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Patterson v. Quiros

United States District Court, D. Connecticut

June 24, 2019

ANGEL QUIROS, et al., Defendants.


          Michael P. Shea United States District Judge.

         On February 1, 2019, the plaintiff, Clarence Patterson, a pro se inmate currently confined at the Corrigan-Radgowski Correctional Institution (“Corrigan”) in Uncasville, Connecticut, brought a civil rights action under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against Angel Quiros, the District Administrator for the Department of Correction (“DOC”). ECF No. 1. This Court ordered the plaintiff to file an amended complaint because the allegations stated in the initial complaint related to other DOC officials not listed as defendants. See ECF No. 7. On March 5, 2019, the plaintiff filed a document entitled, “Status Report, ” which the Court construed as his amended complaint. ECF No. 8. The amended complaint listed fifteen DOC officials as defendants. One month later, the plaintiff filed a document entitled, “Memorandum: Motion for Attachment and Status Report, ” which the Court construed as an addendum to his amended complaint. ECF No. 9. The Court dismissed both pleadings without prejudice because they joined multiple unrelated causes of action based on events that occurred at two different correctional facilities over a two-year period. See ECF No. 10. The Court instructed the plaintiff to file a “Second Amended Complaint, ” alleging facts in support of one set of constitutional claims and showing how each defendant was personally involved in those constitutional deprivations. See id.

         On May 22, 2019, the plaintiff filed a second amended complaint against seventeen defendants: District Administrator Angel Quiros, District Administrator Scott Erfe, Warden Wright, Nurse Samantha Doe, Officer Paolini, Nurse Rick Doe, Counselor Supervisor Moore, Counselor John Doe, District Administrator Mulligan, Medical Supervisor Jeff Stamp, Deputy Warden Peterson, Dr. Ricardo Ruiz, Grievance Coordinator Stephanie Doe, Unit Manager Molina, Correctional Treatment Officer Tross, Phone Monitor Peracchio, and Deputy Warden Guadarrama. ECF No. 12, pp. 2-3, 95-97. The plaintiff is suing all seventeen defendants for violating his First, Fourth, Eighth, and Fourteenth Amendment rights. For the following reasons, the second amended complaint is dismissed in part.

         I. Standard of Review

         Under 28 U.S.C. § 1915A, 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. 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.” Bell Atlantic, 550 U.S. at 570. “A claim has facial plausibility when the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the [C]ourt to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged.” Ashcroft, 556 U.S. at 678 (citing Bell Atlantic, 550 U.S. at 556). Nevertheless, it is well-established that “[p]ro se complaints ‘must be construed liberally and interpreted to raise the strongest arguments that they suggest.'” Sykes v. Bank of America, 723 F.3d 399, 403 (2d Cir. 2013) (quoting Triestman v. Fed. Bureau of Prisons, 470 F.3d 471, 474 (2d Cir. 2006)); see also Tracy v. Freshwater, 623 F.3d 90, 101-02 (2d Cir. 2010) (discussing special rules of solicitude for pro se litigants).

         II. Factual Allegations

         On February 13, 2018, the plaintiff received an epidural shot in his back for his effaced L4/L5 nerve root. ECF No. 12, p.5. Two days later, he returned to Osborn Correctional Institution (“Osborn”) and was taken to the intake area to retrieve his personal property and receive his housing assignment. Id. Nurse Samantha evaluated the plaintiff in a storage area of the intake unit, noted where he had received his epidural shot, and told him that he needed to see a physician for an immediate follow-up. Id. at 6. She also told him that he needed a bottom bunk pass, but the admissions officers had already assigned him to a top bunk. Id. Samantha issued the plaintiff a thirty-day bottom bunk pass and told him that he would be seeing a physician in a few days. Id.

         While administering the intake screening, Samantha said that it was getting late, that she still had a lot of work to do in the medical unit, and that she wanted to get out on time. ECF No. 12, p. 7. She then walked with the plaintiff to a table where Supervisor Moore and Officer Paolini were screening other inmates into Osborn. Id. Samantha asked Paolini to have the plaintiff's bunk assignment switched to a bottom bunk, and Paolini agreed. Id. After Samantha left the unit, Paolini refused to make the switch. Id. at 8. He told the plaintiff that he had to use the top bunk in B-Block that was assigned to him. Id. The plaintiff then filed grievances against Samantha and Paolini. Id. However, inmates who are not kitchen workers are not permitted to live or even visit the B-Block unit. Id. The plaintiff struggled up the stairs to the B-Block unit carrying his property because of his back pain. Id.

         When he reached the B-Block unit, he was met by two officers working the evening shift. ECF No. 12, p. 9. Another inmate approached the plaintiff and told the officers to call a lieutenant and put him in segregation because he was “not living . . . with no faggot.” Id. One of the officers told the plaintiff to go lock up because the lieutenant was coming to the unit and called another officer to assist the plaintiff in carrying his property. Id.

         The following morning, the plaintiff called a nurse over to his cell. ECF No. 12, p. 10. He explained to the nurse that he had just received an epidural shot to his back and was wrongfully assigned to a top bunk. Id. The nurse told the plaintiff to explain the situation to the officials working the next shift. Id. Later, when the plaintiff was let out of his cell to receive his medication, he spoke to Officer Feldott about his bunk assignment. Id. at 10-11. Feldott informed Captain Griffith about the bunk issue, who told the plaintiff that he did not switch bunk assignments under any circumstances. Id. at 11. Griffith told him that, if he wanted his bunk switched, he would have to write a request to the operations unit. Id. The plaintiff wrote numerous requests to the medical unit to be moved to a bottom bunk and complained of persistent back pain. Id.

         On March 7, 2018, the plaintiff was told that he was moving to the D-Block unit. ECF No. 12, p. 14. Officers Quinones and Feldott were rushing the plaintiff to pack his belongings. Id. As he was trying to retrieve his television from his top bunk, the plaintiff's right leg gave out, causing him to fall backwards and hit his head on the metal locker in his cell. ECF No. 12, p. 15. The plaintiff's cellmate immediately ran out of the cell and yelled for officials to call a Code White, which signifies a medical response. Id. When a Code White is called, officials must preserve video footage, write an incident report, and record the incident in the unit log book. Id. at 16. Officer Feldott came to the cell, saw the plaintiff on the floor in pain, and then asked Quinones whether they should call a Code White. Id. at 15. Quinones told Feldott not to call a Code White and that he would send for a wheelchair. Id. The plaintiff later filed a grievance against Quinones and Feldott based on their refusal to call a Code White and get him a bottom bunk. Id. at 16. He also filed several requests to Health Services Administrator (“HSA”) Furey. Id.

         Twenty to thirty minutes after the fall, Nurse Rick came to the unit with a wheelchair for the plaintiff. ECF No. 12, p. 17. He and Feldott lifted the plaintiff off the ground and walked him down the stairs to where the wheelchair was positioned. Id. While walking down the stairs, the plaintiff's leg gave out again, and he started to fall again, but Rick caught him. Id.

         The plaintiff waited in the medical unit for ten to twenty minutes before being evaluated. ECF No. 12, pp. 17-18. Rick did not review the plaintiff's intake screening, which called for a physician's assessment shortly after his admission to Osborn. Id. at 18. Rick performed a “routine” assessment of the plaintiff's injuries. Id. The plaintiff explained to him that he was in severe pain and did not feel like he could ambulate without a cane or crutch. Id. at 18. While reviewing the plaintiff's history, Rick noticed that he had been issued a temporary bottom bunk pass. Id. at 19. He called Feldott and Quinones and asked them why he had been assigned to a top bunk. Id. The plaintiff later heard Rick say over the phone, “I got this, don't worry about it, I'll take care of everything.” Id. Rick then examined the plaintiff, who had a large “knot” on the back of his head. Id. He told the nurse in the unit that the plaintiff had no “knot” or blood. Id. Rick told the plaintiff that he believed his story of falling off the bunk, but he refused to order x-rays, issue him a cane or crutch, or give him any pain medication. Id. He did, however, pick up the phone and tell officials that he was giving the plaintiff a bottom bunk pass in the East-4 unit and a three-day “feed back card” so that the plaintiff did not have to walk to the chow hall for his food. Id. at 20. Rick ordered the “feed back card” but erroneously sent it to the plaintiff's previous cell. Id.

         On April 2, 2018, the plaintiff saw Dr. Wright at Osborn. ECF No. 12, p. 44. Dr. Wright referred him to the UConn Medical Center (“UConn”) for an MRI in order to determine whether the fall on March 7 caused any new injuries to his back. Id.

         On April 26, 2018, Warden Wright denied the plaintiff's grievance against Quinones. ECF No. 12, p. 37. Wright stated that, although the medical unit had issued the plaintiff a temporary bottom bunk pass, the plaintiff opted for a top bunk. Id. However, the plaintiff never opted for a top bunk. Id. He appealed Wright's decision to District Administrator Quiros. Id. at 38. Quiros falsely stated that he had previously rejected the level-2 appeal from the grievance against Quinones. Id.

         The plaintiff later filed a level-3 appeal against Quiros to the Commissioner's Office. ECF No. 12, p. 38. When Quiros discovered that the plaintiff had complained to the Commissioner's Office, he instructed Boyd Carter, the grievance coordinator at Cheshire Correctional Institution (“Cheshire”), to send all level-3 appeals filed by the plaintiff directly to him as opposed to the Deputy Commissioner so that he could “destroy them” without disposition. Id. at 39. Carter complied and sent three of the plaintiff's level-3 appeals directly to Quiros. Id. at 39-40. The plaintiff filed a grievance against Quiros, claiming that he was falsifying dates on his appeals. Id. at 40. District Administrator Erfe never answered the grievance against Quiros and refused to send it to the Deputy Commissioner for adjudication. Id. at 41. The plaintiff continued to file numerous grievances and appeals against Quiros, but they were all confiscated and/or destroyed by Erfe. Id. at 43.

         Over the next several weeks, the plaintiff was forced to ambulate long distances to the chow hall and medication window in his painful condition. ECF No. 12, p. 21. He filed a grievance against Rick for refusing to properly treat his condition. Id. He argued that Rick could have transferred him to the J-1 Unit, which is designed for inmates with limited mobility because it has a chow hall, religious services, school, medical unit, library, and gymnasium all near each other. Id.

         John Doe was the counselor for the D-Block unit. ECF No. 12, p. 24. One of the responsibilities of the unit counselor is to make legal copes for the inmates in the unit. Id. Doe made legal copies for the plaintiff on April 16, 26, and 30, 2018. Id. He also made a legal phone call for the plaintiff on April 30. Id. On May 2, the plaintiff wrote a request to Doe explaining that Warden Wright had predated his grievance disposition to prevent him from filing a timely level-2 appeal. Id. at 25-26. He also requested the copies that Doe had made for him days earlier. Id. at 26. Doe denied the plaintiff the legal copies and explained to him that any additional copies would have to be made in the library. Id. The plaintiff explained to Doe that the inmates in the D-Block were housed in the gymnasium and that the library would be closed during the entire week, but Doe refused to issue the copies. Id. at 26-27. Doe also told the plaintiff that he was on the list to make a legal call, but the plaintiff never received his legal call at Osborn. Id. at 27. The plaintiff filed numerous grievances against Doe for denying him access to courts. Id.

         On May 4, 2018, Supervisor Moore and Captain Colon came to the plaintiff's cell. ECF No. 12, p. 28. Moore told the plaintiff that Doe did not have to make legal copies for him. Id. The plaintiff told Moore that his unit was housed in the gymnasium and that library privileges had been suspended for the week, but Moore just told him to make copies the next time he was permitted access to the library, which was not for six days later. Id. The plaintiff also explained to Moore that Warden Wright consistently predated grievance dispositions to prevent timely appeals. Id. at 29. He showed Moore a law book indicating that Wright was violating the law and argued that Moore would be personally liable for the violation, but Moore just said that “he and the warden w[ere] the law.” Id. The plaintiff later filed a grievance against Doe for refusing to make copies of a time-sensitive grievance. Id. at 30. Wright later rejected the grievance as repetitive. Id. He also filed a grievance against Moore for refusing to order Doe to make copies of his initial grievance, which became time-barred. Id. at 34. Wright responded to the grievance against Moore, stating that “counselors are not required to make inmate copies” and that it was “a courtesy.” Id. at 35. However, the unit counselor is the only resource the plaintiff had for making legal copies. Id. at 36.

         On May 9, 2018, the plaintiff went to UConn for the MRI ordered by Dr. Wright. ECF No. 12, p. 45. The MRI showed a large paracentral disc protrusion which abuts the descending L-4 nerve root. Id. As a result, Dr. Wright requested a ortho-spinal consultation and a cane for the plaintiff. Id. The expert with whom the plaintiff consulted recommended that the plaintiff receive two epidural shots in his back by the end of the year. Id.

         On May 22, 2018, HSA Furey called the plaintiff to his office and issued him a cane, which he admitted should have been issued on the day of his injury in the B-Block unit. ECF No. 12, p. 22. Furey also agreed to “chastise” Nurse Rick for not issuing a cane on the day of the incident and placing him in a cell one hundred yards from the chow hall and thirty yards from the medication window when there were open beds in the J-1 Unit. Id. During the meeting, Furey also confirmed that the only way an inmate, who was issued a bottom bunk pass, could be assigned to a top bunk is if he signed a medical refusal. Id. at 23. The plaintiff never signed a refusal for a top bunk. Id.

         On May 23, 2018, the plaintiff was transferred from Osborn to Cheshire. ECF No. 12, p. 38. Upon his arrival, the plaintiff wrote to the medical unit, explaining that he had not received the two epidural shots prescribed by the orthopedist and that he needed to see a physician. Id. at 46. The next injection was supposed to be administered on June 13, but the plaintiff was not seen by a medical official until June 16. Id. At that meeting, Nurse Mark put the plaintiff on the list to see Dr. Ruiz, but Ruiz said that the epidural shots “w[ere] not important” and removed the plaintiff from his list of patients to be evaluated. Id. When the plaintiff asked Ruiz why he had refused to give him the two epidural shots in a timely manner, Ruiz said that he did not “believe in back surgery, ” that epidural shots are not safe unless there is pain in the patient's leg, and that he has seen other inmates respond with worse conditions. Id. at 47. However, the plaintiff's medical file showed that he had a prominent limp in ...

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