Council v. Chapdelaine et al
INITIAL REVIEW ORDER. All claims against Warden Chapdelaine and Dr. Pillai are dismissed without prejudice pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(b)(1). The case will proceed on Council's claim of deliberate indifference to safety against Unit Manager Davis and Lieutenant Doe. Discovery due by 3/29/2018. Dispositive Motions due by 4/28/2018. Signed by Judge Stefan R. Underhill on 8/28/2017. (Schneider, K)
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
DISTRICT OF CONNECTICUT
ISAAC M. COUNCIL,
No. 3:17-cv-01161 (SRU)
WARDEN CHAPDELAINE, et al.,
INITIAL REVIEW ORDER
Plaintiff, Isaac M. Council, currently confined at MacDougall-Walker Correctional
Institution in Suffield, Connecticut, filed a complaint pro se under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 challenging
his medical care. The named defendants are Warden Chapdelaine, Unit Manager Davis, Dr.
Pillai,1 and Lieutenant Doe. Council’s complaint was received on July 12, 2017, and his motion
to proceed in forma pauperis was granted on July 13, 2017.
Under section 1915A of Title 28 of the United States Code, I must review prisoner civil
complaints and dismiss any portion of the complaint that is frivolous or malicious, that 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. 28 U.S.C. § 1915A. Although detailed allegations are not
required, the complaint must include sufficient facts to afford the defendants fair notice of the
claims and the grounds upon which they are based and to demonstrate a plausible right to relief.
Bell Atlantic v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555–56 (2007). Conclusory allegations are not
sufficient. Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009). The plaintiff must plead “enough facts to
Dr. Pillai is incorrectly identified in the complaint’s caption as Dr. Pillai Omprakash. He is
referenced correctly in the body of the complaint. The clerk shall correct the caption of the case.
state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.” Twombly, 550 U.S. at 570. Nevertheless, it is
well-established that “[p]ro se complaints ‘must be construed liberally and interpreted to raise
the strongest arguments that they suggest.’” Sykes v. Bank of Am., 723 F.3d 399, 403 (2d Cir.
2013) (quoting Triestman v. Fed. Bureau of Prisons, 470 F.3d 471, 474 (2d Cir. 2006)); see also
Tracy v. Freshwater, 623 F.3d 90, 101–02 (2d Cir. 2010) (discussing special rules of solicitude
for pro se litigants).
Council, an amputee, wears a prosthetic left leg. When he arrived at MacDougall-Walker
Correctional Institution on April 26, 2016, he was told that he would be housed in N-Pod and
would be permitted to go to the medical unit to use the handicap-accessible shower. That
procedure was followed until May 4, 2016.
On May 4, 2016, Council was not permitted to go to use the medical unit shower because
he did not have a shower pass. A correctional officer told Council that, until he was seen by Dr.
Pillai, he would need to use the non-handicapped shower in the housing unit. Upon Council’s
request, the correctional officer contacted Lieutenant Doe. Lieutenant Doe reviewed Council’s
medical file and agreed that he was required to see the doctor. Council was told to use a plastic
chair from his cell for support in the unit shower.
While showering, Council lost his balance, fell out of the chair, and landed on his back
on the shower floor. A code was called and Council was taken to the medical unit in a
wheelchair. His vital signs were taken and he was given Motrin before being wheeled back to his
The following morning, Council awoke with severe pain in his lower back. Council asked
the correctional officer to contact the medical unit about his pain and to ask whether he was on
the list to see the doctor that day. Council was told to submit a request. Council asked to speak
with Unit Manager Davis, but she did not come to the housing unit to speak with him.
On May 9, 2016, Council filed a grievance for lack of medical attention for a back injury.
On May 14, 2016, he submitted a second request explaining the severity of his pain and his
urgent need to be seen. Also on May 14, 2016, Council spoke to Unit Manager Davis while she
was touring the unit. Unit Manager Davis told him to submit another medical request and to
purchase Ibuprofen from the commissary.
On May 27, 2016, Council filed a Health Emergency Grievance because he had not yet
been seen. To date, he has received no relief for his injuries. He continues to experience pain and
inability to sleep as a result of the fall.
A. Defendants Davis and Doe
Council’s claim against Unit Manager Davis and Lieutenant Doe appears to be a claim
for deliberate indifference to safety. Prison officials have a duty to “take reasonable measures to
guarantee the safety of the inmates.” Farmer v. Brennan, 511 U.S. 825, 832 (1994). To state a
claim, Council must show (i) that the conditions of his incarceration posed a “substantial risk of
serious harm,” and (ii) that prison officials were “deliberate[ly] indifferen[t]” to his safety. Id. at
834. Deliberate indifference exists where prison officials “know of and disregard an
excessive risk to inmate health or safety.” Id. at 837.
Council alleges that that prison officials permitted him to use the medical unit shower
upon his arrival at the facility, which constitutes an acknowledgment of the risk of requiring him
to use the unit showers. Unit Manager Davis and Lieutenant Doe were aware that the practice
was terminated, but they made no effort to schedule a visit with Dr. Pillai so that Council could
obtain the required shower pass, nor did they assist Council in doing so. At the present stage of
the litigation, those allegations are sufficient to state a plausible claim for deliberate indifference
to safety against Unit Manager Davis and Lieutenant Doe.
B. Defendants Chapdelaine and Pillai
To state a cognizable claim for damages, Council must allege facts showing the “personal
involvement” of each defendant in the alleged constitutional violation. See Farrell v. Burke, 449
F.3d 470, 484 (2d Cir. 2006). Although Council states that Dr. Pillai was responsible for issuing
the shower pass, he alleges no facts suggesting that Dr. Pillai was aware that Council needed a
pass, had submitted requests to the medical unit, or required medical care. Absent such
knowledge, Dr. Pillai was not personally involved.
Nor does Council allege any facts demonstrating Warden Chapdelaine’s involvement.
He does not even mention her in his statement of the claim. It appears that Council has named
Warden Chapdelaine solely for her position as warden, but “Government officials may not be
held liable for the unconstitutional conduct of their subordinates under a theory of respondeat
superior.” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 676. Thus, absent any allegations of involvement, the claims
against Warden Chapdelaine and Dr. Pillai are dismissed.
All claims against Warden Chapdelaine and Dr. Pillai are DISMISSED without prejudice
pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(b)(1). The case will proceed on Council’s claim of deliberate
indifference to safety against Unit Manager Davis and Lieutenant Doe.
In accordance with the foregoing analysis, I enter the following orders:
The Clerk shall verify the current work address for Unit Manager Davis with the
Department of Correction Office of Legal Affairs, mail a waiver of service of process request
packets containing the Complaint to Unit Manager Davis within twenty-one (21) days of this
Order, and report to the court on the status of the waiver request on the thirty-fifth (35) day
after mailing. If Unit Manager Davis fails to return the waiver request, then the Clerk shall make
arrangements for in-person service by the U.S. Marshal Service upon her in her individual
capacity and the defendant shall be required to pay the costs of such service in accordance with
Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 4(d).
The Clerk shall send Council a copy of this Order.
The Clerk shall send a courtesy copy of the Complaint and this Order to the
Connecticut Attorney General and the Department of Correction Office of Legal Affairs.
The defendants shall file their response to the complaint, either an answer or
motion to dismiss, within sixty (60) days from the date the waiver forms are sent. If they choose
to file an answer, then they shall admit or deny the allegations and respond to the cognizable
claim recited above. They also may include any and all additional defenses permitted by the
Discovery, pursuant to Federal Rules of Civil Procedure 26 through 37, shall be
completed within seven months (210 days) from the date of this order. Discovery requests need
not be filed with the court.
All motions for summary judgment shall be filed within eight months (240 days)
from the date of this order.
Pursuant to Local Civil Rule 7(a), a nonmoving party must respond to a
dispositive motion within twenty-one (21) days of the date the motion was filed. If no response is
filed, or the response is not timely, then the dispositive motion can be granted absent objection.
Should Council change his address at any time during the litigation of this case,
Local Court Rule 83.1(c)2 provides that the plaintiff MUST notify the court. Failure to do so
can result in the dismissal of the case. Council must give notice of a new address even if he is
incarcerated. Council should write PLEASE NOTE MY NEW ADDRESS on the notice. It is not
enough to just put the new address on a letter without indicating that it is a new address. If
Council has more than one pending case, then he should indicate all of the case numbers in the
notification of change of address. Council should also notify the defendant or the attorney for the
defendants of his new address.
Plaintiff shall use the Prisoner Efiling Program when filing documents with the
The Clerk cannot effect service on Lieutenant Doe without his full name and
current work address. Council is directed to obtain this information during discovery and to file a
notice containing the information with the court. Once Lieutenant Doe has been identified, I will
order that he be served with a copy of the complaint.
Dated at Bridgeport, Connecticut, this 28th day of August 2017.
/s/ STEFAN R. UNDERHILL
Stefan R. Underhill
United States District Judge
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