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Patterson v. Lichtenstein

United States District Court, D. Connecticut

April 15, 2019




         Plaintiff Clarence Patterson incarcerated at the Cheshire Correctional Institution in Cheshire, Connecticut, filed this case under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. He contends that the defendant, Dr. Bruce Lichtenstein, was deliberately indifferent to his serious dental needs and retaliated against him. Patterson seeks damages from the defendant in his individual capacity.

         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. 28 U.S.C. § 1915A. This requirement applies to all prisoner filings regardless whether the prisoner pays the filing fee. Nicholson v. Lenczewski, 356 F.Supp.2d 157, 159 (D. Conn. 2005) (citing Carr v. Dvorin, 171 F.3d 115 (2d Cir. 1999) (per curiam)). Here, the plaintiff has paid the filing fee.

         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 plausible 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. “A claim has facial plausibility when a plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged.” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (internal quotation marks and citations omitted). The Court must construe pro se pleadings liberally, Harris v. Mills, 572 F.3d 66, 72 (2d Cir. 2009), and interpret them to raise the “strongest arguments that they suggest.” Triestman v. Fed. Bureau of Prisons, 470 F.3d 471, 472 (2d Cir. 2006). To plead a cognizable legal claim, however, a pro se plaintiff must meet the standard of facial plausibility. See Hogan v. Fischer, 738 F.3d 509, 515 (2d Cir. 2013) (“[A] pro se complaint must state a plausible claim for relief.”) (citing Harris v. Mills, 572 F.3d 66, 73 (2d Cir. 2009)).

         I. Allegations


         In 2009 and 2010, the plaintiff was confined at Garner Correctional Institution. ECF No. 1, ¶ 12. During that time, Dr. Lichtenstein began a root canal procedure on one of the plaintiff's molars. Id., ¶¶ 13, 134. The University of Connecticut Correctional Managed Health Care Dental Manual prohibited root canals on molars. Id., ¶ 14 & Ex. 1A-Z. When Dr. Lichtenstein had completed half of the procedure, the plaintiff confronted Dr. Lichtenstein about the unauthorized procedure and accused Dr. Lichtenstein of using the plaintiff as a “test dummy.” Id., ¶¶ 15, 135. The accusation caused Dr. Lichtenstein to become angry. Id., ¶ 16.

         Soon after this incident, the plaintiff was transferred to Cheshire Correctional Institution without the root canal procedure being finished. Id., ¶¶ 17, 138. The plaintiff believes that Dr. Lichtenstein was responsible for the transfer. Id., ¶ 136. Dr. Lichtenstein included no information in the transfer summary to notify staff about the partially completed procedure. Id., ¶¶ 20, 139.

         The plaintiff was transferred to MacDougall-Walker Correctional Institution. No dentist there would complete the root canal procedure because the procedure should not have been performed. Id., ¶ 22. The plaintiff was in pain and filed a lawsuit against Dr. Lichtenstein. Id., ¶¶ 23, 142.

         Over a year later, with the root canal procedure still not completed, the plaintiff was transferred to Corrigan-Radgowski Correctional Institution, and then to Carl Robinson Correctional Institution. Id., ¶¶ 24-25. Correctional Managed Health Care Dental Director Benoit and Assistant Attorney General DeAnn Varunes agreed to have the plaintiff transferred to UConn to have the root canal completed. Id., ¶ 26. The plaintiff settled his lawsuit against Dr. Lichtenstein in 2013 or 2014. Id., ¶¶ 28, 143.

         Current Claim

         On May 21, 2018, the plaintiff had a dental appointment at Osborn Correctional Institution. Id., ¶ 33. He intended to have a clamp on his denture fixed. Id., ¶ 34. The dentist told the plaintiff that, because he had had the denture since 2008 or 2010, he was eligible for a new denture. Id., ¶ 37. She submitted requests to the Utilization Review Committee for repair of the clamp and for a new set of dentures but told the plaintiff that he could not receive both. Id., ¶¶ 38-39, 144. The plaintiff opted to wait to have his current denture replaced until the Utilization Review Committee decided the request for new dentures. Id., ¶ 40. The following day, the plaintiff was transferred to Cheshire Correctional Institution. Id., ¶¶ 41, 145.

         On August 8, 2018, the plaintiff's denture broke while he was eating a sandwich. Id., ¶¶ 42, 148. The front four teeth snapped off. Id., ¶ 43. The following day, the plaintiff submitted a request to the dental unit to have the denture repaired. Id. He received a response that his name had been added to the dental list and he would be called down in turn. Id., ¶¶ 48-49, 151. The plaintiff submitted a second request on August 12, 2018, stating that his dental need was urgent because he was having difficulty eating without the denture. Id., ¶¶ 44-46. He also explained that, because he did not have the denture, food was getting into his soft gums causing infection. Id., ¶ 47. On August 19, 2018, the plaintiff submitted a third request. Id., ¶ 149.

         The plaintiff was unaware that the dentist at the facility was Dr. Lichtenstein until September 2018. Id., ¶¶ 51, 158-59. At the time he filed this action, the plaintiff had not yet been seen in the dental unit. He experiences pain from swollen gums and canker sores caused by periodontal disease. Id., ΒΆΒΆ 53-56, 150. Dr. Lichtenstein had previously warned the ...

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