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Wallace v. Cousins

United States District Court, D. Massachusetts

February 10, 2017



          George A. O'Toole, Jr. United States District Judge.

         The plaintiff, Willie Wallace, acting pro se, has brought a number of claims against various correctional officers and nurses at the Essex County Correctional Facility (“ECCF”).[1] His claims stem from what the plaintiff alleges was inadequate treatment of his toothache in October 2014.[2]

         I. Facts

         The facts presented in the operative pleadings[3] are relatively sparse, but the following is fairly alleged: The plaintiff was admitted to ECCF on September 25, 2014, as a pretrial detainee and complained of a painful toothache. The plaintiff submitted a number of sick call slips to a nurse and was given Motrin for the pain. On October 6, [4] the plaintiff filed additional sick call slips and two medical grievances, to which Amy Gordon, the chief administrator of the contracted healthcare provider, responded.[5]

         On October 6, the plaintiff, experiencing excruciating pain, spoke to Sergeant Greg Turner, who arranged for the plaintiff to talk to a nurse who was dispensing medicine in the medicine line. That nurse also gave the plaintiff Motrin. The plaintiff alleges that, at the time, there was “visible swelling” on his face. (Am. Compl. ¶ 24 (dkt. no. 8).) Turner denied the plaintiff's further request to go to the infirmary.

         Three hours later, the plaintiff again approached Turner and collapsed on the ground from the pain. Turner allegedly kicked the plaintiff in an attempt to get him to rise and allowed 50 to 60 inmates to step over him. Turner and Sergeant Lane picked the plaintiff up and brought him to the infirmary. There, Nurse Janice Hall told the officers that “there was no severity in [the p]laintiff's medical situation, ” despite the plaintiff's “swollen face and cries of pain.” (Am. Compl. ¶ 31.)

         The plaintiff alleges that for this incident, Turner wrote a disciplinary report for faking a medical injury and Lane found him guilty without reviewing evidence.

         Later that day, the plaintiff alleges, Lieutenant Heath Carafa entered the plaintiff's room, insulted him, called him a racial slur, wrote “a false disciplinary report” after ordering the plaintiff to get off his bunk, and escorted the plaintiff to the segregation unit. (Am. Compl. ¶¶ 36-39.) During this time, the plaintiff was in severe pain and could not move or speak. The plaintiff alleges that Lieutenant David Fortune did not afford the plaintiff an adequate disciplinary hearing with respect to Carafa's report. The plaintiff appealed both disciplinary reports to Superintendent Michael Marks, who denied the appeals.

         During the night in the segregation unit, the two unnamed segregation officers refused to provide the plaintiff medical attention or give him a grievance form.

         In the morning on the next day, an officer saw an abnormally large bump on the plaintiff's face and rushed him to the infirmary. The plaintiff was then transferred to a hospital, where he apparently received treatment for his condition.

         II. Discussion

         The various named ECCF employee defendants have moved to dismiss the claims against them. The plaintiff has not filed a formal opposition to the motion. Hall, a member of the nursing staff, has separately moved to dismiss the claims against her. The plaintiff has opposed that motion.

         To survive a motion to dismiss, a complaint must contain sufficient factual allegations to state a claim that is “plausible on its face.” Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007). A complaint “stops short of the line between possibility and plausibility” where it “pleads facts that are ‘merely consistent with' a defendant's liability.” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 557). The factual content of the complaint must allow a court “to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged.” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678. “Threadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action, supported by mere conclusory statements, do not suffice.” Id.

         As to Cousins and Marks, no relevant acts or omissions are alleged. To make out a viable claim under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, a plaintiff must prove that the defendant in question personally participated in the complained of actions or inaction. See Vélez-Rivera v. Agosto-Alicea, 437 F.3d 145, 156 (1st Cir. 2006) (citing Cepero-Rivera v. Fagundo, 414 F.3d 124, 129 (1st Cir. 2005)). Merely alleging that a defendant served in a supervisory role is by itself insufficient. See id. (“A plaintiff must show an affirmative link between the subordinate officer and the supervisor, whether through direct participation or through conduct that amounts to condonation or tacit authorization.” (citation omitted)). Other than Marks's denial of the plaintiff's appeals (for which the pleadings provide no ...

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