United States District Court, D. Connecticut
INITIAL REVIEW ORDER
CHARLES S. HAIGHT, JR. SENIOR UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
Carvaughn Johnson is currently incarcerated at
MacDougall-Walker Correctional Institution and has filed a
pro se complaint pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983
against twelve of the facility's employees in their
individual and official capacities: Kathleen Maurer, John
Street, Connie Weikopf, Mary Ellen Castro, Rikel Lightner,
Monica Farinella, Alexis Gendall, Colleen Gallagher, Lt.
Collins, Syed Johar Naqvi, Captain Ogando, and Tim Bombard.
Doc. 1. Plaintiff has now filed an amended complaint
("Amended Complaint"). Doc. 6. For the following
reasons, his Amended Complaint is dismissed in part.
STANDARD OF REVIEW
28 U.S.C. § 1915A, the Court must review a
prisoner's civil complaint and dismiss any portion that
"(1) is frivolous, malicious, or fails to state a claim
upon which relief may be granted; or (2) seeks monetary
relief from a defendant who is immune from such relief."
See 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(b)(1)-(2) (2012).
Although highly detailed allegations are not required, the
complaint "must contain sufficient factual matter,
accepted as true, to 'state a claim 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 the plaintiff pleads factual content
that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that
the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged."
Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678. The complaint must provide
"more than the unadorned,
Id. "A pleading that offers 'labels and
conclusions' or 'a formulaic recitation of the
elements of a cause of action will not do.'"
Id. (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555).
a complaint states a plausible claim for relief will
[ultimately] . . . be a context-specific task that requires
the reviewing court to draw on its judicial experience and
common sense." Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 663-64. When
"well-pleaded factual allegations" are present,
"a court should assume their veracity and then determine
whether they plausibly give rise to an entitlement to
relief." Id. at 679. Factual disputes do not
factor into a plausibility analysis under Iqbal and
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 Iqbal,
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."
Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678 (citing Twombly, 550
U.S. at 555).
respect to pro se litigants, it is well-established
that "[p]ro se submissions are
reviewed with special solicitude, and 'must be construed
liberally and interpreted to raise the strongest arguments
that they suggest.'" Matheson v. Deutsche Bank
Nat'l Tr. Co., 706 Fed.Appx. 24, 26 (2d Cir. 2017)
(quoting Triestman v. Fed. Bureau of Prisons, 470
F.3d 471, 474 (2d Cir. 2006) (per curiam)). See also
Sykes v. Bank of Am., 723 F.3d 399, 403 (2d Cir.
2013) (same); Tracy v. Freshwater, 623 F.3d 90,
101-02 (2d Cir. 2010) (discussing special rules of solicitude
for pro se litigants); Boykin v. KeyCorp.,
521 F.3d 202, 214 (2d Cir. 2008) ("A document filed
pro se is to be liberally construed and a pro
se complaint, however inartfully pleaded, must be held
to less stringent standards than formal pleadings drafted by
lawyers.") (quoting Erickson v. Pardus, 551
U.S. 89, 94 (2007)); Sealed Plaintiff v. Sealed
Defendant, 537 F.3d 185, 191 (2d Cir. 2008) (declaring
that where the plaintiff proceeds pro se, a court is
"obliged to construe his pleadings liberally")
(quoting McEachin v. McGuinnis, 357 F.3d 197, 200
(2d Cir. 2004)); Abbas v. Dixon, 480 F.3d 636, 639
(2d Cir. 2007) ("In reviewing a pro se
complaint, the court must assume the truth of the
allegations, and interpret them liberally to "raise the
strongest arguments [they] suggest.").
being subject to liberal interpretation, 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
Iqbal, 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). Nor may the Court
"invent factual allegations" that the plaintiff has
not pleaded. Id.
factual allegations, accepted as true only for the purposes
of this Order, are taken from Plaintiff's Amended
Complaint. Doc. 6 ("Am. Compl."). Plaintiff
describes three separate incidents as the basis for his
first concerns an injury sustained on June 6, 2017, when a
cabinet door fell and struck Plaintiff on the shoulder while
he was working in the laundry room of the correctional
institution's infirmary. Am. Compl. ¶ 19.
Plaintiff's maintenance supervisor, John Street, is
allegedly the person responsible for ensuring cabinet doors
are secure, but it is widely known that cabinet doors often
fall because most cabinets are missing doors. Id.
¶¶ 19, 44. A nurse treated Plaintiff's bleeding
wound and wrote an incident report on the same day.
Id. Lt. Collins also took photos of the wound on the
date of the injury, but never responded when Plaintiff asked
him for a copy of the photograph on August 17, 2017.
Id. ¶¶ 20, 30. This is despite Captain
Ogando's verbal assurances on June 26, 2017, that the
photo would be preserved, and Captain Ogando's failed
efforts to find the photo and incident report on July 19,
2017. Id. ¶¶ 25, 27.
Plaintiff was still experiencing pain in his shoulder, arm,
and neck, as well as muscle spasms in his shoulder-which he
continues to experience today-he asked for an MRI in writing
on June 21, 2017, and in person with Naqvi on June 25, 2017.
Id. ¶¶ 22, 24, 59. Naqvi told Plaintiff
that he never received an answer from the board presumably
responsible for granting permission for MRIs, but Plaintiff
had reason to believe this was false because a nurse told him
a request was never submitted to the board. Id.
¶ 24. Plaintiff wrote a grievance against Naqvi on
August 17, 2017, appealing when it went unanswered despite
administrative directive rules obligating the facility to
respond within thirty days. Id. ¶¶ 29,
31-32. Plaintiff then separately wrote to health service
administrators Rikel Lightner and Colleen Gallagher about the
unanswered grievance in November 2017. Id.
¶¶ 32-33. When Plaintiff met with Lightner on
November 30, 2017, Lightner advised Plaintiff to discuss his
issues in his upcoming appointment with Naqvi. Id.
¶ 35. Gallagher wrote back on December 29, 2017, that an
MRI may or may not be approved. Id. ¶ 43.
October 2017 to December 2017, Plaintiff wrote to various
individuals in an effort to seek care for his injury.
Id. ¶¶ 36-42. He received replies that
seemed inadequate to him from Mary Ellen Castro and Tim
Bombard, and never received responses from Monica Farinella,
Connie Weikopf, Alexis Gendell, and Kathleen Maurer.
Id. ¶¶ 38, 40, 42.
received an x-ray on February 16, 2018, but he believes he
should have received an MRI because he had already received
an x-ray exam at MacDougall-Walker and an MRI would show
issues with his muscles or nerve tissue. Id. ¶
45. Plaintiff also wrote to Naqvi in February 2018 to inform
him that his amitriptyline anxiety medication was not
working; he received a reply stating that he would
have an appointment with Naqvi in March 2018. Id.
¶¶ 46, 61. However, Plaintiff was only able to meet
with a nurse, who told him that Naqvi changed his medication
to naproxen. Id. ¶ 46. Plaintiff claims
to experience bad side effects from naproxen and told the
nurse he would like to talk to Naqvi. Id.
second incident stems from Plaintiff's injury from
wearing sneakers sold by the Department of Corrections'
commissary. Id. ¶¶ 63, 68. Plaintiff wrote
to the medical unit on May 1, 2017, of his footwear-related
injuries and June 13, 2017, that the prescribed foot cream
was not working. Id. ¶¶ 63-64. He was able
to meet with Naqvi on June 25. 2017. Id. ¶ 65.
After explaining that his toenails were coming off and he had
foot pain, Plaintiff was told to write to Lightner.
Id. ¶¶ 65, 71. Plaintiff did so on June
26, 2017, and Lightner responded on July 12,
2017.Id. ¶ 66.
went to see Naqvi again on July 24, 2017, because his foot
problem persisted, but the doctor only told him that he would
need to speak with Lightner and that Deputy Warden Roach
would not let the medical unit issue "Sneaker
Passes." Id. ¶¶ 67-68, 70. He then
denied Plaintiff's request to see a foot specialist.
Id. ¶ 67. On August 17, 2017, Plaintiff met
with Lightner to seek approval for a "Sneaker
Pass," as per Naqvi's instructions, but Lightner
told Plaintiff that the commissary sold a variety of footwear
and that a Unit Counselor could handle the issue.
Id. ¶ 68. Plaintiff believes these statements
to be untrue based on his knowledge of commissary footwear
offerings and of the Unit Counselor's role. Id.
Plaintiff also wrote to Roach on March 25, 2018, but it is
unclear whether he received a response. Id. ¶
LaFrance, whose title and role is unknown, treated Plaintiff
via Skype on an unspecified date, but Plaintiff asserts
nothing was done as a result of the consultation.
Id. ¶ 70. Naqvi then saw Plaintiff once more on
March 29, 2018. Id. ¶ 71.
third incident concerns only Captain Ogando. Plaintiff
asserts that on July 29, 2018, Plaintiff happened to walk
near whether Ogando was conducting strip searches of kitchen
workers. Id. ¶ 72. Although Plaintiff works in
the infirmary, not the kitchen, Ogando instructed him to get
against the wall for a strip search. Id. Ogando also
allegedly said, "So what, you like to file
lawsuits." Id. Plaintiff was consequently
strip-searched, seemingly out of retaliation for his
complaints and lawsuits against the correctional
institution's employees. Id.
ANALYSIS OF FEDERAL CLAIMS
Amended Complaint, Plaintiff asserts two counts for which he
alleges a number of federal and state law
violations. Am. Compl. ¶ 1, 19-72. It is not
entirely clear to which count or counts Plaintiff attributes
this list of rights violations,  and so the Court will
proceed by examining each right that has been allegedly
violated and determine if it applies to all of the counts
raised by Plaintiff, beginning with Plaintiff's federal
Count I, he alleges that all Defendants violated his rights
by acting with deliberate indifference to his serious medical
needs caused by a falling cabinet door that was negligently
maintained. Id. ¶¶ 19-62. In the first
part of Count II, Plaintiff alleges Defendants again violated
his rights by acting with deliberate indifference to his
serious medical needs, this time caused by inadequate
footwear sold by the commissary. Id. ¶¶
63-72. Plaintiff's factual allegations in this part of
Count II only mention Defendants Naqvi, Rikel Lightner, and
Monica Farinella. Id. ¶¶ 63-72. In the
second part of Count II-which the Court will refer to as
Count III infra for purposes of clarity-Plaintiff
alleges Captain Ogando strip-searched Plaintiff in
retaliation for filing lawsuits against the correctional
institution. Id. ¶ 72. Plaintiff seeks
injunctive relief,  declaratory relief, and monetary damages.
Id. ¶¶ 2, 74.
Individual Defendants in their Official
respect to all Defendants, Plaintiff sues them in both their
official and personal capacities. Id. at 1. As to
individual defendants acting in their official
capacities, "the eleventh amendment immunity protects
state officials sued for damages." Minotti v.
Lensink, 798 F.2d 607, 609 (2d Cir. 1986) (citing
Kentucky v. Graham, 473 U.S. 159, 169-70 (1985)).
See also Will v. Michigan Dep't of State Police,
491 U.S. 58, 71 (1989) ("[N]either a State nor its
officials acting in their official capacities are
'persons' under § 1983."); Quern v.
Jordan, 440 U.S. 332, 342 (1979) (holding that claims
for damages against defendants in their official capacities
barred by Eleventh Amendment). To the extent that Plaintiff
seeks damages from state officials in their official
capacity, his § 1983 claims are barred by the Eleventh
Amendment and will be dismissed.
Plaintiff also sues these individual defendants in their
official capacities for declaratory and injunctive relief.
Am. Compl. at 1. In particular, Plaintiff seeks (1) a
declaratory judgment that Defendants violated his
constitutional and state statutory rights and (2) an
injunction, presumably to receive medical treatment for his
shoulder and feet. Id. ¶¶ 2, 74. The
Eleventh Amendment does not bar an action against a state
official for violation of federal law if the plaintiff seeks
an injunction regarding that official's future conduct.
Edelman v. Jordan, 415 U.S. 651, 664 (1974). See
also Will v. Michigan Dep't of State Police, 491
U.S. 58, 71 (1989) ("Of course a state official in his
or her official capacity, when sued for injunctive relief,
would be a person under § 1983 because
'official-capacity actions for prospective relief are not
treated as actions against the State.'") (quoting
Kentucky v. Graham, 473 U.S. 159, 167 n.14 (1985));
Feng Li v. Rabner, 643 Fed.Appx. 57, 57-59 (2d Cir.
2016) ("As to the individual defendants, generally,
state officials are not immune under the Eleventh Amendment
if the 'complaint alleges an ongoing violation of federal
law and seeks relief properly characterized as
prospective.'") (quoting Verizon Maryland, Inc.
v. Pub. Serv. Comm'n of Maryland, 535 U.S. 635, 645
(2002)). Moreover, Plaintiff asserts an Eighth Amendment
claim against some Defendants for disregarding his serious
medical condition. A viable constitutional claim for
deprivation of medical services may include demands for
injunctive relief and monetary damages. See,
e.g., Koehl v. Dalsheim, 85 F.3d 86, 89 (2d
Cir. 1996) (remanding case to develop proof of his Eight
Amendment claims for damages and for injunctive relief).
Defendants Alexis Gendall, Connie Weikopf, Mary
Ellen Castro, Tim Bombard, and Monica Farinella
does not state a claim against Defendants Alexis Gendall,
Connie Weikopf, Mary Ellen Castro, Tim Bombard, and Monica
Farinella. Plaintiff alleges that he wrote to Gendall and
Weikopf about his shoulder injury, but they never responded
to him. Am. Compl. ¶¶ 33, 36. Plaintiff does not
otherwise mention these Defendants in the Amended Complaint.
Gendall and Weikopf are doctors within the University of
Connecticut's Correctional Managed Health Care program.
Id. ¶¶ 8, 9. Plaintiff declares that they
are responsible for the overview of medical care for inmates,
but offers no facts to support his allegations. Id.
Indeed, it seems apparent from the Amended Complaint that
Syed Johar Naqvi was the doctor assigned to Plaintiff's
care. See, e.g., id. ¶ 46.
These allegations do not state a claim that Gendall and
Weikopf were deliberately indifferent to his medical needs or
were responsible for any other alleged violations. See
Faber v. Metro. Life Ins. Co., 648 F.3d 98, 104 (2d Cir.
2011) (holding the Court is not bound to accept conclusory
separately wrote to and received responses from Castro and
Bombard about his shoulder injury. Am. Compl. ¶¶
36, 38-39, 40-41. Castro directed Plaintiff to submit a
"sick call request" and "write directly to
[his] health services administrator." Id.
¶ 38. Bombard advised Plaintiff to write to Defendant
Monica Farinella. Id. ¶ 40-41. Plaintiff does
not otherwise mention Defendants Castro and Bombard in the
Amended Complaint. Castro and Bombard are APRNs, or Advanced
Practice Registered Nurses, but Plaintiff alleges they are
responsible for the oversight of inmate care. Id.
¶¶ 13, 17. Because there are no facts supporting
his assertion Castro and Bombard have supervisory roles and
because they tried to help Plaintiff by directing him to
others, the Court cannot credit Plaintiff's conclusory
allegation that they "did nothing to ease his pain and
suffering." Id. These allegations do not state
a claim that Castro and Bombard were deliberately indifferent
to his medical needs or were responsible for any other
alleged violations. See Faber, 648 F.3d at 104.
Farinella, Plaintiff also wrote to her but received no
response regarding his shoulder injury. Am. Compl. ¶ 36.
Plaintiff also alleges that Farinella knew or should have
known about his footwear-related injury. Id. ¶
72. Farinella is a doctor within University of
Connecticut's Correctional Managed Health Care program
but does not seem to have a supervisory role. Id.
¶ 12. Plaintiff asserts that Farinella is responsible
for the oversight of inmate care and thus knew or should have
known about Plaintiff's inadequate medical treatment.
Id. ¶¶ 12, 72. Plaintiff offers the fact
that Farinella serves as a private consultant and an expert
witness as evidence for his conclusion, but the Court fails
to see how such non-supervisory roles support his
allegations. Id. ¶ 72. Again, the entirety of
the Amended Complaint suggests that Defendant Naqvi was the
doctor responsible for Plaintiff's care concerning both
his shoulder injury and his footwear-related injury.
See, e.g., id. ¶¶ 24,
65. These allegations do not state a claim that Farinella was
deliberately indifferent to his medical needs or was
responsible for any other alleged violations. See
Faber, 648 F.3d at 104.
claims against Defendants Gendall, Weikopf, Castro, Bombard,
and Farinella are dismissed. Accordingly, only Defendants
Maurer, Collins, Ogando, Naqvi, Lightner, Gallagher, and
Street remain implicated in Count I, Defendants Naqvi and
Lightner in Count II, and Defendant Ogando in Count III.
Eighth Amendment Claims of Deliberate
Eighth Amendment's prohibition on cruel and unusual
punishment protects against deliberate indifference to a
prisoner's serious medical needs by prison officials.
Estelle v. Gamble, 429 U.S. 97, 104 (1976). To
demonstrate deliberate indifference to medical needs, a
plaintiff must allege harmful acts or omissions that deny or
delay unreasonably access to needed medical care or wantonly
cause infliction of unnecessary pain. Id. at 104-06.
Accordingly, not all failures by prison staff to provide
medical care rise to the level of a constitutional violation.
Id.; see also Smith v. Carpenter, 316 F.3d
178, 184 (2d Cir. 2003) ("Because the Eighth Amendment
is not a vehicle for bringing medical malpractice claims, nor
a substitute for state tort law, not every lapse in prison
medical care will rise to the level of a constitutional
violation."). "[A] prisoner must demonstrate more
than an inadvertent failure to provide adequate medical care
by prison officials to successfully establish Eighth
Amendment liability." Smith, 316 F.3d at 184.
deliberate indifference standard consists of two prongs: (1)
the alleged deprivation must be, objectively,
"sufficiently serious" to produce death,
degeneration, or extreme pain; and (2) subjectively, the
defendant must have been aware of a substantial risk that the
inmate would suffer serious harm by defendant's act or
omission. See Wilson v. Seiter, 501 U.S. 294, 298
(1991); Salahuddin v. Goord, 467 F.3d 263, 279-80
(2d Cir. 2006); Hathaway v. Coughlin, 37 F.3d 63, 66
(2d Cir. 1994).
the first prong, "[a] 'serious medical need'
exists where, objectively, the failure to treat a
prisoner's condition could result in further significant
injury or the unnecessary and wanton infliction of
pain." Dotson v. Fischer, 613 Fed.Appx. 35, 38
(2d Cir. 2015) (internal quotation marks omitted) (quoting
Harrison v. Barkly, 219 F.3d 132, 136 (2d Cir
When the basis for a prisoner's Eighth Amendment claim is
a temporary delay or interruption in the provision of
otherwise adequate medical treatment, it is appropriate to
focus on the challenged delay or interruption in treatment
rather than the prisoner's underlying medical condition
alone in analyzing whether the alleged deprivation is, in
objective terms, sufficiently serious to support an Eighth
Smith, 316 F.3d at 185 (internal quotation marks
the second, subjective prong, the defendant must have been
actually aware of a substantial risk that the inmate would
suffer serious harm as a result of his or her actions or
To establish deliberate indifference, [the plaintiff] must
show that [the defendant] harbored the requisite mental state
while he denied . . . treatment. He must show that [the
defendant] knew of and disregarded an excessive risk to
[plaintiff]'s safety; that he not only was aware of facts
from which a reasonable person would conclude [plaintiff]
faced an excessive risk, but that he personally actually drew
Hilton v. Wright, 673 F.3d 120, 127 (2d Cir. 2012)
(per curiam). See also Salahuddin, 467 F.3d at
279-80. Thus, an allegation of mere negligence is
insufficient. Rather, the subjective element requires that an
inmate allege that prison officials acted with "a mental
state equivalent to subjective recklessness, as the term is
used in criminal law." Salahuddin, 467 F.3d at
Count I - Shoulder Injury
Plaintiff received immediate treatment to stop the bleeding
after the cabinet door fell on his shoulder in June 2017, but
he continued to experience pain months after the accident
despite repeated requests for proper medical treatment. Am.
Compl. ¶¶ 19, 26, 59. After the dismissal of
various Defendants in Section III.B supra, the Court
assumes that Plaintiff maintains a claim of deliberate
indifference to medical needs against medical personnel
Kathleen Maurer, Syed Johar Naqvi, Colleen Gallagher, and
Rikel Lightner and correctional personnel John Street,
Lieutenant Collins, and Captain Ogando.
respect to the first prong of his deliberate indifference
claim, Plaintiff has adequately alleged the objective
seriousness of the deprivation he suffered. He claims that he
is still in chronic pain and continues to experience muscle
spasms in his shoulder, arm, and hand when he filed his
initial complaint in this Court in April 2018-more than ten
months after his injury. Id. ¶ 59. This is
sufficient to plead an objectively serious injury. See
Joyner v. Greiner, 195 F.Supp.2d 500, 502-04 (S.D.N.Y.
2002) (finding prisoner's back pain, consisting of
radiating pain and muscle spasms, was an objectively serious
injury); Cole v. Artuz, No. 97 Civ 0977 (RWS), 2000
WL 760749 (S.D.N.Y. 2000) (finding that debilitating back
injury that produced painful muscle spasms was not as
dramatic as some other conditions that satisfy the deliberate
indifference standard but it was not insufficient as a matter
the second prong of this claim-alleging that the defendant
was subjectively aware of a substantial risk that the inmate
would suffer serious harm-the facts presented in the Amended
Complaint are inadequate against all but one Defendant. The
Court will address the allegations against corrections
personnel and medical personnel separately.
Amended Complaint fails to establish that Defendants Street,
Collins, and Ogando, correctional personnel at
MacDougall-Walker, were aware of Plaintiff's sustained
injuries resulting from the cabinet door accident. The only
mention of Street is that he was the maintenance supervisor
responsible for securing cabinets and doors. Am. Compl.
¶ 44. Meanwhile, the thrust of the allegations against
Collins and Ogando are that they were unresponsive to
Plaintiff's request to produce the incident report and
photograph that Collins took on the day of the accident.
Id. ¶¶ 21, 23, 27, 30. The Court will
revisit allegations against Street, Collins, and Ogando in
its analysis on Plaintiff's negligence and recklessness
claims, but such facts do not raise a deliberate indifference
to medical needs claim. Plaintiff never establishes that
Collins or Ogando knew about his muscle pains, and, in any
case, the photograph was taken before Plaintiff raised any
concerns about his muscle pains, making the photograph
seemingly irrelevant to Plaintiff's deliberate
indifference claim. The photograph ...