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Lockhart v. Semple

United States District Court, D. Connecticut

November 7, 2018

JULIAN LOCKHART Plaintiff,
v.
SCOTT SEMPLE, et al. Defendants.

          INITIAL REVIEW ORDER

          Janet C. Hall United States District Judge

         On September 6, 2018, plaintiff Julian Lockhart (“Lockhart”), an inmate currently confined at Garner Correctional Institution (“Garner”) in Newtown, Connecticut, filed a pro se complaint pursuant to section 1983 of title 42 of the United States Code against eight Connecticut Department of Correction (“DOC”) employees in their individual and official capacities for violating his rights under the First, Eighth, and Fourteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution and for negligence. Complaint (“Compl.”) (Doc. No. 1) at 9, ¶ 3, 15, ¶ 15. The eight defendants are Commissioner of Correction Scott Semple, Warden Falcone, Deputy Warden Dilworth, Deputy Warden Kim Jones, Correction Officer Camacho, Correction Officer Hancock, Correction Officer Labby, and Dr. John Doe (unidentified). Id. at 2, ¶ 4-4, ¶ 4, ¶ 11. Lockhart seeks monetary, declaratory, and injunctive relief. Id. at 1, 16. On September 27, Lockhart's Motion to Proceed in forma pauperis was granted. Order (Doc. No. 8). For the following reasons, his Complaint is dismissed without prejudice to amend.

         I. STANDARD OF REVIEW

         Pursuant to section 1915A of title 28 of the United States Code, this court must review prisoner complaints and dismiss any portion of a 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, a 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 Am., 723 F.3d 399, 403 (2d Cir. 2013) (quoting Triestman v. Federal Bureau of Prisons, 470 F.3d 471, 474 (2d Cir. 2006)).

         II. FACTUAL ALLEGATIONS

         DOC policy does not permit inmate access to outdoor recreation during inclement weather. Compl. at 5, ¶ 1. There is an outdoor ball field at Garner which inmates can use during the summer and autumn months. Id. During the winter, however, inmate recreation is limited to the indoor gymnasium. Id.

         During the winter of 2016, a leak in the roof of the Garner gymnasium caused the linoleum floor to buckle and warp. Id. at 5, ¶ 2. Defendants Semple and Falcone ordered the floor to be torn apart and replaced. Id. Consequently, the linoleum tiles in the gymnasium were removed, leaving the “tar-like glue” and an uneven surface on the ground. Id. at 5, ¶ 3. Over the next several months, the inmates at Garner, including Lockhart, complained to defendants Labby, Jones, Dilworth, Falcone, and Semple that the use of the gymnasium was restricted and that the ball field was closed for winter, thereby significantly limiting inmate recreation. Id. at 5, ¶ 4.

         The defendants soon reopened the gymnasium with the unfinished floor, thereby risking inmate safety. Id. at 6, ¶ 5. They made no efforts to warn Lockhart or any inmates of the risk of using the unrepaired gymnasium. Id. at 6, ¶ 6. The gymnasium floor was eventually replaced with a “poured gypsum material.” Id. at 5.

         On the morning of May 25, 2017, before that repair, Lockhart injured his left foot while playing basketball in the unfinished gymnasium at Garner. Id. at 10, ¶ 1. He limped over to the sideline where he met with defendant Hancock. Id. at 10, ¶ 2. Hancock asked Lockhart if he needed medical attention, and Lockhart replied in the affirmative. Id. at 10, ¶¶ 3, 4. The two individuals then walked to the medical unit. Id. at 10, ¶ 5. There, Hancock took a photograph of Lockhart's injury and recorded his statement. Id. At 10:00 a.m., a nurse in the medical unit evaluated Lockhart, filled out a medical incident report, and referred Lockhart to a physician for further evaluation. Id. at 10, ¶ 6. The nurse told Lockhart that he might have torn his Achilles tendon. Id. at 11, ¶ 7. Shortly thereafter, Dr. Valletta evaluated Lockhart, confirmed the nurse's diagnosis, and told Lockhart that he would need to go to the UConn Health Center (“UConn”) to treat his torn Achilles. Id. at 11, ¶ 8.

         Later that afternoon, Lockhart was sent to UConn and evaluated by Dr. Doe. Id. at 11, ¶ 10. Doe informed Lockhart that his options were to either undergo surgery to reattach his Achilles or medicate the injury without surgery. Id. at 11, ¶ 11. Lockhart asked Doe to explain the difference between the two options, and Doe assured him that medicating the injury without surgery would ultimately heal the tendon. Id. at 11, ¶¶ 12, 13. Lockhart again, in an attempt to understand Doe, asked if his tendon would heal itself without surgery, and Doe responded affirmatively. Id. at 12, ¶¶ 14, 15. Doe explained that, if Lockhart opts for surgery, he would run the risk of catching an infection. Id. at 12, ¶ 15. Lockhart consulted with his transporting officers, Correction Officers Angel and Bleeker, and asked them for their thoughts on the surgery. Id. at 12, ¶ 16. Both officers stated that they always thought a torn Achilles tendon needed to be reattached but that, if the doctor said that the tendon would heal without surgery, then there was no need to have the operation. Id. at 12, ¶¶ 16, 17. Lockhart ultimately declined surgery. Id. at 13, ¶ 19. Doe then ordered Lockhart to wear a cast on his foot for two weeks, followed by a medical boot. Id. at 13, ¶ 20.

         After another doctor and an intern placed a cast on his foot, Lockhart returned to Garner. Id. at 13, ¶ 21. He wore the cast for two weeks, as instructed, and took medication. Id. at 13, ¶ 22. He then returned to UConn where he was given a medical boot to wear for six months and placed on a pain medication regimen. Id. at 13, ¶ 23.

         Lockhart wore the medical boot until January 1, 2018. Id. at 13, ¶ 24. When the boot was removed, Lockhart discovered that his tendon did not heal, and he continued to walk with a limp. Id. He also discovered that Dr. Doe had previously performed surgery on a correction officer named Lawlor, who also tore his Achilles tendon while running drills on the Garner gymnasium floor. Id. at 14, ¶ 25.

         III. ANALYSIS

         Lockhart is suing Semple, Falcone, Dilworth, Jones, Camacho, Hancock, and Labby for acting with deliberate indifference to his safety, in violation of his Eighth Amendment protection against cruel and unusual punishment, by exposing other inmates and him to the unfinished gymnasium floor at Garner. Compl. at 7, ¶1 - 9, ¶ 3. Specifically, he claims that these defendants “knew or should have known of the gym floor being torn up for maintenance and not suitable to play on, ” but ignored the safety risks created by the unfinished repairs. Id. at 7, ¶1 - 8, ¶ 8. Lockhart also claims that these defendants retaliated against him for filing grievances, in violation of his First Amendment right to free speech, and that they are liable for negligence. Id. at 9, ΒΆΒΆ 2, 3. He is suing Dr. Doe for acting with deliberate indifference to his serious medical ...


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