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Walsh v. Coleman

United States District Court, D. Connecticut

December 4, 2019

PATRICK WALSH, Plaintiff,
v.
DR. JOSEPH COLEMAN, et al., Defendants.

          INITIAL REVIEW ORDER RE AMENDED COMPLAINT

          JEFFREY ALKER MEYER UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         Plaintiff Patrick Walsh is a sentenced prisoner of the Connecticut Department of Correction (“DOC”). He has filed an amended complaint against the DOC and numerous state prison officials arising from their alleged failure to accommodate his requests for single-cell status and for special facility transport arrangements when it is necessary for him to leave his prison facility for medical or legal reasons. Walsh alleges that defendants have violated his right to be free from cruel and unusual punishment under the Eighth Amendment and his rights to be free from disability discrimination and to a reasonable accommodation for his disabilities under the Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”), 42 U.S.C. §§ 12131, et seq., and the Rehabilitation Act, 29 U.S.C. § 794 et seq.

         In accordance with my duty under 28 U.S.C. § 1915A to conduct an initial review of Walsh's complaint, I conclude that Walsh has not alleged plausible Eighth Amendment claims against any of the defendants. I further conclude that he has not alleged plausible claims under the ADA and the Rehabilitation Act against any of the individual defendants but that he has alleged a plausible claim under the ADA and the Rehabilitation Act against defendants Cook and Barone in their official capacities. Accordingly, I will allow Walsh's amended complaint to proceed solely against Cook and Barone in their official capacities.

         Background

         Walsh's claims arise from his confinement at the MacDougall-Walker Correctional Institution (“MWCI”). He filed an initial complaint on June 24, 2019, alleging claims under the Eighth Amendment, the ADA, and the Rehabilitation Act against the following defendants: DOC Commissioner Rollin Cook; MWCI Wardens Carol Chapdelaine and William Mulligan; Deputy Warden Gerald Hines; Dr. Joseph Coleman; and DOC Health and Addiction Services Head Colleen Gallagher. Doc. #1.

         On July 18, 2019, I issued an initial review order dismissing the Eighth Amendment claims and allowing the ADA and Rehabilitation Act claims to proceed against two of the defendants-Cook and Mulligan-in their official capacities only for injunctive relief. Doc. #8; Walsh v. Coleman, 2019 WL 3231194 (D. Conn. 2019).

         Walsh has now filed an amended complaint as of right pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 15 that names the same defendants but that also includes two more defendants: the DOC and Kristine Barone (the current warden of MWCI), who is sued in her official capacity only. The following facts are alleged in the amended complaint and are accepted as true only for purposes of this ruling.

         Prior to his incarceration, Walsh underwent psychiatric evaluation and treatment. Doc. #9 at 4-5 (¶¶ 14-16). He was previously diagnosed with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (“PTSD”), depression, anxiety, mixed personality disorder, episodic alcohol abuse, and dysthymic disorder. Id. at 4 (¶ 15). Walsh had been hospitalized and treated with various psychiatric medications. Id. at 4-5 (¶ 16).

         On August 10, 1995, Walsh was arrested and admitted into DOC custody. Id. at 6 (¶ 21). Upon his admission, he was evaluated by mental health personnel, who incorporated his written medical history into his medical history file. Ibid. (¶¶ 22-23). On June 22, 1999, Walsh was found guilty of murder and was later sentenced to a 55-year term of imprisonment. Ibid. (¶ 24).

         During the first four years of his sentence, Walsh was regularly seen by DOC mental health staff and was prescribed numerous trials of psychiatric medications. Ibid. (¶ 25). From 2003 to 2016, however, Walsh was not evaluated or treated by mental health staff for his chronic conditions, nor was he prescribed any medications. Ibid. (¶ 26). During those years, Walsh filed numerous Inmate Request Forms asking to be seen by mental health staff, but was told that he could only regularly see staff if his inmate mental health classification was a Level 3. Id. at 6-7 (¶ 27). But because Walsh was not taking psychiatric medications, he did not qualify for a Level 3. Ibid.

         In 2013, Walsh was transferred to MWCI. Id. at 7 (¶ 28). On August 29, 2016, he wrote a two-page letter to Carol Chapdelaine, who was then the warden of MWCI, informing her of his documented mental health diagnoses and treatment, and explaining that his confinement at MWCI had worsened his symptoms. Ibid. (¶ 29). Walsh also requested that he be placed on single-cell status at MWCI. Ibid. That same day, he also filed a Request for Reasonable Accommodations (“RRA”) requesting single-cell status. Ibid. (¶ 30). In the RRA, Walsh reasoned that his confinement “with numerous unknown cellmates over the past three years ha[d] caused a regression and deterioration of coping mechanisms in dealing with clinically diagnosed [psychiatric disabilities].” Ibid. Walsh documented his previous evaluations, diagnoses, and hospitalizations in support of his RRA. Ibid.

         On September 1, 2016, Walsh submitted an Inmate Request to Dr. Joseph Coleman, asking to schedule an appointment for an evaluation and stating that his “mental health condition [was] deteriorating due to conditions within [his] cell” and describing his difficulty to relate to others in his unit. Id. at 7-8 (¶ 31). Dr. Coleman failed to respond. Ibid. (¶ 31).

         On September 29, 2016, Walsh sent a second letter to Warden Chapdelaine, who had not responded to his first letter, again seeking approval for single-cell status. Id. at 8 (¶ 32). Walsh explained that he had spoken with mental health personnel, who commenced a treatment plan for him and who supported single-cell status for him. Ibid. Once again, Chapedelaine did not respond to the letter. Ibid. (¶ 33).

         On December 8, 2016, Walsh sent a four-page letter to then-Commissioner of Correction Scott Semple, requesting approval for single-cell status. Ibid. Walsh outlined his psychiatric conditions and explained that his symptoms were worsening. Ibid.

         One month later, on January 15, 2017, Walsh wrote another letter to Dr. Coleman, highlighting his repeated attempts to schedule a mental health evaluation and explaining that he was made aware of Dr. Coleman's refusal to evaluate him. Ibid. (¶ 34). Walsh also submitted a second RRA, explaining the reasons for single-cell status and that he continued to suffer exacerbated symptoms of his psychiatric conditions. Id. at 8-9 (¶ 35). He received two responses to his second RRA later that month, one of which stated that Dr. Coleman “would support a temporary single-cell status [but that] final approval of single-cell status [was] contingent upon Warden approval.” Id. at 9 (¶¶ 36-37). The response was signed by Dr. Coleman and a “Capt. Hall.” Id. at 9 (¶ 37).

         Walsh responded with a letter to Dr. Coleman on January 31, 2017, informing him that, because of his anxiety and “mental anguish, ” he was uncomfortable with a “temporary” single- cell assignment, and he needed Dr. Coleman to evaluate him. Ibid. (¶ 38). Walsh sent a follow-up letter on February 2, 2017, elaborating on his increased anxiety and stressing that the temporary single-cell status would only contribute to his already worsening symptoms. Ibid. (¶ 39). He asked Dr. Coleman “to consider a more long-term or permanent solution.” Ibid.

         On February 10, 2017, Walsh received a letter from Warden Chapdelaine regarding the letter he had sent to Semple. Id. at 9-10 (¶ 40). The letter stated that Walsh's “request for a single cell ha[d] been reviewed and [Chapdelaine] [had] agreed to temporarily place [him] on that list. However, [the] status is subject to review and changes due to bed space availability.” Ibid.

         After learning from Chapdelaine that the proposed temporary single-cell status was dependant on further review and availability, as well as specific only to MWCI, Walsh forwarded a letter to Commissioner Semple requesting permanent single-cell status applicable to all DOC facilities. Id. at 10 (¶ 41). He again outlined his worsening psychiatric symptoms and the inadequate treatment he was receiving at MWCI. Ibid. Walsh ultimately accepted the temporary single-cell status and thanked Chapdelaine in a follow-up letter dated February 14, 2017. Ibid. (¶ 42). He advised Chapdelaine that he had already sent another letter to Semple requesting permanent single-cell status. Ibid. On March 9, 2017, he received another response from Chapdelaine stating that she had approved him for temporary single-cell status for one to four months based on Dr. Coleman's recommendation but that there were no clinical reasons for permanent single-cell status. Id. at 10-11 (¶ 44). Neither Chapdelaine nor Dr. Coleman responded to Walsh's letters and requests until after the Commissioner's office forwarded the letters to them for a response. Id. at 11 (¶ 45).

         On March 3, 2017, Walsh submitted his third RRA, requesting that he receive “[f]acility transport to and from [c]ourt and/or medical trips” because of his mental health conditions. Id. at 10 (¶ 43). “Facility transport” provides a prisoner with a “direct and private ride” from the facility to a court or medical appointment, in contrast to “Central Transportation Unit” transport, which involves group transportation of numerous inmates. Ibid. n.2. In a letter to Chapdelaine dated March 23, 2017, Walsh again attempted to address the temporary nature of his single-cell status, and also advised her of his third RRA for facility transports to court as opposed to transporting him via Central Transport Units (“CTUs”). Id. at 12 (¶ 46). Chapdelaine did not respond to this letter, and Walsh continued to endure mental health problems. Ibid.

         On April 3, 2017, Walsh advised Chapdelaine via Inmate Request that his temporary single-cell status had commenced on March 24, 2017 but that he still wished to receive permanent single-cell status. Ibid. (¶ 47). He also sent a letter to Dr. Coleman on April 26, 2017, advising him about his temporary single-cell status and inquiring when it would be reviewed, but he received no response. Id. at 12-13 (¶ 48).

         On April 28, 2017, Walsh sent an Inmate Request to Captain Hall inquiring about his previously submitted RRA for facility transports. Id. at 13 (¶ 49). That RRA was later denied based on Dr. Coleman's conclusion that “facility transport to medical [appointments] [and] court is not supported by mental status findings.” Ibid. (¶ 50). Walsh later received a response from Hall to his April 28 Inmate Request, which explained that Dr. Coleman had determined that facility transports were not necessary at that time. Ibid. (¶ 53). Walsh later filed two written grievances, dated May 8, 2017 and May 12, 2017, complaining about his inability to receive permanent single-cell status and facility transports. Ibid. (¶¶ 51-52).

         In a letter dated June 25, 2017, Walsh informed Dr. Coleman that he had been advised by mental health personnel that his temporary single-cell status had expired. Ibid. (¶ 54). Walsh explained that it had only been three months since his temporary single-cell status began, and Dr. Coleman's recommendation was for “three to four months.” Ibid. Walsh also informed Dr. Coleman that he continued to suffer from exacerbated psychiatric symptoms and pleaded with him to “consider the fourth month of the initial . . . recommend[ation].” Ibid.

         This letter was later returned to Walsh with a hand-written response signed by Deputy Warden Hines, stating that his request for single-cell status was denied. Id. at 13-14 (¶ 55). Thereafter, Walsh's single-cell status was revoked without any evaluation of his mental health condition. Id. at 14 (¶ 56). Walsh wrote a letter to Warden Mulligan on June 26, 2017, requesting an extension of his single-cell status. Ibid. (¶ 57). He informed Mulligan that, although his single-cell status had been temporary, it established that there was “some type of need for [him] to be in a single cell.” Ibid. Walsh forwarded a copy of the letter to ...


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