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Crowder v. Farinella

United States District Court, D. Connecticut

May 14, 2018

DR. FARINELLA, et al., Defendants.



         Christopher H. Crowder (“Plaintiff”), currently incarcerated at MacDougall-Walker Correctional Institution in Suffield, Connecticut, filed this Complaint pro se under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. He asserts claims for deliberate indifference to serious medical needs and denial of equal protection of the laws. The remaining defendants, Dr. Farinella, Dr. Freston, Dr. Naqvi, Dr. Ruiz and Recreation Supervisor Rudi Alvarez (together, “Defendants”), have moved to dismiss.

         For the reasons that follow, Defendants' motion is GRANTED with respect to the “class-of-one” equal protection claim, but otherwise DENIED.


         A. Factual Allegations

         1. Mr. Crowder's Medical Condition

         In April 2013, Mr. Crowder, who suffers from multiple sclerosis (“MS”), allegedly submitted a medical request because he had difficulty breathing. Am. Compl. ¶ 18, ECF No. 23. A nurse allegedly checked his lungs in the housing unit and, although his lungs sounded clear, the nurse allegedly stated that she would put him on the list to see a doctor. Id. Mr. Crowder allegedly was not called to see a doctor at that point. Id. ¶ 19. In May 2013, he submitted two requests allegedly complaining of tightness in his chest. Id. Mr. Crowder was called to the medical unit and examined by a male nurse. Id. The nurse allegedly listened to his chest and stated that his lungs sounded clear. Id. ¶ 19.

         In September 2014, Mr. Crowder saw Dr. O'Halloran. Id. ¶ 20. After listening to Mr. Crowder's chest, Dr. O'Halloran allegedly stated that he could not understand why it took the nursing staff so long to schedule a doctor exam. Id. Dr. O'Halloran allegedly ran tests, submitted paperwork for lab work and gave Mr. Crowder an inhaler to try for a month. Id. Mr. Crowder allegedly returned to see Dr. O'Halloran in November 2014 and reported that the inhaler was ineffective and that his “chest would begin to hurt when it tightened up or squeezed.” Id. ¶ 21.

         At the November visit, Dr. O'Halloran allegedly submitted a request to the Utilization Review Committee (“URC”) for examination by a pulmonologist. Id. ¶¶ 22-23. The request was denied. Id. On April 8, 2015, Mr. Crowder allegedly had an x-ray of his lungs. Id. ¶ 28. He allegedly was never told the results. Id. On June 1, 2015, Mr. Crowder had an EKG, and he was allegedly “told that his heart seemed fine.” Id. ¶ 29. In July 2015, a nurse allegedly told Mr. Crowder that his second URC request was in his medical file and had been marked “received.” Id. ¶ 30.

         On May 17, 2016, Mr. Crowder allegedly met with Dr. Pillai, who had replaced Dr. O'Halloran. Id. ¶ 33. On August 19, 2016, Dr. Pillai told Mr. Crowder that the URC denied the request. Id. ¶ 34. In December 2016, Mr. Crowder filed a medical habeas action in state court. Id. ¶ 38.

         On April 7, 2017, Dr. Pillai examined Mr. Crowder, allegedly in response to the medical habeas. Id. ¶ 41. Dr. Pillai allegedly pretended to be unaware of Mr. Crowder's issues. Id. Dr. Pillai allegedly checked his vital signs, listened to his breathing, and scheduled lab work, which was done on April 10, 2017. Id. ¶¶ 41, 43.

         On April 25, 2017, Dr. Pillai allegedly told Mr. Crowder that he would submit another URC request. Id. ¶ 46. Mr. Crowder allegedly then underwent another EKG and chest x-ray. Id. ¶¶ 47, 49. On May 10, 2017, the judge in the state habeas action informed Mr. Crowder that he would be seen by a pulmonologist and a cardiologist. Id. ¶ 53.

         2. Mr. Crowder's Prison Job

         Mr. Crowder had a job working in the gym, supervised by Mr. Alvarez. Id. ¶¶ 54-55. In April and May 2015, Mr. Alvarez allegedly asked correctional staff and inmate workers why Mr. Crowder went to the medical unit every week. Id. ¶¶ 55-56. On May 20, 2015, Mr. Alvarez allegedly followed Mr. Crowder to the medical unit, asked about his medication, and asked whether he would be willing to change the time he took the medication to avoid leaving his work assignment. Id. ¶¶ 57-58. Mr. Crowder allegedly responded that the type of medication was none of Mr. Alvarez's business and that he was not willing to change the medication schedule that had been in place since 2005. Id. That afternoon, Mr. Crowder wrote to Warden Chapdelaine, Deputy Warden Guadaramma and Deputy Warden Mudano to inform them that Mr. Alvarez was trying to interfere with Mr. Crowder's medical appointments. Id. ¶ 59.

         When Mr. Crowder reported for work the following day, May 21, 2015, he was met by Mr. Alvarez and Nurse McCrystal. Id. ¶ 60. Mr. Alvarez allegedly had led Nurse McCrystal to believe that Mr. Crowder wanted to change the time of his medication. Id. Mr. Crowder stated that he did not want any change. Id. Since then, Mr. Alvarez allegedly has acted contemptuously toward Mr. Crowder, including allegedly by telling Mr. Crowder that Deputy Warden Guadaramma was his best friend. Id. ¶ 61. In response to Mr. Crowder's letter, Deputy Warden Mudano allegedly spoke with Mr. Alvarez who stated that he had tried to make accommodations for Mr. Crowder with the medical department but Mr. Crowder was uncooperative. Id. ¶ 62.

         Mr. Alvarez allegedly then prevented Mr. Crowder from leaving his job to take his MS medication until an hour past his scheduled time. Id. ¶ 63. By the time he arrived, the pharmacy nurse would usually be “out in the building passing out medication to other units so [Mr. Crowder] sometimes had to wait a day” to get his medication. Id. When Mr. Crowder asked to leave to take his medication, Mr. Alvarez allegedly told him that he could not come and go as he pleased. Id. ¶ 64.

         Mr. Crowder also allegedly noticed that, while he faced these restrictions, other gym workers were allowed to go to the library instead of to work, or to go to a meditation program instead of to work. Id. ¶¶ 65-67. On June 2, 2015, Mr. Crowder allegedly asked Mr. Alvarez about this disparity, and Mr. Alvarez told Mr. Crowder that if he did not like the rules he could “reclass.” Id. ¶ 67.

         On June 3, 2015, Mr. Crowder allegedly was working in the office distributing and collecting equipment. Id. ¶ 68. After the last piece of equipment had been returned at the end of the recreation period, Mr. Crowder allegedly told Mr. Alvarez that he was going to the medical unit and would see him later. Id. Mr. Crowder allegedly was told by other inmates and correctional officers that Mr. Alvarez “went ballistic” and accused Mr. Crowder of disrespecting his authority and walking out without telling him. Id. ¶ 69.

         Mr. Crowder allegedly was not permitted in the gym from June 3, 2015, until the morning of June 9, 2015, including for his regular recreation period. Id. ¶ 70. On June 9, 2015, Mr. Crowder was allegedly called to the gym and asked to sign a bad work report which would terminate his job, which he refused to sign. Id. ¶ 71.

         On June 9, 2015, Mr. Crowder was allegedly transferred to a housing unit with inmates newly admitted to the facility or just coming off segregation. Id. ¶ 73. While there, Mr. Crowder was unable to go to the gym or participate in any recreational programs; the immobility allegedly affected his MS, which required that he exercise regularly. Id. Mr. Crowder remained in this housing unit for over three months. Id. ΒΆ 74. During that time, Mr. ...

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