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Awad v. University of Connecticut Health Center

United States District Court, D. Connecticut

January 4, 2019

OMAR AWAD, Plaintiff,
v.
UNIVERSITY OF CONNECTICUT HEALTH CENTER, et al., Defendants.

          INITIAL REVIEW ORDER PURSUANT TO 28 U.S.C. § 1915A

          JEFFREY ALKER MEYER, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         Plaintiff Omar Awad is a prisoner in the custody of the Connecticut Department of Correction at Garner Correctional Institution (“Garner”) in Newtown, Connecticut. Proceeding pro se and in forma pauperis, on September 18, 2018, he filed a civil complaint under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against 27 listed individuals and state agencies, and nearly 200 unidentified “John Doe” defendants for violating his Eighth Amendment right against cruel and unusual punishment. Doc. #1. The 27 listed defendants are the University of Connecticut Health Center Correctional Managed Health Care (“CMHC”), the Director of CMHC, “UConn Hospital, ” the Director of “UConn Hospital”, Department of Correction (“DOC”) Commissioner Scott Semple, the DOC, Manson Youth Institution (“MYI”), MYI Warden John Alves, MYI Deputy Warden Danielle Borges, MYI Deputy Warden Thomas Hunt, MYI Lieutenant David Wojcik, MYI Lieutenant DeJackome, MYI Correctional Officer Achu, MYI Correctional Officer Brian Larson, MYI Correctional Officer Karlson, MYI Correctional Officer Carnemolla, MYI Correctional Officer Rivera, MYI Doctor Gerald Velletta, University of Connecticut Doctor Freston, the Director of the MYI Medical Unit at MYI, Carl Robinson Correctional Institution (“Carl Robinson”), a doctor at Carl Robinson, the Medical Director at Carl Robinson, Cheshire Correctional Institution (“Cheshire”), Cheshire Doctor Ricardo Ruiz, the Medical Director at Cheshire, and inmate Alberto Flores.

         Awad has also filed motions for the appointment of counsel, Doc. #3, requesting a preliminary injunction, Doc. #4, and to amend his in forma pauperis application, Doc. #9. For the following reasons, I will dismiss Awad's complaint in part without prejudice, reserve decision on the preliminary injunction pending responses from certain defendants, deny the motion for appointment of counsel without prejudice, and deny the motion to amend the in forma pauperis application as moot.

         Background

         The following facts are alleged in the complaint and are accepted as true only for purposes of this initial ruling. On March 3, 2016, at approximately 4:30 p.m., Awad was sitting and eating dinner in Block A Wing of H Cottage at MYI when inmate Flores assaulted him. Doc. #1 at 10 (¶ 1). Flores approached Awad from his right side and hit him, causing him to fall out of his seat and onto the floor. Ibid. (¶ 2). Awad suffered injuries to his head and neck, including a fracture to his nose, and lost consciousness for a short period of time. Id. at 10-11 (¶¶ 3-4).

         As Awad regained his consciousness, Officer Achu dragged Awad across the room while face down on the floor and pressed his knee onto Awad's back, causing him pain and shortness of breath. Id. at 11 (¶¶ 5-7). Achu, who weighed twice as much as Awad, put all his weight on Awad's back, even though Awad was not resisting. Ibid. (¶¶ 8, 10). Awad asked Achu to ease the pressure he was applying to his back because he could not breathe, but Achu laughed and said, “If you can talk, you can breath[e].” Ibid. (¶ 9). Meanwhile, Awad's nose continued to bleed from the assault by Flores. Ibid. (¶ 10).

         As Achu held Awad down, Officer Karlson applied handcuffs to Awad's wrists. Id. at 12 (¶ 12). Lieutenant Wojcik, Officer Rivera, and Officer Carnemolla also responded to the scene. Ibid. (¶ 13). Awad told Wojcik and the other officers that he was too dizzy to stand up and walk and requested a wheelchair, but after ten to fifteen minutes of lying on the floor bleeding from his nose, the officers forced him to stand up and walk to the medical unit at MYI. Id. at 12-13 (¶¶ 14-18, 22-25).

         While in the medical unit, Awad spoke with a doctor who informed him that lying face down on the floor while bleeding from his nose placed him at a greater risk of developing permanent damage to his nose. Id. at 13 (¶ 20). Nurse Valentukonis recorded Awad's injuries and referred him to the University of Connecticut Health Center (“UConn”) for further evaluation. Id. at 13-14 (¶¶ 25-26).

         At 6:00 p.m., Awad was sent to the emergency room at UConn. Id. at 14 (¶ 27). He was experiencing blurry vision, nausea, neck and back pain, dizziness, anxiety, pain in his face, and other ailments. Ibid. (¶¶ 28-29). The emergency room physician confirmed that Awad's nose was broken and that he had tissue swelling and a deviated septum. Ibid. (¶ 30). The physicians prescribed Awad medication. Ibid. The physicians informed Awad that his nose was too swollen for them to set it back in place. Id. at 15 (¶ 33). They instructed him to schedule a follow-up appointment with an Ear, Nose, and Throat (“ENT”) specialist to return within six to ten days. Ibid. They informed Awad that MYI officials would be aware of this instruction. Ibid.

         Nurses at UConn also instructed Awad to apply ice to his injury for 20 to 30 minutes every two to three hours over the next several days. Id. at 14 (¶ 31). They also instructed him to elevate his head using pillows until the swelling in his nose subsided. Ibid.

         When he arrived back at MYI, the nurses there refused to provide Awad with ice and his pain medication for several days. Id. at 14-15 (¶ 32). Instead, officials placed Awad in segregation where he did not have any pillows to elevate his head or access to his pain medication. Ibid. Dr. Velletta placed a request to schedule an appointment with the ENT specialist on March 22.[1] Id. at 15-16 (¶ 34, 37). The appointment would first need to be reviewed by CMHC's Utilization Review Committee (“URC”), which ultimately denied the appointment on March 31. Id. at 16-17 (¶¶ 35, 37-38). As a result, Awad continues to suffer from pain in his nose and difficulty breathing because his nose was not aligned correctly. Id. at 17 (¶ 39).

         On March 22, 2016, Awad was transferred to Carl Robinson. Ibid. (¶ 40). There, he was denied further treatment for his nose and continued to experience pain. Ibid. Awad was transferred from Carl Robinson to Cheshire on August 16, 2016. Ibid. (¶ 41). At Cheshire, Awad was treated by Dr. Ruiz and several nurses. Ibid.

         On March 15, 2017, Awad finally met with an ENT specialist at UConn for his nose. Id. at 18 (¶ 43). The specialist informed Awad that realigning his nose would be a very long and painful procedure; he would have to break his nose again, cut it open, and obtain cartilage from another part of his body to properly set it in place. Ibid. (¶ 44). He told Awad that, had he come earlier, the procedure would have been much easier. Ibid. (¶ 45). The specialist said that the resources for fixing Awad's nose were not available at UConn and that prison officials would have to refer plaintiff to an outside clinic. Ibid. (¶ 46). Despite making several trips to UConn, prison officials refused to permit Awad to go to an outside clinic for the operation. Id. at 19 (¶ 47).

         From February to May of 2017, Dr. Ruiz stopped prescribing pain medication for Awad. Ibid. (¶ 48). This caused Awad to suffer from constant excruciating pain, and nurses refused to help Awad. Ibid. Awad is now incarcerated at Garner and continues to suffer pain in his nose because of defendants' failure to procure proper treatment for his condition. Id. at 19-20 (¶ 49).

         Awad names Flores in connection with his assault, Achu and Karlson in connection with the use of excessive force against him, and Karlson, Wojcik, Rivera, Carnemolla, Velletta, and Ruiz for acting with deliberate indifference to his serious medical needs. He also mentions Department of Correction Commissioner Scott Semple in passing as having signed administrative policies. Id. at 17 (¶ 38), and appears to claim that that the URC, a division of CMHC, exercised deliberate indifference by denying Dr. Velletta's request for a follow-up ENT appointment. Id. at 16-17 (¶¶ 35, 38). He does not, however, name any of the other defendants in his factual allegations.

         Discussion

         Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915A, the Court must review a prisoner's civil complaint against a governmental entity or governmental actors and “identify cognizable claims or dismiss the complaint, or any portion of the complaint, if the complaint-(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.” If the prisoner is proceeding pro se, the allegations of the ...


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