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Anderson v. Dike

Court of Appeals of Connecticut

January 22, 2019

FRANCIS ANDERSON
v.
CHARLES DIKE ET AL.

          Argued October 25, 2018

         Procedural History

         Action to recover damages for the defendants' alleged violation of the patients' bill of rights, and for other relief, brought to the Superior Court in the judicial district of Middlesex, where the court, Domnarski, J., granted in part the defendants' motion to dismiss; thereafter, the court denied the plaintiffs motions for a jury trial and for the appointment of counsel; subsequently, the court granted the defendants' motion for summary judgment and rendered judgment thereon, from which the plaintiff appealed to this court. Affirmed.

          Francis Anderson, self-represented, the appellant (plaintiff).

          Darren P. Cunningham, assistant attorney general, with whom, on the brief, were George Jepsen, attorney general, and Jacqueline S. Hoell, assistant attorney general, for the appellees (defendants).

          Alvord, Prescott and Norcott, Js.

          OPINION

          NORCOTT, J.

         The plaintiff, Francis Anderson, appeals from the summary judgment rendered by the trial court in favor of the defendants, Charles Dike, Thomas Ward-McKinley, Steve Lazrove and Heather Madison. The plaintiff claims that the court improperly (1) granted the defendants' motion for summary judgment, (2) denied his motion for a jury trial and (3) denied his motions for the appointment of counsel. We affirm the judgment of the court.

         The record reveals the following facts and procedural history. The plaintiff commenced this action in September, 2014, pursuant to the patients' bill of rights, General Statutes § 17a-540 et seq. The plaintiff alleged the following facts in his complaint. On May 4, 2014, while the plaintiff was a patient in the Whiting Forensic Division of Connecticut Valley Hospital, Madison closed the door to the video room, located on unit 2, on his hand and then intentionally and forcibly kicked his hand into the door. The plaintiff went to the nursing station to request medical treatment for his hand, as it was swollen. The plaintiff initially was refused treatment by the nurse. Madison was threatening as well as verbally abusive to the point that Police Lieutenant Margaret G. Miner became involved. As a result of this incident, the plaintiff alleged that Madison was temporarily ordered off the unit. Finally, Lazrove witnessed and was complicit in covering up the incident, and Dike, Ward-McKinley, and Lazrove allowed Madison to pose a threat to the plaintiffs well-being.

         In January, 2015, the defendants filed a motion to dismiss for lack of subject matter jurisdiction, asserting that a claim under General Statutes § 17a-550 for violation of the patients' bill of rights can be brought only against the state and not against individual state employees; therefore, the defendants in their individual capacities cannot be held liable for violations of General Statutes § 17a-542. The court granted the defendants' motion as to Dike, Ward-McKinley, and Lazrove. That court, however, denied the motion as to Madison. The court noted that "[General Statutes] §§ 17a-550 and 4-165 mean that a person can sue a state employee in his individual capacity for violations of the patients' bill of rights, but only for actions that are wanton, reckless or malicious."[1] (Internal quotation marks omitted.)

         The court went on to note that as to Dike, Ward-McKinley and Lazrove, the plaintiff had alleged only that those defendants witnessed the incident, were complicit in allowing the incident to happen, and allowed Madison to again pose a threat to the plaintiff's well-being and safety, and that these allegations were not "sufficient to support a cause of action sounding in recklessness." The court denied the motion as to Madison, because when read in the light most favorable to the plaintiff, the plaintiff in his complaint had alleged reckless, wanton or malicious conduct on the part of Madison.[2] As a result of this order, Madison is the only defendant who this action continues against in an individual capacity.

         Throughout the pendency of the action, the plaintiff made a request for a jury trial as well as several requests to have counsel appointed for him. The court denied these requests. The defendants filed a motion for summary judgment, claiming that they had sustained their burden of establishing that there is no genuine issue of material fact pertaining to the plaintiffs claim that Madison intentionally or recklessly caused injury to the plaintiff. The court granted the defendants' summary judgment motion, concluding that the plaintiff did not provide evidence to raise a genuine issue of material fact.[3] This appeal followed.

         On appeal, the plaintiff claims that the court erred by (1) concluding that the defendants sustained their burden of establishing that there is no genuine issue of material fact pertaining to his claim, (2) denying his claim for a jury trial and (3) denying his motions for the appointment of counsel.

         First, we address the plaintiffs claim that the court improperly granted the defendants' motion for summary judgment because there existed a ...


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