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Sanders v. New York City Dep't of Corrections

January 30, 2009


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Sidney H. Stein, U.S. District Judge.


Plaintiff Marvin Sanders brings this action pro se pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against defendant New York City Department of Corrections ("DOC") and defendants Martin F. Horn, Jerome I. Davis, Frank Squillante, "Captain Lockhard," "C.O. Davis, N.I.C.," and "C.O. D'Ammico" in their individual capacities.*fn1 The lawsuit arises from injuries suffered by Sanders at the hands of a fellow prisoner while incarcerated at Rikers Island in April 2003. Read liberally, the complaint alleges that defendants denied Sanders his constitutional rights through their (1) deliberate indifference to his personal safety, and (2) deliberate indifference to his medical needs. Plaintiff seeks $350,000,000.00 in damages.

Following discovery, defendants have moved for summary judgment on all claims, arguing that (1) plaintiff's claims are time barred by the applicable statute of limitations; (2) plaintiff fails to allege the personal involvement of any of the properly named and served defendants; (3) plaintiff fails to state a claim for deliberate indifference under section 1983; and (4) plaintiff can not demonstrate deliberate indifference to his medical needs.*fn2 Because the Court finds that no issues of material fact remain in dispute and that defendants are entitled to judgment as a matter of law, summary judgment is granted to defendants on all claims.


Viewing the evidence in the light most favorable to plaintiff on defendants' motion for summary judgment and resolving all factual disputes in his favor, the following facts are relevant to the present motion:

In April 2003, plaintiff Marvin Sanders was housed, as a pre-trial detainee, in the North Infirmary Command Facility of New York City Department of Corrections, located on Rikers Island. On the evening of April 27, 2003, Sanders learned of a threat to him made by another prisoner, Raheim Kyser ("Kareem")*fn3 (Dep. of Marvin Sanders dated Mar. 19, 2008 ("Sanders Dep.") at 49:20-50:12.) The threat was brought to the attention of a correction officer on duty, "Ms. Johnson," who brought Sanders and Kareem together to discuss the matter at approximately 10:30 p.m. and was assured by both men at that time that no further trouble would ensue. (Sanders Dep. at 52:21-54:17.)

Unable to sleep, however, Sanders alerted the overnight supervisor, "Captain Lockhard," that he "[didn't] feel comfortable," some time between 1 and 3 a.m. (Sanders Dep. at 55:18-56:25.)*fn4 While Sanders told Lockhard that "I feel my life is in danger" (Sanders Dep. at 57:2) and requested to be relocated to another unit, he did not specify the basis for his fear, and, in particular, made no mention of Kareem or the alleged threat made earlier that evening. (Sanders Dep. at 57:22 -58:16.) Captain Lockhard was unsympathetic to Sanders' fears and told him to "get on your F-ing bunk." (Sanders Dep. at 56:16-25; 57:10.)

At approximately 4 a.m. on the morning of April 28, 2003,*fn5 Sanders was attacked by Kareem, resulting in a four-inch laceration along the right side of Sanders' face. Sanders immediately notified prison guards of the attack and was promptly removed from his cell and taken first to the prison intake center and then transferred to an urgent care center. (Sanders Dep. at.78:10 -79:11.) At approximately 5:30 a.m. Sanders received nearly fifty sutures to close the wound. (Injury to Inmate Report dated Apr. 28, 2003, Ex. F to Decl. of Gabriel Harris dated June 30, 2008 ("Harris Decl.").) As a result of the attack, Sanders has a four-inch scar on his face, and complains of discomfort and lasting psychological trauma. (Sanders Dep. at 68:17-69:4; 90:9-91:16.)

On September 29, 2003, plaintiff filed a lawsuit naming the DOC, Martin F. Horn, "Captain Lockhard," Jerome I. Davis, "C.O. Davis," "C.O. D'Ammico," and Frank Squillante as defendants. The complaint can be fairly read to allege deliberate indifference by defendants to plaintiff's safety and his medical needs while in custody. Sanders v. Dep't of Corrections, et al., 03-civ-7668 (S.D.N.Y. Sept. 29, 2003) (complaint). That action was assigned to Judge Richard Conway Casey, who referred the matter for general pretrial proceedings to Magistrate Judge Richard Ellis.

On October 11, 2005, Magistrate Judge Ellis issued a Report and Recommendation. Finding that the plaintiff had never served any of the defendants with the summons or a copy of the complaint, Magistrate Judge Ellis recommended the suit be dismissed, without prejudice, pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 4(m). Sanders v. Dep't of Corrections, et. al., 03-civ-7668 (S.D.N.Y. Oct. 11, 2005). A copy of the Report and Recommendation was mailed to defendants and to plaintiff at the Rikers Island address provided by him, informing the parties of the recommended course of action and instructing them to file any written objections within ten days. No party filed objections, and, on November 5, 2003, Judge Casey issued an order adopting Magistrate Judge Ellis's recommendation in its entirety and dismissing the suit. Sanders v. Dep't of Corrections, et al., No. 03-civ-7668 (S.D.N.Y. Nov. 3, 2005).

On April 27, 2007, plaintiff instigated the present action by filing a complaint naming the same defendants and raising the same substantive claims as in the first suit. Plaintiff averred the new action should be allowed to proceed due to "mitigating circumstances," in particular, that defendants "did not hand to Plaintiff, mail from the Court, thus forcing a dismissal." (Compl. at 1.) This litigation was assigned to this Court and was referred to Magistrate Judge Michael H. Dolinger for general pretrial proceedings.

Under Magistrate Judge Dolinger's supervision, the parties proceeded with discovery, and defendants deposed plaintiff in March 2008. Plaintiff moved for appointment of counsel to assist in the prosecution of this case, and on June 20, 2008, Magistrate Judge Dolinger issued an order granting that motion. Sanders v. Dept' of Corrections, et. al., No. 07-civ-3390 (S.D.N.Y. July 9, 2008).

On June 30, 2008, defendants moved for summary judgment. By letter dated August 8, 2008, Magistrate Judge Dolinger informed plaintiff that he would have to respond to defendants' motion regardless of whether or not appointed counsel had yet been provided and that any response would be due by August 30, 2008. (Letter from Magistrate Judge Michael T. Dolinger to ...

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