A federal judge has ruled that a prisoner who sued a dentist for $5 million in punitive damages for allegedly not following up with him after he was diagnosed with a large mass around his left jaw bone did not have standing to bring the suit.
The civil rights lawsuit, filed pro se by Cheshire Correctional Institution inmate Darnell Tatem, alleged Naugatuck-based dentist Brian Perelmuter “never followed up” with him after he was forwarded his diagnosis and assigned his case. Perelmuter, the lawsuit says, was forwarded Tatem’s medical history 13 days after the initial diagnosis of the mass. Perelmuter was sued in his individual capacity.
The lawsuit stated the mass in and around Tatem’s left jaw subsequently developed into an infection resulting in Tatem requiring a four-week around-the-clock IV treatment to clear the infection. That, the lawsuit states, led to months of Tatem not being able to eat food or chew without pain and caused severe discomfort. The lawsuit was filed in March.
But, in dismissing the lawsuit Thursday, U.S. District Judge Victor Bolden of the District of Connecticut wrote Tatem “does not, however, allege facts suggesting that Dr. Perelmuter was responsible for Mr. Tatem’s treatment on or around July 2, 2015, or at any point thereafter.”
Bolden said Tatem did not prove standing.
“To demonstrate standing, a plaintiff must allege an injury in fact that is fairly traceable to defendant’s conduct and is likely to be redressed by judicial action,” Bolden wrote. The inmate, Bolden said, did not meet that burden.
“The fact that there is an intervening cause of the plaintiff’s injury may foreclose a finding of proximate cause, but is not necessarily a basis for finding that the injury is not fairly traceable to the acts of the defendant,” Bolden wrote. “If a plaintiff cannot meet this burden, the court must dismiss the case for lack of standing.”
Bolden said Tatem “does not assert that he sought dental treatment or was ever seen by Dr. Perelmuter. He merely asserts, without any factual support, that the diagnosis was forwarded to Dr. Perelmuter and that Dr. Perelmuter never followed up. To sufficiently plead that some casual nexus exists between Dr. Perelmuter’s actions and Mr. Tatem’s injuries, Mr. Tatem must, at a bare minimum, make well-pleaded allegations that Dr. Perelmuter participated in Mr. Tatem’s initial diagnosis or follow-up care. The complaint does not state any such allegations, nor does the sole medical record that Mr. Tatem has attached to his complaint.”
Perelmuter, who was employed through the University of Connecticut Health Center/Correctional Managed Health Care, did not respond to a request for comment Tuesday.
State Department of Correction Public Information Officer Andrius Banevicius told the Connecticut Law Tribune Tuesday that, “As the court has granted Mr. Tatem the option to amend his complaint with the intention of reopening the case, it is the Department of Correction’s policy not to comment on active litigation.”
The judge gave Tatem until Dec. 24 to file an amended complaint that would clarify how his injuries are “fairly traceable” to Perelmuter’s conduct.