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LIVINGSTON v. GOORD
September 30, 2002
DETROY LIVINGSTON, PLAINTIFF,
GLENN S. GOORD, ET AL., DEFENDANTS
The opinion of the court was delivered by: David G. Larimer, Chief Judge
Plaintiff, Detroy Livingston, appearing pro se, commenced this action
under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 on April 21, 1999. Plaintiff filed an amended
complaint on September 24, 1999.
Plaintiff, an inmate in the custody of the New York State Department of
Correctional Services ("DOCS"), alleges a host of violations of his
constitutional rights by DOCS officials and employees, all arising from
events that took place at Attica Correctional Facility ("Attica"). The
complaint names twenty-one defendants*fn1 in fourteen separate causes of
action. Defendants have moved for summary judgment on all claims except
for plaintiff's allegation of excessive force on February 25, 1997.
I. Claims Raised in Plaintiff's Action in the Court of Claims
Defendants move for summary judgment on a number of claims on the
ground that they are barred under principles of res judicata and
collateral estoppel, due to plaintiff's successful prosecution of an
action in the New York Court of Claims. On August 12, 1996, plaintiff
filed an action against New York State in the Court of Claims, asserting
a claim "for negligence of the State for allowing correction officers
Fial, Bennis, and Justinger to assault" plaintiff on July 10 and 11,
1996, and a claim for "negligent medical treatment by Sergeant
Cunningham, R.N. B. Schmidt, and R.N. S. Stewart for denying [plaintiff]
proper medical treatment" following these assaults. Affirmation of James
L. Gelormini, Esq. (Docket #93), Ex. A.
On October 16, 2000, Judge Edgar C. Nemoyer of the Court of Claims
rendered a decision finding "that more force than was necessary was used
against" plaintiff, and awarding him a total of $3151.38 in damages,
including $3000 "for all past and future pain, suffering, lack of proper
medical attention, and any and all other damages he sustained as a result
of the incidents on July 10 and 11, 1996." Gelormini Aff. Ex. B. On
appeal by plaintiff challenging the adequacy of the award, the Appellate
Division affirmed. Livingston v. State, 289 A.D.2d 973 (4th Dep't 2001).
In the case at bar, plaintiff has alleged Eighth Amendment claims based
on the same incidents, the same factual allegations, and the same
actors. See Complaint, headings C-G. Defendants Bennis, Fial, Kauffman,
Justinger, Cunningham, Schmitz, and Stewart are named in these claims.
Plaintiff argues that his Court of Claims proceeding should not operate
as a bar to this action because in this action he seeks an award of
punitive damages, a form of relief that was not available to him in the
Court of Claims.*fn2 I am not persuaded by this argument.
A similar situation was presented in Ramsey v. Busch, 19 F. Supp.2d 73
(W.D.N.Y. 1998). In Ramsey, the inmate plaintiff had filed a claim in the
Court of Claims, which found for plaintiff and awarded him $200 in
damages. The plaintiff then brought a § 1983 action in federal court
against the individual officers involved in the underlying incident,
based on the same set of facts. After an extensive analysis of the
issue, the court held that "Ramsey's Eighth Amendment claim is
the doctrine of res judicata." Id. at 82. In so holding, the court noted
[t]he Court of Claims conclusively resolved the same
set of facts on which both claims exist, i.e., that
Defendants acted improperly and violated Ramsey's
legal rights. . . . The evidence necessary for Ramsey
to prevail on his § 1983 claim is the same as the
evidence he presented to prevail in the Court of
Claims action based on the same incident. Both actions
involve the same parties or their privies and the
Court of Claims judgment was on the merits. Granting
the Court of Claims' decision the finality which was
intended in accordance with New York law, the court
finds that permitting Ramsey's § 1983 action to
proceed would destroy or impair the rights or
interests afforded the parties by the first action,
including the Defendants' rights to avoid being vexed
by further litigation involving the identical facts
and issues as those resolved in the prior case.
Id. at 85 (citation omitted).
The court also stated that its conclusion was not affected by the fact
that the plaintiff sought punitive damages in his § 1983 action, a
remedy not available in a New York Court of Claims action. Id. at 86.
Noting that the purpose of punitive damages is to punish and deter
wrongful conduct, not to compensate the victim for his injury, the court
stated that "[a]n award of punitive damages to one who has already been
made whole by compensatory damages is essentially a windfall to a
plaintiff." Id. at 87 (citing O'Neill v. Yield House, Inc.,
964 F. Supp. 806, 810 (S.D.N.Y. 1997)). The court also reasoned that
"[t]he objectives of res judicata will not be advanced if the instant
action is permitted to proceed to trial solely to determine if punitive
damages may be awarded," since: the plaintiff had already been made whole
by the compensatory damages awarded him by the Court of Claims; the Court
of Claims award had "some deterrent effect," since individual officers
would presumably not wish to be viewed by their employer as tortfeasors
for whose conduct the employer could be liable; and, if a jury decided
that punitive damages were warranted, such an award would indicate that
the defendants' actions constituted a willful violation of the law,
suggesting that they had acted outside the scope of their employment.
Such a result could cast doubt upon whether New York State should have
been liable for the award of compensatory damages (since the state in the
Court of Claims is liable only if its employees act within the scope of
their employment), thereby calling into question the correctness of the
Court of Claims' decision. Id. at 87.
Finally, the court in Ramsey noted that the state had already incurred
the costs associated with the plaintiff's Court of Claims action, in
addition to the payment of the compensatory damages, and stated that
"[r]equiring further expenditure of taxpayers' money to support
relitigation of claims simply to recover punitive damages, an uncertain
enterprise even in a strong case, which could have been recovered in the
same action along with compensatory damages had Ramsey first pursued his
§ 1983 action," violates New York's rule against "claim splitting,"
pursuant to which a final judgment rendered in an action which
extinguishes the plaintiff's claim also extinguishes all rights of the
plaintiff to further remedies against the defendant with respect to all or
any part of the transaction, or series of connected transactions, out of
which the action arose. Id. at 86-87. See, e.g., Charles E. S. McLeod,
Inc. v. R. B. Hamilton Moving and Storage, 89 A.D.2d 863, 864 (2d Dep't
Defendant Robert Kauffman, a sergeant at Attica, was not named in
plaintiff's claim filed with the Court of Claims.*fn4 In the instant
action, plaintiff alleges that Sgt. Kauffman was standing nearby when
plaintiff was assaulted in an elevator by two corrections officers on July
10, 1996. Plaintiff alleges that Kauffman was standing at the front of
the elevator with his back to plaintiff and the officers when the assault
occurred, and that when plaintiff cried out, Kauffman did not intervene,
but only said, "Stop struggling, why [are] you struggling?," or words to
that effect. Transcript, Pt. 1 ("T-1"), Defendant's Motion (Docket #77)
Ex. A, at 29.
Although Kauffman was not mentioned by name in the Court of Claims
complaint (in which, by law, only the state could be named as a
defendant, see N.Y. Ct. Cl. Act, § 9(2)), he did testify at the trial
before Judge Nemoyer concerning his recollection of what happened in the
elevator with plaintiff on July 10. Kauffman was also cross-examined by
plaintiff during the trial. Gelormini Aff. Ex. E. Thus, plaintiff had a
full and fair opportunity to litigate his claims concerning Kauffman's
alleged involvement in these events, and I find that plaintiff's claims
against him are barred by res judicata as well.
II. Alleged Taking of Plaintiff's Pain Relief Medicine
Plaintiff alleges that on March 13, 1997, when he was leaving the
correctional facility to travel to a court appearance, he handed
defendant Baker a bag containing some legal papers as well as some pain
medication*fn5 that plaintiff had been given for pain from injuries that
he sustained during a February 25, 1997 incident. Apparently plaintiff
did this because both he and his possessions had to be searched before
plaintiff went to court.
The precise nature of this claim is unclear. Plaintiff may be alleging
that he was deprived of property without due process of law in violation
of his rights under the Fourteenth Amendment. If that is his claim,
however, it must fail.
"[A]n unauthorized intentional deprivation of property by a state
employee does not constitute a violation of the procedural requirements
of the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment if a meaningful
postdeprivation remedy for the loss is available." Hudson v. Palmer,
468 U.S. 517, 533 (1984). "New York in fact affords an adequate
post-deprivation remedy in the form of, inter alia, a Court of Claims
action." Jackson v. Burke, 256 F.3d 93, 96 (2d Cir. 2001). Accordingly,
plaintiff's allegations fail to state a claim under this theory.
Plaintiff may also be alleging that the deprivation of his pain
relievers amounted to cruel and unusual punishment in violation of the
Eighth Amendment. In order to make out such a claim, plaintiff must prove
"deliberate indifference to [his] serious medical needs." Estelle v.
Gamble, 429 U.S. 97, 104 (1976). The standard of deliberate indifference
includes both subjective and objective components. "First, the alleged
deprivation must be, in objective terms, `sufficiently serious.'"
Hathaway v. Coughlin, 37 F.3d 63, 66 (2d Cir. 1994) (citations omitted),
cert. denied, 513 U.S. 1154 (1995); Ramos v. O'Connell, 28 F. Supp.2d 796,
802 (W.D.N.Y. 1998). Second, the defendant "must act with a sufficiently
culpable state of mind." Hathaway, 37 F.3d at 66. An official acts with
the requisite deliberate indifference when that official "knows of and
disregards an excessive risk to ...