Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

TORRES v. CITY OF NEW YORK

August 1, 2001

WILFREDO TORRES, PLAINTIFF,
V.
THE CITY OF NEW YORK, THE COMMISSIONER OF THE NEW YORK CITY DEPARTMENT OF CORRECTIONS, DR. OKONTA, DR. BAROUCH, DEPUTY WARDEN JAMES BIRD AND UNIDENTIFIED EMPLOYEES OF THE NEW YORK CITY DEPARTMENT OF CORRECTIONS AND THE HEALTH MANAGEMENT DIVISION, DEFENDANTS.



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

DECISION AND ORDER

Wilfredo Torres ("Torres"), a former Correction Officer in the New York City Department of Correction ("DOC"), brings this action against the City of New York, the Commissioner of DOC, Dr. Okonta, Dr. Barouch, Deputy Warden James Bird and unidentified employees of DOC and its Health Management Division ("HMD"). Torres, who was out on sick leave from DOC for approximately one year, claims that DOC's sick leave policy is unconstitutional as applied to him and others slated for permanent disability. Torres asserts claims under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 for violations of the First, Fourth, and Fourteenth Amendments, as well as pendant state law claims of medical malpractice, intentional infliction of emotional distress, and negligent hiring and retention.

The City, DOC, Drs. Okonta and Barouch, and Deputy Warden Bird (hereinafter the "Defendants") now move to dismiss pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(c), arguing, among other things, that (1) the entire complaint is barred by the doctrine of res judicata; (2) the complaint fails to state a claim for which relief could be granted under the First Amendment's Free Exercise Clause, the Fourteenth Amendment's Due Process Clause and Equal Protection Clause, or for medical malpractice.

BACKGROUND

In March 1984, Torres was appointed to DOC as a Correction Officer. Compl. ¶ 16. While employed by DOC, Torres was a member of a labor union, the Correction Officers' Benevolent Association ("COBA"). In October 1988, Torres was injured by inmates in a riot at the Brooklyn House of Detention ("BHD"). Id. ¶ 16. Nine years later, in October 1997, Torres stumbled on a loose carpet at BHD and remained in the hospital for three days. Id. ¶ 17. Torres alleges that this fall brought up memories of the 1988 riot and caused him severe emotional distress. Id. As a result, Torres was placed on sick leave and never returned to work before being granted permanent disability retirement in September 1998. Id.

Torres alleges that while on sick leave, DOC "worked on him and tried to harass him out of applying for permanent disability." Id. ¶ 17. Pursuant to DOC's sick leave policy, as promulgated in Directive 2262, an officer on sick leave is required to remain in his residence except for four "recreation hours" or when logged out for medical appointments. Torres claims that he was denied permission to attend a fellow Correction Officer's funeral service and was only permitted to attend part of the wake. Id. He further asserts that he was harassed by continual home visits by DOC employees. Id. Finally, he alleges that HMD psychiatrists or psychologists committed medical malpractice because they failed to use reasonable care and conspired to maliciously and deliberately ignore his condition of total disability.

In 1995, COBA president Norman Seabrook, along with two other correction officers, brought an action in the Eastern District of New York asserting that DOC's sick leave policy was unconstitutional (the "Seabrook Action"). See Compl., Seabrook v. Jacobson, No. 95 Civ. 4194 (E.D.N.Y.) (attached as Ex. A to Defendants' Notice of Motion to Dismiss). The plaintiffs sought both damages and equitable relief on behalf of COBA.

Pursuant to the COBA stipulation, DOC amended the sick leave policy, with COBA's cooperation. The amended policy provided, among other things, that officers otherwise out on sick leave are required to remain in their residences except for their four "recreation hours" or when they log out for medical appointments. While correction officers are on sick leave and subject to the in-residence rules, they are also subject to home visitation by home visit captains designed to deter the abuse of sick leave benefits, evaluate the correction officer's medical condition and ability to perform his duties, and investigate officers suspected of feigning illness.

In Monahan v. City of New York Dep't of Correction, 10 F. Supp.2d 420 (S.D.N.Y. 1998) aff'd 214 F.3d 275 (2d Cir. 2000), twelve former and current correction officers challenged the constitutionality of DOC's sick leave policy, raising claims under First, Fourth, Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments. The district court dismissed these claims because they were barred by res judicata insofar as the relevant issues had been litigated and disposed in the Seabrook action. The claims which the court determined were not barred by res judicata, "such as alleged harassment, wrongful punishment, or disparate application of the sick leave policy," were dismissed on summary judgment.

On appeal, the Second Circuit affirmed the district court, but also noted that "plaintiffs' as-applied claims regarding the right to participate in `constitutionally-protected activities' fail to survive the initial res judicata evaluation." 214 F.3d at 292. For example, the Circuit Court held specifically that the Monahan plaintiffs' claims that they were denied leave to attend church services "fall within the same transaction or series of transactions at issue in the Seabrook litigation." Id. at 293 (internal quotation omitted).

The named defendants now move under Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(c) to dismiss Torres's action, arguing that (1) the claims are barred by both the settlement of the Seabrook Action and the court's decision in Monahan; (2) even if the claims are not barred by res judicata, the complaint should be dismissed for failure to state a claim under § 1983, for conspiracy, and for medical malpractice.

DISCUSSI ...


Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.