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Fine v. Uconn Medical

United States District Court, D. Connecticut

January 16, 2019

PAUL FINE JR., Plaintiff,
UCONN MEDICAL, et al., Defendants.



         Plaintiff Paul Fine, Jr., is a sentenced prisoner in the custody of the Connecticut Department of Correction. He has filed an amended complaint pro se and in forma pauperis under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. After an initial review, the Court concludes that the complaint should be served on some of the named defendants as set forth in the ruling below.[1]


         Fine names many defendants, including UConn Medical Farmington CT; Dr. Ricardo Ruiz; Nurse Jane Ventrella; Male Nurse J. Carrara; Captains Watson and Lugo; Lieutenants Mazurek, Marquis, Johnson, and Boyd; Correctional Officers Wagner and Johnson; DR Investigator Wright; Grievance Coordinator Boyd; Correctional Officers Adams, Whitehead, St. John, Deveau, and Leone; CERT Team Correctional Officers Reyas, Lytell, Johnson, and Stolfi; Boswell; Bachi; Edwards; and numerous “John Doe” defendants.

         Fine has filed an initial and amended complaint. Docs. #1 and #23. His complaints run many pages in length and combine scores of allegations in a sometimes confusing fashion. The following facts are drawn from the complaints and accepted as true solely for purposes of this initial review order. First, I will review facts concerning Fine's medical complaints, and then I will review facts concerning other alleged misconduct by prison officials.

         Medical complaints

         Fine suffers from a lifelong seizure disorder which was diagnosed shortly after his incarceration in 1991. The condition causes him to suffer grand mal and lesser seizures which are often induced by stress. Doc. #23 at 6 (¶ 2). The Department of Correction has permanently assigned Fine to a bottom bunk because of the disorder. Ibid. (¶ 3).

         Fine's condition was aggravated when he suffered head trauma while incarcerated. In 1991, correctional officers threatened him with force if he did not move to an upper bunk. Ibid. (¶ 4). Fine complied with the order. He had a grand mal seizure while in the upper bunk. Fine fell, shattering the porcelain toilet with his head and neck. Ibid. (¶ 5). He suffered a concussion and other injuries. Ibid. (¶ 6). He also was subjected to use of force in 2009 by officers who accused him of faking a seizure. Id. at 7 (¶¶ 7-8). These incidents have left him suffering psychological effects similar to PTSD. Ibid. (¶ 10).

         Fine has submitted many complaints to UConn Medical because the medical unit at Cheshire Correctional Institution (“Cheshire”) has not responded to his “serious medical inquiries and serious health concerns, ” including long-lasting migraine headaches, a painful, growing lump over his left eye, and psychotropic medication for “seizure proneality” as a result of a prior head injury. Doc. #1 at 11.[2] Neither UConn nor the Cheshire medical unit have addressed Fine's medical concerns about these conditions. Id. at 11-12. Fine believes that further investigation is necessary, such as an x-ray or MRI to determine the cause of the lump on his forehead. Id. at 12.

         On April 3, 2017, Nurse Carrara refused Fine's request for x-ray or MRI, stating, “[N]o we don't do that here.” Carrara also refused to permit him to see Dr. Ruiz and required him to sign to pay $3.00 for a box of ibuprofen that he could purchase at the commissary for $1.86. Fine filed a medical grievance against Carrara. Ibid.

         On April 7, 2017, Nurse Ventrella called Fine to the medical unit to discuss withdrawing the grievance. Fine's knee was swollen, and he had to hop to the medical unit. Ibid. Ventrella gave him an ice pack for his swollen knee. Fine withdrew the grievance against Carrara because Ventrella stated that she would put him on the list to see Dr. Ruiz about his head issues. But Ventrella did not do so. Id. at 13. Fine then refiled the medical grievance against Carrara. Ibid. He then “signed himself up” to see Dr. Ruiz about his head and knee. He encountered difficulty from the medical unit when doing so. Ibid.

         On April 12, 2017, correctional officers and a nurse in the housing unit twice told Fine that he had been called to the medical unit. After long waits in the medical unit, nurses told him that they did not call him. Ibid. At unspecified times, Fine experienced other “coincidental mishaps” that he perceives as intended to harass or aggravate him. Id. at 14. The Cheshire medical unit also refused to examine him for “musa” relating to the injury over his eye. Ibid.

         Dr. Ruiz saw Fine for his injured knee on May 26, 2017, three months after Nurse Ventrella gave him the ice pack.[3] Ibid. Dr. Ruiz diagnosed a degenerative knee injury. He refused to issue Fine a knee brace, cane, crutch or ace bandage. Id. at 15. Over the years, Fine saw other inmates with knee injuries receive braces, canes, ace bandages and pain medication. He had to purchase an ace bandage. Ibid.

         Fine received a flyer stating that UConn Medical and the Cheshire medical unit were doing a psychological study on the effects of anger and frustration on older inmates and how the inmates dealt with being forced into difficult situations. The flyer solicited participation in the study. Id. at 16. Fine refused to participate but believes that he has been a non-consenting participant in the study. Id. at 16-17.

         On August 28, 2017, Fine filed a medical grievance against Dr. Ruiz. When it was clear that Fine would continue to pursue the issue, Dr. Ruiz saw him and gave him an ace bandage that was too narrow for his injury. Id. at 17. Fine filed another medical grievance about the bandage. Ibid. Two days later he was called to the medical unit. Although he was the second inmate in line, behind another man of color, Fine was made to wait over an hour while four later-arriving inmates were seen. Id. at 17-18. He had to urinate but was denied permission to use the medical unit bathroom. When he returned to his housing unit to urinate, the nurse noted that he refused the ace bandage. Id. at 18.

         Fine has a family history of colon cancer. He has developed “an internal condition” but is concerned that he will not receive proper treatment if he seeks medical assistance from the Cheshire medical unit. Ibid.

         Additional misconduct

         Fine has filed lawsuits against correctional officers and medical staff at Cheshire and UConn for medical mistreatment, retaliation, and deliberate indifference. Doc. #23 at 8 (¶ 2). In Unit South 4, during mealtimes, defendant Reyas would close Fine's cell door, sometimes not letting him out to eat. Fine thought he was singled out as an example to the unit because another inmate filed a misconduct complaint against defendant Reyas. Ibid. (¶ 3). This conduct continued until Fine wrote to the mental health unit asking how to handle an officer who locked him in his cell at mealtime. Ibid. (¶ 4).

         Defendant Stolfi was working at MacDougall Correctional Institution and was named by Fine in a lawsuit filed in 2009. Defendant Stolfi was often present in South 4 when Fine was locked in his cell during mealtime. He also refused to permit Fine to leave his cell. Id. at 8-9 (¶ 5).

         During this same time, defendant Lytell refused to permit Fine to leave his cell for his work assignment as a “tierman” or to obtain his medications at medication call. Id. at 9 (¶ 6). When defendant Lytell was in South 4, Fine was regularly mistreated to elicit a negative response. When Fine did not respond, defendant Lytell let inmates not on Fine's work detail out of their cells to create conflict and antagonize him. Ibid. (¶ 7). Defendant Lytell fired Fine from his job and told him to write to the unit counselor if he wanted the job back. Ibid. (¶ 8).

         Officer Lytell had CERT Team Officer Johnson search Fine's cell and threaten to send him to segregation. Johnson announced to the unit that the cell search was in retaliation for Fine writing a grievance against defendant Lytell. Id. at 10 (¶ 10). Defendants Lytell and Johnson ordered Fine to pack his property and wait for hours to be sent to segregation. At the end of their shift, they laughed at him and did not send him to segregation. Ibid. (¶ 11). This harassment was in retaliation for Fine writing to the unit counselor to keep his job, an action defendant Lytell directed him to take. Ibid. (¶ 12).

         On June 23, 2018, Fine was involved in a minor fight in South 4. Immediately thereafter, Officer Adams handcuffed him in the presence of the entire unit and took him to segregation. Id. at 11 (¶ 14). There was no time after the fight for Fine to hide anything in his rectum. Nothing occurred during recreation that would suggest such an action, and Fine has no history of concealing contraband in his rectum. Nothing occurred that would cause correctional staff to suspect such conduct. Ibid. (¶ 15).

         Upon reaching segregation, Fine was ordered to undergo a strip search. The search was conducted in the presence of heterosexual and homosexual male correctional staff and homosexual male nurses. He was required to bend and spread his buttocks. Fine considered this action “an extremely sexualized and offensive act in submi[ss]ion to authority not as standard professional DOC policy . . . as a humiliation.” Ibid. (¶ 16). He did not refuse the naked strip search on camera but did refuse to bend and spread his buttocks. Defendant Whitehead threatened him for refusing. Id. at 11-12 (¶ 18).

         Fine was shackled in black box wrist restraints as punishment. He was unable to move his arms. His hands and feet were restrained for three days. At no time were the restraints removed to permit him to urinate of defecate. Id. at 12 (¶ 19). Defendant Lieutenant Marquis left Fine in a cell with his clothing, blanket, and mattress urine-soaked for three days. Ibid. (¶ 20). When Fine asked Marquis to uncuff his wrists so he could urinate, defendant Marquis told him that he was smart and “good with lawsuits” so he could find a way to uncuff himself. Ibid. (¶ 21). Marquis further humiliated Fine by calling him “Pee pants” and directing the other officers and inmates in segregation to use that nickname. Ibid. (¶ 22). Inmates released from segregation and correctional staff told South 4 about the incident. Id. at 13 (¶ 24).

         Marquis along with nurses and officers, including some named in the original complaint, checked on Fine during the three days. Ibid. (¶ 27). The nurses refused to intervene on Fine's behalf or acknowledge any risk to his health as an older inmate on seizure medication by constant exposure to urine. Id. (¶ 28). The nurses also pretended not to see cuff bruising on his wrist. Id. at 14 (ΒΆ 29). They refused to treat the bruises, ...

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