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Kyles v. Pillia

United States District Court, D. Connecticut

September 4, 2019

OMPRAKASH PILLAI, M.D., et al. Defendants.



         Pending before this Court is the plaintiff's second motion for preliminary injunctive relief, ECF No. 28, and cross-motions for summary judgment filed by both parties, ECF Nos. 33, 34. For the following reasons, the Court will GRANT in part and DENY in part the defendants' motion for summary judgment, DENY the plaintiff's motion for summary judgment, and schedule this case for a consolidated trial on the merits and hearing on the second motion for preliminary injunctive relief, in accordance with Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 65(a)(2).

         I. Procedural History

         On June 14, 2018, the plaintiff, Rodney Martin Kyles, an inmate currently confined at the MacDougall-Walker Correctional Institution (“MWCI”) in Suffield, Connecticut, brought a civil action pro se under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 for monetary, injunctive, and declaratory relief against Dr. Omprakash Pillai and Nursing Supervisor Tawanna Furtick for violating his Eighth Amendment protection against cruel and unusual punishment. ECF No. 1. The plaintiff claimed that the defendants acted with deliberate indifference to his medical needs by refusing to treat him for his chronic back problem and/or provide him with a double mattress or hospital mattress to alleviate his back pain. Id. This Court issued its Initial Review Order on November 6, 2018 permitting the complaint to proceed on the Eighth Amendment claim against both defendants. ECF No. 7. The plaintiff filed an amended complaint on November 14, 2018. ECF No. 19. The defendants answered the amended complaint on March 8, 2019. ECF No. 23.

         On November 26, 2018, the plaintiff filed his first motion for preliminary injunctive relief. ECF No. 9. He requested that this Court order the defendants to provide him with a “medium-size[d] hospital mattress” to alleviate his back pain. Id. at 3, 5. This Court denied the motion without prejudice because the plaintiff failed to establish imminent irreparable harm in the absence of a preliminary injunction. ECF No. 22 at 4. The Court relied on evidence presented by the defendants that (1) the plaintiff continues to be evaluated by Dr. Pillai on a regular basis, (2) the defendants provided the plaintiff with an additional mattress in January 2019 to alleviate his back pain, and (3) Dr. Pillai opined that a medical mattress was not appropriate for the plaintiff's condition. Id. However, the plaintiff presented evidence that, as of January 29, 2019, Nurse Shantay Wells submitted a written recommendation that the plaintiff be provided with a medical mattress for his ongoing back and leg pain, which the defendants had not yet reviewed at the time the first motion was filed. See Id. Therefore, the Court permitted the plaintiff one opportunity to refile his motion for preliminary injunctive relief after the defendants had a chance to review Wells' assessment and recommendation. Id. at 4-5.

         On May 3, 2019, the plaintiff filed his second motion for preliminary injunctive relief. ECF No. 28. He states that he was re-evaluated by Dr. Pillai on April 1, 2019, and “it appear[s] that Dr. Pillai is in agreement with Nurse Wells' recommendation.” ECF No. 28-8 at 2. He also has provided affidavits from other inmates at MWCI attesting to the inadequacy of the standard mattresses in the facility and averring that the plaintiff continues to suffer ongoing pain. See ECF Nos. 28-10, 28-11, 28-12, 28-13. Therefore, he requests an order that the defendants provide him with a “medium size[d] hospital mattress” to alleviate his ongoing back pain. ECF No. 28 at 1-2. In a written objection to the motion, Dr. Pillai states that, despite Wells' assessment, “there is no medical need for a medical mattress for Mr. Kyles.” ECF No. 31 at 8.

         On July 4, 2019, the defendants moved for summary judgment on the plaintiff's Eighth Amendment claim. ECF No. 33. They contend that no reasonable jury could conclude that they were deliberately indifferent to the plaintiff's medical needs based on the evidence presented, and alternatively, they are entitled to qualified immunity. ECF No. 33-1 at 7-8. The plaintiff filed an opposition to the defendants' motion and his own motion for summary judgment, contending that the defendants' refusal to provide him with a medical mattress constitutes deliberate indifference. ECF Nos. 34-2, 37-2. The defendants have not responded to the plaintiff's motion for summary judgment.

         II. Standard for Summary Judgment

         In a motion for summary judgment, the burden is on the moving party to establish that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and that it is “entitled to judgment as a matter of law.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). A fact is “material” if it “might affect the outcome of the suit under the governing law” and a dispute of fact is “genuine” if “the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party.” Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986); see also Dister v. Continental Group, Inc., 859 F.2d 1108, 1114 (2d Cir. 1988) (mere existence of alleged factual dispute will not defeat summary judgment motion). The moving party may satisfy this burden “by showing - that is pointing out to the district court - that there is an absence of evidence to support the nonmoving party's case.” PepsiCo, Inc. v. Coca-Cola Co., 315 F.3d 101, 105 (2d Cir. 2002) (per curium) (internal quotations omitted; citations omitted).

         When a motion for summary judgment is supported by evidence and “demonstrates the absence of a genuine issue of material fact, ” the nonmoving party must do more than vaguely assert the existence of some unspecified disputed material facts or “rely on conclusory allegations or unsubstantiated speculation.” Robinson v. Concentra Health Servs., Inc., 781 F.3d 42, 44 (2d Cir. 2015) (citation omitted). The nonmoving party “must come forward with specific evidence demonstrating the existence of a genuine dispute of material fact.” Id.

         In reviewing the record, the Court must “construe the evidence in the light most favorable to the non-moving party and to draw all reasonable inferences in its favor.” Gary Friedrich Enters., L.L.C. v. Marvel Characters, Inc., 716 F.3d 302, 312 (2d Cir. 2013) (citation omitted). If there is any evidence from which a reasonable factual inference could be drawn in favor of the non-moving party for the issue on which summary judgment is sought, then summary judgment is improper. See Security Ins. Co. of Hartford v. Old Dominion Freight Line Inc., 391 F.3d 77, 83 (2d Cir. 2004).

         Where one party is proceeding pro se, the Court must read his papers liberally and interpret them “to raise the strongest arguments that they suggest.” Willey v. Kirkpatrick, 801 F.3d 51, 62 (2d Cir. 2015) (internal quotation marks and citation omitted). Despite this liberal interpretation, however, “[u]nsupported allegations do not create a material issue of fact” and cannot overcome a properly supported motion for summary judgment. See Weinstock v. Columbia Univ., 224 F.3d 33, 41 (2d Cir. 2000), cert. denied, 540 U.S. 811 (2003).[1]

         III. Facts of the Case

         The Court draws the following facts from the parties' Local Rule 56(a) Statements and supporting exhibits. ECF Nos. 33-2, 34-1, 34-4, 34-5, 37-1, 37-2.

         In 2009, the plaintiff was diagnosed with a neurological disorder in his spine. ECF Nos. 34-1 at ¶ 1, 34-4 at 2. In 2010, he underwent bilateral laminectomies on his L-3 and L-5 vertebrae and an MRI, which revealed “severe multilevel spinal stenosis and foramina narrowing.” ECF Nos. 33-2 at ¶ 4, 34-4 at 5, 7, 37-1 at ¶ 4. The procedures resulted in “good relief of [his] symptoms.” ECF Nos. 34-1 at ¶ 1, 34-4 at 7. Dr. Pillai has been treating the plaintiff since 2010, when he started ...

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