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Tucker v. Delaware Department of Correction

United States District Court, D. Delaware

March 26, 2019

LYNELL B. TUCKER, Plaintiff,
DELAWARE DEPARTMENT OF CORRECTION, PERRY PHELPS, solely in his official capacity as Commissioner of the Delaware Department of Correction, and CONNECTIONS COMMUNITY SUPPORT PROGRAMS, INC., Defendants.

          Rodger D. Smith II, Stephen J. Kraftschik, and Anthony D. Raucci, MORRIS, NICHOLS, ARSHT & TUNNELL LLP, Wilmington, Delaware Attorneys for Plaintiff.

          Stephen J. Milewski and Roopa Sabesan, WHITE AND WILLIAMS LLP, Wilmington, DE Attorneys for Defendant Connections Community Support Programs, Inc.


          STARK, V.S. District Judge:


         Plaintiff Lynell B. Tucker ("Plaintiff) is an inmate at James T. Vaughn Correctional Center ("Vaughn"), located in Smyrna, Delaware. Plaintiff filed this action pro se on May 12, 2016. (D.I. 6) The Court dismissed Plaintiffs original complaint for failure to state a claim, but granted leave to amend and granted Plaintiffs request for counsel through the Federal Civil Panel. (D.I. 19 at 7) With the assistance of counsel, Plaintiff filed the now-operative Amended Complaint on July 7, 2018, asserting claims under 42 U.S.C. Section 1983 and the Americans with Disabilities Act ("ADA"). (D.I. 37) ("Complaint" or "Compl.") Defendants Delaware Department of Correction ("DOC") and Perry Phelps ("Phelps") answered Plaintiffs Complaint on July 30, 2018. (D.I. 41)

         Pending before the Court is Defendant Connections Community Support Programs, Inc.'s ("Connections") motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim. (D.I. 44) The Court will grant in part and deny in part Connections' motion.


         Connections provides mental health care services for DOC facilities. Plaintiff alleges he was provided constitutionally-deficient mental health care from Connections while incarcerated at Vaughn. Plaintiff is diagnosed with Major Depressive Disorder, Recurrent Episodes, Mild; and Antisocial Personality Disorder. (Compl. at ¶ 7) While in custody, and placed at the Delaware Psychiatric Center, he was diagnosed with "Conduct Disorder," "Reading Disorder," "Disorder of Written Expression," "Math Disorder," "Antisocial Traits," and "Borderline Intellectual Functioning," and was found to have a "Global Assessment of Functioning" or "GAF" score of 50. (Id. at ¶ 8) Plaintiff can be described as having a serious mental illness ("SMI"). (Id. at ¶ 7)

         Connections developed an Individual Treatment Plan ("ITP") for Plaintiff, which recommended he be housed in a Residential Treatment Center ("RTC") which provides an outpatient standard of care. (D.I. 45 at 4; Compl. at ¶ 9) His most recent ITP recommends "45 minutes of individual therapy once a week, and 60 minutes of group therapy five times a week." (Compl. at ¶IO)[1]

         Plaintiff complains he has suffered a "degradation of his mental health" from extended stays in the Secured Housing Unit ("SHU"). (Id. at ¶¶ 13-15) SHU involves solitary confinement for 21.5 hours per day in a 8' x 13' cell, and while housed in SHU Plaintiff was not provided with his recommended mental health treatment. (Id. at ¶ 14) Plaintiff describes his SHU confinement as a cycle, brought on as a punishment for behaviors emblematic of his mental health problems, and causing only increasing manifestations of those same issues. (Id. at ¶ 15)[2]Plaintiff alleges "it has been Connections' policy, custom, or practice to acquiesce to such treatment." (Id. at ¶ 18) Plaintiff notes a plethora of mental and physical harms that solitary confinement can cause a prisoner with SMI, including "insomnia, anxiety, panic, withdrawal, hypersensitivity to stimuli, ruminations, cognitive dysfunction, hallucinations, loss of control, aggression, rage, paranoia, hopelessness, depression, self-mutilation, and suicidal ideation and behavior." (Mat¶21)

         As a separate issue, Plaintiff alleges that Connections disregarded his medical history and his objections by prescribing risperidone, which caused him to suffer an adverse reaction. Treatment notes for Plaintiffs admission to St. Francis Hospital on August 23, 2005 indicate he suffered from priapism (prolonged erection), apparently caused by zoloft and risperdal (a form of risperidone). (Id. at ¶ 28) A November 3, 2006 medical opinion recommended that Plaintiff not take risperidone, zoloft, or zyprexa for fear of priapism. (Id. at ¶ 29) Plaintiff alleges that despite this history, Connections employees prescribed risperidone at Vaughn in 2014, and told him that it could not cause priapism. (Id. at ¶ 31) Plaintiff refused to take the medication on September 12, 15, 16, 17, and 18. (Id. at ¶ 32) Still, he was given risperidone at 3:30 p.m. on September 18, 2014, and noticed priapism beginning around 5:30 p.m., followed shortly after by excruciating pain. (Id. at ¶¶ 33-34) He was seen by a Connections nurse at 8:30 a.m. the next day and taken to Kent General Hospital at 9:45 a.m., where he was treated and advised of the risk of permanent injury. (Id. at ¶ 35) Plaintiff alleges that even after this incident, he was offered risperidone by a Connections nurse. (Id. at¶36) Plaintiff alleges his suffering resulted from a failure to provide immediate treatment, a failure to train and supervise prison staff to deal with such situations, and a systemic failure to review and consider inmates' refusal of medicines.


         A. Motion to Dismiss for Failure to State a Claim

         Evaluating a motion to dismiss under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) requires the Court to accept as true all material allegations of the complaint. See Spruill v. Gillis,372 F.3d 218, 223 (3d Cir. 2004). "The issue is not whether a plaintiff will ultimately prevail but whether the claimant is entitled to offer evidence to support the claims." In re Burlington Coat ...

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