Johnson v. Maurer

Decision Date06 December 2018
Docket NumberCivil Action No. No. 3:18-cv-694 (CSH)
CourtU.S. District Court — District of Connecticut


HAIGHT, Senior District Judge:

Plaintiff Carvaughn Johnson is currently incarcerated at MacDougall-Walker Correctional Institution and has filed a pro se complaint pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against twelve of the facility's employees in their individual and official capacities: Kathleen Maurer, John Street, Connie Weikopf, Mary Ellen Castro, Rikel Lightner, Monica Farinella, Alexis Gendall, Colleen Gallagher, Lt. Collins, Syed Johar Naqvi, Captain Ogando, and Tim Bombard. Doc. 1. Plaintiff has now filed an amended complaint ("Amended Complaint"). Doc. 6. For the following reasons, his Amended Complaint is dismissed in part.


Under 28 U.S.C. § 1915A, the Court must review a prisoner's civil complaint and dismiss any portion that "(1) is frivolous, malicious, or fails to state a claim upon which relief may begranted; or (2) seeks monetary relief from a defendant who is immune from such relief." See 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(b)(1)-(2) (2012). Although highly detailed allegations are not required, the complaint "must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to 'state a claim that is plausible on its face.'" Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (quoting Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007)).1 "A claim has facial plausibility when the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged." Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678. The complaint must provide "more than the unadorned, the-defendant-unlawfully-harmed-me accusation." Id. "A pleading that offers 'labels and conclusions' or 'a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action will not do.'" Id. (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555).

"[W]hether a complaint states a plausible claim for relief will [ultimately] . . . be a context-specific task that requires the reviewing court to draw on its judicial experience and common sense." Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 663-64. When "well-pleaded factual allegations" are present, "a court should assume their veracity and then determine whether they plausibly give rise to an entitlement to relief." Id. at 679. Factual disputes do not factor into a plausibility analysis under Iqbal and its progeny.

"Although all allegations contained in the complaint are assumed to be true, this tenet is 'inapplicable to legal conclusions.'" LaMagna v. Brown, 474 F. App'x 788, 789 (2d Cir. 2012) (quoting Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678). See also Amaker v. New York State Dept. of Corr. Servs., 435 F.App'x 52, 54 (2d Cir. 2011) (same). Accordingly, the Court is not "bound to accept conclusory allegations or legal conclusions masquerading as factual conclusions." Faber v. Metro. Life Ins. Co., 648 F.3d 98, 104 (2d Cir. 2011) (quoting Rolon v. Henneman, 517 F.3d 140, 149 (2d Cir. 2008) (internal quotation marks omitted)). Consequently, "[t]hreadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action, supported by mere conclusory statements, do not suffice." Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678 (citing Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555).

With respect to pro se litigants, it is well-established that "[p]ro se submissions are reviewed with special solicitude, and 'must be construed liberally and interpreted to raise the strongest arguments that they suggest.'" Matheson v. Deutsche Bank Nat'l Tr. Co., 706 F. App'x 24, 26 (2d Cir. 2017) (quoting Triestman v. Fed. Bureau of Prisons, 470 F.3d 471, 474 (2d Cir. 2006) (per curiam)). See also Sykes v. Bank of Am., 723 F.3d 399, 403 (2d Cir. 2013) (same); Tracy v. Freshwater, 623 F.3d 90, 101-02 (2d Cir. 2010) (discussing special rules of solicitude for pro se litigants); Boykin v. KeyCorp., 521 F.3d 202, 214 (2d Cir. 2008) ("A document filed pro se is to be liberally construed and a pro se complaint, however inartfully pleaded, must be held to less stringent standards than formal pleadings drafted by lawyers.") (quoting Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 94 (2007)); Sealed Plaintiff v. Sealed Defendant, 537 F.3d 185, 191 (2d Cir. 2008) (declaring that where the plaintiff proceeds pro se, a court is "obliged to construe his pleadings liberally") (quoting McEachin v. McGuinnis, 357 F.3d 197, 200 (2d Cir. 2004)); Abbas v. Dixon, 480 F.3d 636, 639 (2d Cir. 2007) ("In reviewing a pro se complaint, the court must assume the truth of the allegations, and interpret them liberally to "raise the strongest arguments [they] suggest[].").

Despite being subject to liberal interpretation, a pro se plaintiff's complaint still must "state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face." Mancuso v. Hynes, 379 F. App'x 60, 61 (2d Cir. 2010)(quoting Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678). Therefore, even in a pro se case, "threadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action, supported by mere conclusory statements, do not suffice." Chavis v. Chappius, 618 F.3d 162, 170 (2d Cir. 2010) (citation and internal quotation marks omitted). Nor may the Court "invent factual allegations" that the plaintiff has not pleaded. Id.


These factual allegations, accepted as true only for the purposes of this Order, are taken from Plaintiff's Amended Complaint. Doc. 6 ("Am. Compl."). Plaintiff describes three separate incidents as the basis for his claims.

The first concerns an injury sustained on June 6, 2017, when a cabinet door fell and struck Plaintiff on the shoulder while he was working in the laundry room of the correctional institution's infirmary. Am. Compl. ¶ 19. Plaintiff's maintenance supervisor, John Street, is allegedly the person responsible for ensuring cabinet doors are secure, but it is widely known that cabinet doors often fall because most cabinets are missing doors. Id. ¶¶ 19, 44. A nurse treated Plaintiff's bleeding wound and wrote an incident report on the same day. Id. Lt. Collins also took photos of the wound on the date of the injury, but never responded when Plaintiff asked him for a copy of the photograph on August 17, 2017. Id. ¶¶ 20, 30. This is despite Captain Ogando's verbal assurances on June 26, 2017, that the photo would be preserved, and Captain Ogando's failed efforts to find the photo and incident report on July 19, 2017. Id. ¶¶ 25, 27.

Because Plaintiff was still experiencing pain in his shoulder, arm, and neck, as well as muscle spasms in his shoulder—which he continues to experience today—he asked for an MRI in writing on June 21, 2017, and in person with Naqvi on June 25, 2017. Id. ¶¶ 22, 24, 59. Naqvi told Plaintiff that he never received an answer from the board presumably responsible for granting permission forMRIs, but Plaintiff had reason to believe this was false because a nurse told him a request was never submitted to the board. Id. ¶ 24. Plaintiff wrote a grievance against Naqvi on August 17, 2017, appealing when it went unanswered despite administrative directive rules obligating the facility to respond within thirty days. Id. ¶¶ 29, 31-32. Plaintiff then separately wrote to health service administrators Rikel Lightner and Colleen Gallagher about the unanswered grievance in November 2017. Id. ¶¶ 32-33. When Plaintiff met with Lightner on November 30, 2017, Lightner advised Plaintiff to discuss his issues in his upcoming appointment with Naqvi. Id. ¶ 35. Gallagher wrote back on December 29, 2017, that an MRI may or may not be approved. Id. ¶ 43.

From October 2017 to December 2017, Plaintiff wrote to various individuals in an effort to seek care for his injury. Id. ¶¶ 36-42. He received replies that seemed inadequate to him from Mary Ellen Castro and Tim Bombard, and never received responses from Monica Farinella, Connie Weikopf, Alexis Gendell, and Kathleen Maurer. Id. ¶¶ 38, 40, 42.

Plaintiff received an x-ray on February 16, 2018, but he believes he should have received an MRI because he had already received an x-ray exam at MacDougall-Walker and an MRI would show issues with his muscles or nerve tissue. Id. ¶ 45. Plaintiff also wrote to Naqvi in February 2018 to inform him that his amitriptyline anxiety medication was not working;2 he received a reply stating that he would have an appointment with Naqvi in March 2018. Id. ¶¶ 46, 61. However, Plaintiff was only able to meet with a nurse, who told him that Naqvi changed his medication to naproxen.3Id. ¶ 46. Plaintiff claims to experience bad side effects from naproxen and told the nurse he would like to talk to Naqvi. Id.

The second incident stems from Plaintiff's injury from wearing sneakers sold by the Department of Corrections' commissary. Id. ¶¶ 63, 68. Plaintiff wrote to the medical unit on May 1, 2017, of his footwear-related injuries and June 13, 2017, that the prescribed foot cream was not working. Id. ¶¶ 63-64. He was able to meet with Naqvi on June 25. 2017. Id. ¶ 65. After explaining that his toenails were coming off and he had foot pain, Plaintiff was told to write to Lightner. Id. ¶¶ 65, 71. Plaintiff did so on June 26, 2017, and Lightner responded on July 12, 2017.4 Id. ¶ 66.

Plaintiff went to see Naqvi again on July 24, 2017, because his foot problem persisted, but the doctor only told him that he would need to speak with Lightner and that Deputy Warden Roach would not let the medical unit issue "Sneaker Passes." Id. ¶¶ 67-68, 70. He then denied Plaintiff's request to see a foot specialist. Id. ¶ 67. On August 17, 2017, Plaintiff met with Lightner to seek approval for a "Sneaker Pass," as per Naqvi's instructions, but Lightner told Plaintiff that the commissary sold a variety of footwear and that a Unit Counselor could handle the issue. Id. ¶ 68. Plaintiff believes these statements to be untrue based on his knowledge of commissary footwear offerings and of the...

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