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Louis v. Wu

United States District Court, D. Connecticut

June 4, 2019

DR. JOHNNY WU, ET AL., Defendants.



         Preliminary Statement

         The plaintiff, Chadwick St. Louis (“St. Louis”), is incarcerated at the Garner Correctional Institution (“Garner”). He initiated this action by filing a civil rights complaint against Commissioner Scott Semple, Medical Director of the Department of Correction Kathleen Maurer (“DOC Medical Director Maurer”), Medical Director of Correctional Managed Health Care Mary Ellen Castro (“CMHC Medical Director Castro”), Correctional Managed Health Care Medical Director Dr. Johnny Wu (“CMHC Medical Director Dr. Wu”), Dr. Valletta, Dr. Syed Johar Naqvi, Dr. Omprakash Pillai, Warden William Mulligan, Warden Anthony Corcella, Deputy Warden Danielle Borges, Physician Assistant Kevin McChrystal (“PA McChrystal”) and Medical Staff Members Tawanna Furtick (“Staff Member Furtick”) and Cheryl Spano-Lonis (“Staff Member Spano-Lonis”). He claims that the defendants were deliberately indifferent to his serious medical needs in violation of the Eighth Amendment prohibition against cruel and unusual punishment.

         On May 21, 2019, St. Louis filed a motion for temporary restraining order and for a preliminary injunction seeking orders that the defendants arrange for a specialist to examine him and for the defendants to provide him with a firm mattress and an egg crate mattress topper. The court denied the motion for temporary restraining order because St. Louis did not comply with the requirements of Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 65(b) and took the motion for preliminary injunction under advisement. For the reasons set forth below, the complaint will be dismissed in part and the court will order the defendants to respond to the motion for preliminary injunction.

         Standard of Review

         Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(b), the court must review prisoner civil complaints against governmental actors and “dismiss ... any portion of [a] complaint [that] is frivolous, malicious, or 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. Rule 8 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure requires that a complaint contain “a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2).

         Although detailed allegations are not required, “a complaint must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face. 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). A complaint that includes only “‘labels and conclusions,' ‘a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action' or ‘naked assertion[s]' devoid of ‘further factual enhancement, '” does not meet the facial plausibility standard. Id. (quoting Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555, 557 (2007)). Although courts still have an obligation to interpret “a pro se complaint liberally, ” the complaint must include sufficient factual allegations to meet the standard of facial plausibility. See Harris v. Mills, 572 F.3d 66, 72 (2d Cir. 2009) (citations omitted).


         St. Louis suffers from back problems including “degenerative ventral spurring involving all of the ventral bodies . . . [and] degenerative changes of facet joints at ¶ 4-L5 and L5-S1 vertebrae.” Compl., ECF No. 1, at 4 ¶ 16. These degenerative changes cause St. Louis extreme pain and discomfort in his hips and lower back. See Id. ¶ 17. The intensity of the pain is “de[]biliating and at times limit[s] the complete movement and enjoyment of life by St. Louis.” See Id. ¶ 18.

         During the time of St. Louis's incarceration, medical staff sometimes prescribed double mattresses, egg crate foam mattress toppers and firm, therapeutic mattresses to inmates who suffered from hip, back, neck or shoulder problems. See Id. at 7 ¶ 42. In January 2016, St. Louis informed the defendants that he “was experiencing a severe degradation of his medical condition and that on most mornings he struggled to get out of bed.” See Id. ¶ 44. As a result, St. Louis submitted requests for treatment and for health services reviews and filed a state habeas action seeking “relief from the defective mattresses.” See Id. ¶ 46. He also spoke to Staff Members Furtick and Spano-Lonis about his need for a double mattress or for an egg crate mattress topper. See Id. ¶ 47. They promised to put him on a list to see a physician “to receive [] prescribed treatment, ” but he was not seen by a physician “in a timely manner.” See id.

         On April 19, 2016, St. Louis met with PA McChrystal at a chronic care clinic. See Id. at 8 ¶ 48. St. Louis sought relief from his “continually degrading back problems.” See Id. At that time, a policy was in place that prohibited medical staff from prescribing double mattresses or egg crate mattress toppers. See Id. ¶ 49. CMHC Medical Director Dr. Wu had implemented the policy at “the behest of Semple, Mulligan, Borges, Corcella, Maurer, Castro and other unknown D.O.C. staff.” See Id. PA McChrystal told St. Louis that he could not prescribe a double mattress or mattress topper due to Dr. Wu's policy, but indicated that if the policy were not in place, he would prescribe a double mattress or mattress bed topper for St. Louis. See Id. ¶ 54.

         PA McChrystal refused to submit a request for a double mattress or an egg crate mattress topper to the Utilization Review Committee (“URC”). See Id. ¶ 49. On May 1, 2016, St. Louis filed a medical grievance seeking additional pain medication and a mattress bed topper. See Id. ¶ 55 & at 13, Ex. A. On May 25, 2016, PA McChrystal stated that he could not override CMHC policies and that he would take no further action in response to St. Louis's requests. See id.

         On multiple occasions, St. Louis spoke directly with Drs. Naqvi and Pillai in the MacDougall medical unit or hallway. See Id. at 9 ¶ 57. They instructed him to submit additional written requests for treatment. See Id. On July 25, 2017, he submitted written requests for treatment to Drs. Naqvi and Pillai. See Id. ¶ 58. Neither physician “did anything to address his “degrading medical condition.” See id.

         On February 13, 2018, St. Louis filed a grievance claiming that his mattress had compressed down to a thickness of only one inch. See Id. ¶ 59 & at 15, Ex. B. He sought a new mattress and an additional mattress or a mattress topper. See Id. On March 8, 2018, Warden Mulligan denied the request because St. Louis was not due for a replacement mattress until September 2018. See Id. He instructed St. Louis to contact the medical department if he needed a double mattress or a mattress topper due to his medical condition. See Id. St. Louis appealed the denial of his grievance, which appeal was denied. See Id. ¶ 60 & at 17, Ex. C.

         In June 2018, the Department of Correction took over management of inmate medical care from Correctional Managed Health Care. See Id. at 6 ¶ 38. At some point before October 16, 2018, St. Louis was transferred to Garner. See Id. at 9 ¶ 61.

         On October 16, 2018, St. Louis explained to Dr. Valletta that he was experiencing extreme back pain and that it was difficult for him to get out of bed or move and that the mattress that he slept on was the cause of his back pain. See Id. at 19, Ex. D. Dr. Valletta prescribed Naproxen for pain. See Id. On November 21, 2018, St. Louis filed a grievance seeking an MRI of his back, a firm mattress and an egg crate mattress topper. See Id. On November 30, 2018, Dr. Valletta responded to the grievance indicating that x-rays of St. Louis's spine reflected that he suffered from mild facet joint arthritis, he exhibited no neurologic symptoms and his physical exam was normal. See Id. He noted that he had prescribed weight loss and range of motion exercises. Dr. Valetta concluded that no change in St. Louis's treatment was necessary. See Id. at 9 ¶ 62.

         On November 29, 2018, St. Louis “reported his condition to [Deputy Warden] Borges.” See Id. ¶ 63. She “failed or refused to do anything for” St. Louis. See id.


         St. Louis alleges that the defendants have denied him medical care in violation of the Eighth Amendment and in violation of Article First § 9 of the Connecticut Constitution. He also claims that the defendants have discriminated against him in violation of the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment and Article First §§ 1, 20 of the Connecticut Constitution.

         Eleventh Amendment

         St. Louis sues all defendants in their individual capacities and Warden Mulligan and Commissioner Semple in their individual and official capacities. For relief, he seeks compensatory ...

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