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Weatherwax v. Barone

United States District Court, D. Connecticut

November 21, 2019



          Kari A. Dooley United States District Judge

         Preliminary Statement

         Pro se Plaintiff, John Weatherwax (“Weatherwax”), currently incarcerated at the MacDougall-Walker Correctional Institution (“MacDougall-Walker”) brings this civil rights complaint against Warden Kristine Barone, Deputy Warden Jeannotte, Captain Claudio and Nurse Jane Doe. He claims that in June 2019, the defendants failed to protect him from assault by his cellmate and/or were deliberately indifferent to his medical needs thereafter, all in violation of the Eighth Amendment prohibition against cruel and unusual punishment. Upon initial review, the complaint is dismissed in part.

         Standard of Review

         Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(b), the court must review prisoner civil complaints against governmental 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 December 6, 2018, a judge in the Connecticut Superior Court for the Judicial District of Hartford, sentenced Weatherwax to a total effective term of imprisonment of four years. See State v. Weatherwax, No. HHD-CR18-0175641-T.[1] On December 17, 2018, prison officials at Hartford Correctional Center transferred Weatherwax to the Walker Building at MacDougall-Walker. Compl., ECF No. 1, at 2 ¶ 3. On April 26, 2019, prison officials in the Walker Building transferred Weatherwax to the MacDougall Building. Id. ¶ 4.

         On June 20, 2019, Weatherwax sent an inmate request to Warden Barone and Deputy Warden Jeannotte indicating that his cellmate had made threatening and violent statements and gestures towards him. Id. at 4 ¶ 13. On June 23, 2019, Weatherwax spoke to staff members working in his housing unit about his cellmate's threats and requested a cell change. Id. ¶ 14.

         On June 24, 2019, Weatherwax submitted an inmate request to Captain Claudio seeking to speak to her about his concerns for his safety due to his cellmate's threats and mental health issues and history of violence within the Department of Correction. Id. ¶ 15. On June 25, 2019, Weatherwax's cellmate threatened to break Weatherwax's legs if he did not stop acting in a “suspect” manner and mentioned that he had broken another inmate's leg during his confinement at Osborn Correctional Institution. Id. ¶ 16. Weatherwax's cellmate continued to threaten to harm Weatherwax until June 30, 2019. Id. ¶ 17.

         On June 28, 2019, Weatherwax informed a lieutenant in his housing unit about his cellmate's threats and sought to be moved to another cell. Id. ¶ 18. The lieutenant indicated that he and other staff members were aware of the situation and that an email had been sent to Warden Barone and Deputy Warden Jeannotte regarding the matter. Id. The lieutenant informed Weatherwax that Warden Barone and Deputy Warden Jeannotte would decide whether to move him to a different cell. Id.

         On June 30, 2019, at 12:40 a.m., Weatherwax's cellmate kneed, kicked, punched, elbowed and choked Weatherwax, slammed his face into the bunk and tried to break his leg. Id. at 5 ¶¶ 19-20. The assault occurred in Weatherwax's cell and continued for about twenty-five minutes until a correctional officer called a code to summon other officers to the scene. Id. ¶¶ 19, 21.

         Weatherwax suffered the following injuries: blurry vision, pain in his jaw, a headache, bruised and painful ribs, difficulty breathing, swelling, bleeding and bruising to his face, a bloody nose and lacerations to his cheek. Id. ¶ 23. Nurse Jane Doe assessed, evaluated and provided treatment for some of Weatherwax's injuries but did not assess or treat his bruised and painful ribs. Id. ¶ 24. She suggested that he submit a separate request to have his ribs evaluated. Id. at 6 ¶ 25.

         Prison officials placed Weatherwax in the restrictive housing unit and issued him a disciplinary report for fighting. Id. ¶ 26. Weatherwax was successful in challenging the report and prison officials released him from the restrictive housing unit on August 5, 2019. Id. ¶ 27. Upon his release, Weatherwax sought treatment for his bruised and painful ribs. Id. ¶ 28. An x-ray confirmed that Weatherwax's ribs were broken. Id. ΒΆ 29. ...

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