Ruffin v. Cichon, 2:17-cv-00152-NT

CourtUnited States District Courts. 1st Circuit. United States District Court (Maine)
Writing for the CourtJohn C. Nivison U.S. Magistrate Judge
PartiesDANIEL ONEIL RUFFIN, Plaintiff v. ALFRED CICHON, et al., Defendants
Docket Number2:17-cv-00152-NT
Decision Date25 May 2017

ALFRED CICHON, et al., Defendants



May 25, 2017


In this action, Plaintiff Daniel Ruffin, an inmate incarcerated at the Knox County Jail, alleges Defendants have violated his constitutional rights by restricting his diet and access to the commissary, and by failing to treat properly a medical condition that affected his feet.

Plaintiff filed an application to proceed in forma pauperis (ECF No. 2), which application the Court granted. (ECF No. 4.) In accordance with the in forma pauperis statute, a preliminary review of Plaintiff's complaint is appropriate. 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2). Additionally, Plaintiff's complaint is subject to screening "before docketing, if feasible or ... as soon as practicable after docketing," because he is "a prisoner seek[ing] redress from a governmental entity or officer or employee of a governmental entity." 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(a).

Following a review of Plaintiff's complaint, I recommend the Court dismiss Plaintiff's claims regarding his diet and access to the commissary, and order service of the complaint on Defendants Cichon and Knowlton on Plaintiff's medical care claim.

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The federal in forma pauperis statute, 28 U.S.C. § 1915, is designed to ensure meaningful access to the federal courts for those persons unable to pay the costs of bringing an action. When a party is proceeding in forma pauperis, however, "the court shall dismiss the case at any time if the court determines," inter alia, that the action is "frivolous or malicious" or "fails to state a claim on which relief may be granted" or "seeks monetary relief against a defendant who is immune from such relief." 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B). "Dismissals [under § 1915] are often made sua sponte prior to the issuance of process, so as to spare prospective defendants the inconvenience and expense of answering such complaints." Neitzke v. Williams, 490 U.S. 319, 324 (1989).

In addition to the review contemplated by § 1915, Plaintiff's complaint is subject to screening under the Prison Litigation Reform Act because Plaintiff currently is incarcerated and seeks redress from governmental entities and officers. See 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(a), (c). The § 1915A screening requires courts to "identify cognizable claims or dismiss the complaint, or any portion of the complaint, if the complaint (1) is frivolous, malicious, or fails to state a claim ...; or (2) seeks monetary relief from a defendant who is immune from such relief." 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(b).

When considering whether a complaint states a claim for which relief may be granted, courts must assume the truth of all well-plead facts and give the plaintiff the benefit of all reasonable inferences therefrom. Ocasio-Hernandez v. Fortuno-Burset, 640 F.3d 1, 12 (1st Cir. 2011). A complaint fails to state a claim upon which relief can be

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granted if it does not plead "enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face." Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007).

Although a pro se plaintiff's complaint is subject to "less stringent standards than formal pleadings drafted by lawyers," Haines v. Kerner, 404 U.S. 519, 520 (1972), this is "not to say that pro se plaintiffs are not required to plead basic facts sufficient to state a claim", Ferranti v. Moran, 618 F.2d 888, 890 (1st Cir. 1980). To allege a civil action in federal court, it is not enough for a plaintiff merely to allege that a defendant acted unlawfully; a plaintiff must affirmatively allege facts that identify the manner by which the defendant subjected the plaintiff to a harm for which the law affords a remedy. Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009).


Plaintiff alleges he suffers from type II diabetes, and asserts two claims related to his diabetes.

A. Foot care

Plaintiff arrived at the Knox County Jail on November 17, 2016. Sometime after his arrival, Plaintiff requested medical care, and he was seen by Defendant Michael Knowlton, a registered nurse. As a consequence of diabetes, the skin on Plaintiff's feet is subject to dryness and cracking. Plaintiff requested an ointment for his feet, but it was not provided.

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On two subsequent occasions, Plaintiff requested aid, and informed Defendant Knowlton that he had developed an open wound on his foot. According to Plaintiff, Defendant Knowlton did not provide any medication for the entire month of December 2016 (Plaintiff arrived at the facility on November 17, 2016). Plaintiff asserts Defendant Knowlton recommended that Plaintiff use the butter served on his meal tray as a foot moisturizer, or purchase a lotion from the commissary. Plaintiff also requested medication for the pain and discomfort, but his request was refused. (Complaint at 4 - 5; Complaint Ex. 1, ECF No. 1-1, PageID # 8 - 9.)

While Plaintiff was seeking care for his foot, Plaintiff had to "hop" on his left foot or walk on the ball of his right foot because of pain resulting from the wound on his right foot. (Complaint at 5.) Plaintiff asserts that Defendants Knowlton and Alfred Cichon, the facility's physician's assistant, refused to let him try A + D Ointment during this time. (Id. at 6.) Eventually, Plaintiff obtained bacitracin ointment from another prisoner, and Plaintiff was able to heal the wound through use of the ointment. (Id.) Plaintiff alleges he suffered pain and discomfort for three weeks. (Id. at 6.)

B. Restricted diet

Because of his diabetes, Plaintiff has been placed on a restricted diet designed for individuals who suffer from diabetes. Specifically, Defendant Cichon directed that Plaintiff was to receive 1800 calories each day rather than the 2300 daily calories provided to the general population. Plaintiff's meals consist of potatoes, bread, and processed meat. Plaintiff asserts that the prescribed foods are not healthy for diabetics. (Id.)

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According to Plaintiff, Plaintiff's commissary access is also limited because of his diabetes diagnosis. Plaintiff cannot order various food items that would otherwise be available. Plaintiff maintains his limited access to the commissary is discriminatory. Plaintiff alleges he should have access to additional options because he may need something to elevate his blood sugar. (Id. at 7.)


A. Medical Care

The Fourteenth Amendment imposes an...

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