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Houston v. Horn

May 14, 2010

TYRONE HOUSTON, A/K/A TYRONE BLACK, PLAINTIFF,
v.
MARTIN HORN, INDIVIDUALLY AND AS COMMISSIONER OF NEW YORK CITY DEPARTMENT OF CORRECTION, ET AL., DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Denise Cote, District Judge

OPINION & ORDER

Tyrone Houston ("Houston"), proceeding pro se, brings this action pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1983 against Martin Horn ("Horn"), individually and in his capacity as Commissioner of New York City Department of Corrections ("DOC"), certain DOC corrections officers, medical staff, and employees, and the City of New York (the "City") (collectively, the "defendants").

Houston alleges that, while he was incarcerated on Rikers Island, defendants violated his constitutional rights by retaliating against him for filing grievances, failing to attend to his medical needs, and using excessive force against him. Defendants have moved for summary judgment pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. P. 56. For the following reasons, the motion is granted.

BACKGROUND

The following facts are undisputed except where indicated. Houston was held in DOC custody as a pretrial detainee at Rikers Island and the Manhattan Detention Center ("MDC") from January 29, 2006 until September 9, 2008. During his approximately 31 months' incarceration, Houston was transferred to different housing areas at Rikers Island and the MDC approximately thirty times.

1. 2006

When Houston was initially admitted to the custody of DOC in January 2006, he was assigned to a "General Population" housing*fn1 area at the Anna M. Kross Center ("AMKC"), one of a number of facilities on Rikers Island.*fn2 Upon admission, Houston was designated as "Heat Sensitive," which required him to be placed in air-conditioned housing. DOC staff also determined that Houston suffered from two chronic medical conditions --hypertension and glaucoma -- for which he received regular treatment during his incarceration. Between January 29 and April 7, 2006, Houston was re-housed within AMKC three times due to his designation for "Administrative Escort" housing.*fn3

While housed at AMKC, Houston contends that he filed two grievances dated March 6 and March 30, 2006, pursuant to DOC's Inmate Grievance Resolution Program ("IGRP").*fn4 In the grievances, Houston complained that defendants Deputy Warden Edwin Bennett ("Bennett") and Security Captain Michael Williams ("Williams") were unresponsive to his concerns about "rodents and water buds [sic]" in his cell.*fn5

On April 7, 2006, Houston was transferred to the George Motchan Detention Center ("GMDC") due to reclassification. Houston was housed at GMDC until July 18, during which time he was re-housed five times and allegedly subjected to numerous cell and body searches.*fn6 Houston contends that he filed a grievance dated June 19, 2006, in which he complained that between April 17 and June 19, he was re-housed four times in retaliation for complaints sent to the deputy warden.*fn7

On May 2, while housed at GMDC, medical staff detected that Houston had a hernia and referred Houston for surgery. Houston refused to go to a surgery appointment on May 25 and again on June 5, at which time he requested that he not be placed on any surgery list.

On July 18, 2006, New York City experienced a severe electricity "blackout" which left Rikers Island operating on back-up generators. Houston was transferred from GMDC to another facility on Rikers Island to maintain him in air-conditioned housing. As the blackout continued to affect Rikers Island, on July 20, Houston was transferred to the air-conditioned MDC in Manhattan. Houston was housed at the MDC until November 29, during which time he was re-housed within the MDC three times.*fn8 Houston alleges that he was subjected to additional retaliatory body and cell searches while housed at the MDC.

On November 29, Houston was transferred back to GMDC, where he was held until January 22, 2007. During this period, Houston was re-housed within GMDC once, on December 13, 2006, for security reasons. Houston alleges that he was subjected to numerous cell and body searches during this time.

2. 2007

On January 3, 2007, while still housed at GMDC, Houston went to a surgery appointment at Bellevue hospital for his hernia, which resulted in a scheduling of his surgery for February 2007. On January 22, Houston was transferred from GMDC to the Robert N. Davoren Complex ("RNDC") for security reasons. Houston remained at RNDC until May 7, 2008, during which time he was re-housed within RNDC six times and allegedly subjected to more cell and body searches.*fn9 On February 13, Houston refused to go to Bellevue hospital for his scheduled hernia surgery. Over the following six months, Houston was seen by medical staff without complaint of abdominal pain until August 2007.

On March 12, 2007, Houston sent a letter to defendant Gregory McLaughlin, RNDC Warden ("McLaughlin"), which was forwarded to the RNDC Grievance Office. The letter raised a number of complaints, including that DOC staff were "moving [Houston] from housing unit to housing unit, in retaliation for [his] lawsuits and exercise of [his] right to petition."

Houston filed six additional grievances while housed at RNDC. First, on March 14, Houston filed a grievance in which he alleged that, during the course of a housing transfer, defendants Corrections Officers Vasquez, Ortiz, and Singletary "grabbed [him] and pulled [his] lower back out and denied [him] medical attention." Because Houston's March 14 grievance concerned an alleged assault, the Grievance Coordinator informed Houston that it was "non-grievable" under the IGRP.*fn10 On March 19, the Grievance Coordinator sent a memorandum to Warden McLaughlin to inform him of the alleged assault.

On March 27, Houston filed a second grievance concerning the alleged assault, which was also rejected by the Grievance Coordinator as "non-grievable" and forwarded to Warden McLaughlin. An "Investigating Supervisor's Report," prepared after an investigation ordered by Warden McLaughlin, concluded that no force had been used against Houston during the March 14 incident. At his deposition, Houston testified that after the March 14 incident, he experienced pain in his lower back and tenderness in his right side, signed up for "sick call," went to the clinic the next day, and was prescribed ibuprofen.*fn11 Houston again sought and obtained medical treatment on March 27, and was prescribed ibuprofen.

On August 16, 2007, Houston told RNDC medical staff that his hernia was bothering him. Houston was referred for surgery, and a surgery appointment was scheduled for November 2007; another appointment was subsequently scheduled for February 2008. Houston missed both appointments. Between August 2007 and August 2008, Houston was seen two to four times per month by medical staff, during which time there is no record of Houston complaining of abdominal pain.

Houston alleges that on September 7 and 8, 2007, he was denied medical treatment for arthritis and lower back pain. On September 7, 8, and 9, 2007, Houston filed three grievances concerning conduct by medical staff at RNDC. Because medical staff members are not DOC employees, the Grievance Coordinator informed Houston that these complaints were non-grievable.*fn12

3. 2008 and Placement in Close Custody

On January 15, 2008, Houston filed a sixth grievance at RNDC requesting an accounting of expenditures from his account. This grievance was informally resolved to Houston's satisfaction on January 17 when he was provided ...


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