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Hill v. Tisch

October 30, 2009

DEMETRIUS HILL, PLAINTIFF,
v.
AL TISCH, SHERIFF, ET AL., DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Denis R. Hurley, United States District Judge

MEMORANDUM & ORDER

HURLEY, Senior District Judge

Plaintiff Demetrius Hill ("Plaintiff") brings the present action against defendants Al Tisch, Sheriff; West Bagnowski, Warden; Murphy Dep. Warden; Mr. Geslak, Captain; Mr. Singer, Lieutenant; Mr. Leehman, Lieutenant; Sgt. Kearsey; Sgt. Walsh; Mr. Reynolds, Correction Officer; Mr. Sanicruz, Correction Officer; Mr. Jonesy, Correction Officer; and various John Does ("Defendants"), pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, claiming that Defendants used excessive force against him and subjected him to hazardous living conditions while he was incarcerated in the Suffolk County jail. Defendants have moved for summary judgment pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure ("Rule") 56. For the reasons that follow, Defendants' motion is granted in part and denied in part.

BACKGROUND

The material facts, drawn from the Complaint and Defendants' Local 56.1 Statement, are undisputed unless otherwise noted.

Plaintiff was incarcerated in the Suffolk County Correctional Facility ("SCCF") from March 29, 2002 to September 18, 2002. Upon his admission to SCCF, Plaintiff received a copy of the Inmate Rule and Regulations Booklet, 2000 Revision (the "SCCF Rules and Regulations") and signed a booking sheet acknowledging his receipt. The SCCF Rules and Regulations set forth the procedures for administrative review of inmate grievances.

Plaintiff filed the instant action on July 28, 2002, alleging that Defendants violated his constitutional rights, pursuant to § 1983, based on six separate incidents: (1) unjustifiable placement in administrative segregation upon his arrival at SCCF on March 29, 2002; (2) excessive force by corrections officers and forced medication by an alleged nurse on April 3, 2002; (3) denial of proper medical care on April 4, 2002; (4) excessively restrictive administrative segregation in general; (5) the failure of Defendants to protect Plaintiff from an assault by another inmate and denial of medical care in June 2002; and (6) verbal and physical attacks by SCCF officers. Although Plaintiff filed numerous written grievances pursuant to the Inmate Grievance Program while incarcerated in SCCF, he never filed any grievances concerning the six incidents set forth in the Complaint.

Defendants move for summary judgment, arguing that Plaintiff's claims should be dismissed based on his failure to exhaust administrative remedies prior to initiating this action.

For the reasons that follow, Defendants' motion is granted in part and denied in part.

DISCUSSION

I. Applicable Law and Legal Standards

A. Summary Judgment

Summary judgment pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56 is only appropriate where admissible evidence in the form of affidavits, deposition transcripts, or other documentation demonstrates both the absence of a genuine issue of material fact and one party's entitlement to judgment as a matter of law. See Major League Baseball Props., Inc. v. Salvino, Inc., 542 F.3d 290, 309 (2d Cir. 2008); Viola v. Philips Med. Sys. of N. Am., 42 F.3d 712, 716 (2d Cir. 1994). The relevant governing law in each case determines which facts are material; "only disputes over facts that might affect the outcome of the suit under the governing law will properly preclude the entry of summary judgment." Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986); see also SCR Joint Venture L.P. v. Warshawsky, 559 F.3d 133, 137 (2d Cir. 2009); Coppola v. Bear Stearns & Co., 499 F.3d 144, 148 (2d Cir. 2007). No genuinely triable factual issue exists when the moving party demonstrates, on the basis of the pleadings and submitted evidence, and after drawing all inferences and resolving all ambiguities in favor of the non-movant, that no rational jury could find in the non-movant's favor. See SCR Joint Venture, 559 F.3d at 137; Chertkova v. Conn. Gen'l Life Ins. Co., 92 F.3d 81, 86 (2d Cir. 1996) (citing Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(c)).

To defeat a summary judgment motion properly supported by affidavits, depositions, or other documentation, the non-movant must offer similar materials setting forth specific facts that show that there is a genuine issue of material fact to be tried. See Rule v. Brine, Inc., 85 F.3d 1002, 1011 (2d Cir. 1996). The non-movant must present more than a "scintilla of evidence," Del. & Hudson Ry. Co. v. Cons. Rail Corp., 902 F.2d 174, 178 (2d Cir. 1990) (quoting Anderson, 477 U.S. at 252), or "some metaphysical doubt as to the material facts," Aslanidis v. U.S. Lines, Inc., 7 F.3d 1067, 1072 (2d Cir. 1993) (quoting Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 586-87 (1986)), and cannot rely on the allegations in his or her pleadings, conclusory statements, or on "mere assertions that affidavits supporting the motion are not credible." Gottlieb v. County of Orange, 84 F.3d 511, 518 (2d Cir. 1996) (internal citations omitted). Affidavits submitted in opposition to summary judgment must be based on personal knowledge, must "set forth such facts as would be admissible in evidence," and must show that the affiant is "competent to testify to the matters stated therein." Patterson v. County of Oneida,375 F.3d 206, 219 (2d Cir. 2004) (citing Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(e)). "Rule 56(e)'s requirement the affiant have personal knowledge and be competent to testify to the matters asserted in the affidavit also means that an affidavit's hearsay assertion that would not be admissible at trial if testified to by the affiant is insufficient to create a genuine issue for trial." Patterson, 375 F.3d at 219 (citing Sarno v. Douglas Elliman-Gibbons & Ives, Inc.,183 F.3d 155, 160 (2d Cir. 1999)).

When determining whether a genuinely disputed factual issue exists, "a trial judge must bear in mind the actual quantum and quality of proof necessary to support liability," or "the substantive evidentiary standards that apply to the case." Anderson, 477 U.S. at 254-55.

A district court considering a summary judgment motion must also be "mindful of the underlying standards and burdens of proof," Pickett v. RTS Helicopter, 128 F.3d 925, 928 (5th Cir. 1997) (citing Anderson, 477 U.S. at 252), because the evidentiary burdens that the respective parties will bear at trial guide the district court in its determination of a summary judgment motion. See Brady v. Town of Colchester, 863 F.2d 205, 211 (2d Cir. 1988). Where the non-moving party will bear the ultimate burden of proof on an issue at trial, the moving party's burden under Rule 56 will be satisfied if he can point to an absence of evidence to support an essential element of the non-movant's claim. See id. at 210-11. Where a movant without the underlying burden of proof offers evidence that the non-movant has failed to establish her claim, the burden shifts to the non-movant to offer "persuasive evidence that [her] claim is not 'implausible.'" Brady, 863 F.2d at 211 (citing Matsushita, 475 U.S. at 587). In deciding a summary judgment motion, a court must resolve all factual ambiguities and draw all reasonable inferences in favor of the non-moving party. See Donahue v. Windsor Locks Bd. of Fire Comm'rs, 834 F.2d 54, 57 (2d Cir. 1987).

B. Exhaustion of Administrative Remedies

The Prison Litigation Reform Act of 1995 ("PLRA") provides that "[n]o action shall be brought with respect to prison conditions under section 1983 of this title, or any other Federal law, by a prisoner confined in jail, prison, or other correctional facility until such administrative remedies as are available are exhausted." 42 U.S.C. § 1997e(a). The exhaustion requirement applies to "all inmate suits about prison life whether they involve general circumstances or particular episodes, and whether they allege excessive force or some other wrong." Porter v. Nussle, 534 U.S. 516, 532 (2002). Exhaustion is mandatory and prisoners must "exhaust all 'available' remedies, not just those that meet federal standards." Woodford v. Ngo, 548 U.S. 81, 85 (2006). Indeed, a prisoner must exhaust administrative remedies even when he or she seeks monetary damages, which cannot be granted by the administrative process.

Id.

In Hemphill v. New York, 380 F.3d 680 (2d Cir. 2004), the Second Circuit set forth a three-part inquiry that courts should use when an inmate "plausibly seeks to counter defendants' contention that the prisoner has failed to exhaust available administrative remedies as required by the PLRA." Id. at 686. First, the Court must investigate "whether administrative remedies were in fact 'available' to the prisoner." Id. (citation omitted). Next, the Court should "inquire as to whether the defendants may have forfeited the affirmative defense of non-exhaustion by failing to raise or preserve it, or whether the defendants' own actions inhibiting the inmate's exhaustion of remedies may estop one or more of the defendants from raising the plaintiff's failure to exhaust as a defense." Id. (citations omitted). Finally, if the Court finds that administrative remedies were available and that there are no reasons why defendants have forfeited or should be estopped from raising a ...


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