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Vail v. Fischer

United States District Court, Second Circuit

September 5, 2013

ANDREW VAIL, Plaintiff,
v.
BRIAN FISCHER, Commissioner, New York State Department of Corrections and Community Supervision, THOMAS LAVALLEY, Superintendent, Clinton Correctional Facility, TRUDEAU, Corrections Officer, Clinton Correctional Facility, R. WOOD, Sergeant, Clinton Correctional Facility, BRAN HAYES, Corrections Officer, Clinton Correctional Facility, Defendants.

ANDREW VAIL Great Meadow Correctional Facility Comstock, NY, Plaintiff, Pro Se

ERIC T. SCHNEIDERMAN, New York State Attorney General, Albany, NY, CHARLES J. QUACKENBUSH, ESQ., Assistant Attorney General, Attorney for Defendants.

REPORT-RECOMMENDATION and ORDER

RANDOLPH F. TREECE, Magistrate Judge.

Pro se Plaintiff Andrew Vail brings this civil rights Complaint, pursuant to 42 U.S.C. ยง 1983, alleging that Defendants violated his constitutional rights under the First and Fourteenth Amendments through the use of excessive force and by threatening to retaliate against him in the event that he filed any grievances. Dkt. No. 1, Compl. Now before the Court is Defendants' Motion to Dismiss, pursuant to FED. R. CIV. P. 12(b)(6), Dkt. No. 13, and Plaintiff's separate Motion seeking Leave to Amend his Complaint, Dkt. No. 25. For the reasons that follow, we recommend that both Motions be GRANTED in part, and DENIED in part.

II. DISCUSSION

A. Standard of Review

FED. R. CIV. P. 15(a) states, in pertinent part, that leave to amend a pleading should be "freely given when justice so requires." Tocker v. Philip Morris Co., Inc., 470 F.3d 481, 491 (2d Cir. 2006); Ellis v. Chao, 336 F.3d 114, 127 (2d Cir. 2003); Manson v. Stacescu, 11 F.3d 1127, 1133 (2d Cir. 1993). Indeed, leave to amend should be denied only in the face of undue delay, bad faith, undue prejudice to the non-movant, futility of amendment, or where the movant has repeatedly failed to cure deficiencies in previous amendments. Foman v. Davis, 371 U.S. 178, 182 (1962); Kropelnicki v. Siegel, 290 F.3d 118, 130 (2d Cir. 2002) (citing Chill v. Gen. Elec. Co., 101 F.3d 263, 271-72 (2d Cir. 1996)). District courts are vested with broad discretion to grant a party leave to amend the pleadings. SCS Commc'n, Inc. v. Herrick Co., Inc., 360 F.3d 329, 345 (2d Cir. 2004) (citing Foman v. Davis, 371 U.S. at 182, for the proposition that an "outright refusal to grant the leave without any justifying reason... is not an exercise of discretion [but]... merely [an] abuse of that discretion and inconsistent with the spirit of the Federal Rules"); see also Local 802, Assoc. Musicians of Greater New York v. Parker Meridien Hotel, 145 F.3d 85, 89 (2d Cir. 1998). "The party opposing a motion for leave to amend has the burden of establishing that granting such leave would be unduly prejudicial." Media Alliance, Inc. v. Mirch, 2010 WL 2557450, at *2 (N.D.N.Y. June 24, 2010) (quoting New York v. Panex Indus., Inc., 1997 WL 128369, at *2 (W.D.N.Y. Mar. 14, 1997)); see also Lamont v. Frank Soup Bowl, 2000 WL 1877043, at *2 (S.D.N.Y. Dec. 27, 2000) (citations omitted). This requires the non-movant to "do more than simply claim to be prejudiced." Breyette v. Amedore, 205 F.R.D. 416, 417 (N.D.N.Y. 2002) (quoting Bryn Mawr Hosp. v. Coatesville Elec. Supply Co., 776 F.Supp. 181, 185 (E.D. Pa. 1991)).

The Second Circuit has stated that where futility is raised as an objection to the motion to amend, and

[w]here it appears that granting leave to amend is unlikely to be productive, ... it is not an abuse of discretion to deny leave to amend. See, e.g., Foman v. Davis, 371 U.S. at 182, 83 S.Ct. at 230 (denial not abuse of discretion where amendment would be futile); Health-Chem Corp. v. Baker, 915 F.2d 805, 810 (2d Cir.1990) ("where... there is no merit in the proposed amendments, leave to amend should be denied"); Billard v. Rockwell Int'l Corp., 683 F.2d 51, 57 (2d Cir.1982) (denial not abuse of discretion where plaintiff had had "access to full discovery" in a related case).

Ruffolo v. Oppenheimer & Co., 987 F.2d 129, 131 (2d Cir. 1993).

As futility is an appropriate basis for denying leave to amend, such denial should be contemplated within the standards necessary to withstand a motion to dismiss pursuant to FED. R. CIV. P. 12(b)(6). Dougherty v. Town of North Hempstead Bd. of Zoning Appeals, 282 F.3d 83, 88 (2d Cir. 2002) (citing Ricciuti v. N.Y.C. Transit Auth., 941 F.2d 119, 123 (2d Cir. 1991)).

On a motion to dismiss, the allegations of the complaint must be accepted as true. See Cruz v. Beto, 405 U.S. 319, 322 (1972). The trial court's function "is merely to assess the legal feasibility of the complaint, not to assay the weight of the evidence which might be offered in support thereof." Geisler v. Petrocelli, 616 F.2d 636, 639 (2d Cir. 1980). "The issue is not whether a plaintiff will ultimately prevail but whether the claimant is entitled to offer evidence to support the claims." Scheuer v. Rhodes, 416 U.S. 232, 236 (1974) ( overruled on other grounds by Davis v. Scherer, 468 U.S. 183 (1984)).

"Generally, in determining a 12(b)(6) motion, the court may only consider those matters alleged in the complaint, documents attached to the complaint, and matters to which the court may take judicial notice." Spence v. Senkowski, 1997 WL 394667, at *2 (N.D.N.Y. July 3, 1997) (citing Kramer v. Time Warner Inc., 937 F.2d 767, 773 (2d Cir. 1991)). Moreover, "even if not attached or incorporated by reference, a document upon which [the complaint] solely relies and which is integral to the complaint ' may be considered by the court in ruling on such a motion." Roth v. Jennings, 489 F.3d 499, 509 (2d Cir. 2007) (quoting Cortec Indus., Inc. v. Sum Holding L.P., 949 F.2d 42, 47 (2d Cir. 1991)).

The court is bound to give the plaintiff the benefit of every reasonable inference to be drawn from the "well-pleaded" allegations of the complaint. See Retail Clerks Intern. Ass'n, Local 1625, AFL-CIO v. Schermerhorn, 373 U.S. 746, 754 n. 6 (1963); see also Arar v. Ashcroft, 532 F.3d 157, 168 (2d Cir. 2008). Nevertheless, "the tenet that a court must accept as true all of the allegations contained in a complaint is inapplicable to legal conclusions." Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009). Therefore, "[t]hreadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action, supported by mere conclusory statements, do not suffice." Id. (citation omitted).

A motion to dismiss pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6) may not be granted so long as the plaintiff's complaint includes "enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face." Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007); Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 697 (citing Twombly ). "A claim has facial plausibility when the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged." Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678. This plausibility standard "is not akin to a probability requirement, ' but it asks for more than a sheer possibility that a defendant has acted unlawfully." Id. In this respect, to survive dismissal, a plaintiff "must provide the grounds upon which his claim rests through factual allegations sufficient to raise a right to relief above the speculative level.'" ATSI Commc'ns, Inc. v. Shaar Fund, Ltd., 493 F.3d 87, 98 (2d Cir. 2007) (quoting Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 440 U.S. at 555). Thus, in spite of the deference the court is bound to give to the plaintiff's allegations, it is not proper for the court to assume that "the [plaintiff] can prove facts [which he or she] has not alleged, or that the defendants have violated the... laws in ways that have not been alleged." Assoc. Gen. Contractors of California, Inc. v. ...


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