, the Amended Complaint is dismissed in part.


         Pursuant to title 28, section 1915A of the United States Code, this court reviews prisoner civil complaints and dismisses 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. Although detailed allegations are not required, a 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 “[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)).


         On December 22, 2014, Morin requested that Cosby provide him with blood and urine samples. Compl. (Doc. No. 1) at 6. Cosby told Morin that he did not want him to take blood and urine samples because he had just recently given them to clinical staff. Id. Despite Cosby's refusal, Morin drew the samples from Cosby. Id. On January 16, 2015, Cosby was called to the medical unit again, where a registered nurse (“RN”) identified only as “Cherryl” informed Cosby that he was “there for the second part of [his] physical” and then retracted that statement, telling him he did not need to complete anything because he had had a physical in October. Id. When Cosby informed RN Cherryl that he had informed Morin of this fact and nevertheless been told he needed to submit to testing, Cherryl told Morin that “the Nurse messed up.” Id.


         Cosby brings claims pursuant to the Eighth Amendment's protection against cruel and unusual punishment, Compl. at 6, and the Fourteenth Amendment's substantive due process right to refuse medical treatment, Am. Compl. at ¶ 2. Cosby sues Morin in his individual and official capacity, and seeks monetary damages only. Claims of monetary damages against state officials are barred by the Eleventh Amendment. See Kentucky v. Graham, 473 U.S. 159 (1985); Quern v. Jordan, 440 U.S. 332, 342 (1979). Therefore, all claims against Morin in his official capacity are dismissed pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(b)(2).

         A. Eighth Amendment

         Cosby alleges that Morin's act of drawing blood and urine samples from him constituted cruel and unusual punishment. However, Cosby's Amended Complaint implies that Morin was acting pursuant to a mistaken belief that Cosby was due for a routine physical, a mistake that another member of the medical staff identified a month later. See Compl. (Doc. No. 1) at 6. This inadvertent action is insufficient to state a claim of cruel and unusual punishment. “[O]nly the unnecessary and wanton infliction of pain . . . constitutes cruel and unusual punishment forbidden by the Eighth Amendment.” Kingsley v. Bureau of Prisons, 937 F.2d 26, 31 (2d Cir. 1991) (quoting Ingraham v. Wright, 430 U.S. 651 (1977)); see Whitney v. Albers, 475 U.S. 312, 320 (1986) (“It is obduracy and wantonness, not inadvertence or error in good faith, that characterizes the conduct prohibited by [the eighth amendment].”).

         Routine blood draws and urinalysis screenings ordinarily will not suffice to state a claim of cruel and unusual punishment. The Second Circuit has described the drawing of blood as “quite a minor intrusion, of the sort that ordinary citizens voluntarily submit to routinely for medical purposes.” Nicholas v. Goord, 430 F.3d 652, 676 (2d Cir. 2005). Several lower courts have held that “a forced blood draw on a prisoner . . . is not the sort of conduct that amounts to [an Eighth Amendment] violation.” Thompson v. CCA-LAC Medical Dep't, No. 1:06-CV-104, 2007 WL 390356, at *5 (D. Vt. Jan. 30, 2007); see also, e.g., Boreland v. Vaughn, No. CIV.A. 92-0172, 1993 WL 62707, at *6 (E.D. Pa. March 3, 1993) (“The use of a needle to draw blood is hardly the cruel and unusual punishment contemplated by the Eighth Amendment.”). Similarly, “urinalysis testing . . . conducted in accordance with established guidelines, cannot be said to constitute obduracy and wantonness” under the Eighth Amendment. Brown v. Dreyfus, No. 9:11-CV-1298, 2013 WL 4026845, at *3 n.12 (N.D.N.Y. Aug. 6, 2013) (quoting Rodriguez v. Coughlin, 795 F.Supp. 609, 613 (W.D.N.Y. 1992)).

         If a blood draw or urinalysis test were conducted maliciously or sadistically, that might be a different story: “When prison official maliciously and sadistically use force to cause harm, contemporary standards of decency are always violated, ” even if “significant injury” is not caused. Hudson v. McMillian, 503 U.S. 1, 9 (1992). However, Cosby's allegations are ...

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