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Gonzalez v. Correctional Managed Health Care

United States District Court, D. Connecticut

November 6, 2018

ANGEL GONZALEZ, Plaintiff,
v.
CORRECTIONAL MANAGED HEALTH CARE, ET AL., Defendants.

          RULING AND ORDER

          Michael P. Shea, United States District Judge

         The plaintiff, Angel Gonzalez, is currently incarcerated at MacDougall-Walker Correctional Institution. He initiated this action by filing a civil rights complaint against fourteen State of Connecticut Department of Correction medical staff members. On January 12, 2018, the court granted the plaintiff leave to file an amended complaint, dismissed the amended complaint without prejudice for failure to comply with Rules 8 and 20 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, and directed the clerk to enter judgment for the defendants and close the case. See IRO, ECF No. 17 at 10-11. The court informed the plaintiff that he could move to reopen the case if he sought to file a second amended complaint that complied with Rules 8 and 20, Fed.R.Civ.P. and included only one of the five claims or sets of claims identified by the court in its order. See Id. On January 16, 2018, the Clerk entered judgment for the defendants.

         On January 19, 2018, the plaintiff filed a motion to reopen and to file a second amended complaint, but on January 31, 2018, moved to withdraw the motion. On February 7, 2018, the plaintiff filed a second motion to reopen the case and to file second amended complaint. On May 1, 2018, the court granted the motion to withdraw the first motion to reopen and denied the second motion to reopen and motion to file a second amended complaint without prejudice. See Order, ECF No. 24. The court concluded that the proposed second amended complaint did not comply with its order dismissing the complaint or Rules 8 or 20 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. The court permitted the plaintiff one more opportunity to file a second amended complaint that met the pleading and joinder requirements of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure and its order dismissing the complaint.

         Pending before the court is the plaintiff's third motion to reopen and to file a second amended complaint and the plaintiff's motion to amend the proposed second amended complaint attached to the third motion to reopen. For the reasons set forth below, the motion to amend the proposed second amended complaint is denied and the third motion to reopen and to file a second amended complaint will be granted.

         I. Motion to Reopen and to File a Second Amended Complaint [ECF No. 27]

         The plaintiff seeks to reopen the case and to file a second amended complaint to comply with the court's initial review order, which dismissed the complaint without prejudice, and the court's orders denying his second motion to reopen. The plaintiff contends that the proposed second amended complaint attached to the motion to reopen asserts only one claim or set of claims in compliance with the court's orders and the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure governing joinder.

         A review of the proposed second amended complaint reflects that the plaintiff has chosen to pursue his claims of improper treatment or lack of treatment at Cheshire for symptoms related to a surgical procedure he underwent in 2009. See Proposed Second Am. Compl., ECF No. 27-1 at 3-20. Because the proposed amended complaint seeks to pursue only one set of claims related to the plaintiff's medical treatment at Cheshire from 2012 to 2017, it satisfies Rule 20 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure.

         The motion to reopen and to file a second amended complaint is granted to the extent that it seeks to reopen the case and to the extent that it seeks to file a second amended complaint to pursue only the claims against Dr. Ruiz, Nurse Ventrella, Nurse Jane Doe, Nurse John Doe, and Director Maurer regarding medical treatment or lack of medical treatment during his confinement at Cheshire from late 2012 to May 31, 2017. The Clerk is directed to docket pages 3 to 45 of the motion file a second amended complaint, [ECF No. 27], as the Second Amended Complaint.

         II. Motion to Amend the Motion to Reopen [ECF No. 28]

         The plaintiff seeks to revise the request for punitive damages included in the Second Amended Complaint. Specifically, the plaintiff seeks to add a request for punitive damages against the defendants in their official capacities. A request for monetary damages against a defendant in his or her official capacity is barred by the Eleventh Amendment. See Kentucky v. Graham, 473 U.S. 159 (1985) (Eleventh Amendment, which protects the state from suits for monetary relief, also protects state officials sued for damages in their official capacity); Quern v. Jordan, 440 U.S. 332, 342 (1979) (Section 1983 does not override a state's Eleventh Amendment immunity). Thus, it would be futile to permit the plaintiff to amend his prayer for relief to include a request for punitive damages against the defendants in their official capacities. See Cuoco v. Moritsugu, 222 F.3d 99, 112 (2d Cir. 2000) (a district court need not grant leave to amend when amendment would be “futile”). Accordingly, the motion to amend, the prayer for relief in the Second Amended Complaint, is denied.

         III. Second Amended Complaint

         As indicated above, the Second Amended Complaint names Dr. Ricardo Ruiz, Nurse Jane Ventrella, Nurse Jane Doe, Nurse John Doe, and Director of Health Services Kathleen Maurer as defendants. In addition to punitive and compensatory damages, the plaintiff also seeks injunctive and declaratory relief.

         A. Standard of Review

         Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(b), the court must review prisoner civil complaints against governmental actors and “dismiss ... any portion of [a] complaint [that] is frivolous, malicious, or 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.” Id. Rule 8 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure requires that a complaint contain “a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2).

         Although detailed allegations are not required, “a complaint must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face. A claim has facial plausibility when a plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged.” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (internal quotation marks and citations omitted). A complaint that includes only “‘labels and conclusions,' ‘a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action' or ‘naked assertion[s]' devoid of ‘further factual enhancement, '” does not meet the facial plausibility standard. Id. (quoting Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555, 557 (2007)). Although courts still have an obligation to interpret “a pro se complaint liberally, ” the complaint must still include sufficient factual allegations to meet the standard of facial plausibility. See Harris v. Mills, 572 F.3d 66, 72 (2d Cir. 2009) (citations omitted).

         B. Facts

         On August 4, 2009 at Corrigan Correctional Institution, the plaintiff sustained an injury to his face while playing basketball in the recreation yard. See Second Am. Compl. at 7 ¶ 1. On August 14, 2009, the plaintiff underwent surgery at University of Connecticut Health Center (“UCONN”) to repair the injuries to his face. See Id. ¶ 2.

         Approximately nine months to a year after his surgery, the plaintiff began to experience painful tingling, itching, and burning sensations all over his head, face, neck, and upper chest. See Id. ¶ 3. The sensations caused the plaintiff to scream in pain and to experience paranoia, anxiety, and panic attacks. See Id. ¶ 4.

         On or about March 10, 2011, prison officials transferred the plaintiff to Cheshire Correctional Institution (“Cheshire”). See Id. ¶ 5. At some point in 2012, the plaintiff submitted a request to be seen at sick call for the painful tingling, itching, and burning sensations that he continued to experience all over his head, face, neck, and upper chest. See Id. ¶ 5.

         Two weeks after a Cheshire medical provider examined him, Dr. Ruiz evaluated the plaintiff's symptoms. See Id. ¶ 7. Dr. Ruiz determined that the plaintiff's symptoms were caused by his exposure to the shower water at Cheshire and prescribed an anti-fungal ointment, clotrimazole, to treat the symptoms. See Id. at 8 ¶¶ 9-10.

         At the end of 2012, the plaintiff requested to be seen by Dr. Ruiz regarding the painful tingling, itching, and burning sensations that he continued to experience all over his head, face, neck, and upper chest. See Id. ¶ 12. In January 2013, Dr. Ruiz examined the plaintiff in response to his complaint that the clotrimazole ointment had not alleviated his symptoms. See Id. ¶¶ 13-14. Dr. Ruiz prescribed a different ointment, triamcinolone acetonide, to treat the plaintiff's symptoms. See Id. ¶ 15.

         A few months later, the plaintiff requested to be seen by Dr. Ruiz because the triamcinolone acetonide ointment was not alleviating his symptoms. See Id. at 9 ¶ 16. A month after submitting his request for treatment, Dr. Ruiz re-evaluated the plaintiff's symptoms. See Id. ΒΆ 17. During the appointment, the plaintiff requested that Dr. Ruiz prescribe Lubriderm lotion for his skin and that he refer him to be evaluated by a dermatologist or a ...


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