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Crespo v. Ruiz

United States District Court, D. Connecticut

January 25, 2019

RAFAEL A. CRESPO, JR., Plaintiff,
v.
RICARDO RUIZ et al., Defendants .

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

         Jeffrey Alker Meyer United States District Judge

         Plaintiff Rafael A. Crespo, Jr. is a prisoner in the custody of the Connecticut Department of Correction at Willard-Cybulski Correctional Institution in Enfield, Connecticut. On December 14, 2018, he filed a complaint pro se and in forma pauperis under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against Doctors Ricardo Ruiz and Rafael Pacheco, Warden Scott Erfe, Lieutenant Hernandez, and Officer Flores in their individual and official capacities for damages. Doc. #1 at 2. For the following reasons, I will dismiss his complaint without prejudice.

         Background

         The following facts are alleged in the complaint and are accepted as true only for purposes of this initial ruling. On June 27, 2016, Crespo was playing soccer in the outside recreation yard at Cheshire Correctional Institution (“Cheshire”) when he slipped on the ground and bent his ankle in the wrong direction. Id. at 7 (¶ 4). Crespo heard “a loud crack” in his ankle. Ibid. Another inmate assisted Crespo by lifting him up and bringing him to the bench on the side of the field. Ibid. (¶ 5). There, a correctional officer asked Crespo if he needed to go to a hospital, and Crespo responded that he needed to be transported to the medical unit. Ibid. (¶ 6). Several medical personnel then responded to the yard and transported Crespo in a wheelchair to the medical unit. Ibid. (¶ 7).

         In the medical unit, Crespo was evaluated by a nurse. Ibid. (¶ 8). A decision was made to transport him to the UConn Health Center for further evaluation. Ibid. In preparing for transport, an unnamed correctional officer forced Crespo to go to the Admitting and Processing (“A&P”) area using crutches, despite Crespo's complaints that he was experiencing severe pain. Ibid. (¶ 9). The A&P area is approximately 100 yards from the medical unit. Ibid.

         When he arrived at the UConn Health Center, Crespo was evaluated by an unnamed doctor, who apparently recommended a surgical procedure to repair the ankle. See ibid. (¶ 10). The surgery was later delayed because Dr. Ruiz needed to obtain approval from the Utilization Review Committee (“URC”). Id. at 8-9 (¶¶ 10, 14).

         Crespo was ultimately scheduled for surgery at the UConn Health Center on July 12, 2016. Id. at 8 (¶ 11). He agreed to the surgery because he thought it was the only way to correct his ankle injury, but the surgeon never explained the other options available to treat his ankle. Id. at 9 (¶¶ 13-14). After undergoing surgery, he returned to Cheshire and was immediately forced to walk a very long distance using crutches. Id. at 8 (¶ 12).

         After Crespo returned to his housing unit at Cheshire, Officer Flores and Lieutenant Hernandez began “torment[ing]” him. Id. at 9 (¶ 15). They forced him to ambulate on crutches three times per day to obtain his medication, which was distributed over 100 yards away from his housing unit, despite his complaint that he had severe post-surgical pain. Ibid. (¶¶ 15-16). The officials threatened to issue him a disciplinary report if he did not report to the medical unit. Ibid. (¶ 16).

         Although Crespo's surgeon had prescribed him pain medication following the surgery, Dr. Ruiz “failed to provide him with proper medical treatment and medication for his pain.” Id. at 9 (¶ 17). Crespo filed an administrative remedy request regarding the lack of post-surgical treatment, but Cheshire staff never responded. Id. at 10 (¶ 20). Crespo followed up with a medical grievance and is still awaiting a response. Ibid.

         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 complaint must be read liberally to raise the strongest arguments that they suggest. See Tracy v. Freshwater, 623 F.3d 90, 101-02 (2d Cir. 2010).

         In recent years, the Supreme Court has set forth a threshold “plausibility” pleading standard for courts to evaluate the adequacy of allegations in federal court complaints. A complaint must allege enough facts-as distinct from legal conclusions-that give rise to plausible grounds for relief. See, e.g., Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009); Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007). Notwithstanding the rule of liberal interpretation of a pro se complaint, a pro se complaint may not survive dismissal if its factual allegations do not meet the basic plausibility standard. See, e.g., Fowlkes v. Ironworkers Local 40, 790 F.3d 378, 387 (2d Cir. 2015).

         It appears from the factual allegations that Crespo is attempting to state a claim that defendants violated his Eighth Amendment protection against cruel and unusual punishment by acting with deliberate indifference to his serious medical needs. Doc. #1 at 10-11 (¶¶ 21-23). As an initial matter, I will dismiss the claims against all defendants in their official capacities, because Crespo is only suing defendants for damages, see Id. at 12, and the Eleventh Amendment bars claims for damages against state employees in their official capacities. See, e.g., Kentucky v. Graham, 473 U.S. 159, 169 (1985). Therefore, I will limit my review to Crespo's Eighth Amendment claims as brought against defendants in their individual capacities.

         The Eighth Amendment prohibits prison officials from being deliberately indifferent to the serious medical needs of prisoners in their custody. See Estelle v. Gamble, 429 U.S. 97, 104 (1976). A prisoner who claims deliberate indifference to a serious medical need must satisfy two requirements. First, there is an objective requirement-that the prisoner's medical need was sufficiently serious (i.e., that the prisoner suffered from an urgent medical condition involving a risk of death, degeneration, or extreme pain). See Spavone v. N.Y. State Dep't of Corr. Servs., 719 F.3d 127, 138 (2d Cir. 2013); Hill v. Curcione, 657 F.3d 116, 122 (2d Cir. 2011). Second, there is a subjective requirement: that the defendant have acted recklessly (i.e., with an actual awareness of a substantial risk that serious harm to the prisoner would result from the defendant's action or non-action). See Spavone, 719 F.3d at 138. It is not enough to allege simple negligence or negligent medical malpractice; instead, a prisoner must show that the defendant acted with the equivalent of a criminally reckless state of mind with respect to the prisoner's medical needs. See Hilton v. Wright6 ...


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