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Blaine v. Uconn Health Care

United States District Court, D. Connecticut

March 16, 2018

UCONN HEALTH CARE, et al. Defendants.


          MICHAEL P. SHEA, U.S.D.J.

         On February 28, 2018, the plaintiff, Jayevon Blaine, an inmate currently confined at MacDougall-Walker Correctional Institution (“MWCI”) in Suffield, Connecticut, brought a civil action pro se under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against the University of Connecticut Correctional Managed Health Care Center (“CMHC”) and three Department of Correction clinical workers in their individual capacities: Nurse Rose Walker, Nurse Gina Burns, and Dr. Palie. The plaintiff is suing all defendants for acting with deliberate indifference to his serious medical needs, in violation of his Eighth Amendment protection against cruel and unusual punishment, and for medical malpractice. Compl. (ECF No. 1) at 1-4. He seeks money damages and a preliminary injunction ordering the defendants to send him to Yale New Haven Hospital for treatment. Id. at 5. On March 7, 2018, this Court granted the plaintiff's motion to proceed in forma pauperis. See Order (ECF No. 6). For the following reasons, his complaint is dismissed in part and his request for preliminary injunctive relief is denied without prejudice.

         I. Relevant Legal Principles

         Under 28 U.S.C. § 1915A, 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. 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.” Bell Atlantic, 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)); see also Tracy v. Freshwater, 623 F.3d 90, 101-02 (2d Cir. 2010) (discussing special rules of solicitude for pro se litigants).

         II. Factual Allegations

         In early December 2017, the plaintiff wrote to the medical unit about a third lump he had on his genitals which caused him constant pain. Compl. 1-2. After evaluating the plaintiff, Nurse Burns refused to provide him with any pain medications, even though the plaintiff told her that he had rated his pain as an “8 from a scale [of] 1 [to] 10.” Id. at 2. Burns placed the plaintiff on the list to see the doctor. Id. While he was waiting to see the doctor, the plaintiff's pain increased, particularly when he walked and used the restroom. Id. When he informed the medical unit about the pain increase, he was told that there was nothing that could be done at the moment and that he had to wait to see the doctor. Id.

         The plaintiff was evaluated by Dr. Palie on December 19, 2017. Compl. 2. Dr. Palie looked at the plaintiff's genitals and discovered the lump. Id. at 2-3. The plaintiff told him that the lump caused him pain. Id. at 3. Dr. Palie told the plaintiff that he would be put on the list to go to CMHC for testing. Id. While waiting to hear back from CMHC, the plaintiff submitted another request to the medical unit stating that his problem was getting worse. Id. When he returned to the medical unit, a nurse (presumably Nurse Burns)[1] told him that he was not on the list to go to CMHC and that his medical request had been denied. Id.

         The plaintiff filed a grievance based on what Nurse Burns had told him, and staff responded that he would have to undergo blood work before being approved to go to CMHC. Compl. 3. He asked Nurse Walker about his grievance and accused her of not handling his complaints properly.[2] The plaintiff still has not received treatment for his condition.

         III. Analysis

         The plaintiff claims that the defendants violated his Eighth Amendment protection against cruel and unusual punishment by acting with deliberate indifference to his medical problem and that their actions constituted medical malpractice. The court will permit his claims to proceed only against Nurse Burns.

         A. Claims Against CMHC

         The CMHC is not a “person” subject to suit under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 because it is a division of a state agency. Figueroa v. Correctional Managed Health Care, No. 16 Civ. 120 (VAB), 2016 WL 7428191, *3 (D. Conn. Dec. 23, 2016). A state agency is not a “person” within the meaning of section 1983. See Will v. Michigan Dep't of State Police, 491 U.S. 58, (1989) (state and state agencies not persons within meaning of 42 U.S.C. § 1983). Therefore, the plaintiff's claim against CMHC is dismissed because it lacks an arguable legal basis. See 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(b)(1).

         B. Eighth Amendment Deliberate Indifference to Serious Medical Needs

         Deliberate indifference to serious medical needs occurs when an official knows that an inmate faces a substantial risk of serious harm and disregards that risk by failing to take reasonable measures to abate it. Harrison v. Barkley, 219 F.3d 132, 137-38 (2d Cir. 1998) (citing Farmer v. Brennan, 511 U.S. 825, 837 (1994)). In order to state a deliberate indifference claim, the plaintiff must allege both that his medical need was serious and that the defendants acted with a sufficiently culpable state of mind. See Smith v. Carpenter, 316 F.3d 178, 184 (2d Cir. 2003) (citing Estelle v. Gamble, 492 U.S. 97, 105 (1976)). Objectively, the alleged deprivation must be “sufficiently serious.” Wilson v. Seiter, 501 U.S. 294, 298 (1991). The condition must be “one that may produce death, degeneration, or extreme pain.” See Hathaway v. Coughlin, 99 F.3d 550, 553 (2d Cir. 1996) (internal ...

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