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Sean Williams v. E. Raimo

October 15, 2012

SEAN WILLIAMS, PLAINTIFF,
v.
E. RAIMO, CORRECTIONAL OFFICER, GREAT MEADOW CORRECTIONAL FACILITY; J. SMITH, CORRECTIONAL OFFICER, GREAT MEADOW CORRECTIONAL FACILITY; T. VEDDER, CORRECTIONAL SERGEANT, GREAT MEADOW CORRECTIONAL FACILITY; AND J. OLIVER, NURSE, GREAT MEADOW CORRECTIONAL FACILITY, DEFENDANTS.



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

MEMORANDUM-DECISION AND ORDER

I. INTRODUCTION

Plaintiff pro se, an inmate in the custody of the New York State Department of Corrections and Community Supervision ("DOCCS"), commenced this action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, alleging that Defendants Raimo, Smith, and Vedder used excessive force in violation of his constitutional rights. See Dkt. No. 1. Plaintiff also alleges that Defendant Vedder failed to stop Defendants Raimo and Smith from using excessive force and that Defendant Oliver was deliberately indifferent to his serious medical needs.

Currently before the Court are Plaintiff's and Defendants' motions in limine.

II. BACKGROUND

The Court assumes the parties' familiarity with the facts of this case and refers them to the Court's December 2, 2011 Memorandum-Decision and Order granting in part and denying in part Defendants' motion for summary judgment for a complete recitation of the relevant facts. See Dkt. No. 54

III. DISCUSSION

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 discretion, to alter a previous in limine ruling" at trial as "the case unfolds, particularly if the actual testimony differs from what was contained in the [movant's] proffer." Luce, 469 U.S. at 41-42.

B. Defendants' motion to preclude Plaintiff from introducing evidence of causation

Defendants seek to preclude Plaintiff from offering evidence of causation of his alleged injuries at trial, "as this type of proof requires testimony from an expert." See Dkt. No. 74-1 at 3. Specifically, Defendants argue that, since Plaintiff has failed to disclose any experts in this case in accordance with the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, he should be precluded from presenting causation evidence at trial. See id. Plaintiff contends, however, that because he complains of pain and injuries resulting from excessive force, no expert testimony is required. See Dkt. No. 94 at 2-3.

To bring a claim of excessive force under the Eighth Amendment, a plaintiff must establish both objective and subjective elements. See Blyden v. Mancusi, 186 F.3d 252, 262 (2d Cir. 1999). The objective element is "responsive to contemporary standards of decency" and requires a showing that "the injury actually inflicted is sufficiently serious to warrant Eighth Amendment protection." Hudson, 503 U.S. at 9 (internal citations omitted); Blyden, 186 F.3d at 262. However, "the malicious use of force to cause harm constitute[s] [an] Eighth Amendment violation per se" regardless of the seriousness of the injuries. Blyden, 186 F.3d at 263 (citing Hudson, 503 U.S. at 9); see also Wilkins v. Gaddy, 130 S. Ct. 1175, 1178 (2010) ("The 'core judicial inquiry' . . . was not whether a certain quantum of injury was sustained, but rather 'whether force was applied in a good-faith effort to maintain or restore discipline, or maliciously and sadistically to cause harm'" (quotation omitted)). "The Eighth Amendment's prohibition of 'cruel and unusual' punishments necessarily excludes from constitutional recognition de minimis uses of physical force, provided that the use of force is not of a sort repugnant to the conscience of mankind." Hudson, 503 U.S. at 9-10 (citations omitted). "'Not every push or shove, even if it may later seem unnecessary in the peace of a judge's chambers, violates a prisoner's constitutional rights.'" Sims, 230 F.3d at 22 (citation omitted).

The subjective element requires a plaintiff to demonstrate a "necessary level of culpability, shown by actions characterized by wantonness." Sims, 230 F.3d at 21 (citation omitted). The wantonness inquiry "turns on 'whether force was applied in a good-faith effort to maintain or restore discipline, or maliciously and sadistically to cause harm.'" Id. (quoting Hudson, 503 U.S. at 7). In determining whether a defendant acted in a malicious or wanton manner, the Second Circuit has identified five factors to consider: "the extent of the injury and the mental state of the defendant[;] . . . the need for the application of force; the correlation between that need and the amount of force used; the threat reasonably perceived by the defendants; and any efforts made by the defendants to temper the severity of a forceful response." Scott v. Coughlin, 344 F.3d 282, 291 (2d Cir. 2003) (internal quotation marks and citations omitted).

In Vosburgh v. Bourassa, No. 07-cv-101, 2008 WL 3166387 (D.N.H. Aug. 5, 2008), the plaintiff brought an excessive force claim against a corrections officer, alleging that the defendant intentionally and sadistically punched him in his groin during a pat-down. See id. at *1. The punch caused slight swelling and discoloration. See id. Denying the defendant's motion for summary judgment, the court found that expert testimony was not needed to establish a causal relationship between the defendant punching the plaintiff in the groin, and the pain the plaintiff ...


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