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Ingram v. Sochacki

United States District Court, D. Connecticut

October 7, 2019

JOHN INGRAM, Plaintiff,
v.
DAVID SOCHACKI, D.D.S., et al. Defendants.

          October 1, 2019

          RULING RE: MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT (DE#60)

          KARI A. DOOLEY UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         Statement of the Case

         On May 24, 2017, Plaintiff, John Ingram, a state prisoner in the custody of the Connecticut Department of Correction (“DOC”), filed a complaint pro se under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against several state correctional dental care professionals for violating his constitutional rights. Compl. (DE#1). After three amended complaints and a ruling from this Court granting in part and denying in part a motion to dismiss, the case now consists of one Eighth Amendment claim for deliberate indifference to serious dental needs against three dental care professionals: Dr. David Sochacki, Dr. Peter O'Shea, and Dr. Richard Benoit. See Ruling on Mot. to Dismiss (DE#45).

         On May 15, 2019, the three remaining defendants (“Defendants”) moved for summary judgment asserting that the undisputed material facts demonstrate that they are entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Alternatively, they claim that they are entitled to qualified immunity under the circumstances presented. The Plaintiff filed his opposition to Defendants' motion on July 17, 2019 and, per the Court's leave, a supplementary opposition on September 12, 2019.[1] For the following reasons, Defendants' motion is GRANTED.

         Standard of Review

         A party seeking summary judgment bears the burden of demonstrating that there are no genuine issues of material fact in dispute 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 is “genuine” if “a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party” based on it. 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 documentary evidence and sworn affidavits and “demonstrates the absence of a genuine issue of material fact, ” the nonmoving party “must come forward with specific evidence demonstrating the existence of a genuine dispute of material fact.” Robinson v. Concentra Health Servs., Inc., 781 F.3d 42, 44 (2d Cir. 2015) (citation omitted). 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.” Id. see also First Nat. Bank of Ariz. v. Cities Service Co., 391 U.S. 253, 289 (1968) (nonmoving party must submit evidence supporting factual dispute that will require factfinder to resolve differing versions of truth at trial).

         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 University, 224 F.3d 33, 41 (2d Cir. 2000).

         Facts

         The Court draws the following material facts from the parties' Local Rule 56(a) Statements and the exhibits on record.

         At all times relevant to this case, Plaintiff was confined at the Cheshire Correctional Institution (“Cheshire”) in Connecticut. Defs.' Ex. A (Pl.'s Med. Records) (DE#62), 18-29. On September 10, 2012, Plaintiff had a dental consultation with Dr. Victor Shivy. Id. at 14; Defs.' Local Rule 56(a)(1) Statement (“Defs.' Stmt.”) (DE#60-2) ¶ 5; Pl.'s Local Rule 56(a)(2) Statement (“Pl.'s Stmt.”) (DE#73) ¶ 5. During that consultation, Plaintiff gave written consent for the DOC Division of Health Services to extract two of his teeth, identified as numbers 23 and 24. Defs.' Ex. A at 14; Defs.' Stmt. ¶ 6; Pl.'s Stmt. ¶ 6. On November 20, 2012, Plaintiff met with Dr. John F. Dupont for another dental evaluation. Defs.' Stmt. ¶ 7; Pl.'s Stmt. ¶ 7. During that appointment, he consented in writing to the extraction of two more of his teeth, numbers 25 and 26. Defs.' Stmt. ¶ 8; Pl.'s Stmt. ¶ 8; Defs.' Ex. A at 13. The extraction occurred that same day. Id.

         Dr. Sochacki began work at Cheshire on November 2, 2012. Defs.' Stmt. ¶ 2; Pl.'s Stmt. ¶ 2; Defs.' Ex. B ¶ 6. On November 26, 2012, he wrote a note in Plaintiff's medical chart stating, “Area healing well, ” presumably in reference to the teeth extraction on November 20, 2012. Pl.'s Ex. M (Dental Record) (DE#73 at 73). Work logs show that Dr. Sochacki was working at Cheshire on November 20, 2012 from 7:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m.; Pl.'s Ex. AA (Work Logs) (DE#77 at 11); but they do not indicate that he participated in the extraction procedure with Dr. Dupont. Dr. Sochacki continued to treat Plaintiff's dental needs in 2013 and 2014. Defs.' Ex. A at 3, 6, 8, 10, 12. He ordered partial dentures for Plaintiff in December 2013 and again in April 2014. Id ...


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