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Cuadrado v. City of New York

August 16, 2007


The opinion of the court was delivered by: P. Kevin Castel, District Judge


Plaintiff sues two correctional officers and a captain, pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, alleging that they subjected him to excessive force and were deliberately indifferent to his medical needs while he was a pretrial detainee at Rikers Island. Because plaintiff was a pre-trial detainee and not confined pursuant to a judgment of conviction, I construe his claims as asserting a violation of the Fourteenth Amendment. Discovery in this action is now complete and the officers and captain now move for summary judgment. For the reasons outlined below, the motion is granted.

The October 7, 2005 Incident

The following facts are taken from plaintiff's sworn deposition testimony. I construe all reasonable inferences in plaintiff's favor.

On October 7, 2005, Raymond Cuadrado was held at Rikers Island in a portion of the facility designated as "G.M.D.C." (Dep. 60) In the morning hours, he learned that his wife was on her way to visit him. (Dep. 70) Cuadrado reports that he had endeavored to ascertain whether his wife had arrived and that he was given incorrect information. (Dep. 74-76) When he entered the visitors' area he observed his wife crying and reporting that she had been kept waiting for several hours. (Dep. 82) "The officer came while I was talking to my wife and he heard me 'why didn't you have these fucking niggers call my house [meaning his housing unit]?' And he [the officer] said, 'Who the fuck you calling a nigger?' And he started pushing me and I asked Officer Catuogno that I wanted to speak to a captain . . . ." (Dep. 89-90) Captain Woodard arrived. (Dep. 90, 93) The Captain listened to Cuardrado for about a minute. (Dep. 104) The Captain said "we'll talk in the sally port" and Cuadrado was instructed to exit through the sally port doors and go to a room on the other side of the door where they would talk. (Dep. 92, 95, 104) Cuadrado, before passing through the sally port doors, turned around-"bent around" - and started talking to the Captain again. (Dep. 95) "[A]nd then all sudden [an] officer from behind grab[s] me and slams me on the floor with Officer Catuogno." (Dep. 95, 102)

Cuadrado states that he had one arm under his body and one arm in the air and the officers were trying to get his arm from under his body. Captain Woodard told Cuadrado to "[l]et them cuff you." (Dep. 98) He said he could not move. (Dep. 98) Officer Pollio, according to Cuadrado, then "came through the door and I guess seen what was going on, what was transpiring and punch me in the side of my temple and then they cuffed me." (Dep. 98) Officer Catuogno and the officer who had pushed him through the door were on his back. (Dep. 110-11) According to Cuardrado, Officer Pollio tried to slam his head on the floor but that "he didn't get a chance to." (Dep. 112) He says he strained his neck in the process. (Dep. 112) Cuadrado testified that he "was laughing" during the incident because he "knew it would bother him more if [he] laugh[ed]." (Dep. 118-19) At his deposition, Cuardrado was asked about an allegation in the complaint that he had been kicked. He acknowledged that he did not know who had done so, stating that "it never was like a major injury or nothing, so I left it alone." (Dep. 114-15)

At Captain Woodard's instructions, the officers took Cuadrado out of the area and sat him down to await an escort to the "intake" area. (Dep. 112-13) He arrived at intake about five or ten minutes later. (Dep. 119-20) Upon arrival at intake, he started complaining of injury and requested medical attention. (Dep. 113) Captain Woodard told him to wait until certain paperwork was finished at which point he would receive medical attention. (Dep. 113-14) He said "okay" (Dep. 120) He was complaining about his neck and back hurting. (Dep. 126) He was taken to Elmhurst Hospital. (Dep. 129) X-rays and an MRI were taken. (Dep. 129, 132) He was given Ibuprofen or Naprosyn and Bengay. (Dep. 134)

Cuadrado had no prior incidents with Officers Catuogno or Pollio. (Dep. 99)

Summary Judgment Standard

Summary judgment "shall be rendered forthwith 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." Rule 57(c), Fed. R. Civ. P.. It is the initial burden of a movant on a summary judgment motion to come forward with evidence on each material element of his claim or defense, demonstrating that he or she is entitled to relief. A fact is material if it "might affect the outcome of the suit under the governing law . . ." Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986). The evidence on each material element must be sufficient to entitle the movant to relief in its favor as a matter of law. Vermont Teddy Bear Co., Inc. v. 1-800 Beargram Co., 373 F.3d 241, 244 (2d Cir. 2004).

When the moving party has met this initial burden and has asserted facts to demonstrate that the non-moving party's claim cannot be sustained, the opposing party must "set forth specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial," and cannot rest on "mere allegations or denials" of the facts asserted by the movant. Rule 57(e), Fed. R. Civ. P. In raising a triable issue of fact, the non-movant carries only "a limited burden of production," but nevertheless "must 'demonstrate more than some metaphysical doubt as to the material facts,' and come forward with 'specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial.'" Powell v. Nat'l Bd. of Med. Exam'rs, 364 F.3d 79, 84 (2d Cir. 2004) (quoting Aslanidis v. United States Lines, Inc., 7 F.3d 1067, 1072 (2d Cir. 1993)).

An issue of fact is genuine "if the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party." Anderson, 477 U.S. at 248. The Court must "view the evidence in the light most favorable to the non-moving party and draw all reasonable inferences in its favor, and may grant summary judgment only when no reasonable trier of fact could find in favor of the nonmoving party." Allen v. Coughlin, 64 F.3d 77, 79 (2d Cir. 1995) (quotations and citations omitted); accord Matsushita Electric Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 587-88 (1986). In reviewing a motion for summary judgment, the court must scrutinize the record, and grant or deny summary judgment as the record warrants. See Rule 56(c), Fed. R. Civ. P. In the absence of any disputed material fact, summary judgment is appropriate. Id.

The defendants have served the pro se plaintiff with the notice explaining the manner in which a party may oppose summary judgment, as required by Local Rule 56.2. I am mindful of the latitude afforded to a pro se party opposing a summary judgment motion. See Forsyth, 409 F.3d at 570 ("special solicitude" owed to pro se litigants opposing summary judgment); Shabtai v. U.S. Dep't of Educ., 2003 WL 21983025, at *5 (S.D.N.Y. Aug. 20, 2003)(obligation to construe leniently pro se opposition papers on a summary judgment motion). However, a party's pro se status does not alter the obligation placed upon the party opposing summary judgment to come forward with ...

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