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Reynolds v. Semple

United States District Court, D. Connecticut

October 22, 2019

SCOTT SEMPLE, ET AL., Defendants.



         Preliminary Statement

         Pro se Plaintiff, Richard Reynolds (“Reynolds”), an inmate incarcerated at the Northern Correctional Institution (“Northern”) brings this civil rights complaint against Defendants Commissioner Scott Semple, Lieutenants Parnishkul and Colella, Captain Guzman, Correctional Officer Faryniarz, Nurse Birks, John Doe, General Casualty Company of Wisconsin, Enviromental Site Developer and Constitution State Services Insurance Company. His claims arise out of an accident and injuries he suffered when John Doe, a truck driver, rear-ended the van in which he was being transported to federal court. For the reasons set forth below, the complaint is dismissed.

         Standard of Review

         Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(b), the court must review prisoner civil complaints against government 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).


         On August 25, 2017, officers at Northern applied restraints, consisting of handcuffs, leg shackles and a belly chain that connected the shackles to the handcuffs, to Reynolds in preparation for his transport to federal court for a conference or hearing in a civil case. Compl., ECF No. 1, at 6 ¶¶ 20-21. Correctional officers seated Reynolds in the back of the transport van on the right side and fastened a seat belt around his waist. Id. ¶ 22. There were no hand-holds for Reynolds to grab onto to brace himself when the van accelerated and decelerated. Id. ¶ 23.

         Members of the Department of Correction's Tactical Operations and Correctional Transportation Unit (“CTU”), [1] including Lieutenants Parnishkul and Colella and Captain Guzman and Correctional Officer Faryniarz, were responsible for transporting Reynolds to the courthouse. Id. at 6 ¶¶ 20, 24; at 12-13 ¶¶ 62-63, 66. Lieutenant Parnishkul drove the transport van and Lieutenant Colella sat in the front passenger seat of the van. Id. Correctional Officer Faryniarz drove a car behind the prison van and Captain Guzman rode in the front passenger seat of the car. Id.

         During the trip to the courthouse, Reynolds was able to observe that Lieutenant Parnishkul drove between 75 and 95 miles per hour as he darted in and out of rush hour traffic with van's lights flashing and siren blaring. Id. at 6 ¶¶ 24-26; at 16 ¶ 88. At one point, Lieutenant Parnishkul had to slam on the brakes to avoid hitting the vehicle in front of him causing the upper part of Reynolds' body to be thrown forward as he remained belted into place. Id. at 8 ¶ 33. A truck driven by John Doe then rear-ended the prison van causing Reynolds' upper body to be thrown forward again as he remained belted into place. Id. ¶ 34. The impact of the truck hitting the van caused the glass in the rear window of the van to shatter. Id. Immediately after the collision, Lieutenant Colella turned to Reynolds and told him that he was fine. Id. ¶ 35. Lieutenant Parnishkul did not ask Reynolds if he was hurt and did not remain at the scene of the accident. Id. ¶ 37. Instead, he drove to the Bridgeport Correctional Center. Id. at 8-9 ¶¶ 38-39.

         An officer at Bridgeport Correctional Center removed Reynolds from the van and placed him in a small holding cell. Id. at 9 ¶¶ 39-40. Nurse Birks asked Reynolds whether he was hurt. Id. ¶ 40. A CTU officer informed Nurse Birks that Reynolds was fine. Id. Reynolds asked Nurse Birks why she was examining him in the presence of a non-medical staff member. Id. ¶ 42. The CTU officer responded that he must remain with Reynolds at all times. Id. Reynolds requested that Nurse Birks respect his privacy and his rights under the Health Insurance and Portability and Accountability Act (“HIPAA”), 42 U.S.C. § 1320d, et seq. Id. ¶ 44. Nurse Birks ignored Reynold's request and continued to ask him questions in front of the CTU officer. Id. Reynolds informed Nurse Birks that he would not answer any questions without consulting with his attorney. Id. ¶ 45. Nurse Birks completed a medical incident report which Reynolds refused to sign. Id. ¶ 46. Prison officials at Bridgeport Correctional located another van and officers transported Reynolds to the federal courthouse for his conference/hearing. Id. at 10 ¶ 49.

         Reynolds has experienced pain in his neck, right shoulder and lower back since the accident. Id. ¶ 50. He has also experienced numbness running from his right finger and thumb through his arm to his right shoulder. Id. ¶ 51. Upon his return to Northern, a physician prescribed multiple medications to treat Reynolds' injuries. Id. ¶¶ 53-54. X-rays of Reynolds' back, neck and shoulder revealed no broken bones. Id. at 11 ¶ 55.


         Reynolds alleges that Defendants Parnishkul, Semple, Guzman, Faryniarz, John Doe and Enviromental Site Developer were deliberately indifferent to his safety in violation of the Eighth Amendment; that Defendant Nurse Birks was deliberately indifferent to his medical needs in violation of the Eighth Amendment; that Defendant Nurse Birks violated his right to privacy and his right to equal protection of the laws under the Fourteenth Amendment. He further alleges that Defendants Parnishkul, Semple, John Doe and Enviromental Site Developer were negligent.

         Section 1983 - John Doe, Eviromental Site Developer, Insurance Companies

         To state a claim under § 1983, a plaintiff must demonstrate that the injury producing conduct is “fairly attributable to the State.” Lugar v. Edmondson Oil Co., 457 U.S. 922, 937 (1982). Conduct which deprives a party of a federally protected right is fairly attributable to the state when: (1) the deprivation is caused by the exercise of a state-created right or privilege, by a state-imposed rule of conduct, or “by a person for whom the state is responsible, ” and (2) the party charged with the deprivation may be fairly described as a state actor. Id.

         John Doe was the driver of the truck that rear-ended the prison van. Eviromental Site Developer owned the truck driven by John Doe. Neither are alleged to be (or appear to be) state actors. Reynolds also claims that General Casualty Company of Wisconsin insures Environmental Site Developer and Constitution State Services insures the Department of Correction. But the complaint contains no allegations against either of these entities. Accordingly the claims against John Doe, Environmental Site Developer, General Casualty Company of Wisconsin and Constitution State Services are dismissed pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(b)(1). See Curry v. Fread, No. 5:10CV00154 JMM/BD, 2010 WL 2926039, at *2 (E.D. Ark. July 13, 2010) (“Because Plaintiff has failed to allege that the Insurance Company deprived him of any constitutional rights while acting under state law, his claims against the Insurance Company must be dismissed.”), report and recommendation adopted, No. 5:10CV00154 JMM/BD, 2010 WL 2926029 (E.D. Ark. July 21, 2010); Fiamengo v. Wadsworth, No. 3:04 CV 569 SRU, 2004 WL 1638235, at *3 (D. Conn. July 13, 2004) (dismissing claims against Wadsworth, a private citizen who had been involved in car accident with the plaintiff and the company that insured Wadsworth because neither was a state actor under section 1983), aff'd, 127 Fed.Appx. 564 (2d Cir. 2005).

         Section 1983 - Eleventh Amendment - Monetary and Declaratory Relief Semple, Parnishkul, Colella, Guzman, Faryniarz, Birks

         Reynolds sues Defendants Semple, Parnishkul, Colella, Guzman, Faryniarz and Nurse Birks in their individual and official capacities. He seeks compensatory and punitive damages and declaratory and injunctive relief.

         Monetary ...

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