United States District Court, D. Connecticut
ORDER GRANTING MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT
Jeffrey Alker Meyer United States District Judge.
Ezra Benjamin is an inmate at MacDougall-Walker Correctional
Institution. Plaintiff brought this action under 42 U.S.C.
§ 1983 against certain members of the medical staff at
MacDougall-Walker, principally including Dr. Omprakash
Pillai. Plaintiff alleges claims of deliberate indifference
to serious medical needs in violation of the Eighth Amendment
against all defendants as well as a First Amendment
retaliation claim against Dr. Pillai. Defendants have moved
for summary judgment on all claims. After oral argument in
this case, plaintiff moved for a preliminary injunction. I
will grant defendants' motion for summary judgment and
deny plaintiff's motion for a preliminary injunction.
following facts are undisputed or viewed in the light most
favorable to plaintiff as the non-moving party. Plaintiff has
suffered chronic sciatic nerve pain since roughly June 2015.
See Doc. #18-2 at 43. On June 2, 2016, plaintiff
transferred from another correctional facility to
MacDougall-Walker, where he is currently housed. The medical
transfer summary in plaintiff's medical file does not
reflect any mention of lower back pain. Id. at 8-9.
On June 13, plaintiff submitted an inmate request form
seeking treatment for his lower back pain. Doc. #21 at 38. On
June 17, plaintiff submitted another form addressing the same
issue. The second request was stamped received on June 20,
and a nurse documented on June 23 that plaintiff was put in
for an appointment. Doc. #18-4 at 2. On July 7, plaintiff
filed a grievance detailing his medical condition and seeking
treatment and better communication. Doc. #21 at 34.
Pillai examined plaintiff on July 15. He recommended blood
and urine tests, back exercises, weight loss, naproxen as
needed, and a lumbar x-ray. Doc. #18-3 at 3 (¶ 7); Doc.
#18-2 at 65. Dr. Pillai allegedly called plaintiff a
“pain in the ass” and threatened to withhold
treatment if plaintiff continued to write grievances. Doc.
#21 at 30 (¶ 10). Plaintiff was also denied a cane he
requested. Id. (¶ 11).
29, plaintiff filed another request form indicating that he
had not received naproxen and that he had not had his x-ray
scheduled. The form was stamped received on August 4, and
staff responded on August 10 by indicating that the pharmacy
no longer fills naproxen prescriptions “as needed,
” and plaintiff's chart was sent back to
“MD” for a scheduled naproxen order. Doc. #18-4
at 3; Doc. #21 at 30 (¶¶ 14-15).
August 22, plaintiff filed another grievance in which he
stated that he awoke the night before in excruciating pain,
reiterated his symptoms and complaints about lack of follow
up, and requested a cane. Doc. #21 at 35. On August 30,
plaintiff filled out another request form indicating that his
right leg was numb and tingling and requesting someone to
bring him to the medical clinic. A corrections officer
brought him to the medical clinic, and a nurse told plaintiff
that she would straighten out the naproxen order. Doc. #21 at
41; Doc. #18-2 at 36. Dr. Pillai was advised of and corrected
the issue with the naproxen prescription on September 1. Doc.
#18-3 at 2 (¶ 10); Doc. #18-4 at 4; Doc. #18-2 at 63.
filed another request form on September 8 in which he
acknowledged the naproxen prescription was filled, but stated
that Dr. Pillai had denied plaintiff's request for a
cane. Doc. #18-4 at 4. Plaintiff received an x-ray on
September 9. Doc. #18-2 at 17. Staff responded to
plaintiff's request on September 15 indicating that
plaintiff was scheduled to see Dr. Naqvi (who is not named as
a defendant in this action) on September 18 to review his
x-ray results. Doc. #18-4 at 4. On September 19, plaintiff
filed another request form complaining that he missed his
appointment with Dr. Naqvi because the corrections officer
failed to timely release him from his cell and that the
naproxen was not working. Doc. #21 at 43.
October 17, 2016, plaintiff filed the federal court complaint
in this matter. Doc. #1. The parties have subsequently
submitted additional facts in their summary judgment papers.
On October 17, Dr. Pillai saw plaintiff again and noted
unremarkable x-ray findings. Doc. #18-3 (¶ 11). Based on
his exam, Dr. Pillai ordered an MRI. Id. (¶
12). Dr. Pillai submitted the request for the MRI to the
Utilization Review Committee (URC) on October 18.
Id. (¶ 13). This was submitted as a
priority-four request, meaning a decision would be made on
the request within two months. Id. (¶ 14).
Plaintiff was informed on November 29 that his MRI was
scheduled and that he was authorized a prescription for a
muscle relaxer. Id. (¶ 16). On December 12,
plaintiff submitted a “Request for Reasonable
Accommodation” requesting a cane and back brace. Doc.
#21 at 48. This request was denied on December 16 by Dr.
Pillai as not medically indicated. Ibid.
was administered on January 3, 2017. Doc. #18-2 at 15. It
revealed a number of diffuse disc bulges in the spine, some
spinal stenosis, and a hemangioma. Ibid. Dr. Pillai
reviewed the MRI results on January 18 and made a request to
the URC for steroid injections and a neurosurgery consult.
Doc. #18-3 at 5 (¶ 18). The URC approved the injections
but did not approve the surgery consult because the exam
results were relatively normal. Id. (¶ 19).
December 18, 2017, plaintiff filed a motion for a preliminary
injunction seeking an order that he be prescribed opiate pain
relievers or THC pills, that the URC permit him to consult
with a neurosurgeon, and that plaintiff be afforded
additional recreation time in order to rehabilitate and lose
weight. Doc. #30 at 5. In his memorandum, plaintiff noted
that all other “first line”
medications-i.e., Tylenol, naproxen, Gabapentin,
baclofen, Flexeril, and Elavil- have not relieved his pain.
Id. at 3-4.
principles governing the Court's review of a motion for
summary judgment are well established. Summary judgment may
be granted only if “the movant shows that there is no
genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is
entitled to a judgment as a matter of law.”
Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). I must view the facts in the light most
favorable to the party who opposes the motion for summary
judgment and then decide if those facts would be enough-if
eventually proved at trial-to allow a reasonable jury to
decide the case in favor of the opposing party. My role at
summary judgment is not to judge the credibility of witnesses
or to resolve close contested issues but solely to decide if
there are enough facts that remain in dispute to warrant a
trial. See generally Tolan v. Cotton, 134 S.Ct.
1861, 1866 (2014) (per curiam); Pollard v. New
York Methodist Hosp., 861 F.3d 374, 378 (2d Cir. 2017).
Indifference to ...