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Walker v. Wright

United States District Court, D. Connecticut

May 15, 2018

EUGENE LIONEL WALKER, Plaintiff,
v.
CARSON WRIGHT, et al. Defendants.

          RULING ON DEFENDANTS' MOTION TO DISMISS AND/OR MOTION FOR JUDGMENT ON THE PLEADINGS (DOC. NO. 39)

          Janet C. Hall United States District Judge.

         The plaintiff, Eugene Lionel Walker (“Walker”), currently incarcerated at Corrigan-Radgowski Correctional Center in Uncasville, Connecticut, has filed an Amended Complaint pro se under section 1983 of title 42 of the United States Code. The defendants are Dr. Carson Wright and Nurses Barbara Savoie, Shannon Lawrence, Wanda Verville, Darnella Burke, and Debra Wilson. The defendants now move to dismiss all claims. See Motion to Dismiss and/or Motion for Judgment on the Pleadings (“Mot. to Dismiss”) (Doc. No. 39). They ask the court to consider their Motion as a Motion for Judgment on the Pleadings as to Dr. Wright, the only defendant to have filed an Answer, and a Motion to Dismiss as to all other defendants.

         For the reasons that follow, the defendants' Motion is granted in part.

         I. STANDARD OF REVIEW

         To withstand a motion to dismiss filed pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6), “a complaint must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to ‘state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.'” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (quoting Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007)). “A claim has facial plausibility when the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged.” Id. The plausibility standard is not a probability requirement; the pleading must show, not merely allege, that the pleader is entitled to relief. Id. When reviewing a motion to dismiss, the court must accept the complaint's factual allegations as true and draw all reasonable inferences in the non-movant's favor. Graziano v. Pataki, 689 F.3d 110, 114 (2d Cir. 2012). However, legal conclusions and “[t]hreadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action, supported by mere conclusory statements, ” are not entitled to a presumption of truth. Ashcroft, 556 U.S. at 678.

         The standard for granting a motion for judgment on the pleadings is identical to that of a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss. Willey v. Kirkpatrick, 801 F.3d 51, 61-62 (2d Cir. 2015) (noting that court employs same standard on motions for judgment on the pleadings under Rule 12(c) and motions to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6), namely whether “the complaint contains sufficient factual matter that, if accepted as true, states a plausible claim for relief.”).

         II. FACTS

         On February 8, 2014, Walker was housed at Northern Correctional Institution (“Northern”) as a pretrial detainee. He informed Nurse Savoie, while she was doing rounds, that he was unable to move from his bunk because of severe back pain. Walker also reported that the right side of his nose was clogged, and he was experiencing pain behind his right eye. He asked to see a doctor. See Amended Complaint (“Am. Compl.”) (Doc. No. 29) at ¶ 1. Savoie told Walker that the doctor was at Northern only on certain days, but said that she would call the doctor and explain his symptoms. See id. at ¶ 2. Nurse Savoie did so and told Walker that Dr. Wright had prescribed Motrin and Flexeril for ten days. See id. at ¶ 3.

         On February 11, 2014, Walker explained to Dr. Wright that the medication was helping his back, but he still could not breathe through the right side of his nose and had a heavy, painful feeling in his eyes and, now, also experienced a bad tasting fluid going down the back of his throat. Dr. Wright told him to continue taking the Motion and Flexeril for the prescribed period. See id. at ¶ 4. On February 19, 2014, Walker submitted a written request to see the doctor because the painful pressure behind his right eye was worsening, and he was having difficulty opening his eye. The other symptoms had not changed. See id. at ¶ 5. Nurse Lawrence saw Walker on February 21, 2014. See id. at ¶ 6. After speaking with Dr. Wright, Nurse Lawrence told Walker that his Motrin prescription had been renewed for three months. See id. at ¶ 7.

         On March 2, 2014, Nurse Verville saw Walker for complaints of a swollen and painful right eye and inability to sleep due to headaches and pain. Nurse Verville diagnosed a stye in his eye and recommended warm compresses and Motrin. See Id. at ¶ 8. By March 5, 2014, Walker was experiencing drainage from his eye, an inability to open his eye, recurring headaches, a clogged nose, a heavy feeling in his face, and an inability to sleep. Nurse Lawrence questioned the diagnosis of a stye, but recommended that Walker continue the compresses and Motrin. Nurse Lawrence spoke with Dr. Wright who prescribed erythromycin ointment for Walker's eye. See Id. at ¶ 9.

         Over the next two weeks, Walker's symptoms worsened. His cellmate reported to custodial staff that Walker was stumbling and displaying unusual behavior. See id. at ¶ 10. Walker was taken by ambulance to the University of Connecticut Health Center for evaluation. See id. at ¶ 11. On March 19, 2014, Walker underwent emergency surgery for an intracranial cerebral abscess. See id. at ¶ 12. Doctors told Walker that his condition had been life-threatening and was caused by an untreated sinus infection. See id. at ¶¶ 13-14.

         On August 9, 2016, Walker was a sentenced prisoner confined at Cheshire Correctional Institution (“Cheshire”). He submitted a request to see Dr. Ruiz for complaints of a severe headache and “funny feeling” in his face. See id. at ¶ 15. He received no response. A few days later, Walker experienced multiple seizures. He went into a coma after being rushed to the hospital. See id. at ¶ 16.

         On the morning of February 23, 2017, Nurse Burke did not give Walker his anti-seizure medication. See id. at ¶ 17. During morning recreation, Walker asked Correctional Officer Reid (“Reid”) to contact the medical unit and tell them that he had not received his medication. The medical unit stated that the log indicated that Walker had received his medication. See id. at ¶ 18.

         Walker began feeling dizzy and asked for his “PRN.”[1] Reid called the medical unit. Walker told Reid that he was not going to lock up in his cell because the medical staff said he could wait for the medication. See id. at ¶ 19. The unit manager contacted the medical unit and was told to send Walker to the unit. See id. at ¶ 20.

         Around noon, Walker saw Dr. Ruiz and explained that he had not received his morning medication. Nurse Wilson told Dr. Ruiz that Walker had received his medication and was lying. Walker asked Dr. Ruiz to have someone check the surveillance footage. Dr. Ruiz asked Nurse Wilson to do so. See id. at ¶ 21.

         Shortly thereafter, Nurse Wilson gave Walker his PRN medication and told him to return to the housing unit even though Dr. Ruiz had told Walker to wait so they could “figure out the problem.” Id. at ¶ 22. That same day, Walker wrote to the nursing supervisor and submitted a grievance. He also requested that Deputy Warden Viger preserve the surveillance footage. See id. at ¶ 23. On February 24, 2014, Walker was transferred to Corrigan-Radgowski Correctional Center. See id. at ¶ 24.

         During the three years since his emergency surgery, Walker has experienced several hospital stays, including time in the intensive care unit, several weeks in the prison infirmary, seizures, a coma, and countless doctor's appointments and medical procedures as well as retaliatory treatment by medical staff. See id. at ¶ 25. He has a prominent scar several inches long from his hairline into his forehead. See id. at ¶ 26. He experiences constant headaches and must take seizure medication, which also causes headaches. He needs continuing medical care and is left with some permanent impairment as a result of the untreated sinus infection. See id. at ¶ 27.

         III. DISCUSSION

         First, Walker alleges that all defendants were deliberately indifferent to his serious medical needs in violation of his rights under the Eighth and Sixth Amendments. See id. at 10-11. Second, he reasserts state law claims for negligence and medical malpractice. See id. at 11. These claims were dismissed in the Initial Review Order and are not revived by inclusion in the Amended Complaint.[2] See Initial Review Order (Doc. No. 9) at 10-11. Third, Walker alleges that his right to equal protection was violated because sentenced inmates are housed in correctional facilities staffed by doctors every day, while he, as a pretrial detainee, was housed in a facility with a doctor only on some days.[3] See Am. Compl. at 12.

         The defendants Move to Dismiss the Amended Complaint on the ground that Walker fails to state a cognizable claim against any defendant and the defendants are protected by qualified immunity. The defendants direct their arguments only to Walker's claim of deliberate ...


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