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Smalls v. Wright

United States District Court, D. Connecticut

July 25, 2018

VICTOR SMALLS, Plaintiff,
v.
CARSON WRIGHT, Defendant.

          RULING RE: MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT (DOC. NO. 71)

          Janet C. Hall United States District Judge

         I. INTRODUCTION

         Plaintiff Victor Smalls (“Smalls”) brings this action against Dr. Carson Wright (“Dr. Wright”) for deliberate indifference to a serious medical need in violation of the Eighth Amendment and for violating his right to receive adequate information about medical treatment in violation of the Fourteenth Amendment. Dr. Wright has moved for summary judgment. (Doc. No. 71). For the reasons that follow, Dr. Wright's Motion for Summary Judgment is granted.

         II. FACTUAL BACKGROUND

         On August 22, 2016, Smalls was transferred to Northern Correctional Institution. Def.'s Local Rule 56(a)1 Statement (“Def.'s L.R. 56(a)1”) (Doc. No. 71-2) at 1 ¶ 3; Pl.'s Local Rule 56(a)2 Statement (“Pl.'s L.R. 56(a)2”) (Doc. No. 79-3) at 1 ¶ 3. Dr. Wright is the Principal Physician at Northern Correctional Institution, where he oversees medical care provided to inmates incarcerated at the facility. Def.'s L.R. 56(a)1 at 1 ¶ 2; Pl.'s L.R. 56(a)2 at 1 ¶ 2. The day Smalls arrived at Northern Correctional Institution, he met with Nurse Mosier, and, on August 24, 2016, he met with Dr. Gagne. Def.'s L.R. 56(a)1 at 1 ¶ 4; Pl.'s L.R. 56(a)2 at 1 ¶ 4. On September 13, 2016, Smalls filed a grievance seeking an MRI for his head and back and complaining of Dr. Wright's failure to address prior requests he had filed for treatment for his head and back pain. Medical Documents (Doc. No. 72), Ex. 4 at 2.

         On September 20, 2016, Dr. Wright met with Smalls. Def.'s L.R. 56(a)1 at 2 ¶ 8; Pl.'s L.R. 56(a)2 at 2 ¶ 8. Dr. Wright added medications and increased the dosage of other medications. Def.'s L.R. 56(a)1 at 2 ¶ 9; Pl.'s L.R. 56(a)2 at 2 ¶ 9; Medical Documents, Ex. 5 at 1-2. Smalls continued taking Elavil, which he had been using long before the September 2016 visit with Dr. Wright. Def.'s L.R. 56(a)1 at 3 ¶ 14; Pl.'s L.R. 56(a)2 at 3 ¶ 14. Dr. Wright denied Smalls's request for an MRI, but ordered a second X-ray. Def.'s L.R. 56(a)1 at 2 ¶¶ 10, 12; Pl.'s L.R. 56(a)2 at 2 ¶¶ 10, 12. An X-ray of Smalls's thoracic spine taken on July 21, 2016, had revealed an age-indeterminate fracture of the right transverse process of T12. Def.'s L.R. 56(a)1 at 2 ¶ 11; Pl.'s L.R. 56(a)2 at 2 ¶ 11; Medical Documents, Ex. 3 at 3. An X-ray of Smalls's lumbar spine performed on October 5, 2016, did not reveal abnormalities and the fracture that appeared on the July 21, 2016, X-ray was not visible. Def.'s L.R. 56(a)1 at 2 ¶ 11; Pl.'s L.R. 56(a)2 at 2 ¶ 11.

         On December 23, 2016, upon the recommendation of Dr. Wright and Nurse Barbara, Smalls requested an increase to his dose of Elavil. Def.'s L.R. 56(a)1 at 3 ¶ 16; Pl.'s L.R. 56(a)2 at 3 ¶ 16; Exs. to Pl.'s Obj. to Def.'s Mot. for Summ. J. (Doc. No. 80) at 8. Following a January 14, 2017, grievance Smalls filed complaining of side effects due to Elavil, Dr. Wright met with Smalls on January 24, 2017. Pl.'s L.R. 56(a)2 at 2 ¶ 13. The January 24, 2017 visit was the first time Dr. Wright advised Smalls of side effects from Elavil. Pl.'s L.R. 56(a)2 at 2 ¶ 13. During the visit, Smalls told Dr. Wright, “to please take me off the medication and to give me something else because not only are the side effects too much, the medication doesn't work.” Id. Dr. Wright replied, “Elavil is all we got so you can either suffer with it or without it.” Id. at 2-3 ¶ 13. In order to avoid symptoms of withdrawal, a patient must be taken off Elavil through gradual tapering of the dosage. Pl.'s L.R. 56(a)2 at 3 ¶ 15. Smalls continued to take Elavil after filing his Amended Complaint. Def.'s L.R. 56(a)1 at 3 ¶ 15; Pl.'s L.R. 56(a)2 at 3 ¶ 15.

         III. LEGAL STANDARD

         On a motion for summary judgment, the burden is on the moving party to establish that there are no genuine issues of material fact in dispute and that the party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. See Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 256 (1986); Wright v. N.Y. State Dep't of Corr., 831 F.3d 64, 71-72 (2d Cir. 2016). Once the moving party has met its burden, in order to defeat the motion, the nonmoving party “must set forth specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial, ” Anderson, 477 U.S. at 256, and present “such proof as would allow a reasonable juror to return a verdict in [its] favor, ” Graham v. Long Island R.R., 230 F.3d 34, 38 (2d Cir. 2000). “An issue of fact is genuine and material if the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party.” Cross Commerce Media, Inc. v. Collective, Inc., 841 F.3d 155, 162 (2d Cir. 2016).

         In assessing the record to determine whether there are disputed issues of material fact, the trial court must “resolve all ambiguities and draw all inferences in favor of the party against whom summary judgment is sought.” LaFond v. Gen. Physics Servs. Corp., 50 F.3d 165, 175 (2d Cir. 1995). “Where it is clear that no rational finder of fact ‘could find in favor of the nonmoving party because the evidence to support its case is so slight,' summary judgment should be granted.” F.D.I.C. v. Great Am. Ins. Co., 607 F.3d 288, 292 (2d Cir. 2010) (quoting Gallo v. Prudential Residential Servs., Ltd. P'ship, 22 F.3d 1219, 1224 (2d Cir. 1994)). On the other hand, where “reasonable minds could differ as to the import of the evidence, ” the question must be left to the finder of fact. Cortes v. MTA N.Y. City Transit, 802 F.3d 226, 230 (2d Cir. 2015) (quoting R.B. Ventures, Ltd. v. Shane, 112 F.3d 54, 59 (2d Cir. 1997)).

         IV. DISCUSSION

         A. Eighth Amendment Claim

         1. Legal Standard

         The Supreme Court has held that deliberate indifference by prison officials to a prisoner's serious medical needs constitutes cruel and unusual punishment in violation of the Eighth Amendment. See Estelle v. Gamble, 429 U.S. 97, 104 (1976). There are subjective and objective components of ...


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