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BECKFORD v. PORTUONDO
June 29, 2001
EASTON BECKFORD, PLAINTIFF,
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.
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
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
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
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
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
B. Plaintiff's Eighth Amendment Conditions Claims
1. Standard for Eighth Amendment ...