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Stone v. Worcester County Sherriffs Office

United States District Court, D. Massachusetts

March 26, 2019




         Pro se plaintiff Stephen Stone, who is presently confined at the Norfolk County Jail, has filed a civil rights complaint under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 (“§ 1983”) in which he complains that his Eighth Amendment rights were violated while he was confined at the Worcester County Jail and House of Correction (“Worcester County HOC” or “Jail”) beginning in August 2015. He alleges that the medical treatment he received at the facility for his serious mental health issues was below the level of care required by the Constitution. Upon a preliminary screening of the Amended Complaint [ECF No. 9 (“Amended Complaint”)], pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §§ 1915(e)(2) and 1915A, the Court ordered that all official capacity claims be dismissed and that summonses issue as to Worcester County Sheriff Lewis Evangelidis and Dr. Bernard Katz. [ECF No. 14]. These Defendants have separately moved to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure (“Rule 12(b)(6)”) for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. [ECF Nos. 20, 30]. For the reasons stated below, the Defendants' motions are DENIED.

         I. Factual Allegations

         The following facts are drawn from the Amended Complaint. For purposes of evaluating a 12(b)(6) motion, the Court will, as it must, “accept[] all well-pled facts in the complaint as true, and draw[] all reasonable inferences in favor of the plaintiff.” Gilbert v. City of Chicopee, 915 F.3d 74, 80 (1st Cir. 2019).

         A. Stone's Mental Health History and the Policy Prohibiting Klonopin

         Stone has suffered from anxiety and other serious mental health issues since he was five years old. Am. Compl. ¶ 8. Prior to his incarceration at the Worcester County HOC, his mental illness was being effectively treated by the prescription medication Klonopin, to which Stone responded “very well.” Id. In 2009-2010, during a period of incarceration in the Worcester County HOC previous to the one at issue in this action, defendant Katz, who worked at the facility as a contracted doctor, had prescribed Klonopin for Stone and was aware of his medical needs. Id. At the time, Evangelidis was not the sheriff of Worcester County. Id. After Evangelidis was elected sheriff, he instituted a new medication policy which included a prohibition of the prescription of Klonopin to inmates (“the Policy”). Id.

         On August 17, 2015, after the election of Evangelidis, Stone was brought to the Worcester County HOC. Id. ¶ 9. At intake, Stone was not provided Klonopin due to the Policy. Id. During his stay at the Jail, Stone “continuously” asked Katz for Klonopin, and Katz responded that he was no longer able to provide that particular prescription medication due to the Policy.

         Stone's mental health rapidly deteriorated because he did not have access to Klonopin. Id. Between August 2015 and August 2016, he cut himself more than once, and employees of the Worcester County HOC were aware of at least two or three of these incidents. Id. ¶ 10. He also had numerous mental health breakdowns. Id.

         B. Stone's Self-Suicide Attempts: August 2016-January 2017

          On August 16, 2016, Stone attended a court proceeding at the Norfolk Superior Court. Id. ¶ 12. He had surreptitiously brought a razor with him from the Worcester County HOC. Id. ¶ 11. After the proceeding, when employees of the Worcester County HOC were present to transport him back to the institution, Stone attempted suicide by cutting his arm with the razor. Id. ¶ 12. He was taken by ambulance to Norwood Hospital. Id.

         On October 19, 2016, when Stone was brought to Malden District Court, he had a mental breakdown after court security refused him access to the building. Id. ¶ 13. In reaction to his visible emotional instability, Worcester County HOC transport officers tackled him on the pavement outside of the courthouse. Id. After they placed him in the back of the facility's van, he began to bang his head and kick the cage because of his emotionally unstable condition. Id. Aware of this conduct, the transport officers called the Worcester County HOC to notify officials of the situation, ask for permission to leave without waiting for another inmate, and request leave to use flashing blue lights while transporting Stone back to the Jail. Id. During the return trip to the Jail, the two transport officers failed to monitor Stone. Id. ¶ 14. Their view of Stone was obstructed by an American flag that someone had hung over the observation window. Id. During this ride, Stone attempted suicide by tying a “thermo” around his neck. Id. When the van arrived at the Worcester County HOC, Stone was blue in the face and barely conscious. Id. A correctional officer cut off the thermo, and Stone was taken to a hospital for emergency treatment. Id.

         On or around November 26, 2016, Stone attempted suicide in a “camera cell” at the Jail by tying a sheet around his neck. Id. ¶ 16. When correctional officers entered the cell, Stone was “semi-unresponsive” and required an oxygen mask and an injection to lower his pulse and breathing. Id. On January 22, 2017, Stone cut his wrists open with a razor after he was denied access to the phone. Id. ¶ 20. He was taken to a hospital, where he received stitches and was informed he had cut his tendon. Id.

         C. Claims

         The Amended Complaint sets forth three § 1983 claims for violations of the Eighth Amendment: Katz's refusal to prescribe Klonopin because of the Policy; Evangelidis's implementation and enforcement of the Policy; and, the failure of the transport officers on October 19, 2016 ...

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