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Schultz v. Meffen

United States District Court, D. Massachusetts

September 30, 2019

ELIZABETH K. MEFFEN, et al. Defendants.


          DONALD L. CABELL, U.S.M.J.

         State inmate Jason Schultz has brought a pro se action against two of the prison's medical providers, Dr. Van Nguyen and Jessica Roy, for failing to provide him with adequate medical care.[1] The defendants move to dismiss (D. 31). For the reasons set forth below, the motion to dismiss will be ALLOWED.

         I. Relevant Background

         The allegations in the amended complaint are taken as true for purposes of the motion to dismiss. The plaintiff is serving a prison term at MCI-Cedar Junction in Walpole, Massachusetts. (Amended Complaint [Complaint] at ¶ 2). Ms. Roy is the Mental Health Director at the prison and Dr. Van Nguyen is a staff psychiatrist there. (Id. at ¶ 11, 26).

         In 2008, defendant Van Nguyen and another staff psychiatrist named Earl Maruccio examined the plaintiff and diagnosed him with manic bipolar disorder. (Id. at ¶¶ 32). In 2014, they re-diagnosed, and also misdiagnosed the plaintiff with anti-social personality disorder, anti-anxiety disorder, steroid disorder and tobacco disorder. (Id. at ¶¶ 4, 32). The plaintiff was placed in solitary confinement as a result of this misdiagnosis/misclassification, as well as because of false reports filed by (other) Department of Correction officials regarding his behavior. (Id. at ¶ 4).

         During his time on the seclusion ward, defendant Roy approved a false report written by Elizabeth Meffen, the Director of Clinical Services, which falsely indicated that Schultz had been provided a “bed-roll” and a “book of my choice.” Defendant Roy (and Meffen) also deprived the plaintiff of rehabilitative and educational services contrary to the policy of the DOC and the Corrective-Care-Solutions (CCS), a corporation contracted by the DOC. This deprivation in turn impaired the plaintiff's ability to shorten his sentence by earning good-time credits. Defendant Roy (and Meffen) also deprived the plaintiff of his access to personal and legal mail, legal counsel via telephone, outside recreation time, hygiene items, and assistance with using the law library and resources contained within. (Id. at ¶ 65).

         In addition, in January 2017, defendants Van Nguyen and Roy reclassified the plaintiff as “severely mentally ill.” (Id. at ¶ 59). As a result of this reclassification, officials moved the plaintiff to the Behavioral Management Unit (BMU) on March 8, 2017. (Id.). While in the BMU, defendant Roy and others reduced the plaintiff's “earned-sentence-reduction” from ten days a month and twenty days for program completion, to five days a month and ten days upon completion. (Id. at ¶ 74). Defendant Roy and others aloso minimized the plaintiff's ability to reduce his sentence by only allowing him to enroll in one “spectrum services program” at a time, and by creating requirements for the plaintiff's treatment that were unrealistic for someone with his medical history to complete. (Id. at ¶ 75-76). The complaint also appears to allege that defendant Roy along with others denied the plaintiff access to educational and rehabilitative programing while he was in the BMU. (Id. at ¶ 72).

         II. Specific Claims Against The Defendants

         Count IV of the amended complaint alleges that the defendants acted with “deliberate indifference to [the plaintiff's] serious mental health needs, ” and failed “to accommodate a serious disability.” Although listed as a single count, Count IV asserts three claims, for (1) violation of the plaintiff's First, Eighth and Fourteenth Amendment rights pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983; (2) violation of Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), 42 U.S.C. § 12132; and (3) violation of section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act, 29 U.S.C. § 794.

         III. Legal Standard

         When ruling on a motion to dismiss brought under Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6), the court must accept as true all well-pleaded facts and draw all reasonable inferences in favor of the plaintiff. See Ruiz v. Bally Total Fitness Holding Corp., 496 F.3d 1, 5 (1st Cir. 2007) (citing Rogan v. Menino, 175 F.3d 75, 77 (1st Cir. 1999)). The court is “not bound, however, to credit ‘bald assertions, unsupportable conclusions, and opprobrious epithets' woven into the fabric of the complaint.” In re Colonial Mortgage Bankers Corp., 324 F.3d 12, 15 (1st Cir. 2003) (quoting Chongris v. Bd. Of Appeals, 811 F.2d 36, 37 (1st Cir. 1987)). Dismissal is appropriate if the complaint fails to allege a “plausible entitlement to relief.” Rodriguez-Ortiz v. Caribe, 490 F.3d 92, 95 (1st Cir. 2007) (quoting Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 559 (2007)). Where, as here, the plaintiff is proceeding pro se, the complaint will be construed liberally, and will “only be dismissed for failure to state a claim if it appears beyond doubt that the plaintiff can prove no set of facts in support of his claim which would entitle him to relief.” Estelle v. Gamble, 429 U.S. 97, 106 (1976) (internal quotation omitted).

         Under the liberal notice pleading standard established by Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a), a plaintiff is required to submit “a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief, in order to give the defendant fair notice of what the claim is and the grounds upon which it rests.” Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555 (quotations, citation, and punctuation omitted). Accordingly, “[p]laintiffs only are obliged to set forth in their complaint ‘factual allegations either direct or inferential, regarding each material element necessary to sustain recovery under some actionable legal theory.” Raytheon Co. v. Cont'l Cas. Co., 123 F.Supp.2d 22, 26-27 (D. Mass. 2000) (quoting Gooley v. Mobil Oil Corp., 851 F.2d 513, 515 (1st Cir. 1988)). “While a complaint attacked by a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss does not need detailed factual allegations, a plaintiff's obligation to provide the grounds of his entitlement to relief requires more than labels and conclusions, and a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action will not do.” Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555 (internal punctuation and citations omitted). Accordingly, the factual allegations “must be enough to raise a right to relief above the speculative level on the assumption that all the allegations in the complaint are true (even if doubtful in fact).” Id. (citations omitted).

         IV. Discussion

         The ...

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