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Morales-Rojas v. Ruiz

United States District Court, D. Connecticut

January 12, 2018

DR. RICARDO RUIZ, ET AL., Defendants.



         The plaintiff, Agustin Morales-Rojas, is currently incarcerated at Cheshire Correctional Institution (“Cheshire”). He has filed a civil rights complaint against Dr. Ricardo Ruiz and Dr. Samuel Berkowitz.

         I. Legal Standard

         Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(b), the court must review prisoner civil complaints against governmental actors and “dismiss ... any portion of [a] 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.” Id. This requirement applies both where the inmate has paid the filing fee and where he is proceeding in forma pauperis. See Carr v. Dvorin, 171 F.3d 115 (2d Cir. 1999) (per curiam).

         Rule 8 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure requires that a complaint contain “a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2). Although detailed allegations are not required, “a complaint must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face. 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.” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (internal quotation marks and citations omitted). A complaint that includes only “‘labels and conclusions, ' ‘a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action' or ‘naked assertion[s]' devoid of ‘further factual enhancement, '” does not meet the facial plausibility standard. Id. (quoting Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555, 557 (2007)). Although courts still have an obligation to interpret “a pro se complaint liberally, ” the complaint must still include sufficient factual allegations to meet the standard of facial plausibility. See Harris v. Mills, 572 F.3d 66, 72 (2d Cir. 2009) (citations omitted).

         II. Factual Allegations

         Prior to his incarceration, the plaintiff was involved in a shooting. See Compl., ECF No. 1, ¶ 8. He sustained gunshot wounds to his left foot and knee and the left side of his back and neck. These injuries required multiple surgeries. See Id. ¶¶ 8-9. One surgical procedure involved the placement of a metal rod in the plaintiff's left leg and another surgery involved the amputation of the fourth and fifth toes on his left foot. See Id. ¶ 9. There are pellets from the bullets still lodged in the plaintiff's left foot and leg. See Id. Because of the amputation of the toes on his left foot, his personal physician arranged to have customized shoes made to fit his feet. See Id. ¶ 10.

         At some point prior to May 2009, the State of Connecticut Department of Correction took custody of the plaintiff. See Id. ¶¶ 11-13. Upon his admission to the Department of Correction, the plaintiff complained of pain and discomfort in his left foot, leg, and back. See Id. ¶ 12. The plaintiff believed that the pain was due to lack of adequate footwear. See id.

         On May 11, 2009, at Garner Correctional Institution, Podiatrist Berkowitz provided the plaintiff with a size 10 orthopedic shoe. See Id. ¶ 13 & Ex. A. The plaintiff's medical records reflect that the plaintiff felt the shoes fit him well. See Id. & Ex. B.

         At some later point in 2009, the plaintiff underwent surgery on the third toe on his left foot. See Id. ¶ 14. Despite the plaintiff's initial opinion regarding the fit of the orthopedic shoes, he claims that the shoes provided him with little to no relief of his pain during the two years after he received the shoes. See Id. ¶ 15.

         In 2012, prison officials transferred the plaintiff to Corrigan Correctional Institution. See Id. ¶ 16. During his transfer, prison officials confiscated his orthopedic shoes. See Id. On July 9, 2012, the plaintiff met with Podiatrist Fedus in an effort to facilitate the return of his orthopedic shoes. See Id. ¶ 17 & Ex. C. The record from this visit reflects that Dr. Fedus noted calluses on the plaintiff's feet. See Id. Dr. Fedus did not think that it was medically necessary to provide the plaintiff with special sneakers and informed the plaintiff that the quality and comfort of a sneaker did not constitute a medical need. See id.

         At some point in 2016, prison officials transferred the plaintiff to Cheshire. See Id. ¶ 18. The plaintiff complained about pain in his left foot due to calluses that had formed because his shoe did not fit properly. See Id. ¶ 19. On July 1, 2016, the plaintiff met with Dr. Ruiz. See Id. ¶ 20. He discussed his severely painful and disfigured foot and what he believed to be the source of his pain, inadequate footwear. See Id. He asked Dr. Ruiz to formulate a treatment plan for his condition. See Id. ¶ 22. The plaintiff requested to be sent to a foot specialist and that he be provided with shoes that fit his disfigured foot. See Id. ¶ 23. Dr. Ruiz failed to provide any relief for the plaintiff's foot pain. See Id. ¶ 24. The plaintiff subsequently submitted several inmate requests seeking treatment for his foot pain. See Id. ¶ 25.

         On November 3, 2016, Dr. Ruiz submitted a request to the Utilization Review Committee (“URC”) seeking approval for the plaintiff to be seen by a podiatrist. See Id. ¶ 26 & Ex. D.

         The URC approved the request and Dr. Berkowitz examined the plaintiff on December 5, 2016. See Id. ¶ 27. The plaintiff claims that Dr. Berkowitz failed to diagnose or treat the underlying cause of his foot pain. See Id. ¶ 30. Dr. Berkowitz opined that the plaintiff's present shoes were too small and that if he sized the plaintiff's feet correctly they would be a size 12. See Id. ΒΆΒΆ 31, 33 & Ex. E. The plaintiff informed Dr. Berkowitz that he had always worn ...

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