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Nassar v. Ruze

United States District Court, D. Massachusetts

October 3, 2016

PATRICIA RUZE[1], et al., Defendants.



         For the reasons stated below, the Court dismisses Thomas Turco, DOC Commissioner, DOC, RSRC, Christopher Mitchell, Paul DiPaolo, Katherine Chmiel, Thomas Dickhaut, “Student Doctor McLaughlin, ” “Dr. Andurland, ” “Six (at least) Student Doctors at Lemuel Shattuck, ” Lemuel Shattuck Hospital, Prison Legal Services, Elizabeth Matos, and UMass as defendants.

         I. Background

         On April 29, 2016, state prisoner Christopher Nassar (“Nassar”) commenced this action by filing a civil complaint [ECF No. 1] in which he alleged that he was being denied adequate medical treatment and that he was close to dying. He also filed a motion for immediate screening of the complaint and a temporary restraining order requiring the defendants to transport him to a hospital [ECF No. 2]. The documents came to the notice of the Court when they were docketed on Friday, April 29, 2016. Under the direction of the Court, a deputy clerk contacted counsel for the defendants to alert them of the lawsuit and Prisoners' Legal Services of Massachusetts (“PLS”) to see if the organization could provide representation in regards to the motion for a temporary restraining order. Attorney Elizabeth Matos of PLS, who had had previous interactions with Nassar, stated that she would visit him over the weekend and ask him if he wanted her to represent him for this limited purpose. She later updated that Nassar had agreed to the representation. On Monday, May 2, 2016, counsel for the plaintiff and defendants reported that Nassar would be transported the next day to the Lemuel Shattuck Hospital Ambulatory Care Center (“Shattuck Hospital”) [ECF No. 13]. The Court ordered the parties to submit a status report by May 9, 2016 [ECF No. 14] and denied as moot the motion for a temporary restraining order [ECF No. 15]. After signing the joint status report filed on May 9, 2016, in which the parties reported information provided by Shattuck Hospital staff and stated that the plaintiff remained at the hospital, Attorney Matos ceased to represent Nassar in light of the disposition of the motion for a temporary restraining order.

         On June 16, 2016, Nassar filed an amended and supplemental complaint [ECF No. 34] (“Amended Complaint”). Much of this pleading mirrors the original complaint in that Nassar alleges that prison officials did not provide him adequate medical care prior to the commencement of this action. Under the headings of “Amendment & Supplementation of Complaint” and “Retaliations Since Filing of Complaint, ” Nassar claims that, while he was hospitalized at Shattuck Hospital, he did not receive proper medical treatment. He further asserts that he received poor care at Shattuck Hospital and also upon returning to prison in retaliation for filing this lawsuit. Finally, he claims that he is being denied a religious diet, which diet is crucial to his health.

         The amended complaint states three counts. In Count I, Nassar asserts a claim for “8th Amendment Cruel and Unusual Punishment, ” claiming that (1) his medical condition is such that even a lay person would recognize the need for medical attention; and (2) “each of the medical defendants” intentionally denied him access to proper medical treatment. Amend. Compl. ¶¶ 143-150. Count II of the amended complaint, entitled “Retaliations, ” alleges that had Nassar not filed this lawsuit, “the defendants would not have developed a retaliatory motive for their outrageous behavior, and the incidents in this amended supplementary complaint would not have occurred.” Id. ¶ 154. In Count III, Nassar brings a new claim concerning access to a religious diet. Id. ¶¶ 156-162. In his prayer for relief, the plaintiff seeks a temporary and permanent injunction[2] and compensatory damages.

         Summonses issued as to defendants Massachusetts Partnership for Correctional Healthcare (“MPCH”), Dr. Patricia Ruze, Dr. Lawrence Churchville, Nurse Practitioner Ziesl Mayaan, and Registered Nurse Byron Shoemaker on April 29, 2016. These parties waived service of summons and timely filed an answer to the amended complaint on August 15, 2016 [ECF No. 44]. A summons also issued as to “UMass, ” which the Court understood to be UMass Correctional Health Services [ECF No. 23]. On June 13, 2016, the Court ordered that Nassar complete service on UMass within 60 days. The service deadline has expired and the docket does not contain any record of service on UMass.[3] Summonses have not issued as to the defendants who were not parties to the original complaint.[4]

         II. Screening of the Complaint

         When a plaintiff proceeds without prepayment of the filing fee, the Court may conduct a preliminary review of an original or amended complaint prior to requiring that a defendant respond. See 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B). Similarly, under 28 U.S.C. § 1915A, prisoner complaints in civil actions that seek redress from a governmental entity or from officers or employees of a governmental entity are also subject to screening. Both § 1915 and § 1915A authorize federal courts to dismiss a complaint sua sponte if the claims therein are frivolous, malicious, fail to state a claim on which relief may be granted, or seek monetary relief against a defendant who is immune from such relief. See 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2); 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(b). In conducting this review, the Court liberally construes Nassar's Amended Complaint because he is proceeding pro se. See Haines v. Kerner, 404 U.S. 519, 520-21 (1972). “However, pro se status does not insulate a party from complying with procedural and substantive law.” Ahmed v. Rosenblatt, 118 F.3d 886, 890 (1st Cir. 1997).

         A. Allegations Concerning Denial of a Religious Diet

         In an electronic order dated June 6, 2016 [ECF No. 36], the Court ruled that Nassar's claims regarding denial of a religious diet could not be brought in the instant complaint because they involve new defendants and do not arise out of the “same transaction, occurrence, or series of transactions or occurrence, ” Fed.R.Civ.P. 18(a)(2)(A), as the claims of inadequate medical care. If the plaintiff wishes to pursue such claims, he must commence a separate action. He would then be responsible for paying another filing fee, either by paying $400 upon filing the action or by paying $350 over time after receiving leave of court to proceed without prepayment of the fee. Because the claims regarding a religious diet are not part of this action, the claims against defendants Thomas Turco, DOC Commissioner, DOC, RSRC, Christopher Mitchell, Paul DiPaolo, Katherine Chmiel, and Thomas Dickhaut are dismissed without prejudice, and these parties shall be dismissed as defendants to this action.

         B. Claims Concerning Medical Care at Shattuck Hospital

         The claims against “Student Doctor McLaughlin, ” “Dr. Andurland, ” and “Six (at least) Student Doctors at Lemuel Shattuck” shall also be dismissed without prejudice and these parties terminated as defendants because Nassar has failed to state any claim against them upon which relief may be granted.

         To state a claim for relief, a complaint must, in compliance with Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2), include “a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2). At a minimum, the complaint must “give the defendant fair notice of what the plaintiff's claim is and the grounds upon which it rests.” Calvi v. Knox County, 470 F.3d 422, 430 (1st Cir. 2006) (quoting Educadores Puertorriqueños en Acción v. Hernández, 367 F.3d 61, 66 (1st Cir. 2004)). The plaintiff's obligation to provide the grounds of his claim “requires more than labels and conclusions.” Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007). A court is not “bound to accept as true a legal conclusion couched as a factual allegation.” Id. (quoting Papasan v. Allain, 478 U.S. 265, 286 (1986)). Further, “only a complaint that states a plausible claim for relief” states a claim upon which relief may be granted. Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 679 (2009) ...

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