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Juarez F. Barreto v. the County of Suffolk

December 22, 2010


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


Pro se plaintiff Juarez F. Barreto ("Plaintiff") brings the current action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 ("Section 1983") against the County of Suffolk, John Doe #1, John Doe #2, and John Doe #3 (collectively, "Defendants"), alleging that Defendants violated his Eighth Amendment rights by failing to protect him from violent inmate assault and by denying him appropriate medical care.

Before this Court is Defendants' motion to dismiss pursuant to Rule 12(b)6 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. Defendants set forth three grounds for dismissal: (1) the Amended Complaint failed to sufficiently identify the John Doe defendants as required by Fed. R. Civ. P. Rule 8(a)(2); (2) the Amended Complaint fails because § 1983 claims cannot be predicated upon negligence, and Plaintiff fails to plead enough facts to assert deliberate indifference; and (3) the Amended Complaint failed to establish that a municipal custom or policy resulted in the violation of Plaintiff's rights. For the reasons stated below, Defendants' motion is GRANTED in part and DENIED in part.


The following facts are alleged by Plaintiff and regarded as true for the purpose of this motion. On October 18, 2009, while in the custody of Suffolk County Correctional Facility ("the Correctional Facility"), Plaintiff alleges that he was assaulted from behind by another inmate, Maurice Wallace ("Wallace"). (Am. Compl. ¶ 5.) Wallace is a known member of the Bloods gang and had committed three other attacks while in Suffolk County's custody, and the correctional staff knew about his disciplinary history. (Id. ¶¶ 7, 14.)

The assault caused Plaintiff to hit his head on a metal bed frame, shattering Plaintiff's cheekbones as well as his left eye socket. (Id. ¶¶ 9, 12-13.) At the time of the assault, John Doe #1 ("Doe 1"), the corrections officer responsible for supervision of Plaintiff's unit, was not present. (Id. ¶ 5.) Plaintiff alleges that if Doe 1 had provided adequate supervision, the assault could have been prevented. (Id.)

On October 28th, 2010, Plaintiff underwent surgery at Stony Brook University Medical Center for the injuries he incurred. (Id. ¶ 12.) Upon his return to the Correctional Facility, Plaintiff sought medical attention regarding his inability to urinate and the resulting pain in his bladder. (Id. ¶ 16.) He was informed by the physician on duty that his symptoms were side effects caused by the anesthesia used during surgery. (Id.) Later that evening, Plaintiff still could not urinate and was taken to the medical unit where he had 1000 cc of urine and blood evacuated via a catheter. (Id.)

At 2 a.m., October 29, 2010, Plaintiff woke up to "extreme pain" created by his swollen bladder. (Id. ¶ 17.) Plaintiff explained his medical condition to John Doe #2 ("Doe 2"), the corrections officer on duty, and requested to be taken to the medical unit. (Id.) Doe 2 refused, stating that the medical unit was closed. (Id.) At 3 a.m., Plaintiff again requested to be taken to the medical unit at which time Doe 2 reiterated that the medical unit was closed and that he was not going to wake up the sergeant in charge. (Id.) Doe 2 then stated that Plaintiff "needs an attitude adjustment" and that Doe 2 "[doesn't] give a fuck." (Id.) Doe 2 was replaced by a different corrections officer at approximately 7:30 a.m. (Id. ¶ 18.) Plaintiff was finally taken to the medical unit at 9:30 a.m., at which time 1500 cc of urine and blood was evacuated to relieve the pressure on Plaintiff's bladder. (Id.) Later that evening, Plaintiff underwent evacuations of 1000 cc of urine and blood at 6:30 p.m. and again at 11:30 p.m. (Id. ¶¶ 18-19.) Upon Plaintiff's return to his cell following his medical treatment, Doe 2 stated that Plaintiff is "nothing but a soft ass spick" and that Plaintiff should "get the fuck out of [A]merica." (Id. ¶ 20.)

Having gone without prompt medical treatment, Plaintiff developed urinary tract and bladder infections. (Id. ¶¶ 21-22.) According to Plaintiff, John Doe #3 ("Doe 3") (apparently Dr. David Prentiss) failed to properly diagnose the infections despite multiple visits by Plaintiff. (Id. ¶ 21.) Plaintiff alleges that he did not receive proper care until he was taken under the custody of the New York State Department of Corrections. (Id.)

Plaintiff also asserts that the County violated his rights when it housed Plaintiff in the same unit as violent offenders, such as Wallace. (Id. ¶¶ 30-34.) Plaintiff alleges that the County's knowledge of these individuals' criminal records and its subsequent failure to segregate these individuals constituted deliberate indifference to a serious risk of harm in violation of the Eighth Amendment. (Id. ¶ 34.)

Lastly, Plaintiff alleges that his Eighth Amendment rights were violated in a separate and unrelated incident. On September 19, 2009, Plaintiff incurred headaches, chills, and problems breathing. (Id. ¶ 25.) Plaintiff believes that his illness was caused by the conditions in his cell; the cold and damp cell was covered with mold and mildew due to a water leak. (Id. ¶ 24.) Plaintiff further alleged that the corrections officers and maintenance staff knew of this condition but took no precautions despite his repeated complaints. (Id.) A few days later, Plaintiff was diagnosed by the medical staff as having a common cold. (Id.) Plaintiff later coughed up blood and was sent to the Peconic Bay Medical Center for emergency care. (Id. ¶ 27.) While there, Plaintiff was treated by Doe 3 as well as a specialist at the hospital. (Id.) Doe 3 informed Plaintiff that the cause of his illness was an infection. (Id. ¶ 28.) The specialist also informed Plaintiff that his lungs contained a fungal infection. (Id.) Plaintiff claims that the medical staff at the Correctional Facility was negligent with their initial diagnosis and that Doe 3 misled and lied to Plaintiff regarding the real cause of his illness. (Id. ¶ 29.)

In relief, Plaintiff seeks a full investigation of the Correctional Facility and its practices as well as eight million dollars in damages.

DISCUSSION I. Standard of Review

In deciding motions to dismiss brought under Rule 12(b)6 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, the Court applies a "plausibility standard," which is guided by "[t]wo working principles." Ashcroft v. Iqbal, __ U.S. __, 129 S. Ct. 1937, 1949, 173 L. Ed. 2d 868 (2009); Harris v. Mills, 572 F.3d 66, 72 (2d Cir. 2009). First, although the Court must accept all of a complaint's allegations as true, this "tenet" is "inapplicable to legal conclusions"; thus, "[t]hreadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action, supported by mere conclusory statements, do not suffice." Harris, 572 F.3d at 72 (quoting Iqbal). Second, only complaints that state a "plausible claim for relief" survive a motion to dismiss. Id. Determining whether a complaint does so is "a context-specific task that requires the reviewing court to draw on its judicial experience and common sense." Id.

It is axiomatic that the Court is required to read the Plaintiff's pro se submissions liberally and to construe them "'to raise the strongest arguments that they suggest.'" Soto v. Walker, 44 F.3d 169, 173 (2d Cir. 1995) (quoting Burgos v. Hopkins, 14 F.3d 787, 790 (2d Cir. 1994)). "Dismissal, however, is [proper] . . . for those cases in which the complaint is so confused, ambiguous, vague, or otherwise unintelligible that its true substance, if any, is well disguised." Salahuddin v. Cuomo, 861 F.2d 40, 42 (2d Cir. 1988).

II. Application of Rule 8(a)(2)

Fed. R. Civ. P. Rule 8(a)(2) requires that a complaint contain a "short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief." Pleadings must give "fair notice" of a claim and "the grounds upon which it rests" to enable the opposing party to answer and prepare for trial, and to identify the nature of the case. Dura Pharm., Inc. v. Broudo, 544 U.S. 336, 346, 125 S. Ct. 1627, 161 L. Ed. 2d 577 (2005) (citation omitted); Swierkiewicz v. Sorema, N.A., 534 U.S. 506, 512, 122 S. Ct. 992, 152 L. Ed. 2d 1 (2002).

The driving rationale behind Rule 8(a)(2) is to provide an adverse party with notice of the claims asserted and to limit the burden imposed on both courts and litigants by unnecessarily verbose and incoherent pleadings. See Salahuddin, 861 F.2d at 42. In that vein, the Supreme Court has held that complaints containing only vague or conclusory accusations with no specific facts regarding the alleged wrongdoing do not allow defendants to frame an intelligent defense and are therefore subject to dismissal. See Neitzke v. Williams, 490 U.S. 319, 325, 327 (1989); Alfaro Motors, Inc. v. Ward, 814 F.2d 883, 887 (2d Cir. 1987). All complaints, including pro se complaints, must contain at least "some minimum level of factual support for their claims." Megna v. United States Dep't of the Navy, 317 F. Supp. 2d 191, 192 (E.D.N.Y. 2004).

In this Court's order sua sponte dismissing Plaintiff's original Complaint, Plaintiff was directed to amend the Complaint to "name as proper defendants those individuals who have some personal involvement in the actions he alleged" so as to conform to Rule 8(a)(2)'s demands. Barreto v. County of Suffolk, No. 10-CV-0028, slip op. at 10 (E.D.N.Y. Jan. 20, 2010). Defendants argue that Plaintiff's Amended Complaint fails to add additional or specific facts to comply with this directive. In Valentin v. Dinkins, 121 F.3d 72 (2d. Cir. 1997), however, the Second Circuit made clear that a pro se litigant is entitled to assistance from the district court in identifying a defendant. ...

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