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Jeffrey Miller v. Officer Rosini

March 17, 2011


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Pitman, United States Magistrate Judge:


I. Introduction

Plaintiff Jeffrey Miller, a former inmate at Westchester County Jail, commenced this action pro se against Corrections Officer Anthony Rosini, former fellow inmate Thomas James Chamb-liss, and Westchester County Jail pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 ("Section 1983"). He alleges that on July 17, 2009, Rosini allowed Chambliss onto the prison recreation deck at the same time as Miller. The two then had a physical altercation in which Miller was allegedly injured (Docket Item 2 in 09 Civ. 7300).

Plaintiff Chambliss, also a former Westchester County Jail inmate, subsequently commenced an action pro se pursuant to Section 1983 against Miller and Rosini based on this same incident (Docket Item 2 in 09 Civ. 8884). On December 4, 2009, the Honorable Harold Baer, Jr., United States District Judge, ordered that the cases be consolidated for all purposes (Consolidation Order, dated December 4, 2009 (Docket Item 10 in 09 Civ. 7300; Docket Item 5 in 09 Civ. 8884)).

By Notice of Motion dated January 29, 2010, Rosini and the County of Westchester (collectively, the "County Defendants") moved for an order dismissing the complaints pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, arguing "(1) Plaintiffs fail to state any cause of action since they fail to allege a constitutional violation under the Eighth Amendment, (2) Officer Rosini is protected by qualified immunity, and; (3) Plaintiffs fail to state a claim against the County of Westchester" (Docket Item 17 in 09 Civ. 7300; Docket Item 13 in 09 Civ. 8884).

For the reasons set forth below, the motion is hereby granted.

II. Facts

A. Facts Underlying the Complaint

On July 17, 2009, Officer Williams released Miller from his cell in the Special Housing Unit at the Westchester County Jail onto the "rec. deck" for an hour of recreation time (Complaint, dated July 22, 2009 (Docket Item 2 in 09 Civ. 7300), ("Miller Compl.") at 3; Complaint, dated September 14, 2009 (Docket Item 2 in 09 Civ. 8884), ("Chambliss Compl.") at 3). After Rosini relieved Officer Williams, Miller asked Rosini to open his cell so that he could use the bathroom, but Rosini opened the door to Chambliss' cell instead. Miller claims that Chambliss, with whom he "had issues[,]" then came onto the deck and "started yelling across the yard to other inmates" (Miller Compl. at 3). Miller alleges that after he told Chambliss to stop, the two exchanged profanities until Chambliss "attacked" Miller (Miller Compl. at 3). Miller "was struck on [his] head and [he] fell to the floor where [he] landed on [his already] broken hand" (Miller Compl. at 3). Chambliss then kicked him repeatedly until Chambliss asked Rosini to let him back into his cell. Rosini called the medical staff, who gave Miller an ice sd faspack for a "large contusion" on his forehead and medication for pain in his wrist and head (Miller Compl. at 3, attached page).

Chambliss' account of the events is similar. He claims that he was sleeping in his cell when he heard Miller yelling for his "rec door" to be opened (Chambliss Compl. at 3). Chambliss then echoed the call for Rosini to open Miller's door, but Rosini pressed the "wrong button" and opened Chambliss' cell instead. Chambliss claims that he then went onto the deck, his cell door slammed shut, and upon noticing Miller the two engaged in a verbal altercation which led to a physical altercation (Chambliss Compl. at 3). Chambliss notes that no emergency code was called, but a medical code was used "due to inmate Miller laying on the floor complaining to be hurt" (Chambliss Compl. at 3). He states that he tried to speak to the medical staff when they arrived, but they told him to "put in a sick call" (Chambliss Compl. at attached page).

Both plaintiffs allege injuries resulting from the altercation. Miller claims that he suffered a large contusion on his forehead, an aggravation of his broken right wrist, and headaches. He also states that he is "suffering mentally" from paranoia and "[e]very time [sic] [he] hear[s] a door open [he] think[s] someone is coming to attack [him] or hurt [him] in some way" (Miller Compl. at 3). Chambliss reports only mental inju- ries. He claims to fear for his life around Rosini and "others" and notes that Rosini had previously dislocated his left hand and handcuffed him to a gate (Chambliss Compl. at 3, attached page). He also notes that he is "very paranoid" and "stay[s] up for days watching the C.O.'s desk when [he] can't see them" (Chambliss Compl. at 3). He reports that the prison medical staff prescribed Remeron for him to help him sleep, but that he has "never felt the same since" the altercation with Miller (Chambliss Compl. at 3, attached page).

Both plaintiffs filed grievances with Westchester County Jail. In his Grievance Form, Miller complained that he and Chambliss should not have been allowed on the recreation deck simultaneously, and that the situation threatened Miller's safety (Miller Grievance Form - Part I, dated July 18, 2009 and attached to Miller Compl., ("Miller Grievance I") at 2). He requested to be placed "in a safer environment" and moved to a different cell block, and asked to see a doctor for his hand and back (Miller Grievance I at 1). He also requested that Rosini "be written [up] for putting [him] in an unsafe situation[,]" and requested a copy of the incident report (Miller Grievance I at 1). The Grievance Coordinator substantiated Miller's complaint and ordered Chambliss transferred to another cell, but denied Miller-'s request to move to a different cell block altogether (Miller Grievance Form - Part II, dated July 20, 2009 and attached to Miller Compl., ("Miller Grievance II") at 1). He also gave Miller a "sick call slip" for his stated injuries and noted that any potential disciplinary action against Rosini would be determined after an investigation. Miller indicated that he would appeal the decision, but there is no appellate disposition listed on his Grievance Form (Miller Grievance II at 1).

In his Grievance Form, Chambliss alleged facts similar to those alleged in his complaint, and added that at some point Rosini "broke [his] hand in the door" (Chambliss Grievance Form -Part I, dated July 19, 2009 and attached to Chambliss Compl., ("Chambliss Grievance I") at 1). He also stated that he felt that the incident on the deck was "set up to hurt [him]" and requested that Rosini "stay away" and "stop trying to hurt [him]" (Chambliss Grievance I at 1). The Grievance Coordinator did not find Chambliss' complaint to be substantiated, noting Chambliss' admission that he willingly went outside and fought with Miller (Chambliss Grievance Form - Part II, dated July 22, 2009 and attached to Chambliss Compl., ("Chambliss Grievance II") at 1). The Coordinator noted that Chambliss "had the opportunity to retreat back into [his] cell and to secure [his] rec. deck door behind [him] which would have helped to insure [his] care and custody" (Chambliss Grievance II at 1). Chambliss appealed, but the Chief Administrative Officer sustained the Grievance Coordinator's decision (Chambliss Grievance II at 1).

B. Procedural History

Miller filed a complaint against Chambliss, Rosini and Westchester County Jail on August 19, 2009 seeking "damages for [his] physical, mental, and emotional p[a]in and suffering" and asked that Officer Rosini be reprimanded and laid off. He also requested that the County pay any medical bills resulting from the incident (Miller Compl. at 1, 5).

On October 21, 2009, Chambliss filed a complaint against Miller and Rosini only (Chambliss Compl. at 1). He ...

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