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Deangelis v. Ashraf

United States District Court, D. Connecticut

November 6, 2018

DR. MAHOOB ASHRAF, et al. Defendants.



         On March 5, 2018, the plaintiff, Jeffery DeAngelis, an inmate currently confined at Osborn Correctional Institution (“Osborn”) in Somers, Connecticut, brought a civil action pro se under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against Dr. Mahoob Ashraf, Dr. Monica Farinella, the Correctional Managed Health Care (“CMHC”), the Connecticut Department of Correction (“DOC”), and DOC Commissioner Scott Semple for monetary and injunctive relief. Compl. [Doc. #1]. He claims that the defendants violated his Eighth Amendment protection against cruel and unusual punishment by acting with deliberate indifference to his serious medical needs. He also asserts state law claims of medical malpractice and negligence. For the following reasons, his complaint is dismissed in part.

         I. Relevant Legal Principles

         Under 28 U.S.C. § 1915A, the Court must review prisoner civil complaints and dismiss any portion of the complaint that is frivolous or malicious, that fails to state a claim upon which relief may be granted, or that seeks monetary relief from a defendant who is immune from such relief. Although detailed allegations are not required, the complaint must include sufficient facts to afford the defendants fair notice of the claims and the grounds upon which they are based and to demonstrate a right to relief. Bell Atlantic v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555-56 (2007). Conclusory allegations are not sufficient. Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009). The plaintiff must plead “enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.” Bell Atlantic, 550 U.S. at 570. Nevertheless, it is well-established that “[p]ro se complaints ‘must be construed liberally and interpreted to raise the strongest arguments that they suggest.'” Sykes v. Bank of America, 723 F.3d 399, 403 (2d Cir. 2013) (quoting Triestman v. Fed. Bureau of Prisons, 470 F.3d 471, 474 (2d Cir. 2006)); see also Tracy v. Freshwater, 623 F.3d 90, 101-02 (2d Cir. 2010) (discussing special rules of solicitude for pro se litigants).

         II. Factual Allegations

         In 2012, Dr. Ruiz at Cheshire Correctional Institution prescribed the plaintiff Elavil[1] to treat his severe nerve pain. Compl. ¶ 6. The plaintiff exhibited a bad reaction to Elavil, which included suicidal thoughts and confusion. Id. at ¶ 7. Thus, Dr. Ruiz stopped the Elavil and prescribed Neurontin instead.[2] Id. at ¶ 8.

         In July 2013, Dr. Valletta determined that Neurontin was ineffective in treating the plaintiff's condition. Compl. ¶ 9. Dr. Valletta discontinued the Neurontin and prescribed Lyrica[3] for the plaintiff, which was approved by the Utilization Review Committee (“URC”). Id. Dr. Valletta also ordered an echocardiogram (“ECG”) for the plaintiff, which was performed at the UConn Health Center on March 25, 2014. Id. at ¶ 10. The ECG showed cardiomyopathy tricuspid regurgitation[4] and right ventricular volume overload. Id. at ¶ 11. The cardiologist at UConn recommended annual ECGs to monitor the plaintiff's condition. Id. at ¶ 12.

         The plaintiff has had severe heart problems since childhood. Compl. ¶ 13. He once spent weeks in the intensive care unit at Yale Hospital because three out of four of his heart chambers had shut down from pulmonary hypertension. Id. at ¶ 14.

         On November 14, 2017, Dr. Joseph Breton diagnosed the plaintiff with Hepatitis-C and ordered additional testing. Compl. ¶¶ 15-16.

         In December 2017, the CMHC and the DOC instituted a policy for correction officials to crush Neurontin and Lyica capsules into a powder for inmates prescribed to take such medications. Compl. ¶ 17. Dr. Breton told the plaintiff that those medications should not be crushed because they are non-narcotic and are meant to be dissolved in the stomach after ingestion. Id. at ¶ 18. Afterward, Dr. Breton informed the plaintiff that he was resigning his position in the DOC because the URC repeatedly denied his orders for testing and treatment of inmate patients. Id. at ¶ 19.

         On March 20, 2018, Dr. Farinella, a member of the URC, ordered officials at Osborn to discontinue the plaintiff's Lyrica regimen, which he had been taking since July 2013, because the prescription was not part of a “habeas agreement.” Compl. ¶¶ 20, 22. She recommended a trial of Neurontin or Capsaicin[5] for the plaintiff instead. Id. at ¶ 22. When he was called down to the medical unit, the plaintiff contested Farinella's order, claiming that there never was any “habeas agreement” and that his previous use of Neurontin in 2012 had proven to be ineffective. Id. at ¶¶ 21, 23. As a result, Dr. Valletta applied for, and received approval from, the URC to put the plaintiff back on Lyrica. Id. at ¶ 24. Health Services Administrator (“HSA”) Furey also told the plaintiff that removing him from a Lyrica regimen could result in seizures or other dangerous health problems and that he would override Farinella's order. Id. at ¶¶ 25-26. The plaintiff continued to receive Lyrica for the next eight days. Id. at ¶ 27.

         On March 29, 2018, the plaintiff was called down to the medical unit to be evaluated by Dr. Ashraf, Dr. Breton's replacement. Compl. ¶ 28. Dr. Ashraf informed the plaintiff that Dr. Farinella had once again discontinued Lyrica. Id. at ¶ 29. The plaintiff attempted to explain his medical history, but Dr. Ashraf stated that there was nothing he could do about the discontinuation. Id. at ¶ 30. He ordered Capsaicin cream for the plaintiff and said, “Go away now, thank you.” Id. at ¶¶ 30-31.

         As the plaintiff was walking out of the medical unit, HSA Furey approached him, and the plaintiff told Furey what Dr. Ashraf had said about Lyrica. Compl. ¶ 32. Furey asked Dr. Ashraf whether he was going to “detox” the plaintiff before removing him from Lyrica, to which Dr. Ashraf replied, “I'll take care of him.” Id. at ¶ 33. Later that day, when medications were delivered, a nurse informed the plaintiff she did not have anything for him because Lyrica was discontinued. Id. at ¶ 34.

         The plaintiff began to suffer extreme withdrawal symptoms, including headache, fever, nausea, diarrhea, and chills. Compl. ¶ 35. He was unable to move, walk, sleep, or eat. Id. The symptoms continued for five days until he was called to the medical unit on April 3, 2018. Id. at ¶ 36. Because the plaintiff could not move, a nurse came to his housing unit and brought him 200 mg of Lyica, his usual dosage. Id. She informed him that the medical staff had “messed up [because he] was supposed to be tapered off” the Lyrica regimen. Id. Thereafter, the plaintiff submitted numerous requests, grievances, health services reviews, and appeals regarding the discontinuation of his Lyrica regimen. Id. at ¶¶ 37-39.

         The plaintiff later learned that the DOC publicly announced its decision to terminate its long-standing contract with UConn Health Center, which provided healthcare to its inmate population. Compl. ¶ 40.[6] The contract was set to expire on July 1, 2018. Id. at ΒΆ 41. Commissioner ...

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