1. Eighth Amendment
In Farmer, the Supreme Court explained that a prison official violates the Eighth Amendment only when two requirements are satisfied. "First, the deprivation [of rights] alleged must be, objectively, 'sufficiently serious.'" Farmer, 114 S. Ct. at 1977 (quoting Wilson v. Seiter, 501 U.S. 294, 111 S. Ct. 2321, 2324, 115 L. Ed. 2d 271 (1991)). Second, there must be an "unnecessary and wanton infliction of pain." In a prison context, this requirement is defined as "deliberate indifference" to an inmate's health or safety. Wilson, 111 S. Ct. at 2323.
a. Sufficiently Serious
The Supreme Court did not determine in Farmer the point at which a risk of inmate assault becomes substantial enough to be considered a deprivation of a prisoner's Eighth Amendment rights. Farmer, 114 S. Ct. at 1977 n.3. The Court did state that, "for a claim (like the one here) based on a failure to prevent harm, the inmate must show that he is incarcerated under conditions posing a substantial risk of serious harm." Id.
In the present case, the plaintiff suffered five stab wounds in the first attack, and in the second attack he suffered "a 4 [inch] deep laceration to [the] right side of [his] face and a 6-7 [inch] laceration from [the] left scalp of [his] forehead to [and] through his left ear." Defendants' Response, Ex. B. He also submitted reports of two other incidents in which he was injured. See note 2. Thus there is some evidence of a substantial risk of serious harm to this plaintiff.
b. Deliberate Indifference
For a prison official to be held liable under the Eighth Amendment, he must have acted with deliberate indifference to an inmate's health or safety. "Deliberate indifference" requires a showing that "the official [was] both aware of facts from which the inference could be drawn that a substantial risk of serious harm existed, and he must also [have] drawn the inference". Farmer, 114 S. Ct. at 1979. The Supreme Court explained that one way an inmate may prove deliberate indifference is by "presenting evidence showing that a substantial risk of inmate attacks was 'longstanding, pervasive, well-documented, or expressly noted by prison officials in the past . . . .'" Id. at 1981 (citations omitted).
In this case, the plaintiff alleges that prisoners "are harmed by the negligence of officials incharged [sic] of the security or the safety of prisoners," and that his injuries were "caused by the negligence of officials." Compl. at 2. The plaintiff did not allege either that the prison officials knew of the attacks on the plaintiff, allegedly caused by inadequate safety precautions, or that prison officials knew of facts that would have led them to believe that a substantial risk of inmate attacks existed within the prison. The mere allegation of negligence is insufficient, and without evidence of such deliberate indifference on the part of the prison officials, the plaintiff may not prevail on his Eighth Amendment claim.
2. Fourteenth Amendment
Unlike Eighth Amendment claims, which require a showing of deliberate indifference, the Supreme Court has not established a specific standard for the level of culpability required in Fourteenth Amendment cases. However, the Court has held that "the Due Process Clause is simply not implicated by a negligent act of an official causing unintended loss of or injury to life, liberty, or property." Daniels v. Williams, 474 U.S. 327, 328, 88 L. Ed. 2d 662, 106 S. Ct. 662 (1986)
; see also Davidson v. Cannon, 474 U.S. 344, 348, 88 L. Ed. 2d 677, 106 S. Ct. 668 (1986) (prison officials did not violate prisoner's due process rights where the prisoner alleged only that the officials "negligently failed to protect him from another inmate"); Bryant v. Maffucci, 923 F.2d 979, 984 (2d Cir.) ("simple negligence is not enough"), cert. denied, 502 U.S. 849, 112 S. Ct. 152, 116 L. Ed. 2d 117 (1991).
Read very liberally, the complaint herein may allege that the named prison officials negligently oversaw the "frisking" of prisoners conducted by corrections officers. However, the plaintiff alleges no facts which support a claim that actions of the prison officials rose above the level of negligence. Therefore, the plaintiff is unlikely to succeed on his Fourteenth Amendment Due Process claim.
3. Section 1983 and Personal Involvement
It is well settled that the personal involvement of a defendant is a prerequisite for the assessment of damages in a § 1983 action, McKinnon v. Patterson, 568 F.2d 930, 934 (2d Cir. 1977), cert. denied, 434 U.S. 1087, 55 L. Ed. 2d 792, 98 S. Ct. 1282 (1978), and that the doctrine of respondeat superior is inapplicable to § 1983 claims. Polk County v. Dodson, 454 U.S. 312, 325, 70 L. Ed. 2d 509, 102 S. Ct. 445 (1981); Johnson v. Glick, 481 F.2d 1028, 1033 (2d Cir.), cert. denied, 414 U.S. 1033, 94 S. Ct. 462, 38 L. Ed. 2d 324 (1973).
In Williams v. Smith, 781 F.2d 319 (1986), the Second Circuit detailed the various ways in which a defendant can be personally involved in a constitutional deprivation. A supervisory official is said to have been personally involved if he or she: directly participated in the infraction; failed to remedy a wrong after learning of it through a report or appeal; created a policy or custom under which unconstitutional practices occurred or allowed such a policy or custom to continue; or, was grossly negligent in managing subordinates who caused the unlawful condition or event. Williams, 781 F.2d at 323-24.
In this case, the plaintiff does not allege that the defendant prison officials were personally involved in the attacks by the other inmates. Although then-Superintendent LeFevre was notified soon after the September 1988 assault, there is no indication that he or defendant Coughlin had any knowledge of the alleged unsafe conditions at the prison before these incidents. Further, the plaintiff does not allege that the prison officials created or allowed a policy or custom under which unconstitutional actions occurred. The plaintiff claims that the guards at the prison "were negligent in not being cautious about frisking prisoners," and asks the court to "set forth a program that exercises more survelliance [sic] in the correctional Department, so that not so many individuals are harmed by the negligence of officials incharged [sic] of the security or safety of prisoners." There is, however, no allegation that the purportedly negligent frisking of prisoners was related to any policy or custom put in place by the defendants. And, though it may be possible to liberally read the plaintiff's complaint as asserting a claim that the prison officials failed to adequately supervise or watch the prison guards frisk prisoners,
it does not appear that the defendants' management of prison employees rose to the level of gross negligence. It therefore appears that the plaintiff will have great difficulty satisfying § 1983's personal involvement requirement.
For all of the above reasons, the plaintiff's chances of succeeding in this action are "highly dubious," and the court therefore denies his application for appointment of counsel.
It is hereby
ORDERED, that the plaintiff's application for appointment of counsel is DENIED, and it is further
ORDERED, that the Clerk of the Court serve a copy of this order upon the parties in this action together with a form for consent to proceed to trial before the U.S. Magistrate Judge.
IT IS SO ORDERED.
DATED: May 11, 1995
SYRACUSE, NEW YORK
FREDERICK J. SCULLIN, JR.
U.S. DISTRICT JUDGE