United States District Court, D. Massachusetts
LEE P. UNITT
DANIEL BENNETT, et al.
RICHARD G. STEARNS UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
before the court is the Motion to Dismiss (#65) of defendants
Christine Horn, RN, Carrie Holowecki, LCSW, Cesar Novoa, PA,
Betty Richards, RN, and Amanda Brown, RN (collectively, the
“Medical Defendants”). The Medical Defendants
represent that they were employed by the Massachusetts
Partnership for Correctional Health (“MPCH”)
during the relevant time period. They ask that the court
dismiss all counts against them pursuant Rule 12(b)(6) for
failure to state a claim upon which relief may be granted.
For the reasons stated below, the motion is GRANTED in part
and DENIED in part.
court writes for the parties and assumes their familiarity
with the lengthy Second Amended Complaint (“SAC”)
(#59). In short, pro se plaintiff Lee Unitt suffers
from a rare, chronic medical condition known as Fibromuscular
Dysplasia (“FMD”) which is characterized by
abnormal cell growth within the artery walls. She was diagnosed
with this condition in 2011, before she came into the care
and custody of the Massachusetts Department of Correction in
2013. Unitt claims that, because of alleged exposure to
asbestos, PCBs, and other harmful airborne particulates while
incarcerated at MCI Framingham, the FMD has worsened and her
left renal artery has become increasingly stenotic, or
narrowed. She was also diagnosed with type II diabetes in
2015. The prescription medications Unitt takes to treat
hypertension, malignant hypertension, and diabetes also
prevent the ability of the body to thermoregulate. She claims
that the Medical Defendants have failed to provide adequate
care for her medical condition.
Claims under 42 U.S.C. § 1983
brings claims against the Medical Defendants under 42 U.S.C.
§ 1983 (“§ 1983”), alleging that they
violated the Eighth Amendment. “Deliberate indifference
to serious medical needs of prisoners constitutes the
‘unnecessary and wanton infliction of pain'
proscribed by the Eighth Amendment.” Estelle v.
Gamble, 429 U.S. 97, 104 (1976) (quoting Gregg v.
Georgia, 428 U.S. 153, 173 (1976) (joint opinion of
Stewart, Powell and Stevens, JJ.)). “This is true
whether the indifference is manifested by prison doctors in
their response to the prisoner's needs or by prison
guards in intentionally denying or delaying access to medical
care or intentionally interfering with the treatment once
prescribed.” Id. at 104-105 (footnotes
omitted). However, not “every claim by a prisoner that
he has not received adequate medical treatment states a
violation of the Eighth Amendment, ” and
“[m]edical malpractice does not become a constitutional
violation merely because the victim is a prisoner.”
Id. at 105, 106.
order to state a cognizable claim, a prisoner must allege
acts or omissions sufficiently harmful to evidence deliberate
indifference to serious medical needs.” Id. at
106. An Eighth Amendment claim for inadequate medical care
consists of subjective and objective components. See
Kosilek v. Spencer, 774 F.3d 63, 82 (1st Cir.
2014) (en banc). As to the objective component, a plaintiff
must plead facts, which, if true, show “a serious
medical need for which [the plaintiff] has received
inadequate treatment.” Id. at 85. The
subjective component requires factual allegations supporting
an inference of “deliberate indifference” by the
defendant. Id. at 83.
Defendants Novoa and Holowacki
allegations can be fairly construed to allege that she had an
objectively serious medical need to have a fan in her cell to
help her regulate her body temperature. Unitt's own
doctor had conveyed this in a report soon after she began
serving her sentence. On February 10, 2016 Unitt was seen by
a nephrologist at Lemuel Shattuck Hospital, who, in a written
report, explained why body temperature regulation was crucial
for Unitt, advised that having a fan in her cell could help
manage body temperature, and stated, “Please follow my
recommendations.” SAC ¶ 45. Unitt conveyed these
two reports to Novoa and Holowacki on March 18, 2016 and
April 1, 2016, respectively, and asked that she be able to
have an extra fan in her cell. Novoa's initial response
was to submit a request for a fan for Unitt. However, when
that request was denied by a DOC employee without medical
training, Novoa allowed her professional medical judgment to
be overruled, thus demonstrating deliberate indifference to
Unitt's serious medical condition. Holowacki evinced
deliberate indifference by denying Unitt's request,
telling her that there was no requirement that the
recommendations of outside physicians be followed.
20, 2016, Unitt was seen by Dr. Groblewski, the statewide
medical director for MPCH. On May 25, 2016, Novoa placed
another request for Unitt to have a fan. However, on May 25,
2016, during a heat wave, Unitt allegedly suffered a stroke,
or cerebrovascular accident (“CVA”), which left
her with “further residual right sided weakness and a
right facial droop, causing her to lisp for approx. five
days.” Id. ¶ 59. In the following days,
she allegedly suffered three mini-strokes, or transient
ischemic attacks (“TIA”). Unitt was finally
provided a fan on June 24, 2016.
also has adequately pled a § 1983 claim against Brown.
On May 27, 2016, two days after suffering a stroke, Unitt
went to the “Trauma” office at the insistence of
a correctional officer. She was seen by Brown, who did not
consult Unitt's medical files. Although Unitt's
tongue was swollen, she was lisping, and she had a right
facial droop, Brown simply asked Unitt, “[A]part from
your normal symptoms of TIAs and strokes, what's
new?” Id. ¶ 90. Instead of immediately
referring Unitt to a physician, Brown simply sent Unitt back
to her cell. Because of the heat wave and the conditions in
her cell, Unitt allegedly experienced three mini-strokes over
the next four days. From these allegations, the court can
reasonably infer that, because Unitt showed obvious signs of
having suffered a stroke, she had a serious ...