United States District Court, D. Connecticut
CHRISTOPHER H. CROWDER, Plaintiff,
DR. FARINELLA, et al., Defendant.
RULING AND ORDER ON MOTION FOR SUMMARY
A. BOLDEN UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
H. Crowder (“Plaintiff”), currently incarcerated
at MacDougall-Walker Correctional Institution and proceeding
pro se, filed this lawsuit under 42 U.S.C. §
1983. He contends that Drs. Farinella, Cary Freston, Syed
Naqvi, and Ruiz, and Rodolofo Alvarez, a recreation
supervisor (the “Defendants”) were deliberately
indifferent to his medical needs, and violated his Eighth
Amendment Rights. Complaint, ECF No. 1 (July 10, 2017).
have filed a motion for summary judgment and seek to dismiss
the case in its entirety. Motion for Summary Judgment, ECF
No. 58 (Feb. 7, 2019).
following reasons, the motion for summary judgment is
FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND
Crowder allegedly suffers from multiple sclerosis, a
condition allegedly in remission during the time relevant to
this lawsuit. From June 2013 through November 2015, the
medical staff at MacDougall-Walker Correctional Institution
treated Mr. Crowder a number of times. Defendants’
Local Rule 56(a)(1) Statement, ECF No. 58-2 ¶ 1 (Feb. 7,
2019) (“Defs.’ SMF”).
Farinella, Freston, Ruiz, and Naqvi served on the Utilization
Review Committee, see Amended Complaint, ECF No. 23
(Nov. 29, 2017) (“Am. Compl.”), which is a panel
comprised of four doctors in order determine whether a
consultation with outside physicians or specialists is
necessary. Memorandum in Support of Defendants’ Motion,
ECF No. 58 at 15 (Feb. 7, 2019) (“Defs.’
April of 2015, Mr. Crowder first met with Dr. Omprakash
Pillai, a treating physician at the facility. Defs.’
SMF ¶ 3. On June 1, 2015, Dr. Pillai performed an
examination of Mr. Crowder and submitted two requests to the
Utilization Review Committee, for a consultative examination
by a pulmonologist and an echocardiogram by a cardiologist.
Id. ¶¶ 3-5, 7.
Utilization Review Committee denied both requests. With
respect to the first request, the objective data observed did
not show any abnormalities and the Utilization Review
Committee thus recommended Mr. Crowder be monitored and
reassessed over time. Id. ¶¶ 6-7. With
respect to the second request, the Utilization Review
Committee recommended that the treating physician obtain an
echocardiogram, continue monitoring Mr. Crowder, and consider
a mental health referral. Id. ¶¶ 7-8. In
August of 2015, Dr. Pillai met with Mr. Crowder to discuss
the requests. Id. ¶ 9.
Crowder continued to go to the medical unit on a regular and
recurring basis. Id. ¶ 10. On September 8,
2015, he met with a nurse to discuss his concerns after
strenuous exercise, including the tightening of his right
hip. Id. ¶ 11. The nurse attributed Mr.
Crowder’s concerns to his multiple sclerosis and noted
that there was no indication of breathing problems that would
prevent him from exercising. Id.
17, 2016, Dr. Pillai met with Mr. Crowder and again submitted
two requests to the Utilization Review Committee: an initial
consultation with a pulmonologist and an initial consultation
with a cardiologist. Id. ¶¶ 12-13, 15. The
Utilization Review Committee denied the first request, and
instructed the treating physician to obtain updated chest
x-rays and follow-up with Mr. Crowder. Id. ¶
14. The Utilization Review Committee also denied the second
request because no objective abnormalities allegedly were
found, and instructed the treating physician to obtain an
echocardiogram, continue monitoring Mr. Crowder, and reassess
his condition. Id. ¶ 16.
April 25, 2017, after additional testing and monitoring, Dr.
Pillai submitted two new Utilization Review Committee
Requests. Id. ¶ 17. The requests sought initial
consultative examinations for Mr. Crowder with a cardiologist
and a pulmonologist within two months of the request.
Id. ¶¶ 18-19. The Utilization Review
Committee granted these requests. As a result, on June 12,
2017, a pulmonologist examined Mr. Crowder and, on June 14,
2017, a cardiologist examined him. Id. ¶¶
pulmonologist recommended a spirometry with total lung
volumes and diffusion capacity. Id. ¶ 21. If Mr.
Crowder’s pulmonary function test was normal, the
pulmonologist would recommend him having a cardiac workup to
determine whether his dyspnea had a cardiac cause. Id.
The cardiologist recommended an echocardiogram and a nuclear
stress test. Id. ¶ 21. On June 20, 2017, the
Utilization Review Committee approved the additional tests.
Id. ¶ 24.
31, 2017, Dr. Pillai performed another examination of Mr.
Crowder, noted common back pain, and recommended that Mr.
Crowder continue performing lower back exercise and taking
simple analgesics. . Id. ¶ 25. Mr. Crowder
alleges that he has a degenerative disc disease and did not
have common back pain. Plaintiff’s Statement of
Disputed Facts, ECF No. 62 ¶ 25 (Mar. 7, 2019)
August 22, 2017, both tests recommended by the cardiologist
were performed. Defs.’ SMF ¶¶ 26-27. Mr.
Crowder’s echocardiogram results were in the normal
range and did not indicate any abnormality that would require
further monitoring or an additional consultation.
Id. ¶ 26. The nuclear stress test revealed no
evidence of myocardial ischemia on the myocardial perfusion
imaging. No. reversible defects were identified on stress
imaging. Id. ¶ 27. During the test, Mr. Crowder
did not complain of chest pain or shortness of breath.
August 29, 2017, the pulmonary function tests were conducted.
Id. ¶ 28. Mr. Crowder’s lung volumes and
diffusion capacity were normal. Id. There was no
evidence of an obstruction or restriction. Id. The
test results also did not disclose any abnormalities or
conditions that warranted additional testing or follow-up
consultations. Id. ¶ 29.
this same time period, Mr. Crowder worked at the gym at
MacDougall-Walker Correctional Institution, where Mr. Alvarez
served as his supervisor. Id. ¶ 39. As a
supervisor, Mr. Alvarez had to account for all gym workers at
all times. Id. ¶ 47. Gym workers had to report
for work twice a day, Monday through Saturday, and once on
Sunday. Id. ¶ 41. Workers reported for the
first shift between 8:30 a.m. and 8:45 a.m. Id.
¶ 42. Inmates could use the gym from 8:45 a.m. until
9:45 a.m. Id. ¶ 43. When the inmates left the
gym at 9:45 a.m., the gym workers had responsibility for
cleaning it. Id. ¶ 44.
early 2015, Mr. Crowder allegedly began leaving the gym at
9:45 a.m. without permission. Id. ¶ 45. Other
inmates allegedly complained to Mr. Alvarez that Mr. Crowder
was leaving without helping them complete the work.
Id. ¶ 46. Mr. Alvarez allegedly spoke with Mr.
Crowder and told him to stop leaving the gym without
permission, id. ¶ 48, which was Mr.
Crowder’s first verbal warning. Id. ¶ 49.
When Mr. Crowder allegedly continued to leave the gym without
permission, Mr. Alvarez issued a second verbal warning.
the gym without permission is considered disobeying a direct
order and allegedly could endanger institutional safety and
security. Id. ¶¶ 50-51. Rather than
issuing a disciplinary report, Mr. Alvarez allegedly asked
Mr. Crowder about his unauthorized departures from the gym.
Id. ¶ 53. Mr. Crowder said he was going to the
medical unit. Id. ¶ 54. Mr. Alvarez does not
recall whether, in accordance with customary practice, Mr.
Crowder had permission to leave the gym and go to the medical
unit but states that, if Mr. Crowder had a pass, he would
have permitted Mr. Crowder to go to the medical unit.
Id. ¶¶ 55-56. Mr. Alvarez contends that
Mr. Crowder’s medication was administered once a week,
but he was leaving the gym three times a week. Id.
¶¶ 57-58. Mr. Crowder’s medication allegedly
did need to be administered at the same time each week.
Id. ¶ 72.
Crowder disputes all of Mr. Alvarez’s statements and
submits copies of medical passes issued to him in October
2016 and February 2019. Pl.’s SDF ¶¶ 40-66;
see also Plaintiff’s Opposition to Summary
Judgment: Exhibit A, ECF No. 62 at 33 (Mar. 7, 2019)
(“Pl.’s Ex. A”).
10, 2017, Mr. Crowder sued Dr. Farinella, Dr. Freston, Dr.
Naqvi, Dr. Ruiz, Raquel Lightner, C.C. Moore, Heidi Greene
and Rudi Alvarez under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 for alleged
violations of his civil and constitutional rights. Complaint,
ECF No. 1 ¶ 6 (July 10, 2017) (“Compl.”).
Mr. Crowder alleged that (1) Raquel Lightner, the Utilization
Review Committee Health Service Administrator, and Heidi
Greene, the Nurse Supervisor, refused to provide him with
adequate medical treatment, Compl. ¶ 2; (2) C.C. Moore,
the Freedom of Information Liaison, denied him access to the
names of the Utilization Review Committee members,
id. ¶¶ 3, 50–52; (3) Dr. Ruiz, Dr.
Farinella, Dr. Freston and Dr. Naqvi, as employees of the
Utilization Review Committee, were deliberately indifferent
towards Mr. Crowder’s requests for pulmonary
examinations, id. ¶¶ 6–9, 23, 34;
and (4) Mr. Alvarez, the recreation supervisor, interfered
with and showed deliberate indifference to his medical needs,
id. ¶¶ 54–76. Mr. Crowder alleged
that these actions violated his rights under the Eighth
Amendment. Id. ¶ 79.
Crowder also moved for leave to proceed in forma
pauperis. Motion for Leave to Proceed in forma
pauperis, ECF No. 2 (July 10, 2017). On July 18, 2017,
Magistrate Judge William Garfinkel granted that motion.
Order, ECF No. 8 (July 18, 2017).
August 7, 2017, the Court reviewed the complaint under 28
U.S.C. 1915A(b)(1) and dismissed the claims against Ms.
Lightner, Ms. Greene and Mr. Moore, without prejudice,
because (1) Mr. Crowder failed to allege facts suggesting Ms.
Greene provided him with improper care or was aware that
others had done so; (2) Ms. Lightner was not responsible for
providing Mr. Crowder medical care and therefore would not be
the person to make entries into Mr. Crowder’s medical
chart regarding his symptoms or treatment; and (3) Mr.
Crowder failed to allege facts suggesting that Mr. Moore
interfered with his ability to seek medical treatment.
Initial Review Order, ECF No. 9 (Aug. 7, 2017).
Court allowed the case to proceed on the deliberate
indifference to medical needs claims against Dr. Farinella,
Dr. Freston, Dr. Naqvi, Dr. Ruiz, and Mr. Alvarez, as well as
the equal protection claim against Mr. Alvarez. Id.
September 22, 2017, Mr. Crowder moved for the appointment of
pro bono counsel to represent him in this case. Motion to
Appoint Counsel, ECF No. 17 (Sept. 22, 2017).
October 17, 2017, Mr. Crowder moved for leave to file an
Amended Complaint. Motion to Amend Complaint, ECF No. 18
(Oct. 17, 2017).
November 28, 2017, the Court denied the motion to appoint
counsel, without prejudice. Order, ECF No. 21 (Nov. 28,
2017). The Court explained that Mr. Crowder had not
demonstrated that he was unable to obtain counsel and that
appointment was not warranted at the time. Id. at 2.
same day, the Court granted the motion to amend, explaining
that “[a]s the defendants have not yet responded to the
Complaint… Mr. Crowder may amend his Complaint once as
of right.” Ruling on Motion to Amend Complaint, ECF No.
22 (Nov. 28, 2017).
Court therefore directed the Clerk to docket the Amended
Complaint. It noted that while Mr. Crowder had supplemented
his allegations regarding medical care and withdrawn his
claim against Ms. Greene, he had reasserted his claims
against Ms. Lightner and Mr. Moore without alleging
“new facts that would alter the analysis in the Initial
Review Order.” Id. at 1.
the Court found that the “claims against Ms. Lightner
and Mr. Moore . . . remain dismissed for the reasons stated
in the Initial Review Order.” Id.
November 29, 2017, the Clerk of the Court docketed Mr.
Crowder’s Amended Complaint, ECF No. 23 (Nov. 29, 2017)
December 4, 2017, Mr. Crowder moved for an “immediate
injunction, ” asking that he be treated immediately for
his breathing issue. Motion for Injunction, ECF No. 24 (Dec.
4, 2017). Mr. Crowder alleged that while a recent pulmonary
function test supposedly showed no abnormalities, he was
still having difficulty ...