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Lebron v. Semple

United States District Court, D. Connecticut

August 6, 2018

LUIS A. LEBRON, Plaintiff,
v.
SCOTT SEMPLE, et al., Defendants.

          INITIAL REVIEW ORDER PURSUANT TO 28 U.S.C. § 1915A

          JEFFREY ALKER MEYER UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         Plaintiff Luis Lebron is a prisoner in the custody of the Connecticut Department of Correction (“DOC”). He has filed a complaint pro se and in forma pauperis under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against Commissioner Scott Semple, former Commissioner Leo Arnone, Correction Officer Williams, Nurse Parker, Correction Officer McMahon, Dr. Wright, Dr. Ruiz, Warden Brighthaupt, and several unidentified DOC officials. After an initial review, I conclude that the complaint should proceed as to plaintiff's Eighth Amendment claim for deliberate indifference to safety and serious medical needs as to some of the defendants.

         Background

         The following facts are alleged in the complaint and are accepted as true only for purposes of this initial ruling. On August 7, 2015, plaintiff was transported via a correctional transport unit (“CTU”) vehicle to the UConn Medical Health Center. At approximately 5:00 p.m., Officer Williams picked him up from the health center to bring him back to Cheshire Correctional Institution. Williams was clearly upset, angry, and in a rush to finish her transport duties. While driving, Williams made and received calls on her cell phone, sped, and drove recklessly on the highways and streets. Plaintiff believes Williams was attempting to have another officer cover her transport duties so that she could attend to a personal matter. Doc. #1 at 3-4 (¶¶ 1-4).

         At approximately 6:30 p.m., Williams and plaintiff arrived at the New Haven Correctional Center (“NHCC”) to pick up and drop off other inmates. There, Williams asked several staff members to take over her transport duties, but no one volunteered. Visibly upset, she reentered the CTU van in which plaintiff was still confined and tossed her phone on the center console. Then, she started the van, shifted the gears into reverse, and began backing up when her cell phone rang. Williams picked up her cell phone and “unexpectedly gunned the vehicle in reverse, ” crashing into the side of the facility's sally port area. She then drove off, turned onto a one-way street, and nearly collided with another CTU van. The driver of the other CTU van exited his vehicle, confronted Williams, and told her to report the incident and seek medical attention for the inmate passengers. Williams then turned around and drove back to NHCC, where NHCC staff were assessing the damage at the crash site. Id. at 4 (¶¶ 5-9)

         While back at NHCC, plaintiff and the other inmates exited the van and informed several officials that they were in pain from the accident and required medical attention. Plaintiff and five other inmates were placed in a nearby building for over an hour and a half without any medical treatment. Around 8:30 p.m., defendant Nurse Parker examined plaintiff for injuries. She drafted a medical report of her evaluation, in which she noted that plaintiff expressed that he was experiencing nausea, pain is his neck, back, and shoulders, and an elevated blood pressure. She also recorded that she had administered pain medication to plaintiff and that a follow-up appointment was needed. Plaintiff reviewed and signed the report and then returned to “the bullpen.” Id. at 4-5 (¶¶ 10-14).

         Around 9:20 p.m., plaintiff was removed from “the bullpen, ” placed in another CTU vehicle, and transported back to Cheshire. He arrived at Cheshire at around 10:30 p.m. There, another nurse evaluated him and took his vitals. She then instructed him to visit the medical unit before returning to his housing unit because his vital signs were abnormal. Around 10:50 p.m., plaintiff went to the medical unit as instructed and was examined by another nurse. He informed the nurse that he was dizzy, nauseous, and experiencing serious neck and back pain. The nurse ordered pain medication and noted that plaintiff needed to be evaluated by defendant Dr. Ruiz the following morning on August 8. Id. at 5-6 (¶¶ 15-18); Doc. #1-1 at 2 (medical report).

         The next day, August 8, 2015, Dr. Ruiz did not evaluate plaintiff. Instead, another nurse examined plaintiff and noted that his vitals were still abnormal and that he was given pain medication. She assured plaintiff that Dr. Ruiz would evaluate him, but the evaluation never occurred. Doc. #1 at 6 (¶¶ 19-20).

         The following day, August 9, 2015, plaintiff began experiencing severe back spasms. The unit officer saw plaintiff's condition and sent him to the medical unit. Plaintiff was examined by two nurses, one of whom placed a phone call and stated on the call that plaintiff was in obvious pain. The recipient of the call instructed the nurse to give plaintiff a shot. Afterward, plaintiff was informed that Dr. Ruiz would evaluate him in two weeks. But this visit with Dr. Ruiz never occurred. Id. at 6 (¶¶ 21-24).

         On August 11, 2015, plaintiff submitted a freedom of information (“FOI”) request to defendant Officer McMahon seeking copies of his medical reports, incident reports, pictures, and video evidence of the incident at NHCC. McMahon did not respond to the request. Plaintiff followed up with additional requests on September 26, November 1, and November 19. McMahon did not respond to any of them. On August 13, plaintiff sent a letter to then-Commissioner Arnone explaining the accident, lack of medical care for plaintiff, and DOC's failure to interview him about the accident or contact appropriate authorities. Id. at 6-7 (¶¶ 25- 29).

         On October 19, 2015, plaintiff filed a medical grievance concerning the lack of medical care for his accident-related injuries. On October 27, Nurse Estrom denied the grievance because plaintiff did not attempt an informal resolution prior to filing his grievance. But she informed plaintiff that he had been placed on the sick call list. Plaintiff appealed the denial of the grievance, but Nurse Estrom returned the appeal unanswered. Id. at 7-8 (¶¶ 32-34); Doc. #1-1 at 6-7 (grievance); 9-10 (appeal).

         On November 9, 2015, plaintiff sent a request to the medical records clerk requesting his medical reports and evaluations surrounding the incident at NHCC. He received the requested documents in mid-November, but he noticed that the medical report drafted by Nurse Parker on August 7 had been “switched/falsified.” Doc. #1 at 8 (¶¶ 35-36).

         Thereafter, plaintiff wrote to Warden Brighthaupt to request an investigation of the August 7 incident because he believed that there was an “obvious cover up conspiracy going on, ” but Brighthaupt did not respond. Id. at 8 (¶¶ 37-38)

         In December 2015, plaintiff asked his habeas attorney to request reports and video evidence from McMahon because McMahon would not respond to his FOI requests. On December 31, McMahon responded to the attorney's FOI request by acknowledging the receipt of the request. But he never provided the requested materials. Id. at 7 (¶¶ 30-31); Doc. #1-1 at 4 (letter acknowledging receipt of request).

         On January 20, 2016, plaintiff sent a second letter to Arnone requesting an investigation into the car accident, but Arnone did not respond. On February 22, he sent a letter to Commissioner Semple explaining the accident, lack of medical care, failure of DOC staff to respond to his letters and complaints, and failure of DOC staff to report the accident to the proper authorities. He sent a copy of the letter to the external affairs division with supporting documents. To date, plaintiff has not received any responses to his requests. Doc. #1 at 8-9 (¶¶ 39-42).

         Thereafter, Brighthaupt had plaintiff transferred from Cheshire to Osborn Correctional Institution because of his constant requests and letters about the accident. Plaintiff was later transferred back to Cheshire “out of harassment/retaliation.” On July 23, 2016, plaintiff submitted another FOI request for copies of the transfer orders, but no documents have been provided to him. Id. at 9 (¶¶ 43-46).

         On March 7, 2017, plaintiff submitted another FOI request for all documents related to the August 7 accident. He received five pages of documentation. While at Cheshire, plaintiff was given an ...


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