The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit has revived part of a lawsuit a prisoner filed pro se, alleging he received inadequate medical treatment for a hemorrhoid condition that eventually worsened.
The Second Circuit dismissed three of 18 named defendants in the lawsuit by James Harnage, a prisoner at the MacDougall-Walker Correctional Institution in Suffield. The judicial panel, though, ruled unanimously to reverse the ruling of U.S. District Judge Alvin Thompson, who had dismissed the lawsuit in its entirety.
Harnage claimed medical personnel at both the prison and the University of Connecticut Health Center failed to properly and adequately treat his hemorrhoids before his first surgery. His lawsuit alleges he endured “needless suffering for a period of more than 24 months” from August 2012 to October 2014. Harnage also states medical staff failed to provide him with prescriptions or refills. The complaint also says the defendants had a “deliberate indifference to [his] serious medical needs—as evidenced by their failure to ever examine Harnage prior to January 2014″ that caused his condition to deteriorate.
Department of Correction public information officer Andrius Banevicius said the department does not comment on pending litigation. And Delker Vardilos, media representative for the University of Connecticut Health Center, did not respond to a request for comment.
It’s not clear from the lawsuit what Harnage’s condition is today.
The Second Circuit panel—Judges Guido Calabresi, Jose Cabranes and Denny Chin—agreed with the lower court in dismissing a surgical intern and two doctors from the lawsuit, stating Harnage failed to state a claim against those defendants. The remainder of the lawsuit continues and was remanded to the lower court on Feb. 15 for further proceedings.
In dismissing the prisoner’s complaint, Thompson said Harnage failed to comply with Federal Rules of Procedure 8 and 20. The Second Circuit, however, wrote, “We conclude that the amended complaint substantially complies with Rules 8 and 20.”
Under Rule 8, a pleading must contain “a short and plain statement of the claims showing that the pleader is entitled to relief.” To satisfy this standard, the complaint must, at a minimum, disclose sufficient information to permit the defendant to have a fair understanding of what the plaintiff is complaining about and to know whether there is a legal basis for recovery.
The District Court dismissed Harnage’s complaint for failing to adequately put the defendants on notice of the claims specifically asserted against each of them, but the Second Circuit disagreed.
The federal appellate court wrote, “Liberally construed, the amended complaint identifies discrete defendants and the actions taken by these defendants that purportedly violated Harnage’s Eighth Amendment rights. To wit, Harnage repeatedly sought treatment from MacDougall-Walker medical staff members.”
With regard to Rule 20, which deals with applicable rules of multiple defendants, the Second Circuit wrote, “We disagree with the District Court’s conclusion that Harnage’s complaint asserts more than one distinct claim against multiple defendants.”