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Torres v. Uconn Health

United States District Court, D. Connecticut

June 7, 2018

PEDRO GONZALEZ TORRES, Plaintiff,
v.
UCONN HEALTH, et al., Defendants.

          RULING ON PENDING MOTIONS

          STEFAN R. UNDERHILL UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         Pedro Gonzalez Torres (“Gonzalez”) commenced this action asserting various claims relating to his medical care while in the custody of the Connecticut Department of Connection. On August 29, 2017, I issued an Initial Review Order regarding Gonzalez's Amended Complaint, in which I directed service on defendant Nurse Rob Doe/Smith for deliberate indifference to serious medical needs and on defendants Nurse Barbara LaFrance, Dr. Johar Syed Naqvi, Commissioner Scott Semple, and Warden Carol Chapdelaine on a claim regarding the side-effects of Neurontin. See Doc. No. 30. The defendants have now filed a motion to dismiss the claims against Commissioner Semple, Warden Chapdelaine, and Nurse Rob, Doc. No. 54, as well as a motion to dismiss the complaint for failure to state a claim, Doc. No. 63, Gonzalez has filed a number of motions, including a motion for relief from judgment, Doc. No. 58; a motion for summary judgment, Doc. No. 60; a motion for default judgment, Doc. No. 62; and a motion to strike the defendants' second motion to dismiss, Doc. No. 65.

         For the reasons that follow, I grant the defendants' first motion to dismiss in part and deny it in part. I deny the defendants' second motion to dismiss, deny as moot Gonzalez's motion to strike, and deny both Gonzalez's motion for relief from a judgment or order and his motion for default judgment.

         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 Atl. 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 akin to a ‘probability requirement, ' but it asks for more than a sheer possibility that a defendant has acted unlawfully.” Id. (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556). 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. Id. Nevertheless, when reviewing a motion to dismiss, the court must accept well-pleaded 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).

         II. Facts

         Gonzalez's Amended Complaint makes the following allegations with regard to Commissioner Semple and Nurse Rob. (Neither the original nor the amended complaint contains any facts relating to Warden Chapdelaine.)

         On October 21, 2016, Gonzalez experienced chest pains and shortness of breath. At 8:30 a.m., Gonzalez asked Correctional Officer Shulz to call for medical assistance. Nurse Rob told Correctional Officer Shulz that chest pains were not considered an emergency and that he would call back. Sometime later, Correctional Officer Shulz again called and spoke to Nurse Rob with no results. Finally, Correctional Officer Shulz called the medical unit and spoke to someone else who directed that Gonzalez go to the medical unit.

         After waiting in the medical unit for 45 minutes, Gonzalez asked Nurse Rob when he would be seen. Nurse Rob became belligerent and commented that chest pains were not a medical emergency, that he had 28 inmates to see, and that Gonzalez could wait. Nurse Rob also threatened to send Gonzalez to segregation if an EKG failed to show he was having a heart attack. Gonzalez responded that something was wrong and that he could not breathe. Nurse Rob continued to see other inmates and ignored Gonzalez.

         At 12:05 p.m., Nurse David examined Gonzalez. He took Gonzalez's blood pressure and asked him a question. Nurse David instructed Gonzalez to sit in the waiting room until the facility count cleared. Gonzalez then returned to his cell.

         On November 23, 2016, Gonzalez claims to have written a letter to Commissioner Semple regarding the incident with Nurse Rob. He refers to that letter as Exhibit 20. That exhibit, however, is a complaint on a form from the Department of Public Health Division of Medical Quality Assurance addressed to the Clinical Director of Correctional Managed Health Care. See Ex. 20 to Am. Compl., Doc. No. 22, at 6-9.

         III. Discussion

         A. The Defendants' First Motion to Dismiss [Doc. No. 54]

         The defendants move to dismiss the claims against Warden Chapdelaine, Commissioner Semple, and Nurse Rob. With respect to Warden Chapdelaine and Commissioner Semple, the defendants argue that Gonzalez alleges no facts to support claims against them for deliberate indifference to serious medical needs. With respect to Nurse Rob, the defendants contend that his alleged actions do not rise to the level of deliberate indifferent to a serious medical need.

         1. Defendants Chapdelaine and Semple

         To state a cognizable claim for damages, Gonzalez must allege facts showing the “personal involvement” of each defendant in the alleged constitutional violation. Farrell v. Burke, 449 F.3d 470, 484 (2d Cir. 2006) (Sotomayor, J.). In the instant case, Gonzalez seeks damages as relief and also “[p]roper medical attention/treatment and follow up treatment.” See Doc. No. 20-1, at 10. The requested injunctive relief appears directed at his claims relating to the side-effects of medication, which are not at issue in the first motion to dismiss. I note, however, that I ordered service on Warden Chapdelaine and Commissioner Semple specifically with regard to the claim for side-effects of medication. Thus, Gonzalez's request for injunctive relief is applicable to Warden Chapdelaine and Commissioner Semple.

         Gonzalez names Warden Chapdelaine as a defendant, but he makes no mention of her in his statement of facts. It appears he has named her as a defendant solely due to her position as warden. “Government officials may not be held liable for the unconstitutional conduct of their subordinates under a theory of respondeat superior” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 676. Absent any claim that Warden Chapdelaine was personally involved in the allegedly unconstitutional conduct, Gonzalez cannot state a claim for damages against Warden Chapdelaine.[1]

         Gonzalez alleges that he wrote a letter to Commissioner Semple regarding the incident with Nurse Rob. Because “personal involvement of defendants in alleged constitutional deprivations is a prerequisite to an award of damages under [section] 1983, ” ...


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