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Harry Cruz v. M. Staley

January 12, 2012


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Mae A. D'Agostino, U.S. District Judge:



On November 25, 2008, Plaintiff brought this action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, alleging that Defendants violated his rights as secured by the Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution. See Dkt. No. 1. Currently before the Court is Defendants' motion in limine.


Plaintiff, an inmate in the custody of the New York State Department of Corrections and Community Supervision ("DOCCS"), is currently confined at Clinton Correctional Facility ("Clinton C.F."), in Dannemora, New York. At all times relevant, Plaintiff was an inmate confined at the Coxsackie Correctional Facility ("Coxsackie C.F."), a maximum security prison in Coxsackie, New York. See Dkt. No. 1 at ¶ 4.

In his complaint, Plaintiff alleges that, on November 22, 2007, while at the Coxsackie C.F., he was housed in the infirmary unit in "Primary Care Room HS number two (2)." See id. at ¶ 11. Plaintiff claims that, at approximately 8:00 a.m., he requested to see a mental health counselor because he felt depressed. See id. at ¶ 12. At this point, Nurse Hanson told Plaintiff that no mental health counselors were available at that time because of the Thanksgiving holiday. See id.

After Nurse Hanson left, Plaintiff claims that he became more depressed, "broke the soap dispenser located near the shower in his room, went inside the bathroom, squatted down, and began scratching himself with a jagged piece of the soap dispenser on his left form [sic] arm and stomach area." See id. at ¶ 13. Thereafter, Plaintiff claims that, at this point, Defendant Sweet opened the bathroom door and ordered Plaintiff to stop. See id. at ¶ 14. Plaintiff then stood and asked Defendant Sweet if he could see a nurse. See id. At this point, Plaintiff began to again scratch his left arm, which caused Defendant Sweet to grab Plaintiff's right arm, guide him to the floor, and force him to lay in a prone position with his chest to the floor. See id. Plaintiff alleges that he did not resist while Defendant Sweet placed him on the floor. See id.

While this transpired, Plaintiff claims that an unidentified officer (Defendant John Doe) arrived to assist Defendant Sweet. See id. at ¶ 15. While Defendants Sweet and Doe held Plaintiff on the floor, Defendants First, Staley and Young arrived. See id. at ¶ 16. Plaintiff claims that Defendant First then used his boot to press down on the left side of Plaintiff's face and that Defendant Staley gave handcuffs to Defendant Young, who cuffed Plaintiff's hands behind his back. See id. At this point, Defendant Sweet informed Defendant Staley that Plaintiff attempted to assault him, which caused Defendant Staley "to stomp on the back of [P]laintiff's upper right shoulder area numerous times while cursing at him and stating that he is not to assault his officers." See id. at ¶ 17. Plaintiff claims that none of the other Defendants attempted to intervene despite having the opportunity to do so. See id. Further, Plaintiff claims that, while he was still on the floor, Defendant Young took Plaintiff's "right and left pinky fingers (fifth fingers) and bent them back one at a time intentionally causing serious injury to both fingers." See id. at ¶18.

After the incident, Plaintiff alleges that he was taken to a mental health unit and, several hours later, was taken to the emergency room at Albany Medical Center. See id. at ¶ 19.


On January 2, 2012, Defendants filed the motion currently pending before the Court. See Dkt. No. 30-5. In their motion, Defendants raise the following arguments: (1) Defendants' personnel records or evidence of other excessive force litigation should be excluded pursuant to Rule 404 of the Federal Rules of Evidence; (2) the Court should dismiss Plaintiff's Eighth Amendment excessive force and failure to protect claims pursuant to Rule 50(a) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure; and (3) Defendants are entitled to qualified immunity. See id. at 5-11.

A. Standard of review

The purpose of a motion in limine is to allow the trial court to rule in advance of trial on the admissibility of certain forecasted evidence. See Luce v. United States, 469 U.S. 38, 40 n.2 (1984); see also Palmieri v. Defaria, 88 F.3d 136, 141 (2d Cir. 1996). A court should exclude evidence on a motion in limine only when the evidence is clearly inadmissible on all potential grounds. See Baxter Diagnostics, Inc. v. Novatek Med., Inc., No. 94-cv-5220, 1998 WL 665138, *3 (S.D.N.Y. Sept. 25, 1998). Courts considering a motion in limine may reserve decision until trial so that the motion is placed in the appropriate factual context. See Nat'l Union Fire Ins. Co. v. L.E. Myers Co. Group, 937 F. Supp. 276, 287 (S.D.N.Y. 1996). Alternatively, the court is "free, in the exercise of sound judicial ...

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