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Dorlette v. Wu

United States District Court, D. Connecticut

March 20, 2019

JOHNNY WU and JAMES SMYTH, Defendants.



         On February 25, 2016, Faroulh Dorlette (“Plaintiff”), currently incarcerated by the Connecticut Department of Corrections (“DOC”), sued Johnny Wu and James Smyth (“Defendants”) for violating his civil rights by failing to order him prescription eyeglasses.[1]Complaint, dated Feb. 25, 2016 (“Compl.”), ECF No. 1.

         On August 21, 2017, Mr. Dorlette filed an Amended Complaint. Amended Complaint, dated Aug. 21, 2017 (“Am. Compl.”), ECF No. 26. On October 12, 2017, the Court permitted an Eighth Amendment deliberate indifference to medical needs claim against Defendants to proceed. Ruling on Defendants' Motion to Dismiss and Initial Review Order Re: Plaintiff's Amended Complaint, dated Oct. 12, 2017 (“Ruling and Init. Rev. Order on Am. Compl.”), ECF No. 30.

         On May 21, 2018, Defendants moved for summary judgment on all claims in the Amended Complaint. Motion for Summary Judgment, dated May 21, 2018 (“Mot. Summ. J.”), ECF No. 44; Memorandum of Law in Support of Mot. Summ. J., dated May 21, 2018 (“Defs.' Mem.”), ECF No. 44-1; Local Rule 56(a)(1) Statement (“Defs.' SMF”), ECF No. 44-2.

         On August 31, 2018, Mr. Dorlette opposed the motion. Plaintiff's Memorandum of Law in Opposition to Mot. Summ. J., dated Aug. 31, 2018 (“Pl.'s Opp.”), ECF No. 52; Local Rule 56(a)(2) Statement, dated Aug. 31, 2018 (“Pl.'s SMF”), annexed to Pl.'s Opp. at 31.

         For the reasons explained below, Defendants' motion is GRANTED, and Plaintiff's claims are DISMISSED.


         Before March 15, 2016, Mr. Dorlette was incarcerated by DOC at the MacDougall-Walker Correctional Institution (“MacDougall-Walker”). On March 16, 2016, he was transferred to Corrigan-Radgowski Correctional Center (“Corrigan”). Defs.' SMF ¶ 2. He has been transferred to several other facilities in both Vermont and Connecticut while this case has been pending, see ECF Nos. 8, 15, 23, 27 & 35, but remains in DOC custody at this time.[2]

         Dr. Smyth is an optometrist employed by Correctional Managed Health Care (“CMHC”) since 2003. Affidavit of James Smyth, dated May 21, 2018 (“Smyth Aff.”), annexed as Ex. G to Defs.' SMF, ECF No. 44-10. He allegedly worked at four correctional facilities: MacDougall-Walker, Osborn Correctional Institution, Northern Correctional Institution, and Enfield Correctional Institution. Id. ¶ 6.

         Dr. Wu is a physician and was the Director of Medical Services for CMHC from June 2012 to March 2017. Affidavit of Johnny Wu, dated May 21, 2018 (“Wu Aff.”), annexed as Ex. J to Defs.' SMF, ECF No. 44-13, ¶¶ 2-3.

         CMHC is a division of the University of Connecticut Health Center that manages a contract to provide medical care to DOC inmates. Id. ¶ 4.

         A. Factual Allegations

         On July 28, 2015, Mr. Dorlette (then an inmate at MacDougall-Walker) submitted a written request for an eye exam and prescription eyeglasses. Defs.' SMF ¶ 4; Pl.'s SMF ¶ 4. In that request, Mr. Dorlette wrote:

I would like a new eye exam. I am having eye pain and I believe the pain is a result of not having glasses (my vision is at least as bad as 20/800 as I am near-sighted; however I am also experiencing blurry vision and double vision, plus strain and head-aches when attempting to read and/or write). I would like to get new glasses. Thank you.

         Inmate Request, dated Jul. 28, 2015, annexed as Ex. D to Defs.' SMF (“Defs.' Ex. D”), ECF No. 44-7.

         On August 5, 2015, Mr. Dorlette was scheduled for an eye exam. Defs.' SMF ¶ 5; Pl.'s SMF ¶ 5; see also Defs.' Ex. D (stating “Eye Exam Scheduled, ” signed and dated 8/5/2015).

         On August 11, 2015, Mr. Dorlette had his eyes examined by Dr. Smyth. Defs.' SMF ¶ 1; Pl.'s SMF ¶ 1; Smyth Aff. ¶ 10. Although he had been prescribed eyeglasses in the past, Mr. Dorlette arrived at his appointment with Dr. Smyth without eyeglasses or contact lenses. Defs.' SMF ¶ 6; Pl.'s SMF ¶ 6; Smyth Aff. ¶ 11.

         In his Amended Complaint, Mr. Dorlette alleged: (1) that he informed Dr. Smyth that his glasses were missing and that DOC staff were responsible, Am. Compl. ¶ 10; (2) that he informed Dr. Smyth that he was in “extreme pain in his eyes and experiencing headaches and difficulty reading, writing, being mobile, etc., ” id. ¶ 11; (3) that Dr. Smyth confirmed these were expected symptoms from Mr. Dorlette not having his glasses, id. ¶ 12; (4) that Dr. Smyth has been conducting regular eye exams of Mr. Dorlette since 2005, id. ¶¶ 13-14; (5) that Dr. Smyth “had identified the plaintiff's vision as near-sighted and to be 20/800, which is ‘nearly blind, '” id. ¶ 9; (6) that Dr. Smyth was responsible for ordering him new glasses but failed to do so, causing him “to suffer for several months, ” id. ¶ 15; and (7) that Mr. Dorlette sent Dr. Smyth several requests “expressing his continued experience of pain (eye and head-aches) and other disabilities, such as inability to read, write, etc., ” but that Dr. Smyth failed to act on them, knowingly allowing Mr. Dorlette to suffer in violation of his Eighth Amendment rights, id. ¶ 16.

         In an affidavit opposing summary judgment, Mr. Dorlette now states that he explained to Dr. Smyth that his eyeglasses had been missing for weeks in connection with an incident at Corrigan-Radgowski Correctional Center (“Corrigan”) in Uncasville, Connecticut. Affidavit of Faroulh Dorlette, dated Aug. 31, 2018 (“Pl.'s Aff.”), annexed to Pl.'s Opp. at 43, ¶ 5. Mr. Dorlette allegedly told Dr. Smyth that he had been suffering from double and blurry vision, migraines, difficulty reading, and sensitivity to light due to the absence of his eyeglasses. Pl.'s Aff. ¶¶ 5, 10, 12. Mr. Dorlette claims that Dr. Smyth confirmed to him that these were all symptoms associated with not wearing his glasses and that once he received the glasses, his headaches and eye-aches should dissipate. Id. ¶ 12. Mr. Dorlette further claims Dr. Smyth “shined a light in my eyes which cause[d] me pain and to flinch and which [Dr.] Smyth characterized as sensitivity.” Id. Mr. Dorlette claims that he asked Dr. Smyth to order him the same style of glasses that he had previously been issued, and that he also asked him for a copy of his prescription. Pl.'s Aff. ¶ 15. Mr. Dorlette alleges that Dr. Smyth gave him that prescription, but did not inform him he would not also be ordering him a state-issued pair of glasses. Id.

         After the appointment, Mr. Dorlette claims that he made multiple inmate requests and administrative grievances regarding the status of his eyeglasses. Pl.'s Aff. ¶¶ 10, 11, 14, 17; see Pl.'s Exs. 3-8, annexed to Pl.'s Opp., ECF No. 52, at 52-61. One of these, he claims, was addressed to Dr. Wu on October 27, 2015.[3] Pl.'s Aff. ¶ 17.

         Defendants dispute these accounts. Dr. Smyth claims that he did not observe anything abnormal about Mr. Dorlette's eyes that would have alerted him to pain or anything requiring immediate action. Smyth Aff. ¶¶ 15, 17. Although Mr. Dorlette may have experienced difficulty seeing distant objects, Dr. Smyth did not consider him to be nearly blind, and Mr. Dorlette could still read information in close proximity. Id. ¶ 16. He also claims that Mr. Dorlette “did not complain of pain.” Id. ¶ 17.

         Dr. Smyth contends that he recommended a follow-up appointment in two years and explained that, under DOC policy, “the state will not supply eyeglasses if an inmate has asked for the prescription to have eyeglasses mailed into the facility” and that Mr. Dorlette would need to “choose either state issued eyeglasses or eyeglasses from outside of the facility[.]” Smyth Aff. ¶¶ 19, 24. He says Mr. Dorlette elected to obtain his glasses from outside DOC using the written prescription Dr. Smyth gave him; as a result, he “did not have him select an eyeglass frame or fit him for eyeglasses provided by” DOC. Smyth Aff. ¶ 34.

         Dr. Smyth allegedly wrote down giving Mr. Dorlette the prescription. Smyth Aff. ¶ 25. Those notes do not indicate any report of eye pain or other symptoms, but simply include the results of the eye exam and state that “Rx given to inmate for personal glasses.” See Ex. A to Defs.' SMF, filed Feb. 26, 2019 (“Medical Records”), ECF No. 54, at 084. They also do not indicate that Mr. Dorlette selected any frame, or that any order was placed. Id.

         Dr. Smyth claims that, following the appointment, no one ever contacted him about Mr. Dorlette's prescription. Smyth Aff. ¶¶ 27-28. He claims not to have handled inmate request forms personally; instead, the nursing staff processed the forms and placed inmates on the sick call list. Id. ¶ 33.

         Dr. Wu, the other Defendant in this case, allegedly never examined Mr. Dorlette. Defs.' SMF ¶ 38; Pl.'s SMF ¶ 28. He allegedly has no knowledge of any issues regarding the ordering or delivery of Mr. Dorlette's eyeglasses, and allegedly never received any correspondence from Mr. Dorlette regarding any medical issues. Wu Aff. ¶¶ 10-14.

         Rikel Lightner, a Registered Nurse and the Health Services Administrator at MacDougall-Walker-and ultimate custodian of medical records there-states that there is no record of any Inmate Requests or Health Services Reviews concerning Mr. Dorlette's eyeglasses prescription or vision problems after July 28, 2015. Affidavit of Rikel Lightner, dated May 21, 2018 (“Lightner Aff.”), annexed as Ex. B to Defs.' SMF, ¶¶ 24-26; see also Defs.' Ex. D; Inmate Requests, annexed as Ex. E to Defs.' SMF (“Defs.' Ex. E”), ECF No. 44-8.

         On March 16, 2016, Mr. Dorlette was transferred to Corrigan. Defs.' SMF ¶ 2.

         On April 12, 2016, Mr. Dorlette submitted an Inmate Request stating that he had been “writing follow-up requests regarding the ordering of state glasses” and requesting: (1) that glasses be made and sent to him; and (2) that he be scheduled to speak with an eye surgeon to determine whether he was a candidate for eye surgery. Inmate Request Form, dated Apr. 12, 2016, annexed as Ex. 8 to Pl.'s Opp., ECF No. 52, at 61. In that form, he stated that his eyes were “noticeably straining and causing me migraines and other pains including obstruction and or interference with reading ...

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