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James v. Correct Care Solutions

United States District Court, Second Circuit

October 21, 2013

ALVERN JAMES, Plaintiff,


NELSON S. ROMN, District Judge.

Plaintiff Alvern James ("Plaintiff") brings this action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. ยง 1983 alleging that Defendants Correct Care Solutions, LLC ("CCS") and Aramark Correctional Services, LLC[1] ("Aramark") violated his constitutional rights while he was confined at Westchester County Jail ("WCJ"). Before this Court are the Motions to Dismiss of Defendant Aramark and Defendant CCS pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6).

I. Background

For purposes of this motion, this Court accepts as true the facts as stated in Plaintiff's Second Amended Complaint. Defendant CCS administers medical services at WCJ. Def. CCS Mem. 2-3. Defendant Aramark is employed by Westchester County to provide food services at WCJ. Def. Aramark Mem. 3-4. Plaintiff alleges that on October 28, 2012 at approximately 5 a.m., while he was working in the kitchen at WCJ, an Aramark employee told him to move a cart containing several stainless steel pots of hot grits. Second Am. Compl. 3. While pushing the cart, a wheel of the cart became jammed because of a loose "diamond plated manmade saddle" in the floor and caused the container of hot grits to spill onto Plaintiff's body. Id. Some of the hot grits spilled onto Plaintiff's exposed left forearm, which caused Plaintiff's skin to burn. Id. Plaintiff alleges that after the grits spilled, his burn went untreated for 5 or 6 hours.[2] Id at 3-4.

According to Plaintiff, he was not seen by medical personnel until 6 hours after the accident, and he was never taken to the hospital. Plaintiff received treatment for his burn at WCJ from CCS employees. Def. CCS Mem. 2. Plaintiff alleges that in the weeks that followed the accident, his bandages were not changed on 6 days: October 30 and 31, and November 1, 15, 16, and 17. He further claims that he was given inadequate medical attention, including being asked to wait while a nurse practitioner ate her lunch before seeing Plaintiff and that medical personnel failed to wear gloves when treating him.

Plaintiff filed a grievance against CCS with the jail on October 31, 2012 in which he claimed that 8 hours passed between his accident and the administration of treatment. CCS Mot. to Dismiss Ex. D. The grievance includes a written statement signed by Plaintiff at 8:25 a.m. on October 28, 2012 - less than 4 hours after the accident - in which he states that he had already seen a nurse who "didn't do anything" but told him to "put ice on [the burn]." Id at 9. The Grievance report provides that Plaintiff was taken to the nurse again at 8:15 a.m., where the nurse practitioner applied silvedene cream (an antimicrobial cream), dressed Plaintiff's wound, and ordered daily follow-up consultations until the burned healed. Also included in the grievance is an officer's report, which recounts Plaintiff as saying that the "injury occurred approx. 0500" and that Plaintiff was "advised to apply ice to affected area" after being escorted to the nurse by another officer.

Plaintiff alleges that a kitchen worker[3] informed him that Aramark was aware that the floor plate was loose prior to the accident. Plaintiff also states that he was not trained to move the equipment he handled, and that Aramark's equipment was improperly maintained. No internal grievance was filed by Plaintiff at the WCJ with respect to Aramark or the loose floor saddle.

II. Legal Standard

On a motion to dismiss for "failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted, " Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6), dismissal is proper unless the complaint "contain[s] sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.'" Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (quoting Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007)); accord Hayden v. Paterson, 594 F.3d 150, 160 (2d Cir. 2010). "Although for the purposes of a motion to dismiss [a court] must take all of the factual allegations in the complaint as true, [it is] not bound to accept as true a legal conclusion couched as a factual allegation.'" Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678 (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555).

When there are well-pleaded factual allegations in the complaint, "a court should assume their veracity and then determine whether they plausibly give rise to an entitlement to relief." Id. A claim is facially plausible when the factual content pleaded allows a court "to draw a reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged." Id. at 678. Ultimately, determining whether a complaint states a facially plausible claim upon which relief may be granted must be "a context-specific task that requires the reviewing court to draw on its judicial experience and common sense." Id. at 679.

" Pro se complaints are held to less stringent standards than those drafted by lawyers, even following Twombly and Iqbal. " Thomas v. Westchester, No. 12-CV-6718 (CS), 2013 WL 3357171 (S.D.N.Y. July 3, 2013). The court should read pro se complaints "to raise the strongest arguments that they suggest, '" Kevilly v. New York, 410 F.App'x 371, 374 (2d Cir. 2010) (summary order) (quoting Brownell v. Krom, 446 F.3d 305, 310 (2d Cir. 2006)). See also Harris v. Mills, 572 F.3d 66, 72 (2d Cir. 2009) ("even after Twombly, though, we remain obligated to construe a pro se complaint liberally."). "However, even pro se plaintiffs asserting civil rights claims cannot withstand a motion to dismiss unless their pleadings contain factual allegations sufficient to raise a right to relief above the speculative level." Jackson v. N.Y.S. Dep't of Labor, 709 F.Supp.2d 218, 224 (S.D.N.Y. 2010) (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555) (internal quotation marks omitted). Dismissal is justified, therefore, where "the complaint lacks an allegation regarding an element necessary to obtain relief, " and therefore, the "duty to liberally construe a plaintiff's complaint [is not] the equivalent of a duty to re-write it." Geldzahler v. New York Medical College, 663 F.Supp.2d 379, 387 (S.D.N.Y. 2009) (internal citations and alterations omitted).

The materials that may be considered on a motion to dismiss are those "asserted within the four corners of the complaint, the documents attached to the complaint as exhibits, and any documents incorporated in the complaint by reference." McCarthy v. Dun & Bradstreet Corp., 482 F.3d 184, 191 (2d Cir. 2007). One way a document may be deemed incorporated by reference is where the complaint "refers to" the document. EQT Infrastructure Ltd. v. Smith, 861 F.Supp.2d 220, 224 n. 2 (S.D.N.Y. 2012). Especially important to the inquiry of whether to consider a document outside the complaint is whether plaintiff has notice of the documents outside the complaint. Cortec Indus., Inc. v. Sum Holding L.P., 949 F.2d 42, 48 (2d Cir. 1991) ("[T]he district court... could have viewed [the documents] on the motion to dismiss because there was undisputed notice to plaintiffs of their contents and they were integral to plaintiffs' claim."). Conversely, when the defendant includes documents that do not fall into these categories, "a district court must either exclude the additional material and decide the motion on the complaint alone or convert the motion to one for summary judgment... and afford all parties the opportunity to present supporting material." Friedl v. City of N.Y., 210 F.3d 79, 83 (2d Cir. 2000) (internal quotation marks omitted). "In addition, because a pro se plaintiff's allegations must be construed liberally, it is appropriate for a court to consider factual allegations made in a pro se plaintiff's opposition memorandum, as long as the allegations are consistent with the complaint." Brooks v. Jackson, No. 11 Civ. 6627(JMF), 2013 WL 5339151, at *3 (S.D.N.Y. Sept. 23, 2013).

Here, Defendant CCS included Plaintiff's grievance report ("Grievance") as an exhibit to its motion to dismiss. The Grievance was submitted to the warden of the WCJ as part of internal complaint procedure as required under the Prison Litigation Reform Act ("PLRA") before a plaintiff may bring certain actions to court.[4] Plaintiff filed the grievance on October 31, 2012 and was denied on November 21, 2012. CCS Mot. to Dismiss Ex. D. The Grievance includes a Grievance Investigation Form, a Special Report, including officers' reports, and a Report of Inmate Injury completed by Plaintiff. Id. In his complaint, Plaintiff specifically refers to the grievance by noting that the attempted administrative channels before filing this suit. Although Plaintiff did not include the grievance as an exhibit, Plaintiff nonetheless incorporated the grievance by reference.[5] Further, Plaintiff is clearly aware of the existence of the document and all of the information contained within given that he signed the decision to deny his grievance. Second Am. Compl. 6. "Where plaintiff has actual notice of all the information in the movant's papers and has relied upon these documents in framing the complaint the necessity of translating a Rule 12(b)(6) motion into one under Rule 56 is largely dissipated." Cortec Industries, Inc. v. Sum Holding L.P., 949 F.2d 42, 48 (2d Cir. 1991). Therefore, the court will consider the grievance as incorporated by reference into Plaintiff's complaint in deciding the motion to dismiss.

Defendant Aramark also included documents with its motion to dismiss that are outside the complaint. Namely, Aramark included the agreement between Aramark and Westchester County to provide food services to WCJ. Aramark submitted a motion to dismiss to the court but asks, in the alternative, that the court translate its motion to a motion for summary judgment in the instance that the court considers documents outside the pleadings. The court finds no reason to convert Aramark's motion to dismiss to a motion for summary judgment so that the agreement may be considered. As the agreement is not incorporated by reference nor integral to Plaintiff's claim, it is inappropriate for consideration on a motion to dismiss. Cortec Indus., 949 F.2d ...

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