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Ingram v. Sochacki

United States District Court, D. Connecticut

October 9, 2018

JOHN INGRAM, Plaintiff,
v.
DAVID SOCHACKI, D.D.S., et al. Defendants.

          RULING ON MOTION TO DISMISS (DOC. NO. 37) AND MOTION FOR LEAVE TO AMEND COMPLAINT (DOC. NO. 41)

          KARI A. DOOLEY, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         Preliminary Statement of the Case

         On May 24, 2017, the plaintiff, John Ingram, a prisoner currently confined at the Cheshire Correctional Center (“Cheshire”) in Connecticut, filed a complaint pro se under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against several state correctional dental care professionals for violating his rights under the Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments of the United States Constitution. Compl. (Doc. No. 1). Therein, he claims that the defendants acted with deliberate indifference to his dental needs by needlessly extracting several of his teeth and ignoring his requests for pain medication. Upon initial review of the complaint, the court determined that these constitutional claims were facially plausible as pled against the following defendants in their individual capacities: Dr. David Sochacki, Dr. John F. Dupont, Dr. Peter O'Shea, and Dr. Victor Shivy. Initial Review Order (Doc. No. 5). The court also permitted the plaintiff's claims against Dr. Richard Benoit, the Director of Dental Services for Correctional Managed Health Care (“CMHC”), in his official capacity for declaratory and injunctive relief.[1] Id.

         After service of the initial complaint, the plaintiff filed two amended complaints on May 2, 2018 and May 31, 2018. (Doc. Nos. 30, 36). The court granted his first motion to amend the complaint; Order No. 35; but before it could rule on the second amended complaint (Doc. No. 36), the defendants filed the instant motion to dismiss that complaint under Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6). (Doc. No. 37). On August 10, 2018, the plaintiff filed both an opposition to the defendants' motion to dismiss the second amended complaint and a motion for leave to file a third amended complaint. (Doc. Nos. 42 and 41). The defendants thereafter filed an objection to the plaintiff's motion for leave to file the third amended complaint, contending that they did not give consent to the amendment and that the attempt to amend is futile because the claims stated in the third amended complaint nevertheless fail to state a claim upon which relief could be granted. (Doc. No. 43).

         In keeping with the principle of construing pro se filings liberally, and for purposes of clarity, the court considers the amended factual allegations in the plaintiff's third amended complaint (Doc. No. 41-1) along with his written opposition in ruling on the motion to dismiss. See Armand v. Osborne, No. 11-CV-4182 (NGG), 2014 WL 723381, *6 (E.D.N.Y. Feb. 24, 2014) (court considers motion to amend in conjunction with additional factual allegations in opposition to motion to dismiss); Lumaj v. Williams, No. 03-CIV-1849 (PKC), 2004 WL 1207894, *2 (S.D.N.Y. Jun. 2, 2004) (court considered whether allegations stated in amended pleading, if true, would withstand motion to dismiss). Thus, the motion for leave to amend the complaint is GRANTED. The clerk is directed to docket the third amended complaint (Doc. No. 41-1) as a separate entry. The plaintiff is hereby notified that the third amended complaint constitutes the operative complaint. No further amendments to his complaint will be permitted absent a showing of good cause.

         For purposes of the motion to dismiss, the third amended complaint shall be considered the operative pleading. For the following reasons, the motion to dismiss is GRANTED in part and DENIED in part.

         Standard of Review

         To withstand scrutiny under Rule 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 . . . plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant[s] [are] liable for the misconduct alleged.” Id. The plausibility standard is not a probability requirement; the complaint must show, not merely allege, that the plaintiff is entitled to relief. See id.

         “Although all allegations contained in the complaint are assumed to be true, this tenet is ‘inapplicable to legal conclusions.'” LaMagna v. Brown, 474 Fed.Appx. 788, 789 (2d Cir. 2012) (quoting Ashcroft, 556 U.S. at 678). See also Amaker v. New York State Dept. of Corr. Servs., 435 Fed.Appx. 52, 54 (2d Cir. 2011) (same). Accordingly, the court is not “bound to accept conclusory allegations or legal conclusions masquerading as factual conclusions.” Faber v. Metro. Life Ins. Co., 648 F.3d 98, 104 (2d Cir. 2011) (quoting Rolon v. Henneman, 517 F.3d 140, 149 (2d Cir. 2008) (internal quotation marks omitted)). Consequently, “[t]hreadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action, supported by mere conclusory statements, do not suffice.” Ashcroft, 556 U.S. at 678 (citing Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555).

         “Where . . . the complaint was filed pro se, it must be construed liberally with ‘special solicitude' and interpreted to raise the strongest claims that it suggests.” Hogan v. Fischer, 738 F.3d 509, 515 (2d Cir. 2013) (quoting Hill v. Curcione, 657 F.3d 116, 122 (2d Cir. 2011)). Nevertheless, a pro se plaintiff's complaint still must “state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.” Mancuso v. Hynes, 379 Fed.Appx. 60, 61 (2d Cir. 2010) (quoting Ashcroft, 556 U.S. at 678). Therefore, even in a pro se case, “threadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action, supported by mere conclusory statements, do not suffice.” Chavis v. Chappius, 618 F.3d 162, 170 (2d Cir. 2010) (citation and internal quotation marks omitted).

         Factual Allegations

         The plaintiff alleges the following facts in his third amended complaint. (Doc. No. 41-1). In July 2012, the plaintiff wrote a request to the dental department at Cheshire complaining of severe pain in his lower front teeth. 3d Am. Compl. ¶ 15. The plaintiff had been taking ibuprofen for his pain for two to three weeks, but it was ineffective in alleviating the pain. Id. In his written complaint, the plaintiff requested a root canal for his teeth. Id. at ¶ 16. He waited three weeks before he was able to see a dentist. Id.

         In August 2012, the plaintiff was examined by Dr. Shivy “and/or” Dr. Sochacki. Id. at ¶ 17. Sochacki took x-rays of the plaintiff's lower front teeth. Id. at ¶ 18. Then, he “and/or” Shivy informed the plaintiff that his number 23 and 24 teeth needed to be extracted because the CMHC does not allow for root canals. Id. at ¶ 19. The doctors gave the plaintiff pain medication and scheduled him for the teeth extraction procedure. Id. at ¶ 20.

         Over the next several weeks, the plaintiff continued to experience severe pain in his lower front teeth. Id. at ¶ 21. The pain medication that Shivy and Sochacki provided was ineffective in alleviating his pain. Id. The plaintiff wrote another inmate request and an administrative grievance regarding his pain and the inadequacy of the pain medication, but both documents went unanswered. Id. at ¶¶ 22-24.

         In September 2012, the plaintiff underwent the teeth extraction “after being told once again by [Dr.] Dupont or again by [Dr.] Sochacki” that the CMHC does not perform root canals. Id. at ¶ 26. After the procedure, the plaintiff was denied pain medication. Id. at ¶ 27. One or two days later, he once again began experiencing severe pain in the area of his lower front teeth. Id. at ¶ 28.

         On September 12, 2012, the plaintiff wrote a request to the dental unit for pain medication, but the request went unanswered. Id. at ¶¶ 29-30. Sochacki “should have called [him] down” for an appointment because he managed the dental unit at Cheshire but did not do so. Id. at ΒΆ 29. Days later, the ...


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