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Reaves v. Department of Correction

United States District Court, D. Massachusetts

September 20, 2018

TIMOTHY REAVES, Plaintiff,
v.
DEPARTMENT OF CORRECTION, ET AL., Defendants.

          FINDINGS AND ORDER ON CROSS MOTIONS FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT

          TIMOTHY HILLMAN DISTRICT JUDGE

         The plaintiff, Timothy Reaves, ("Plaintiff) files this action against the Defendants for claims related to his treatment while incarcerated in various Department of Corrections ("DOC") institutions. The defendants were in two categories: (1) the DOC Defendants and (2) the Medical Defendants. The DOC Defendants include the DOC, Thomas Turco, [1] Carol Higgins O'Brien, Stephanie Collins, Pamela MacEachern, Michael Rodrigues, and Sheila Kelly.[2] The Medical Defendants have settled with the Plaintiff.

         Background[3]

         The Plaintiff has been incarcerated since 1996 and is serving a life sentence in the Massachusetts DOC. He has been a quadriplegic throughout his incarceration and is hearing impaired. The relevant institutions where Plaintiff has been housed for purposes of this action are Bridgewater State Hospital ("Bridgewater") from 2011 through 2014, Souza Baranowski Correction Center ("Souza Baranowski") from 2014 until 2016, and the Massachusetts Correctional Institution at Shirley ("MCI Shirley") from 2016 until present. During Plaintiffs incarceration his health has significantly decreased. He can no longer brush his teeth, feed himself, sit in a wheelchair, and showers on a stretcher.

         Plaintiff has alleged the following counts: failure to provide adequate medical care in violation of the 8th Amendment (Count I) and Article 26 Of the Declaration of Rights of the Constitution of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts (Count II); reasonable accommodations in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act (Count III), the Rehabilitation Act (Count IV) and Article 114 (Count V); unlawful conditions of confinement in violation of the 8th Amendment (Count VI) and Article 26 of the Declaration of Rights (Count VII); failure to protect in violation of the 8th Amendment (Count VIII) and Article 26 (Count IX); and violation of Plaintiff s due process rights provided by the 14th Amendment (X) and Articles 1, 10, and 12 of the Declaration of Rights (Count XI); intentional infliction of emotional distress (Count XIV); and violation of the Massachusetts Civil Rights Act ("MCRA") (Count XII). Both parties have filed motions for summary judgment, discussed below with the exception of Count XII, which Plaintiffs concedes.[4] Accordingly, the Defendants motion for summary judgment as to the Count XII is granted.

         In a motion for summary judgment it is the moving party's burden to show an absence of a genuine issue as to any material fact on the record. DeNovellis v. Shalala, 124 F.3d 298, 306 (1stCir. 1997). A "genuine" issue is one which a rational factfinder could resolve in either direction, and a "material" fact is one that could change the case's outcome. Mu v. Omni HotelsMgmt. Corp., 882 F.3d 1, 5 (1st Cir. 2018), review denied, 885 F.3d 52 (1st Cir. 2018). If the moving party also bears the burden of proof at trial, he must "demonstrate every element of his case such that 'no reasonable trier of fact could find other than for [him]."' Harley-Davidson Credit Corp. v. Galvin, 807 F.3d 407, 411 (1st Cir. 2015). The court must view the evidence in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party in assessing each motion. Tolan v. Cotton, 134 S.Ct. 1861 (2014).

         Inadequate Medical Care (Counts I & II) [5]

         To establish an Eighth Amendment violation based on the failure to provide adequate medical care, the prisoner must satisfy two prongs: "(1) an objective prong that requires proof of a serious medical need, and (2) a subjective prong that mandates a showing of prison administrators' deliberate indifference to that need." Kosilek v. Spencer, 774 F.3d 63, 82; see Estelle v. Gamble, 429 U.S. 97, 106 (1976). "[D]eliberate indifference 'defines a narrow band of conduct' . . . and requires evidence that the failure in treatment was purposeful." Kosilek, 774 F.3d at 83 (quoting Feeney v. Corr. Med. Servs. Inc., 464 F.3d 158, 162 (1st Cir. 2006). For purposes of this motion, the DOC Defendants concede that Plaintiff has objectively shown that his deprivation is sufficiently serious. Defendants argue instead that Plaintiff has failed to show that the Defendants knowingly disregarded or failed to provide available remedies because they lacked the responsibility to intervene in a meaningful way. I disagree.

         Prison officials are not be relieved of a duty to provide adequate medical care by contracting that responsibility out to private medical vendors. See West v. Atkins, 487 U.S. 42, 56 (1988)("Contracting out prison medical care does not relieve the State of its constitutional duty to provide adequate medical treatment to those in its custody"). The DOC has the authority and the obligation to ensure contract compliance by the medical providers with regards to the adequacy of their care. Specifically, Collins, as the Associate Deputy Commissioner of Clinical Services, oversees the medical services through regular meetings, audits, review of records, and may impose sanctions to remedy services deemed to be inadequate compared to community standards of care. Furthermore, the record shows that she was aware of, and involved in the requested accommodations and grievances filed by Plaintiff. See Soneeya v. Spencer, 851 F.Supp.2d 228, 243 (D. Mass. 2012)("A prison official is a proper defendant in an Eighth Amendment suit if that official was personally involved in the decision to deny treatment for [the inmate's] serious medical need. Personal involvement may be established, by showing that the official knew of the prisoner's need for medical care and yet failed to provide the same.")(internal quotation marks and citation omitted)).

         The record in this case does not show disagreements as to certain treatment decisions but a pattern of denying, delaying, and/or interfering with the Plaintiff s medical care over a prolonged and significant period of time at various DOC facilities. See Feeney, 464 F.3d at 162 ("disagreement on the appropriate course of treatment...falls short of alleging a constitutional violation")(internal citation omitted); see Battista v. Clarke, 645 F.3d 449, 453 (1st Cir. 201 l)("it is enough for the prisoner to show a wanton disregard sufficiently evidenced by 'denial, delay, or interference with prescribed health care.'")(quoting DesRosiers v. Moran, 949 F.2d 15, 19 (1st Cir. 1991)). For example, the record shows that Plaintiff is not being provided adequate range of motion therapy or as often as he should. There are inconsistencies with the documentation of when Plaintiff is being provided therapy as well as his "refusal" of therapy. It appears that Plaintiff has refused range of motion therapy because the DOC denied his request to be given therapy after his bath when he is clean. Additionally, since the entry of a preliminary injunction in July of 2016, the Plaintiff has seen a spinal cord specialist only twice, the Plaintiff appears to continue to be in chronic constipation with no bowel management plan or system in place regarding emergency response in the event Plaintiff suffers from autonomic dysreflexia, and the Plaintiff does not have working hearing aids. This absence of care as opposed to a dispute regarding two or more choices of care supports this claim against the DOC.

         Plaintiffs condition and overall health has significantly declined and there is evidence to support a link between this decline and the alleged inadequate care. The DOC has been aware of these issues including the lack of medically necessary treatment plans mentioned above since at least the filing of this action in 2015. For all of these reasons, I find that there are triable issues as to the DOC's deliberate indifference and decline to grant summary judgment as to Counts I and II for either Party.

         Qualified Immunity

         Because the Plaintiffs have confirmed that they are only seeking injunctive relief for Counts I and II, qualified immunity is not available as a defense. Ex parte Young 209 U.S. 123 (1908)[6]

         Reasonable Accommodations (& Disability Discrimination) Counts III, IV & V

         The record supports a reasonable conclusion that MacEachern, Rodrigues, and Morin were aware of the Plaintiffs significant limitations and failed to provide reasonable accommodations at Bridgewater, Souza Baranowski, and Shirley. "The ADA, the RA, and art. 114 of the Massachusetts Constitution all prohibit the same conduct: disabled persons may not be excluded from participation in, or be denied the benefits of services, programs, or activities, and they may not be subjected to discrimination." Shedlock v. Dep't Of Correction, 442 Mass. 844, 854 (2004)(internal quotation marks omitted)(quoting 42 U.S.C. § 12132. 29 U.S.C. § 794. Art. 114).

         To establish a Title II ADA claim, the plaintiff must show

(1) that he is a qualified individual with a disability; (2) that he was either excluded from participation in or denied the benefits of some public entity's services, programs, or activities or was otherwise discriminated against; and (3) that such exclusion, denial of benefits, or discrimination was by reason of the plaintiffs disability.

Buchanan v. Maine, 469 F.3d 158, 170-71 (1st Cir. 2006)(quoting Parker v. Universidad de Puerto Rico,225 F.3d 1, 5 (1st Cir. ...


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