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Roy Taylor, Gammone v. State of New York Dept. of Corrections; Correctional Officer Lawrence; Corrections Officer C.

June 27, 2012


The opinion of the court was delivered by: J. Paul Oetken, District Judge:


This action chiefly concerns an alleged use of excessive force against an inmate at Downstate Correctional Facility ("Downstate"). Plaintiff Roy Taylor filed his original complaint in this action on May 10, 2010. (Dkt. No. 2.) An amended complaint followed on December 9, 2010. (Dkt. No. 12.) In a letter to the Court dated November 17, 2011, Plaintiff withdrew all of his claims but two.*fn1 (See Dkt. No. 42.) The two remaining claims are (1) a claim alleging that Defendants violated Plaintiff's Eighth Amendment right to be free from "cruel and unusual punishments," and (2) a claim alleging that Plaintiff was denied the due process of law guaranteed to him by the Fourteenth Amendment of the United States Constitution when he was placed in punitive segregation for roughly eleven days following the incident discussed below.

On December 28, 2011, Defendants Correction Officer (now Sergeant) David Lawrence and Correction Officer Christopher Gammone (together, "Defendants"), employees of the New York State Department of Corrections and Community Supervision ("DOCCS"), filed the instant motion for summary judgment as to Plaintiff's remaining claims. (Dkt. No. 31.) In responding to Defendants' motion, Plaintiff has honorably conceded that his Fourteenth Amendment claim cannot be sustained under applicable law. (See Def.'s Br., Dkt. No. 37, at 2.) For the reasons discussed below, Defendants' motion for summary judgment will be granted as to that Fourteenth Amendment claim and also as to Plaintiff's Eighth Amendment claim.

I. Background

The parties agree that, on April 20, 2009, Plaintiff was transferred from incarceration at Rikers Island Correctional Facility to Downstate Correctional Facility ("Downstate"), which is administered by DOCCS. (Defendants' Statement Pursuant to Local Civil Rule 56.1, Dkt. No. 35 ("Def.'s 56.1 Statement"), ¶ 1; Plaintiff's Opposition Statement Pursuant to Local Rule 56.1(b), Dkt. No. 39 ("Pl.'s 56.1 Statement"), ¶ 1.) Upon arrival at Downstate, Plaintiff was led into a draft area. (Def.'s 56.1 Statement ¶ 1; Pl.'s 56.1 Statement ¶ 1.) Plaintiff was, at that time, wearing a medically prescribed boot on his left foot because he had had surgery to remove a cyst from that foot at Bellevue Hospital on February 12, 2009. (Deposition of Roy Taylor Transcript ("Tr."), annexed as Ex. A to the Declaration of Donald Nowve, dated December 28, 2011, ("Nowve Decl."), Dkt. No. 32 at 35-37, 42-52; Bellevue Hospital Center medical report, Nowve Decl., Dkt. No. 32-2, Ex. B at 3 of 9.)

Plaintiff and other inmates in the draft area were directed to remove their shoes and were searched by DOCCS staff. (Tr. at 58-62.) Plaintiff has testified that he handed his medical boot to Correction Officer Lawrence for inspection and that, when Lawrence "tossed it back," Plaintiff "slipped it on." (Id. at 64.) Plaintiff asserts that "[i]t was at that time that [Lawrence] slammed me against the wall, but he never gave me no instructions to do nothing." (Id.) According to Plaintiff, Lawrence "said I ain't tell you to move. But he didn't tell me not to put my shoe on. There was no direction. I think that was the problem, lack of communication." (Id. at 65.) When asked what part of his body "came in contact with the wall," Plaintiff testified "[i]t was like the face, you know, and that sort of thing." (Id. at 67.)

Plaintiff has testified that Lawrence then told him, "You don't move until I tell you to. Do you hear me? Do you hear me?" (Id. at 68.) Plaintiff states that, [b]ecause I didn't respond, they snatched me up and, you know, drug me to a cell and my boot came off. They had no regard for that, you know. And I was hobbling and I was hobbling enough where I fell . . . and reaggravated my foot. I was having a little pain after that, you know." (Id.) The amended complaint alleges that Plaintiff was "pushed, pulled and yanked" by "Lawrence and another corrections officer, believed to be C. Gammone . . . ." (Dkt. No. 12 at 4.) However, no evidence presented to the Court names or implicates Defendant Gammone in the events discussed herein.

Plaintiff testified that he was taken from the draft area to a cell where he was held for twenty or twenty-five minutes, though he also testified that he does not know the length of time exactly. (Tr. at 81.) At the end of that time, he was taken from the cell to Downstate's medical facility. (Id. at 82.) Plaintiff testified that he was able to walk to the medical facility with only "slight pain" in his foot because, while sitting in the holding cell, "the pain [had] subsided." (Id. at 83.) Plaintiff was asked as his deposition, "Other than the foot pain, any other pain?" (Id.) Plaintiff answered, "I think my back was bothering me, too." (Id.) The prison's medical records state, "inmate denies any injuries." (Ambulatory Health Record Progress Note, Nowve Decl., Dkt. No. 32-2, Ex. B at 2 of 9.) Plaintiff has testified that those medical records were falsified and that, in fact, "I said I'm having pain." (Tr. at 86.) There is no evidence of any injury or lasting pain resulting specifically from the alleged slamming of Plaintiff's head against the wall.

"[D]ays later," Plaintiff returned to the medical facility where he "explained [his] chief complaint, back pain and foot pain." (Id. at 87-89.) The doctor who saw Plaintiff on this visit prescribed him Motrin; recommended bed rest "for, [Plaintiff] think[s], about a month"; and continued Plaintiff's wearing of a medical boot. (Id. at 88.)

Defendant Lawrence issued an inmate misbehavior report concerning the incident in the draft area. The report stated in part that, after Lawrence had searched Plaintiff's footwear,

Inmate Taylor . . . took his hands off the wall and bent over reaching towards the floor. I [Lawrence] ordered Inmate to place his hands back the wall [sic]. Inmate Taylor started to argue in a loud voice and turn toward me. I grabbed Inmate Taylor's right arm with both of my hands and tried to turn him towards the wall, while giving him orders to place his hands on the wall. (Inmate Misbehavior Report, Nowve Decl., Ex. B, Dkt. No. 32-2 at 6 of 9.) Lawrence's report adds that "pieces of paper with phone numbers and a lawyer's card" were found in Plaintiff's boot and confiscated. (Id.) Plaintiff admits that these items were found hidden in his boot. (See Tr. at 69-70.)

Plaintiff was held in Downstate's Special Housing Unit ("SHU") from April 20, 2009 until the disciplinary charges against him were dismissed eleven days later on May 1, 2009 at the conclusion of a disciplinary hearing. (See disciplinary hearing records, Nowve Decl., Dkt. No. 32-2, Ex. B at 7-9 of 9.)

II. Legal Standards

Summary judgment is appropriate where "the movant shows that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(a). The "mere existence of some alleged factual dispute between the parties will not defeat an otherwise properly supported motion for summary judgment; the requirement is that there be no genuine issue of material fact." Scott v. Harris, 550 U.S. 372, 380 (2007) (internal quotation marks and citation omitted). "A fact is 'material' when it might affect the outcome of the suit under governing law," and "[a]n issue of fact is 'genuine' if the evidence is such that a reasonable ...

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