Ingram v. Sochacki et al
ORDER. The Court has reviewed the 1 Complaint as required by 42 U.S.C. Section 1915A(b). As stated in the attached, all claims against Sharon Brown and Dr. Bruce Lichtenstein are DISMISSED. The claim for monetary damages against Dr. Richard Benoit in his official capacity is DISMISSED. The Eighth and Fourteenth Amendment deliberate indifference to dental needs claims and the claims under state law will proceed against Drs. Sochacki, Dupont, Shivy, and O'Shea in their individual ca pacities and Dr. Benoit in his official capacity. Because the plaintiff paid the filing fee to commence this action, he is responsible for serving the complaint on the remaining defendants. The plaintiff shall file returns of service < b>within 70 days of the date of this order. The Clerk's office shall send the plaintiff instructions for service of the complaint, together with five copies of the complaint, five copies of this order, four blank Notice of Lawsuit forms, six blank Waiver of Service of Summons form, and four copies of the complaint and one blank summons form. Defendants Sochacki, Dupont, Shivy, O'Shea, and Benoit shall file their response to the complaint, either an answer or motion to dismi ss, within 60 days from when the notice of lawsuit and waiver of summons forms are mailed to them. Discovery shall be completed within 210 days from the date of this order. All motions for summary judgment shall be filed within 240 d ays from the date of this order. The Pro Se Prisoner Litigation Office shall send a courtesy copy of the complaint and this order to the Connecticut Attorney General and the Department of Correction Legal Affairs Unit. Signed by Judge Michael P. Shea on 11/13/2017. (Mac Dougall, S.)
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
DISTRICT OF CONNECTICUT
DAVID SOCHACKI, DDS, ET AL.,
Case No. 3:17-cv-870(MPS)
INITIAL REVIEW ORDER
The plaintiff, John Ingram, is currently incarcerated at Cheshire Correctional Institution
(“Cheshire”). He has filed a complaint under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against David Sochacki, DDS,
John F. Dupont, Jr., DDS, Victor W. Shivy, DDS, Dr. Richard Benoit, DMD, Bruce
Lichtenstein, DMD, Peter O’Shea, DDS, and Sharon Brown, Health Services Administrator.
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. This requirement applies both
where the inmate has paid the filing fee and where he is proceeding in forma pauperis. See Carr
v. Dvorin, 171 F.3d 115 (2d Cir. 1999) (per curiam). 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 the 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 have an obligation to interpret “a pro se complaint liberally,” the complaint
must still 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).
II. Plaintiff’s Claims
The plaintiff alleges that in July 2012, at Cheshire, he sought dental treatment for severe
pain in the area of his lower front teeth. Drs. Sochacki and Shivy did not examine him until
about three weeks later, in August 2012, and he experienced severe pain during this interval.
Either Dr. Sochacki or Dr. Shivy took x-rays of the plaintiff’s teeth. Dr. Sochacki opined that
tooth number 23 and tooth number 24 must be extracted because the dental department at
Cheshire could not perform root canals of those teeth. Dr. Sochacki prescribed pain medication
and indicated that the extractions would take place at a later date.
The plaintiff suffered excruciating pain during August and September 2012 because the
pain medication was ineffective. In September, he submitted a request to the dental department
regarding the pain that he was experiencing in the area of his lower, front teeth, but no one
responded to the request. He then submitted a medical grievance to Health Services
Administrator Sharon Brown complaining that he was being denied a root canal and was
experiencing pain in his lower teeth, and that the medication that Dr. Sochacki had prescribed
had been ineffective in alleviating the pain. Sharon Brown did not respond to the grievance. The
plaintiff alleges that internal DOC directives regarding answering medical complaints and
grievances are unconstitutional because they do not provide a timeframe for a response.
At some point in September 2012, Dr. Sochacki extracted tooth number 23 and tooth
number 24. Dr. Sochacki told the plaintiff that the DOC does not provide root canals “just to
prevent tooth extractions.” Dr. Sochacki refused to prescribe pain medication to the plaintiff after
the extractions. Several days later, the site of the extractions became painful. The plaintiff
experienced pain for about a month and was unable to eat solid foods. He sought medication,
but Dr. Sochacki refused to address his complaints or prescribe him pain medication.
In November 2012, Drs. Sochacki and Dupont extracted tooth number 25 and tooth
number 26 from the plaintiff’s jaw. Dr. Sochacki informed the plaintiff that he would be eligible
to receive partial dentures.
On June 12, 2014, Dr. O’Shea extracted the plaintiff’s right upper molar, tooth number 2,
because of heavy tartar, plaque, bone loss and lack of stability. The plaintiff claims that tooth
number 2 did not have to be extracted and could have been saved. The plaintiff alleges Dr.
O’Shea did not take an x-ray of tooth number 2 to determine the degree of bone loss prior to
extracting tooth number 2.
In June 2016, Dr. Lichtenstein examined the plaintiff and reviewed the prior x-rays of the
plaintiff’s teeth numbers 23, 24, 25, 26. He concluded that two of the four teeth that had been
extracted should not have been extracted and could have been saved. (Compl., ECF No. 19 at 2.)
Dr. Benoit is the Director of Dentistry for Correctional Managed Health Care. The
plaintiff claims that Dr. Benoit failed to properly train Drs. Sochacki, Dupont, Shivy and O’Shea.
In addition, Dr. Benoit was aware of the deficiencies in the dental program including inadequate
staffing and inadequate training and delays in treatment at Cheshire.
The plaintiff sues defendants Brown, Lichtenstein, Sochacki, Dupont, Shivy, and O’Shea
in their individual capacities only and defendant Benoit in his official capacity only. The
plaintiff seeks declaratory and injunctive relief and monetary damages.
Official Capacity Claims
The Eleventh Amendment bars the claims against defendant Benoit in his official
capacity for punitive and compensatory damages. See Kentucky v. Graham, 473 U.S. 159 (1985)
(Eleventh Amendment, which protects the state from suits for monetary relief, also protects state
officials sued for damages in their official capacity); Quern v. Jordan, 440 U.S. 332, 342 (1979)
(Section 1983 does not override a state’s Eleventh Amendment immunity). Accordingly, the
claims for monetary relief against defendant Benoit in his official capacity are dismissed
pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(b)(2).
Claims against Sharon Brown
It is apparent that the claims against Health Services Administrator Brown are limited to
events that occurred in 2012. The Second Circuit has held that the general personal injury statute
of limitations set forth in Connecticut General Statutes § 52-577 should be applied to the filing of
Section 1983 claims arising in Connecticut. See Lounsbury v. Jeffries, 25 F.3d 131, 134 (2d Cir.
1994). Section 52-577 sets a three-year limitations period running from “the date of the act or
omission complained of.” Conn. Gen. Stat. § 52-577. Although the federal court looks to state
law to determine the applicable statute of limitations for claims arising under Section 1983, the
court looks to federal law to determine when a federal claim accrues. See Guilbert v. Gardner,
480 F.3d 140, 149 (2d Cir. 2007)(“In a federal question case . . . when a federal court determines
the limitations period by applying an analogous state statute of limitations, the court nevertheless
looks to federal common law to determine the time at which the plaintiff’s federal claim
accrues.”) (citations omitted). A federal cause of action accrues “when the plaintiff knows or has
a reason to know of the harm or injury that is the basis of the action.” M.D. v. Southington Bd. of
Educ., 334 F.3d 217, 221 (2d Cir. 2003) (internal quotation marks and citation omitted).
The statute of limitations ordinarily is an affirmative defense. A district court may,
however, “dismiss an action sua sponte on limitations grounds in certain circumstances where
‘the facts supporting the statute of limitation defense are set forth in the papers plaintiff himself
submitted.’” Walters v. Industrial and Commercial Bank of China, Ltd., 651 F.3d 280, 293 (2d
Cir. 2011) (quoting Leonhard v. United States, 633 F.2d 599, 600 n.11 (2d Cir. 1980)).
The plaintiff filed the complaint in this action on May 24, 2017, more than four years
after he submitted a grievance to Sharon Brown in September/October 2012 regarding his
requests for additional or new pain medication and root canals instead of extractions of his teeth.
There are no facts to suggest that the plaintiff was unaware of his claims against Health
Administrator Brown at the time they occurred in 2012. Nor are there facts to suggest a
continuing violation or other tolling theory against Brown. Thus, the court concludes the
allegations against Brown are barred by the three-year statute of limitations. The claims against
Health Administrator Brown are dismissed, but the dismissal is without prejudice so that the
plaintiff has an opportunity to allege any facts that he can allege, consistent with Rule 11 of the
Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, to support any tolling theory. See 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(b)(1).
Claims against Dr. Lichtenstein
The plaintiff contends that in 2016, after examining and reviewing prior x-rays of the
plaintiff’s teeth, Dr. Lichtenstein failed to report or make note of his conclusion regarding the
unnecessary extraction of two the plaintiff’s teeth by other defendants. The plaintiff claims that
these omissions violated his Eighth Amendment rights.
I cannot discern how Dr. Lichtenstein’s alleged failure to report his findings, either orally
or in writing, regarding two of the plaintiff’s extracted teeth rose to the level of a violation of the
plaintiff’s constitutional rights. The plaintiff acknowledges that during his appointment with Dr.
Lichtenstein in June 2016, Dr. Lichtenstein informed him that two of his teeth were needlessly
extracted in 2012. Nothing precluded the plaintiff from informing other dental providers about
this information or from seeking other relief that might have been available.
At most, Dr. Lichtenstein’s alleged failure to report his conclusion either orally or in
writing in the plaintiff’s medical records constituted negligence. Negligence or malpractice is
not cognizable in a Section 1983 action. See Hill v. Curcione, 657 F.3d 116, 123 (2d Cir. 2011)
(“Medical malpractice does not rise to the level of a constitutional violation unless the
malpractice involves culpable recklessness—an act or a failure to act by a prison doctor that
evinces a conscious disregard of a substantial risk of serious harm.” (internal quotation marks
and citation omitted)); Smith v. Carpenter, 316 F.3d 178, 184 (2d Cir. 2003) ("Eighth
Amendment is not a vehicle for bringing medical malpractice claims, nor a substitute for state
tort law."); Hathaway v. Coughlin, 99 F.3d 550, 553 (2d Cir. 1996) ("[M]ere medical malpractice
is not tantamount to deliberate indifference . . . [unless] the malpractice involves . . . an act or
failure to act by the prison doctor that evinces a conscious disregard of a substantial risk of
serious harm.” (internal quotation marks and citation omitted)). Accordingly, the Eighth
Amendment claims against Dr. Lichtenstein are dismissed. See 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(b)(1).
I conclude that the plaintiff has alleged sufficient facts to support plausible Eighth and
Fourteenth Amendment claims of deliberate indifference to dental needs against Drs. David
Sochacki, John F. Dupont, Jr., Victor W. Shivy, Dr. Peter O’Shea, and Dr. Richard Benoit. “An
Eighth Amendment claim arising out of inadequate medical care requires a demonstration of
deliberate indifference to a prisoner's serious medical needs.” Hill, 657 F.3d at 122 (2d Cir.
2011) (internal quotation marks and alterations omitted) (quoting Estelle v. Gamble, 429 U.S. 97,
104 (1976)). The plaintiff has alleged that these defendants needlessly extracted several teeth and
ignored his requests for pain medication, as well as that defendant Benoit failed to train the other
defendants and was aware of serious issues in the dental treatment program at Cheshire. See
Chance v. Armstrong, 143 F.3d 698, 703 (2d Cir.1998) (internal quotation marks omitted) (“[A]n
act or a failure to act by a prison doctor that evinces a conscious disregard of a substantial risk of
serious harm.”). These Eighth and Fourteenth Amendment claims, as well as the plaintiff’s state
law claims, will proceed against defendants Sochacki, Dupont, Shivy, and O’Shea in their
individual capacities and against defendant Benoit in his official capacity.
In accordance with the foregoing analysis, I enter the following orders:
All claims against the Sharon Brown and Dr. Bruce Lichtenstein are
DISMISSED pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(b)(1) and the claim for monetary damages against
Dr. Richard Benoit in his official capacity is DISMISSED pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(b)(2).
The Eighth and Fourteenth Amendment deliberate indifference to dental needs claim and the
claims under state law will proceed against Drs. David Sochacki, John F. Dupont, Jr., Victor W.
Shivy, and Dr. Peter O’Shea in their individual capacities and against Dr. Richard Benoit in his
Because the plaintiff paid the filing fee to commence this action, he is
responsible for serving the complaint on the defendants. In accordance with the requirements
of Fed. R. Civ. P. 4 and within 60 days of the date of this order, the plaintiff shall effect service
of the complaint and a copy of this order on each of the following defendants in his individual
capacity: David Sochacki, John F. Dupont, Jr., Victor W. Shivy, and Peter O’Shea and shall
effect service of the complaint and a copy of this order on Dr. Richard Benoit in his official
capacity. The plaintiff shall file returns of service within 70 days of the date of this order.
The Clerk shall send plaintiff instructions for service of the complaint, together
with five copies of the complaint, five copies of this order, four blank Notice of Lawsuit forms,
six blank Waiver of Service of Summons forms and four copies of the complaint to enable the
plaintiff to serve a copy of the complaint on Sochacki, Dupont, Shivy, and O’Shea in their
individual capacities and one blank summons form for plaintiff to complete and return to the
Clerk for issuance to enable plaintiff to serve a copy of the summons and complaint on defendant
Dr. Benoit his official capacity using the address of the Office of the Attorney General, 55 Elm
Street, Hartford, Connecticut 06141.
Defendants Sochacki, Dupont, Shivy, O’Shea, and Benoit shall file their response
to the complaint, either an answer or motion to dismiss, within sixty (60) days from the date the
notice of lawsuit and waiver of service of summons forms are mailed to them. If the defendants
choose to file an answer, they shall admit or deny the allegations and respond to the cognizable
claims recited above. They may also include any and all additional defenses permitted by the
Discovery, pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. P. 26 through 37, shall be completed within
seven months (210 days) from the date of this order. Discovery requests need not be filed with
All motions for summary judgment shall be filed within eight months (240 days)
from the date of this order.
The Pro Se Prisoner Litigation Office shall send a courtesy copy of the
complaint and this order to the Connecticut Attorney General and the Department of Correction
Legal Affairs Unit.
SO ORDERED at Hartford, Connecticut this 13 day of November, 2017.
Michael P. Shea
United States District Judge
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