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BROWN v. PICARELLI

April 15, 2003

ANDREW A. BROWN, PLAINTIFF, AGAINST ANTHONY PICARELLI, ET AL., DEFENDANTS.


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Ronald L. Ellis, United States Magistrate Judge

REPORT & RECOMMENDATION

I. INTRODUCTION

In a complaint filed on February 21, 1996, and later amended on March 23, 2000, pro se incarcerated plaintiff Andrew A. Brown ("Brown"), brought this action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, alleging state law negligence claims and violations of his constitutional rights under the Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments. Brown alleges that defendant Christopher Garvey ("Garvey"), a correction officer at Rikers Island James A. Thomas Detention Center, violated his constitutional rights when he placed Brown in the same holding cell as an inmate who had threatened and subsequently harmed Brown. The complaint also alleges that defendant Anthony Picarelli ("Picarelli"), Garvey's supervising captain, failed to (1) properly train and supervise Garvey, (2) sufficiently supervise the detention center's intake area, and (3) ensure proper functioning of security machinery. Furthermore, Brown alleges that he received inadequate medical care for his injuries.

On April 25, 2002, defendants filed a motion for summary judgment pursuant to Rule 56 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, asserting that Brown fails to establish a claim under § 1983 because (a) neither defendant was personally involved in the alleged violations, and (b) Brown cannot demonstrate that the conditions of his incarceration posed a substantial risk of har or that any "deliberate indifference" by defendants led to his serious injury. Defendants also claim that they are shielded from liability by the doctrine of qualified immunity. In response, Brown argues that genuine issues of material fact exist as to all of the issues raised by defendants. He further argues that defendants were not entitled to qualified immunity because defendants knew or should have known that their conduct would violate his constitutional rights.

For the reasons that follow, I respectfully recommend that defendants' motion be GRANTED.

II. FACTUAL BACKGROUND

On July 27, 1994, Brown was summoned from his cell at the Rikers Island Detention Center for a court appearance. Amended Complaint ("Amd.Compl.") at ¶ 9. Brown was escorted by correction officers from his cell to the strip-search area. Id. at ¶ 10; Deposition of Andrew Brown ("Brown Dep."), dated June 14, 2001, at 48:16-23. Brown noticed that twelve other inmates were also escorted from their cells to the strip-search area. Brown Dep. at 49:10-16. While Brown was on line in the strip-search area, another inmate, Fitzroy McNeil ("McNeil"), allegedly demanded that Brown hand over the gold chain around his neck, saying, "You are going to give that chain up." Id. at 59:25-60:6. Brown told McNeil, in a "not too loud" voice, id. at 61:6-8, "I'm not giving you nothing." Id. at 61:9. Brown alleges that McNeil threatened him with physical violence. Amd. Compl. at ¶ 12. Brown also testified that he assumed, but was unsure, that Garvey heard his exchange with McNeil because Garvey was looking in their direction. Brown Dep. at 63:9-14.

McNeil was subsequently strip-frisked and placed in a holding cell. Id. at 65:15-66:4; Amd. Compl. at ¶ 13. After the officers searched Brown, Garvey allegedly placed him in the same holding cell with McNeil. Amd. Compl. at ¶ 14. Brown had not requested that correction officers place him in a different cell from McNeil. Brown Dep. at 67:6-9. Upon realizing he had been placed in the same cell as McNeil, Brown did not call out to any of the officers. Id. at 68:11-15. Close to five minutes after being left in the holding cell, McNeil approached Brown from the opposite end of the cell, again demanding that Brown give up his gold chain. Id. at 68:6-70:2. Brown again refused to give McNeil the chain, but still did not call out to any correction officers. Id. at 70:6-19.

McNeil proceeded to cut Brown's head and face with a razorblade that he had hidden on his person. Amd. Compl. at ¶ 15. Brown did not see the blade prior to being cut by McNeil. Brown Dep. at 71:25-72:4. The fight lasted approximately five to seven minutes, and once Brown realized he was bleeding, he called out to the officers. Id. at 73:11-19. At that point, McNeil stopped attacking Brown. Id. at 74:5-8. Garvey responded to the incident and immediately took Brown out of the holding cell. Id. Following the incident, Garvey informed Picarelli, who instructed Garvey to escort Brown to receive medical treatment. Id. at 74:15-25; see also Defendants' Notice of Motion for Summary Judgment ("Def. Mot.") at Exh. E. Brown was taken to the Rikers Island Clinic, where his wounds were cleaned and wrapped in gauze to stop the bleeding. Id. at 75:2-77:22. He was also given iodine and his injuries were stitched. Id. at 78:5-13; Amd. Compl. at ¶ 19.

In an Incident Report Form submitted by Picarelli on July 28, 1994, Picarelli stated that all inmates who enter the intake area are strip-searched and walked through a magnetometer machine, while their belongings are put under a fluoroscope. Def. Mot. at Exh. D. When Picarelli searched McNeil following the incident, a razor wrapped in gauze fell from McNeil's buttocks area. Def. Mot. at Exhs. D and F. His report stated that the razor recovered from McNeil was put through the magnetometer, but was not detected, and he concluded that this was probably how the razor entered the intake area. Id. According to Brown, these statements indicate that the machinery was not working properly, and that Picarelli was directly responsible for the injuries sustained. Amd. Compl. at ¶¶ 17-18. McNeil was issued an infraction for assault with injury and assault with a weapon. Def. Mot. at Exh. D.

III. DISCUSSION

A. Motion for Summary Judgment

Summary judgment should not be granted unless "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 judgment as a matter of law." FED.R.CIV.P. 56(c); see Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322 (1986). The moving party bears the burden of showing that no genuine issue of material fact exists. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. at 323. Once the party moving for summary judgment has met its initial burden of showing the absence of a genuine issue of material fact, the burden shifts to the nonmoving party to bring forth specific facts to show there is a factual question that must be resolved at trial. See FED.R.CIV.P. 56(e); see Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 250 (1986). Additionally, the court is required to construe the evidence in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party, and draw all reasonable inferences in its favor. Id. at 252; Celotex, 477 U.S. at 330, n. 2; see also Pauling v. Sec. of the Dept. of the Interior, 160 F.3d 133, 136 (2d Cir. 1998).

In considering the motion, the court's responsibility is not to resolve disputed issues of fact but to assess whether there are any factual issues to be tried, while resolving ambiguities and drawing reasonable inferences against the moving party. Chambers v. TRM Copy Centers Corp., 43 F.3d 29, 36-37 (2d Cir. 1994); see also Knight v. United States Fire Ins. Co., 804 F.2d 9, 11 (2d Cir. 1986), cert. denied, 480 U.S. 932 (1987). "[T]he mere existence of some alleged factual dispute between the parties will not defeat an otherwise properly supported motion for summary judgment." Anderson, 477 U.S. at 247-48. The nonmoving party must offer "concrete evidence from which a reasonable juror could return a verdict in his favor." Anderson, 477 U.S. at 256. Summary judgment should be granted where no reasonable trier of fact could find in favor of the nonmoving party, H. L. Hayden Co. of New York, Inc. v. Siemens Med. Sys., Inc., 879 F.2d 1005, 1011 (2d Cir. 1989), thereby "dispos[ing] of meritless claims before becoming entrenched in a frivolous and costly trial." Donahue v. Windsor Locks Bd. of Fire Comm'rs, 834 F.2d 54, 58 (2d Cir. ...


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