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Brown v. Ruiz

United States District Court, D. Connecticut

April 9, 2019

KENYA BROWN, Plaintiff,
DR. RICARDO RUIZ et al., Defendants.


          Jeffrey Alker Meyer United States District Judge.

         Plaintiff Kenya Brown is a prisoner at Cheshire Correctional Institution, a Connecticut Department of Correction facility. He has filed a complaint pro se and in forma pauperis against medical personnel at Cheshire, alleging that they have been deliberately indifferent to his serious medical needs and interfered with the grievance process. Based on my initial review pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915A, I conclude that Brown's complaint should proceed against defendants Ruiz, Koslawy, Lavetc, and McClain.


         The complaint names seven defendants, Dr. Ricardo Ruiz, Dr. Monica Farinella, Nurse Cindy Lavetc, APRN Maria Koslawy, Nurse Stephanie McClain, and Nurse Nicole Karabesto.[1]The following allegations are accepted as true for the purposes of the Court's initial review.

         Since May 2016, Brown has been incarcerated at Cheshire Correctional Institution where Dr. Ruiz and APRN Koslawy currently provide his care. Doc. #1 at 3 (¶ 4). Brown has yearly examinations by an endocrinologist and a neuro-ophthalmologist to monitor his diagnosis of pituitary adenoma. Id. at 3-4 (¶¶ 6, 11). At each exam from 2016 to 2018 Brown was given a regimen, including blood work, an MRI, and medication, but Dr. Ruiz, APRN Koslawy, and Nurse Lavetc failed to follow the regimen. Ibid. (¶¶ 7, 12). Brown believes that in 2016 the specialists prescribed a certain dosage of calcium that he has yet to receive. Id. at 3 (¶ 8). Brown has not received an annual MRI from 2016 through 2018. Id. at 4 (¶ 10). Brown experiences continuing headaches, fatigue, lack of calcium, depression from chemical imbalance, and skin issues. Doc. #1 at 4 (¶¶ 14).

         In May 2018, the neuro-ophthalmologist wrote to Dr. Ruiz with concerns about the lack of monitoring of Brown's condition. Ibid. (¶ 15). Brown has submitted numerous medical grievances to Nurse McClain requesting medication prescribed by the specialists. Id. at 5 (¶ 17). Brown alleges that Nurses Karabesto and McClain intentionally withheld or diverted Brown's grievances to create the false perception that he would be scheduled to see the doctor. Id. at 6 (¶¶ 21-22).

         From June 2016 through June 2018, Brown has had to rely on Dr. Ruiz and Nurse Koslawy for medical care and to write the prescriptions recommended by the specialists. Id. at 8 (¶ 29). Although they were aware of the recommendations, they did not implement them. Id. at 8-9 (¶¶ 32-34). Nurse Lavetc ignored Brown's need for calcium supplements to address fatigue. Id. at 9 (¶¶ 35-36).


         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).

         Brown itemizes ten legal claims as follows: (1) denial of medical care, (2) inadequate medical care, (3) failure to supervise, (4) failure to intervene, (5) denial of treatment, (6) interference with medical judgment, (7) failure to carry out medical orders, (8) delay of access to treatment, (9) denial of medical needs by not efficiently responding to grievances, and (10) policy and customs. I understand these claims in substance to allege that defendants violated the Eighth Amendment by being deliberately indifferent to his serious medical needs and that they violated the First Amendment by failing to respond to grievances and interfering with his grievance rights.

         Deliberate Indifference to Serious Medical Needs

         The Eighth Amendment prohibits prison officials from being deliberately indifferent to the serious medical needs of prisoners in their custody. See Estelle v. Gamble, 492 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. Wright, 673 F.3d 120, 122-23 (2d Cir. 2012); Collazo v. Pagano, 656 F.3d 131, 135 (2d Cir. 2011) (per curiam). As with any ยง 1983 claim, a defendant must be personally involved in an ...

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