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Holness v. Gagne

United States District Court, D. Connecticut

December 6, 2019

JUNIOR JUMPP HOLNESS, Plaintiff,
v.
GERARD GAGNE, et al., Defendants.

          INITIAL REVIEW ORDER RE AMENDED COMPLAINT PURSUANT TO 28 U.S.C. § 1915A

          JEFFREY ALKER MEYER UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         Plaintiff Junior Jumpp Holness is in the custody of the Connecticut Department of Correction (“DOC”). He has filed an amended complaint pro se and in forma pauperis seeking relief against numerous prison officials under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. After an initial review of the amended complaint pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915A, I conclude that his claims may proceed against some of the named defendants and shall be dismissed as to the other named defendants.

         Background

         Holness initially filed this action on October 23, 2018. Doc. #1. I issued an initial review order on April 24, 2019. Doc. #9; Holness v. Gagne, 2019 WL 1789907 (D. Conn. 2019). Holness has now filed an amended complaint, Doc. #47, which is the subject of this additional initial review order.

         Holness names twenty-five defendants in his amended complaint: Gerard G. Gagne, Jr., MD, and Richard B. Fisher, DDS; dental assistant Sandra Menders; RNs Janine M. Brennan, Beth A. Shaw, Stephanie H. Fraser, Nikia M. Henderson, and Kayla Lozada; nursing supervisor Kara J. Phillips; APRN Margaret Wallace; CN James Peek; CNS Diane Fritz; wardens Stephen Faucher and Anthony Corcella; deputy warden Ronald Cotta; Lts. Koniecko and Nichols; correction officer Savoie; director of psychiatric services Craig Burns; LPCs Michele J. Binezewski and Stacy Torpey; LCSWs Patricia G. Placido and Matthew N. Eggen; FOIA liaison Wright; and counselor Michelle King.[1] All except Burns, who works for the DOC, allegedly work at Corrigan-Radgowski Correctional Center (“Corrigan”). Doc. #47 at 2-5.

         Like Holness's original complaint, this filing, while labeled a single amended complaint, actually contains two factual sections. The first section, id. at 6-11, recounts verbatim allegations from his original complaint about incidents at Corrigan in fall 2018, Doc. #1 at 5-10. The second section, which begins at paragraph one again, alleges incidents at Corrigan in spring 2019. Doc. #47 at 12-19. Holness seeks monetary damages from the defendants in their individual capacities and injunctive relief from the defendants in their official capacities in the form of appropriate medical, mental health, and dental treatment. Id. at 1, 20.

         Holness has also filed a motion for preliminary injunctive relief, Doc. #59, alleging violations of his rights that occurred in summer 2019.

         Fall 2018

         The first section of the amended complaint realleges from Holness's original complaint incidents that occurred at Corrigan in September and October 2018. Pursuant to its first initial review order, the Court permitted Holness's claim for damages and equitable relief to go forward against Gagne, Brennan, Faucher, and Burns. See Holness, 2019 WL 1789907 at *1-*2.[2]

         Spring 2019

         The second section of the amended complaint further alleges the following facts, which I accept as true for purposes of this initial review.

         On March 15, 2019, Holness was transferred from Hartford Correctional Center back to Corrigan, where he is currently held. Doc. #47 at 12. On March 26, April 15, May 23, and May 25, Holness wrote to Dr. Fisher, a dentist, and his assistant Menders requesting immediate treatment of his chronic tooth pain, for which he had been on the dental waiting list since 2018, as well as treatment of his tooth filling, which recently had fallen out and caused bleeding. Ibid. Each time, Fisher and Menders told him that he was still on the waiting list. Ibid. Holness still had not been seen by the time he filed his amended complaint in June 2019. Ibid.

         On May 3, Holness reported chest pain to a correction officer and Lt. Koniecko. Id. at 13. After Koniecko told Holness he “was not going to be seen by medical” and the two briefly argued, he and the correction officer escorted Holness to medical services, where RNs Fraser and Henderson evaluated him. Ibid. After Holness told them that he had been “[constantly] hearing voices telling me to do stuff” and “had swallowed a [sharp] blade, ” they called mental health services. Ibid. Holness then saw LPC Binezewski, who told him that he would “get nothing from mental health because he's suing Dr. Gagne, [who] told [mental health staff] not to give [Holness] anything.” Ibid. Upon learning of Holness's suicidal thoughts, Binezewski said she would place him on behavioral observation status (BOS) rather than suicide watch, and that he would not “get any hot meal, ” but instead “all bag meal[s, ] cold bologna [for] all meals.” Ibid.

         Holness was subsequently placed in a restrictive housing unit (RHU) and strapped to the bed for hours. Ibid. While he kept telling nurses Fraser, Henderson, Lozada, and Peek, who checked on him every fifteen minutes, that he “was in pain in the belly area due to the swallowing of that sharp blade, ” they ignored his requests for an x-ray or transfer to the hospital, and gave him nothing to ease the pain. Id. at 13-14. When Lozada asked Holness what he had swallowed, correction officer Savoie mocked, “[H]e swallowed my cock.” Id. at 14. APRN Wallace, the attending clinician, was told about the nurses' indifference to Holness's pain, but did nothing. Ibid. Lts. Koniecko and Nichols were told about his pain and Savoie's misconduct, but also did nothing. Ibid. Nichols brought Holness a sandwich with a piece of hair in it. Ibid.

         On May 4, when Holness told LCSW Eggen about his suicidal thoughts and asked for help, Eggen replied before walking off, “Mr. Jumpp, I think[] that's your best idea right now. Do everyone here a favor [and] kill yourself. You['re] a [fucking] piece of shit.” Id. at 15. Holness then told Savoie that there was blood in his feces and that he needed medical attention, to which Savoie replied, “You['re] not getting shit. Kill yourself, [scum] bag.” Ibid.

         Holness was released from the RHU on May 6. Ibid. In the two weeks following May 10, he made several written requests to nursing supervisors concerning the lack of medical attention during his confinement as well as his ongoing pain and bleeding, which were answered by nursing supervisor Fritz. Id. at 15-16. In the meantime, from May 10 to May 15, Holness thrice wrote to FOIA liaison Wright requesting video preservation of incidents on May 3 through May 6, among others. Id. at 19. Wright denied those requests. Ibid.

         On May 15, Holness was seen by APRN Wallace, who ordered an x-ray and “[Maalox] liquid” for him, but not pain medication. Id. at 16. Later that day, Holness told CNS Fritz about his pain, to which she replied, “You['re] suing one of mine, Dr. Gagne, right? So, I am not going to do anything to help you or get you up to medical.” Ibid. Holness had an abdominal x-ray on May 16 that showed the swallowed blade in his stomach, but medical staff refused to treat him or send him to the hospital for surgery. Ibid.

         On May 17, Holness was again placed in an RHU for having suicidal thoughts, although Eggen put him on BOS instead of suicide watch. Id. at 18. The next day, LPC Torpey came to see Holness after learning that he had been banging his head against a window and wall, and was bleeding. Ibid. Holness told Torpey that “the voice” kept telling him to kill himself. Ibid. She replied, “I am not going to do anything for you, because I am not a doctor. You are hit [sic] until Monday [May 20].” Ibid.

         A second x-ray on May 21 showed the blade had “passed, ” but Holness still bled when passing stools. Id. at 16. He wrote to medical services on May 23 requesting to be seen for said bleeding and stomach pain. Id. at 17. On May 24, Holness told nursing supervisor Phillips that he was “in chronic pain and still bleeding a little” and that he had “been on [the] sick call list since March 2019” but had never been seen. Ibid. Phillips replied before walking off, “You [are] right, and [there's] a reason [for] that. Also, you will never get seen. You [will] get[] nothing. Mr. Jumpp, kill yourself.” Ibid. On May 23 and 24, Holness also complained to warden Corcella and deputy warden Cotta about all the mistreatment he had received, to which they replied, “Dude, you['re] suing . . . Dr. Gagne. What do you expect?” Id. at 19.

         On May 26 or 27, Holness told RN Shaw that he needed his inhaler. Id. at 17. Shaw told Holness that he would get nothing. Ibid. Without an inhaler, Holness had to use his sleep apnea machine (“CPAP”) to ease the tightness in his chest. Ibid.

         On May 28, when LCSW Placido and LPC Torpey were told about Holness's continuing suicidal thoughts, they told the correction officer at his cell, “Call us back if he hang[s] up [sic]. We [are] not going to do anything until [he] actually carries out such.” Id. at 18. The same day, mental health counselor King told Holness that he needs to “grieve stuff” because she is “not going to process [his] stuff.” Ibid. King also said, “You get[] nothing. So, you can stop. And the next time [you] try to kill [your]self, [you] should actually be successful on doing this.” Ibid.

         Summer 2019

         On July 17, 2019, Holness filed a motion for preliminary injunctive relief, Doc. #59, alleging the following facts.

         On July 11, correction officer Wright “influenced” another correction officer to “shake down” Holness's cell, during which the officer ripped up Holness's family photos. Id. at 2. Afterwards, when Wright and two correction officers came to escort Holness back to his cell from the recreation yard, Wright told Holness that “he was going to leave his handcuffs on loosely, so he could come out of them and allow him to engage in a physical fist fight with them.” Ibid. Wright did handcuff him loosely. Ibid. Holness, carried away by his known mental health problems, grabbed an extension cord and swung at the officers, injuring none. Ibid. As all three officers took Holness down to the floor, Wright grabbed and tried to break his finger. Ibid. Holness was transported to UConn Hospital the next morning. Ibid. RN Henderson ordered an x-ray of Holness's right hand and gave him Ibuprofen due to right-digit swelling. Doc. #64 at 6.

         Despite the July 11 incident, warden Corcella assigned the same officers to Holness's unit on July 16. Doc. #59 at 3. During his evening tour, Wright told Holness “it's not over, ” leaving him in fear of being assaulted or framed. Ibid. The officers also took away Holness's CPAP, telling him they were told to do so in an email from the Attorney General's office. Ibid. In an attached response to one of Holness's grievances, a prison official concedes that the Attorney General authorized the daily removal of his CPAP from 10:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m. Id. at 5.

         Discussion

         Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915A, the Court must review a prisoner's civil complaint against a governmental entity or governmental actors and “identify cognizable claims or dismiss the compliant, or any portion of the complaint, if the complaint-(1) is frivolous, malicious, or fails to state a claim upon which relief may be granted; or (2) seeks monetary relief from a defendant who is immune from such relief.” If the prisoner is proceeding pro se, the allegations of the complaint must be read liberally to raise the strongest arguments that they suggest. See Tracy v. Freshwater, 623 F.3d 90, 101-02 (2d Cir. 2010).

         The Supreme Court has set forth a threshold “plausibility” pleading standard for courts to evaluate the adequacy of allegations in federal court complaints. A complaint must allege enough facts-as distinct from legal conclusions-that give rise to plausible grounds for relief. See, e.g., Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009); Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007). Notwithstanding the rule of liberal interpretation of a pro se complaint, a complaint may not survive dismissal if its factual allegations do not meet the basic plausibility standard. See, e.g., Fowlkes v. Ironworkers Local 40, 790 F.3d 378, 387 (2d Cir. 2015).

         In forma ...


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