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BECKFORD v. PORTUONDO

June 29, 2001

EASTON BECKFORD, PLAINTIFF,
V.
LEONARDO PORTUONDO, SUPERINTENDENT AT SHAWANGUNK CORRECTIONAL FACILITY; GLENN GOORD, COMMISSIONER OF NEW YORK STATE DEPARTMENT OF CORRECTIONS; PAUL ANNETTS, DEPUTY SUPERINTENDENT AT SHAWANGUNK CORRECTIONAL FACILITY; K. DECKER, CORRECTION CAPTAIN AT SHAWANGUNK CORRECTIONAL FACILITY; G. LOONEY, CORRECTION SERGEANT AT SHAWANGUNK CORRECTIONAL FACILITY; SERGEANT FALKENA, CORRECTION SERGEANT AT SHAWANGUNK CORRECTIONAL FACILITY; JOSEPH VITARIUS, CORRECTION OFFICER AT SHAWANGUNK CORRECTIONAL FACILITY; DAVID SPERRY, CORRECTION OFFICER AT SHAWANGUNK CORRECTIONAL FACILITY; D.E. VITARIUS, CORRECTION OFFICER AT SHAWANGUNK CORRECTIONAL FACILITY; A. NORTH, CORRECTION OFFICER AT SHAWANGUNK CORRECTIONAL FACILITY; JOHN DOE, INMATE PORTER AT SHAWNGUNK CORRECTIONAL FACILITY; JANE DOE, NURSE AT SHAWANGUNK CORRECTIONAL FACILITY; JAMES STINSON, SUPERINTENDENT AT GREAT MEADOW CORRECTIONAL FACILITY; MICHAEL BINTZ, FIRST DEPUTY SUPERINTENDENT AT GREAT MEADOW CORRECTIONAL FACILITY; H. GRAHAM, CORRECTION CAPTAIN AT GREAT MEADOW CORRECTIONAL FACILITY; SERGEANT WEBSTER, CORRECTION SERGEANT AT GREAT MEADOW CORRECTIONAL FACILITY; WILLIAM WOLFORD, CORRECTION OFFICER AT GREAT MEADOW CORRECTIONAL FACILITY; JAMES STONE, COMMISSIONER OF DEPARTMENT OF MENTAL HEALTH; AL SHIMKUNAS, MENTAL HEALTH DIRECTOR AT GREAT MEADOW CORRECTIONAL FACILITY; DR. FARUKI, PSYCHIATRIST AT GREAT MEADOW CORRECTIONAL FACILITY; DR. B. KIM, PSYCHIATRIST AT GREAT MEADOW CORRECTIONAL FACILITY, DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Lawrence E. Kahn, United States District Judge

    MEMORANDUM — DECISION AND ORDER
Pursuant to a remand from the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit dated January 10, 2001, Defendants' motion for summary judgment is presently before the Court. For the following reasons, Defendants' motion is GRANTED in part and DENIED in part.

I. BACKGROUND

Plaintiff, Easton Beckford, is a wheelchair bound New York State inmate. He commenced the instant suit on February 26, 1998 against the above named defendants alleging that each violated rights granted him by various federal and state statutes as well as the United States Constitution.

Particularly, Plaintiff's complaint raises four causes of action against various Defendants.

The first three causes of action claim that Defendants violated Plaintiff's Eighth Amendment rights by: (1) denying him access to showers, food, water, and mental health care; (2) committing assault and battery against him;*fn1 and (3) deliberately disregarding his medical needs. His fourth cause of action alleges that Defendants unlawfully discriminated against him on the basis of his physical disability in violation of the Fourteenth Amendment, the Americans with Disability Act ("ADA"), and the Rehabilitation Act. The factual background for each claim is addressed seriatim.

A. Eighth Amendment Conditions Claims
1. Conditions at Shawangunk Correctional Facility Plaintiff's first cause of action is aimed, in part, at defendant Joseph Vitarius and defendant G. Looney. His complaint states that defendant Vitarius unlawfully retaliated against him on January 16, 1997 by refusing to allow him to shower. Plaintiff alleges that defendant Vitarius took this action against because he had previously filed a section 1983 lawsuit against defendant Vitarious' son, defendant D.E. Vitarius.
Because he was unable to shower, Plaintiff alleges that he decided to maintain his cleanliness using the facilities available to him. He took "a bird bath" in his cell sink. In response, defendant Vitarius allegedly turned off the water to his cell for six days. When Plaintiff complained to defendant Looney about the lack of water in his cell, defendant Looney allegedly did nothing to rectify the situation.
Failing to obtain water from either defendant Vitarius or defendant Looney through his oral requests and needing clean water to maintain his hygiene as a result of bladder problems, Plaintiff took feces out of his cell toilet and smeared them on the cell walls. He then proceeded to set fire to wastepaper in his cell.*fn2

After the fire was put out, defendants Sperry and Falkena removed Plaintiff from his soiled cell and placed him in a bare cell containing a plexiglass shield designed to protect officers from any additional misbehavior.*fn3

Additionally, Plaintiff was put on a restricted diet, allegedly denied exercise privileges without written notice, and was refused all opportunities to shower for approximately one week.*fn4 Although he complained to defendants Annetts, Decker, Looney, and Portuondo regarding his treatment, they did not remedy the situation. According to Plaintiff, the above actions violated his Eighth Amendment Rights.

2. Conditions at Great Meadows Correctional Facility

Because of Plaintiff's psychological disorders, he was transferred to Great Meadows Correctional Facility and placed in the facility's psychiatric observation unit. While there, Plaintiff alleges that defendants Webster, Wolford, and two others entered his cell and removed his bedding and clothing because he refused to cut a fingernail.*fn5 Defendants Webster and Wolford also allegedly denied Plaintiff all out of cell recreation activities from July 7, 1997 until December 26, 1997. Plaintiff alleges that defendant Faruki condoned the taking of his bedding and clothing and that defendants Stinson and Bintz condoned the denial of Plaintiff's recreation.

B. Eighth Amendment Assault Claims
1. Shawangunk Assault Claims
Plaintiff's first Eighth Amendment assault claim arises out of the fire he lit in his cell at Shawangunk Correctional Facility. Responding to the fire alarm, defendants Vitarius and Sperry proceeded to put it out using fire extinguishers. Each officer, according to Plaintiff, also decided to assault him after putting out the fire by spraying their fire extinguishers into his face and chest.
On January 18, 1997, the day after Plaintiff was placed into his new cell, defendants D.E. Vitarius, Looney, and North stood by an open electronic gate while defendant John Doe, an inmate porter, threw a cup of bleach under the plexiglass shield and blocked Plaintiff's only open source of fresh air. As a result, Plaintiff allegedly passed out and was taken to see defendant Jane Doe. After examining him with a pen flashlight, defendant Jane Doe sent Plaintiff back into his cell without providing any further medical treatment.
2. Great Meadows Assault Claim

Plaintiff claims that defendants Webster's and Wolford's removal of bedding and clothing from his cell also constituted an assault against him in violation of the Eighth Amendment.

C. Eighth Amendment Medical Needs Claim
Ultimately, Plaintiff was transferred to Great Meadow's mental care unit but was allegedly denied access to its mental health programs for punitive reasons. Plaintiff alleges that defendants Stinson, Bintz, and Graham all condoned this punishment. He also claims that defendants Shimkunas and Kim refused to intercede on his behalf and help Plaintiff obtain his needed mental health treatment.

According to Plaintiff, Defendants' denial of access to mental health treatment deliberately disregarded his serious medical needs in violation of the Eighth Amendment.*fn6

II. DISCUSSION

A. Standard of Review

The standard for summary judgment is well-established.

Summary judgment is appropriate if "the pleadings, depositions, answers to 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). A material fact is genuinely disputed only if, based on that fact, a reasonable jury could find in favor of the non-moving party. See Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986). On a motion for summary judgment, all evidence must be viewed and all inferences must be drawn in a light most favorable to the nonmoving party. See City of Yonkers v. Otis Elevator Co., 844 F.2d 42, 45 (2d Cir. 1988). The party seeking summary judgment bears the initial burden of "informing the district court of the basis for its motion" and identifying the matter "it believes demonstrate[s] the absence of a genuine issue of material fact." Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323 (1986). Upon the movant's satisfying that burden, the onus then shifts to the non-moving party to "set forth specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial." Anderson, 477 U.S. at 250. The non-moving party "must do more than simply show that there is some metaphysical doubt as to the material facts," Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 586 (1986), "but must set forth specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue of fact for trial." First Nat'l Bank of Az. v. Cities Serv. Co., 391 U.S. 253, 288 (1968).
B. Plaintiff's Eighth Amendment Conditions Claims
1. Standard for Eighth Amendment ...

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