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Gaines v. Wright

United States District Court, D. Connecticut

October 31, 2018

NORMAN GAINES, Plaintiff,
v.
WRIGHT, et al., Defendants.

          RULING ON DEFENDANTS' MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT

          KARI A. DOOLEY UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         Preliminary Statement

         The plaintiff, Norman Gaines (“Gaines”), an incarcerated person, in this civil rights action, claims that the defendants were deliberately indifferent to his serious medical needs in violation of his 8th Amendment rights. The extensive and protracted procedural history of the plaintiff's claims need not be recited here. It shall suffice to note that following court review of the Third Amended Complaint, two claims remain: that Dr. Johnny Wright (Dr. Wright) was deliberately indifferent to Gaines' complaints of pain, and that Dr. Naqvi and Nurse Good failed to provide a prescribed knee brace, also a deliberate indifference claim. ECF 90. Each of these defendants has filed a motion for summary judgment to which the plaintiff has objected. For the reasons that follow, the motion is GRANTED as to defendants Dr. Naqvi and Nurse Good and DENIED as to defendant Dr. Wright.

         Standard of Review

         A motion for summary judgment may be granted only where there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Rule 56(a), Fed. R. Civ. P.; see also Redd v. New York Div. of Parole, 678 F.3d 166, 173-74 (2d Cir. 2012). “When the nonmoving party will bear the burden of proof at trial, the moving party can satisfy its burden at summary judgment by ‘pointing out to the district court' the absence of a genuine dispute with respect to any essential element of its opponent's case: ‘a complete failure of proof concerning an essential element of the nonmoving party's case necessarily renders all other facts immaterial.'” Cohane v. National Collegiate Athletic Ass'n, 612 Fed.Appx. 41, 43 (2d Cir. 2015) (quoting Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323 (1986)).

         Once the moving party meets this burden, the nonmoving party must set forth specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial. Wright v. Goord, 554 F.3d 255, 266 (2d Cir. 2009). He cannot “‘rely on conclusory allegations or unsubstantiated speculation' but ‘must come forward with specific evidence demonstrating the existence of a genuine dispute of material fact.'” Robinson v. Concentra Health Servs., 781 F.3d 42, 34 (2d Cir. 2015) (citation omitted). He must present such evidence as would allow a jury to find in his favor in order to defeat the motion for summary judgment. Graham v. Long Island R.R., 230 F.3d 34, 38 (2d Cir. 2000). Although the court is required to read a self-represented “party's papers liberally and interpret them to raise the strongest arguments that they suggest, ” Willey v. Kirkpatrick, 801 F.3d 51, 62 (2d Cir. 2015), “unsupported allegations do not create a material issue of fact” and do not overcome a properly supported motion for summary judgment. Weinstock v. Columbia Univ., 224 F.3d 33, 41 (2d Cir. 2000).

         Facts

         It is undisputed that Gaines first complained about right knee pain in November 2014 when he was incarcerated at Northern Correctional. Nor is there a dispute as to the dates and times on which the plaintiff received medications. Dr. Clements prescribed 600mg of Motrin, a pain reliever, for the period from December 2014, through March 2015. On February 13, 2015, Gaines was transferred to Osborn Correctional Institution where he was treated by defendant Dr. Wright. On April 17, 2015, Dr. Breton renewed Gaines' Motrin prescription for six months. Gaines was issued twenty pills on that date.

         Dr. Wright submitted an affidavit in which he states that Gaines first complained to him of knee pain on August 4, 2015. However, Gaines' affidavit indicates that he saw Dr. Wright in March 2015 and submitted many requests for treatment of knee pain prior to the August 2015 visit. He further states that Dr. Wright failed to respond to his many requests for pain medication. For this reason alone, Dr. Wright's motion for summary judgment must be denied. However, further examination of the submissions is appropriate.

         Following his August 4, 2015 appointment with Dr. Wright, Gaines received twenty Motrin tablets on August 5, 2015. Dr. Wright saw Gaines on September 10, 2015, for a follow-up appointment. Dr. Wright reviewed Gaines' knee x-ray and renewed the Motrin order for six months. The medication order is reflected in the medication records submitted by the defendants. However, those records show that Gaines was actually given medication on September 19, 2015 only.

         Dr. Wright saw Gaines again on April 20, 2016, for an unrelated injury to his left biceps. Dr. Wright prescribed Flexeril, a muscle relaxer, for seven days and Motrin for thirty days. He also sent Gaines to the emergency room. Gaines acknowledges that he received the Motrin but asserts that it was prescribed for his biceps injury not his knee injury.

         Dr. Wright saw Gaines on June 20, 2016. Dr. Wright ordered a “right knee support with donut buttress, which is a type of knee brace with a neoprene sleeve designed to stabilize and control the patella and support the knee joint.” Gaines received the brace the same day. Again, Gaines acknowledges these events but avers that this was not a scheduled appointment but rather a chance meeting in the hallway. He further states that Dr. Wright failed to provide any pain medication on June 20, 2016. This is one of several ways in which the plaintiff disagrees with the medical records. While he acknowledges that he was treated on the days indicated, he generally avers that they are incomplete, misleading, and inaccurate in terms of what he reported at the appointments with medical personnel. He avers that he was regularly and consistently complaining of knee pain at just about every medical appointment.

         Following surgery on his biceps, Dr. Wright saw Gaines in the infirmary on August 11, 2016. Gaines was prescribed two pain relievers, 325 mg aspirin and Tylenol with codeine. Dr. Wright also issued Gaines a bottom bunk pass for three months. Gaines does not dispute receiving the medications but again argues that they were prescribed for issues relating to his biceps injury, not his knee.

         On September 23, 2016, Gaines had a follow-up visit at the University of Connecticut Health Center regarding his surgery. During the visit, Gaines complained about his knee injury. The doctor noted in the record that he would order an MRI of the right knee and recommended a hinged knee brace for stability. On September 27, 2016, Dr. Wright submitted a request to the Utilization Review Committee for an MRI of Gaines' right knee. The request was initially denied. Dr. Wright appealed the ...


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