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Tuttle v. Semple

United States District Court, D. Connecticut

February 5, 2018

DAVID TUTTLE, Plaintiff,
SCOTT SEMPLE, et al., Defendants.


          Jeffrey Alker Meyer United States District Judge.

         Plaintiff David Tuttle has filed this pro se complaint that principally alleges a violation of his rights under the Eighth Amendment while he was subject to solitary confinement for about one year at the Northern Correctional Institution in Connecticut. I think it is likely that defendants have qualified immunity, but rather than summarily dismissing the complaint at this time I will allow it to be served on defendants while also allowing plaintiff to file an amended complaint within 30 days if he believes that there are additional facts that would suffice to withstand a motion to dismiss on grounds of qualified immunity.


         Plaintiff has filed this lawsuit against the Connecticut Department of Correction's Commissioner Scott Semple, Warden Nick Rodriguez, Health Services Administrator Brian Liedel, Dr. Mark Frayne, and Dr. Gerard Gagne. Plaintiff sues each of these defendants for money damages in their personal and official capacity, and plaintiff also seeks injunctive relief.

         The following facts are assumed to be true solely for purposes of my initial evaluation of the adequacy of the allegations in the second amended complaint. Plaintiff was originally convicted and sentenced in Massachusetts before being transferred in 2012 to Connecticut in accordance with an arrangement under an interstate corrections compact. In late January 2017, he was transferred from the Corrigan Correctional Institution to Northern Correctional Institution (NCI) as a result of an adverse decision in a disciplinary hearing. NCI is a maximum security institution that “is designated to manage those inmates who have demonstrated a serious inability to adjust to confinement posing a threat to the safety and security of the community, staff and other inmates, are sentenced to death, or possess a high bond.” Connecticut Department of Correction, Northern Correctional Institution, available at (last accessed on January 24, 2018); see also Alston v. Daniels, 2015 WL 7257896, at *6 (D. Conn. 2015).

         On January 16, 2018, plaintiff filed a notice of change of address to a jail facility in Massachusetts. The allegations of this complaint relate solely to the conditions of his confinement and his mental health treatment by prison officials while plaintiff was at NCI from January 2017 until the filing of plaintiff's amended complaint in December 2017.

         During the time plaintiff was at NCI he was allegedly in solitary confinement in a segregation unit where he remained in his cell for 24 hours per day. According to plaintiff, he did not leave his cell to go to the outside recreation yard because he refused to be handcuffed from behind and because correction officials have a history of destroying his legal papers and “trashing his cell” whenever he leaves. Doc. #17 at 5-6 (¶¶ 14-15).

         Plaintiff has a long mental health history, as alleged in the complaint and detailed in the several documents he has attached to the complaint. Doc. #17 at 6-7 (¶ 18). For example, psychiatric records from 2010 and 2012 reflects multiple diagnoses, including for anxiety disorder, mood disorder, antisocial personality disorder, and intermittent explosive disorder, along with prescribed medications including Neurontin, Doxepin, Klonopin, and Thorazine. Doc. #17 at 23-24; see also Id. at 26 (mental health record from January 2011 reflecting similar diagnoses as well as for “narcissistic personality disorder”).

         Plaintiff's documents also reflect behavioral and disciplinary problems. One of these documents, for example, refers to plaintiff's history of assaulting staff, threatening harm to others, and destroying property, and this document also describes the need for plaintiff to be subject to a carefully controlled behavior modification program. Doc. #17 at 21; id. at 25 (noting diagnosis of “intermittent explosive disorder” that manifests in “aggressive [i]mpulses that result in assaults or destrusction [sic] of property”); id. at 26-27 (noting need for “a behavior plan that targets disruptive and aggressive behavior, ” monitoring of plaintiff in segregation, and “pervasive pattern of instrumental and deliberate circumvention of institutional regulations and procedures”).

         According to the complaint, about three weeks after his arrival at NCI, he was seen by defendant Dr. Gerard Gagne who told plaintiff that he was taking him off Klonopin. Plaintiff didn't like that. He alleges that Klonopin is a “very important medication, ” because “it helps treat anger, agitation, chronic anxiety, irritability, and aggressiveness which if untreated, will lead to and cause massive adrenaline rushes and uncontrollable rage.” Id. at 6 (¶ 16). Plaintiff further alleges that Dr. Gagne put down in plaintiff's “mental health file that he had a diagnosis of antisocial personality disorder, but he then turned around and removed the diagnosis of intermittent explosive disorder, sleep disorder and chronic anxiety which are all mental health diagnos[e]s that the plaintiff had since he was 13 years old.” Ibid. (¶ 17).

         Plaintiff further alleges that he “has talked to both defendants Gagne and Mark Frayne several times face to face” about his suffering while at NCI in terms of lack of sleep and excessive noise. Id. at 7 (¶ 19). Both Gagne and Frayne “refuse to write down in the plaintiff's mental health record about the mental health issues that they talk about, ” and both Gagne and Frayne “refuse to see the plaintiff for his mental health issues within the 90 days that they are suppose[d] to see him.” Ibid. (¶¶ 20-21). Both Gagne and Frayne “refuse to give the plaintiff any type of mental health medication that will help treat and cope or help him cope with the lack of sleep and the mental health disorders that plaintiff is dealing with and suffering from.” Id. at 7-8 (¶ 22).

         Another medical record from NCI that is attached to the complaint reflects that plaintiff was complaining about the discontinuation of Klonopin but that in April 2017 he was “prescribed Elavil (an antidepressant) and Neurontin (for neuropathy pain)” and that plaintiff “has been assessed to have an ICP mental health treatment needs score of three (MH-3), ” which “means that the inmate has ‘a mild or moderate mental health disorder (or severe mental disorder under good control); [and] may or may not be on psychotropic medication.” Id. at 17. According to plaintiff, Gagne and Frayne are “master manipulators” who are “notorious for writing down false notes in inmates mental health records.” Id. at 10 (¶ 29).

         Plaintiff has filed several written complaints and mental health service reviews regarding the change in diagnosis and inadequate mental health treatment he has received. He appealed those complaints to Administrator Liebel who did not rectify the lack of treatment. He also wrote letters to Commissioner Semple and Warden Rodriguez regarding the ...

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