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ECHEVARRIA v. DEPT. OF CORRECT. SERVICES OF N.Y.

May 5, 1999

DAVID ECHEVARRIA, PLAINTIFF,
v.
DEPARTMENT OF CORRECTIONAL SERVICES OF N Y CITY, WARDEN OF RICKER ISLAND, CORR. FAC. BUILDING C-74, A. ROCLUFLE, OFFICER, DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Sprizzo, District Judge.

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

Plaintiff David Echevarria ("Echevarria"), an inmate in the custody of the New York State Department of Correctional Services proceeding pro se, brings the instant action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Echevarria alleges that during his incarceration at Riker's Island Correctional Facility ("Riker's Island"), prison officials violated his civil rights by failing to protect him from an attack by another inmate. Pursuant to Rule 56 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, defendants move for summary judgment; plaintiff has filed a cross-motion for summary judgment and for an extension of time to effect service of process. For the reasons that follow, defendants' motion is granted, and plaintiff's motion is denied.

BACKGROUND

At the time of the events giving rise to this action, Echevarria was housed in the punitive segregation unit of the Adolescent Reception and Detention Center, Building C-74, on Riker's Island. See Verified Complaint, sworn to on July 27, 1997 ("Compl.") ¶ 10. Echevarria alleges that within that unit a divisive, racially-based conflict existed among the inmates.*fn1 Echevarria contends that the guards and the Warden knew of this hostility because of occasional incidents and arguments between the inmates.*fn2 Echevarria in particular had "problems" with one group of inmates that included an inmate named Genile Wilson ("Wilson"). See Echevarria Dep. at 56-59.

Echevarria contends that problems with Wilson began upon his arrival in the punitive segregation unit. Echevarria was frequently approached by Wilson's friends, who told Echevarria that Wilson was looking for him and wanted to fight. See id. at 57-62. On or about November 1, 1994, Echevarria was attacked by an inmate, whom he believed to be one of Wilson's friends, and sustained a cut on his face. See id. at 65-66.

Echevarria recognized Wilson among the group in the adjacent cage and immediately approached the corrections officer on duty at the cage. Echevarria alleges he told the corrections officer of his "problems" with Wilson and identified Wilson to the officer. He stated that he feared for his life and asked to return to his cell. According to Echevarria, the officer replied, "You're in the yard already, we can't take you back." Id. at 68. Echevarria returned to a group of inmates gathered in the cage.

Moments later, Wilson called Echevarria to the fences dividing the cages and challenged him to jump over the cage fence to meet between the cages to fight. Echevarria refused, and Wilson and two other inmates immediately began to climb the fence.*fn4 Echevarria called to the guards for help and observed that the guards appeared "panicked when they saw what happened, because that was the first time they ever saw something like that." Id. at 76. The officers called for a special team to handle the problem and ordered Wilson to climb down from the fence several times. Wilson defied these orders, scaled both fences, and attacked Echevarria with a razor, cutting his face and back. See id. at 77-78. About five minutes later, the special team of officers arrived and found Echevarria injured and fleeing from Wilson. The corrections officers on duty at the recreation cages waited for the special team to control the situation and then escorted Echevarria to a clinic for medical treatment. See id. at 81-83.

Echevarria filed this action on August 29, 1997. In his complaint he names as defendants the Department of Correctional Services of New York City ("DOC"); B. Conroy, the Warden of Riker's Island Correctional Facility, Building C-74 ("Warden"); and Officer A. Rodulfo.*fn5 Echevarria alleges that the defendants violated his civil rights by failing to protect him from the attack of another inmate. Echevarria seeks damages in the amount of $550,000.00. Echevarria effected service of process only upon the DOC and the Warden. Officer Austin Rodulfo, having never been served, has not appeared in this action.

Defendants move for summary judgment pursuant to Rule 56 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, arguing that (1) defendant DOC is not a suable entity; (2) the Warden was not personally involved in the incident; (3) Echevarria's injuries were not caused by a municipal policy, custom or practice; and (4) because Echevarria failed to serve Officer Rodulfo, his claims against Officer Rodulfo should be dismissed.

Plaintiff has filed a response to defendants' motion which he has titled a "cross-motion" for summary judgment. Plaintiff argues that defendants are not entitled to summary judgment because (1) the Warden was personally involved in the incident in which plaintiff was injured and (2) the implementation of a municipal policy caused his injuries. Echevarria also seeks an extension of his time to serve Officer Rodulfo.

DISCUSSION

A motion for summary judgment should be granted in favor of the moving party "if the pleadings, depositions, interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with the affidavits, if any, show that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the moving party is entitled to a judgment as a matter of law." Fed. R.Civ.P. 56(c); see Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 252, 106 S.Ct. 2505, 91 L.Ed.2d 202 (1986). The Court's sole function is to determine whether, upon the conclusion of adequate discovery, any issue remains for trial. See id. at 249, 106 S.Ct. 2505. The Court must view all facts and rational inferences derived therefrom in a light most favorable to the non-movant. See Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., ...


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