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Jackson v. Valletta

United States District Court, D. Connecticut

February 14, 2019



          Kari A. Dooley United States District Judge.

         Preliminary Statement

         Plaintiff, Kevin Jackson (“Jackson”), currently confined at MacDougall-Walker Correctional Institution in Suffield, Connecticut, filed this complaint pro se under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 asserting a claim for deliberate indifference to a serious medical need against defendant Dr. Gerald Valletta. Jackson seeks damages and declaratory relief. The complaint was received on January 18, 2019, and Jackson's motion to proceed in forma pauperis was granted on February 11, 2019.

         Standard of Review

         Under section 1915A of title 28 of the United States Code, the Court must review prisoner civil complaints and dismiss any portion of the complaint that is frivolous or malicious, that fails to state a claim upon which relief may be granted, or that seeks monetary relief from a defendant who is immune from such relief. Id. 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[].” Abbas v. Dixon, 480 F.3d 636, 639 (2d Cir. 2007). Although detailed allegations are not required, the complaint must include sufficient facts to afford the defendants fair notice of the claims and the grounds upon which they are based and to demonstrate a right to relief. Bell Atlantic v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555-56 (2007). Conclusory allegations are not sufficient. Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009). The plaintiff must plead “enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.” Twombly, 550 U.S. at 570.


         On June 28, 2017, Jackson underwent surgery at the University of Connecticut Health Center. The surgeon shaved a bone in Jackson's right index finger that had a large dorsal spur and implanted a screw from the fingertip past the first joint. A doctor at the hospital referred Jackson to Dr. Valletta with a recommendation for Percocet 5/32mg for post-surgery pain. Dr. Valletta prescribed Tylenol 3, once per day. On June 29, 2017, Jackson complained that the Tylenol 3 caused vomiting and requested a different medication. On June 30, 2017, Jackson submitted his request in writing. Dr. Valletta met with Jackson later that day after receiving the written request. Jackson explained that he was allergic to Tylenol 3 and that it caused him to experience chills, nausea, fever and vomiting. Dr. Valletta told Jackson that, if he changed the medication, he would have to transfer Jackson to the infirmary and said he did not have time for that. Instead, Dr. Valletta raised the dose of Tylenol 3 to three times per day and sent Jackson back to his housing unit.

         Jackson's symptoms worsened with the increased dosage. As a result, on July 4, 2017, Jackson refused the medication. He told the medical staff verbally and in writing that he needed a different medication for pain. From July 4 through July 19, 2017, Jackson was not treated. He experienced severe post-surgical pain. Although Dr. Valletta received his requests for treatment, Jackson was ignored.


         Jackson alleges that Dr. Valletta was deliberately indifferent to his severe pain for two weeks. The Supreme Court has held that deliberate indifference to a convicted prisoner's[1]serious medical needs can constitute cruel and unusual punishment in violation of the Eighth Amendment. See Estelle v. Gamble, 429 U.S. 97, 104 (1976). A claim of deliberate indifference to serious medical needs contains both an objective and a subjective component. See Salahuddin v. Goord, 467 F.3d 263, 279-80 (2d Cir. 2006).

         To establish a claim for deliberate indifference to serious medical needs, Jackson must show that he had objectively “serious medical needs, ” and his condition was met with subjective “deliberate indifference” by the defendant. Hill v. Curcione, 657 F.3d 116, 122 (2d Cir. 2011) (quoting Estelle, 429 U.S. at 104). “The objective component requires that the alleged deprivation [of medical treatment] must be sufficiently serious, in the sense that a condition of urgency, one that may produce death, degeneration, or extreme pain exists.” Id. (citation and internal quotation marks omitted). To establish the subjective component, Jackson must allege facts showing that Dr. Valletta was “aware of facts from which the inference could be drawn that a substantial risk of serious harm exist[ed].” Id. (quoting Farmer v. Brennan, 511 U.S. 825, 837 (1994).

         Where the plaintiff complains about a delay in treatment, the court must focus on the effect of the delay rather than the underlying medical condition. See Smith v. Carpenter, 316 F.3d 178, 186 (2d Cir. 2003); see also Cruz-Droz v. Marquis, No. 3:17-cv-1291(MPS), 2018 WL 1368907, at *4 (D. Conn. Mar. 16, 2018) (if claim is for temporary delay in otherwise adequate treatment, court focuses on delay rather than underlying medical need). The Second Circuit has held that a delay in treatment constitutes deliberate indifference where prison officials “ignored a life-threatening and fast-degenerating” condition for three days, Liscio v. Warren, 901 F.2d 274, 277 (2d Cir. 1990), or delayed needed major surgery for over two years. Hathaway v. Coughlin, 841 F.2d 48, 50-51 (2d Cir. 1988). The court considers the reason for the delay and whether the delay worsened the prisoner's condition. Smith, 316 F.3d at 187. “[I]n most cases, the actual medical consequences that flow from the alleged denial of care will be highly relevant to the question of whether the denial of treatment subjected the prisoner to a significant risk of serious harm.” Id. (citations omitted).

         A showing of negligence or medical malpractice does not support an Eighth Amendment claim, unless it involves culpable recklessness. See Hernandez v. Keane, 341 F.3d 137, 144 (2d Cir. 2003). Thus, “not every lapse in prison medical care will rise to the level of a constitutional violation.” See Smith, 316 F.3d at 184.

         Jackson concedes that any claim regarding Dr. Valletta's choice of medication and act of increasing the dosage constitute negligence and are not cognizable as Eighth Amendment violations. He does not include these actions in his claim. Doc. No. 1, ¶ 13. The factual basis for his claim is that Dr. Valletta failed to follow-up and prescribe an alternate ...

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