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Small v. Clements

United States District Court, D. Connecticut

November 5, 2019

JAMAL SMALL, Plaintiff,
MICHAEL CLEMENTS, et al., Defendants.


          Kari A. Dooley United States District Judge

         Preliminary Statement

         The pro se plaintiff, Jamal Small (“Small”), an inmate in the custody of the Department of Correction (DOC), brings this civil rights action Dr. Michael Clements, a DOC medical provider, in his individual capacity. He alleges that Dr. Clements was deliberately indifferent to his serious medical needs in violation of the Eighth Amendment of the United States Constitution. The Defendant seeks summary judgment on the ground that the Plaintiff's claim is merely a disagreement over medical treatment and does not therefore rise to the level of an Eighth Amendment violation. For the following reasons, the motion for summary judgment is GRANTED.

         Standard of Review

         A motion for summary judgment may be granted only where there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Rule 56(a), Fed. R. Civ. P.; see also Nick's Garage, Inc. v. Progressive Cas. Ins. Co., 875 F.3d 107, 113-14 (2d Cir. 2017). “A genuine issue of material fact exists if ‘the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party.'” Nick's Garage, 875 F.3d at 113-14 (quoting Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986)). Which facts are material is determined by the substantive law. Anderson, 477 U.S. at 248. “The same standard applies whether summary judgment is granted on the merits or on an affirmative defense ….” Giordano v. Market Am., Inc., 599 F.3d 87, 93 (2d Cir. 2010).

         The moving party bears the initial burden of informing the court of the basis for its motion and identifying the admissible evidence it believes demonstrates the absence of a genuine issue of material fact. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323 (1986). Once the moving party meets this burden, the nonmoving party must set forth specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial. Wright v. Goord, 554 F.3d 255, 266 (2d Cir. 2009). He cannot “rely on conclusory allegations or unsubstantiated speculation' but ‘must come forward with specific evidence demonstrating the existence of a genuine dispute of material fact.” Robinson v. Concentra Health Servs., 781 F.3d 42, 34 (2d Cir. 2015) (quotation marks and citation omitted). To defeat a motion for summary judgment, the nonmoving party must present such evidence as would allow a jury to find in his favor. Graham v. Long Island R.R., 230 F.3d 34, 38 (2d Cir. 2000).

         Although the court is required to read a self-represented “party's papers liberally and interpret them to raise the strongest arguments that they suggest, ” Willey v. Kirkpatrick, 801 F.3d 51, 62 (2d Cir. 2015), “unsupported allegations do not create a material issue of fact” and do not overcome a properly supported motion for summary judgment. Weinstock v. Columbia Univ., 224 F.3d 33, 41 (2d Cir. 2000).


         Small was a sentenced inmate confined at the Willard-Cybulski Correctional Institution (“WCCI”) at the time of the injury underlying this action. Def.'s Rule 56(a)1 Statement, Doc. No. 29-2, ¶¶ 2-3. Small has no medical or emergency services training. Id. ¶ 4.

         Dr. Clements is a board-certified physician licensed to practice medicine in Connecticut. Id. ¶¶ 5-6. He has been providing medical care to Connecticut inmates since 2008. Id. ¶ 7. Dr. Clements was Small's primary treating physician while he was confined at WCCI. Id. ¶ 8.

         On June 8, 2018, Small injured his left hand while playing basketball. Id. ¶ 9. He sought treatment from the medical unit that same day. Id. ¶ 10. A nurse assessed Small's needs and notified the on-call physician. Id. ¶ 12. Small was able to move his hand, wrist, and fingers. Id. ¶ 11. The nurse recommended treatment with Motrin, ice, and an ACE bandage. Id. ¶ 13. The on-call doctor also ordered that an x-ray be taken of Small's hand. Id. ¶ 14. At this time, Small also had been diagnosed with an “as-yet uncorrected hernia and unexplained hematuria (blood in his urine).” Id. ¶ 15.

         Small met with a nurse on June 11, 2018. She noted that he had good range of movement in his hand, instructed Small about Motrin use for pain, and noted a pending order for an x-ray of his left hand. Id. ¶ 16. The June 15, 2018 x-ray showed a nondisplaced oblique fracture through the proximal diaphysis of the third metacarpal. Id. ¶ 17. Small met with Dr. Clements the same day to discuss the x-ray results. Dr. Clements prescribed a foam hand splint and a follow-up x-ray. Id. ¶ 18. The foam splint consisted of a thick piece of foam with Velcro wraps to secure it to the hand. Id. ¶ 19. The splint extended from about five inches down the wrist to the knuckles of the hand and over the thumb. Id.

         Small submitted an inmate request form dated June 15, 2018 to the medical unit, seeking a copy of his medical records and asking to see the doctor because he was experiencing pain in his hand. Id. ¶ 20. The request was received on June 17, 2019. Id. Small met with Dr. Clements on June 19, 2018. Id. ¶ 21. The doctor noted that the hand was healing well. Id. The medical records contain no indication that Small complained about the splint. Id.

         On June 27, 2018, the medical unit received a health services review request dated June 21, 2018, seeking a review of Small's diagnosis and treatment. Id. ¶ 22. Small described his treatment to that point, stating that he had been prescribed a “wrist brace” for his broken hand ...

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