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Hall v. Pillai

United States District Court, D. Connecticut

April 10, 2018

RONALD HALL, Plaintiff,
PILLAI, et al., Defendants.


          Alvin W. Thompson United States District Judge

         The plaintiff, Ronald Hall, commenced this civil rights action pro se. The defendants, Dr. Omprakash Pillai, Health Services Administrator Rikal Lightner and Nursing Supervisor Erin Dolan, have moved for summary judgment. For the reasons that follow, the motion for summary judgment is being granted as to the claim against defendant Pillai and denied as to the claim against defendants Lighter and Dolan.


         A motion for summary judgment may be granted only where there are no issues of material fact in dispute and the moving party is therefore entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Rule 56(a), Fed. R. Civ. P.; Redd v. New York Div. of Parole, 678 F.3d 166, 173-74 (2d Cir. 2012). “When the nonmoving party will bear the burden of proof at trial, the moving party can satisfy its burden at summary judgment by ‘pointing out to the district court' the absence of a genuine dispute with respect to any essential element of its opponent's case: ‘a complete failure of proof concerning an essential element of the nonmoving party's case necessarily renders all other facts immaterial.'” Cohane v. National Collegiate Athletic Ass'n, 612 Fed.Appx. 41, 43 (2d Cir. 2015) (quoting Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323 (1986)). Once the moving party meets this burden, the nonmoving party must set forth specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial. Wright v. Goord, 554 F.3d 255, 266 (2d Cir. 2009). He cannot “‘rely on conclusory allegations or unsubstantiated speculation' but ‘must come forward with specific evidence demonstrating the existence of a genuine dispute of material fact.'” Robinson v. Concentra Health Servs., 781 F.3d 42, 34 (2d Cir. 2015) (citation omitted). He must present such evidence as would allow a jury to find in his favor in order to defeat the motion for summary judgment. Graham v. Long Island R.R., 230 F.3d 34, 38 (2d Cir. 2000). Although the court reads pro se papers liberally and interprets them to raise the strongest arguments they suggest, Willey v. Kirkpatrick, 801 F.3d 51, 62 (2d Cir. 2015), “unsupported allegations do not create a material issue of fact” and are insufficient to oppose a properly supported motion for summary judgment. Weinstock v. Columbia Univ., 224 F.3d 33, 41 (2d Cir. 2000).

         II. FACTS[1]

         The plaintiff's claims concerns the period between October 30, 2012, and June 2014. See Am. Compl., ECF No. 10-2 at 3. In his deposition, the plaintiff conceded that any issues arising after June 2014 were quickly resolved to his satisfaction.

         Defendant Lightner, a Health Services Administrator, supervises medical staff and nurses who provide support for the doctors at MacDougall-Walker Correctional Institution (“MacDougall”). Her subordinates include those persons who collect Inmate Request and Health Services Review Forms, triage these forms, schedule appointments and provide medical treatment. Defendant Dolan is a nursing supervisor at MacDougall. Neither defendant Dolan nor defendant Lightner typically provide direct patient care.

         Any inmate dissatisfied with a diagnosis or treatment, may request a Health Services Review. Once a Health Services Review Form is properly filed, an appointment will be scheduled with a doctor as soon as possible at no cost to the inmate to determine what action, if any, should be taken. If the doctor decides that the existing diagnosis or treatment is appropriate, the inmate will have exhausted the health services review process. The doctor will make an entry in the inmate's medical records describing the visit as a Health Services Review Appointment and noting the results of the visit.

         During the relevant time period, defendant Pillai and other medical providers at MacDougall, prescribed pain medication for the plaintiff to address neck pain and diabetic neuropathy in his feet. The prescribed medications included prescription strength Motrin, Tylenol, Naproxen, Topamax, Elavil and Baclofen. The plaintiff was permitted to keep the Motrin and Tylenol on his person; he was given a certain number of pills to take as needed.

         At times, the plaintiff reported to nursing staff that his supply of Motrin and/or his Naproxen had run out or was running out. The plaintiff was never entirely without pain medication at any time during the period relevant to this action, from December 2012 until he was transferred to a different correctional facility in 2015. He received Elavil on a daily basis during this entire period. Defendant Dolan told the plaintiff to submit his requests for refills 3-5 days before he would run out to lessen the chance of a gap in medication.

         During the time relevant to this action, defendant Hall did not submit any Health Services Review Forms relating to the type of pain medication he was receiving. He did submit three Health Services Review Forms, i.e. in January 2014, May 2014 and January 2015, relating to the timing of refills. Defendant Dolan answered the January 2015 request. Her response indicated that the issue had been resolved before she received the form and that the plaintiff was satisfied with the result.

         The January 2014 and May 2014 Health Services Review Forms were returned without disposition because the plaintiff had not properly utilized the informal review process before submitting the forms. None of the plaintiff's Inmate Request Forms were ignored. If one had been ignored, that would be a legitimate ground for a Health Services Review.

         Dr. Pillai regularly treated the plaintiff for a variety of conditions including a complaint of neck pain relating to an incident prior to his incarceration. During the relevant time period, Dr. Pillai first examined the plaintiff on December 7, 2012. Dr. Pillai noted complaints of migraines and neck pain resulting from degenerative joint disease. The plaintiff also reported a history of diabetic neuropathy that was helped by Elavil. Dr. Pillai had previously ordered x-rays which confirmed the degenerative joint disease at ¶ 5-6 and C6-7. Dr. Pillai recommended that the plaintiff perform range of motion exercises for his neck. He prescribed Motion as needed for thirty days and Elavil for six months.

         On January 14, 2013, Dr. Pillai reordered the Motrin for two months. He also increased the dosage of Elavil in response to the plaintiff's complaint that the Elavil helped but did not help enough. On March 22, 2013, Dr. Pillai reordered the Motrin for three months to be taken on an as needed basis. On July 1, 2013, Dr. Pillai reordered the Motrin for thirty days and again increased the dosage of Elavil.

         Dr. Pillai next met with the plaintiff on August 12, 2013. They discussed the side effects of Motrin and agreed to try Tylenol for three months. On October 23, 2013, Dr. Pillai saw the plaintiff for a follow-up visit. The plaintiff complained of neck pain radiating over his right shoulder and reported that he had tried many types of pain medication in the past without significant relief. Dr. Pillai noted that the plaintiff had tried NSAIDs, Tylenol, Elavil, Neurontin and Flexeril without relief. The plaintiff told Dr. Pillai that a surgeon in the community had prescribed Topamax, Naproxen and Soma and that these medications had afforded some relief. Dr. ...

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