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Calhoun v. The New York City Department of Correction

United States District Court, Second Circuit

January 14, 2014

SIDNEY CALHOUN, Plaintiff,
v.
THE NEW YORK CITY DEPARTMENT, OF CORRECTION, et al., Defendants.

REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION

HENRY PITMAN, Magistrate Judge.

TO THE HONORABLE LEWIS A. KAPLAN, United States District Judge,

I. Introduction

Plaintiff Sidney Calhoun, a former detainee at the George R. Vierno Center ("GRVC") on Rikers Island, commenced this action, pro se, against the New York City Department of Correction ("NYCDOC"), the Department of Mental Health and Hygiene and twelve individual defendants pursuant to 42 U.S.C. ยง 1983. Plaintiff claims that he was subjected dangerous conditions and received inadequate medical care in violation of his Eighth Amendment right against cruel and unusual punishment. On consent, the NYCDOC and the Department of Mental Health and Hygiene were dismissed from this action and replaced by the City of New York (the "City") (Order of Service, dated Apr. 12, 2013, (Docket Item 36) at 3).

By notice of motion, dated July 15, 2013, the City moved to dismiss plaintiff's amended complaint pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. On November 22, 2013, after nearly six months without response to the motion from plaintiff, I issued an Order to plaintiff, stating:

By notice of motion dated July 15, 2013 (Docket Item 43), defendants have moved to dismiss the complaint. To date, plaintiff has not served or filed any opposition to the motion, nor has he requested an extension of time within which to serve opposition papers.
Although I shall consider the merits of the defendants' motion and shall not grant the motion on default, plaintiff's failure to submit any opposition to the motion to dismiss makes it substantially more likely that the motion will be granted. Thus, plaintiff's failure to oppose the motion increases the likelihood that his complaint will be dismissed.
Accordingly, if plaintiff wishes to submit any opposition to the defendants' pending motion, he is directed to serve and file such papers no later than December 16, 2013. In the absence of a request for an extension of time, I shall consider the motion fully submitted as of that date and ready for decision.

(Order, dated November 22, 2013, (Docket Item 48)). A copy of this Order was mailed to plaintiff at Sing Sing Correctional Facility, 354 Hunter Street, Ossining New York 10562, and was returned to my chambers as undeliverable.[1] Plaintiff has not responded to defendant's motion or communicated with my chambers in any way since this motion was filed. Accordingly, I consider the City's motion fully submitted and ripe for decision.

II. Facts[2]

Plaintiff's claim arises from allegedly dangerous conditions to which he was subjected while in the custody of NYCDOC as a pre-trial detainee at GRVC on Rikers Island.

At or about midday on June 19, 2009, plaintiff was transported to GRVC's punitive segregation unit (Am. Compl. 15). He was placed in a cell that had previously undergone repairs, but was recently deemed habitable by prison officials (Am. Compl. 15). However, the cell's windows were bolted shut and the cell's ventilation and sprinkler systems were inoperable (Am. Compl. 15). Plaintiff also alleges that the cell did not contain a mattress or a towel, sheet, face cloth or cup ("Toiletries") (Am. Compl. 16). Plaintiff claims that Corrections Officers Abrams and Chuck, [3] the touring officers that afternoon, failed to alert the touring captain that his cell lacked a mattress or to obtain a mattress and Toiletries for him themselves (Am. Compl. 16). At or around 4:15 p.m., plaintiff received a mattress but not the Toiletries (Am. Compl. 16).

At or around 8:15 p.m. that evening, plaintiff, while washing his face, flipped the light switch in his cell and received an electric shock (Am. Compl. 17). The light switch allegedly sparked and "exploded, " resulting in electrical power being cut off to the top and bottom tiers of plaintiff's cell block and black residue around the socket (Am. Compl. 17, 20). Although plaintiff's accounts of his injuries are inconsistent, he asserts that he suffered severe pain from burns on the middle and ring fingers of his right hand, intense throbbing, and then numbness (Am. Compl. 17-18). Officer Chuck responded at around 8:40 p.m. and arranged for plaintiff to be escorted to the GRVC's clinic (Am. Compl. 17). Between 9:00 p.m. and 9:30 p.m., Corrections Officer Lumina brought plaintiff to GRVC's clinic for treatment (Am. Compl. 17).

The clinic's physician that evening, Dr. Pravin Ranjan, diagnosed plaintiff with first degree burns to the middle and ring fingers of his right hand (Am. Compl. 25). Dr. Ranjan dressed his hand and prescribed plaintiff Motrin and Silvadene cream (Am. Compl. 18, 25).

After leaving the clinic, plaintiff refused to return to his cell. Captain Banks ultimately persuaded plaintiff to do so by offering to provide his missing Toiletries (Am. Compl. 18). After plaintiff returned to his cell he learned that his telephone and shower privileges had been revoked. He also did not receive the missing Toiletries (Am. Compl. 19). On two subsequent occasions, plaintiff's also found his food "destroyed" (Am. Compl. 19). Plaintiff concludes that Captain Querin, Captain Smith, Deputy Stutes, and Corrections Officers Abrams, Chuck, Lopez and Ruiz revoked these privileges at the order of Captain Banks because he refused to return to his cell (Am. Compl. 19). He also asserts that Captain Banks delayed the investigation of the light switch for the same reason (Am. Compl. 20).

Plaintiff was given a follow-up appointment at GRVC's clinic three days later on June 22, 2009. Plaintiff told the clinic staff that he needed new dressing and Silvadene, but the attending physician advised plaintiff that he had fully recovered from treatment (Am. Compl. 20). The medical records attached to the amended complaint indicate that GRVC's medical staff also saw plaintiff again on June 28, 2009 and July 2, 2009 (Am. Compl. 32, 34).

Three weeks after the incident with the light switch, plaintiff was transferred to another cell (Am. Compl. 5, 19). Some time after plaintiff's transfer, maintenance workers repaired the defective light switch (Am. Compl. 20). Finally, plaintiff asserts that prison officials had been aware of the defective light switch before his accident because "countless" complaints had been filed with unidentified individuals regarding "an exploding light switch'" (Am. Compl. 19). Plaintiff does not disclose how he knows this putative fact.

Plaintiff claims that he suffered a physical injury to his right hand and trauma from the three weeks he was forced to stay in the cell in question. He seeks $5, 000, 000 in damages for pain and suffering and emotional stress.

III. Analysis

A. Standards Applicable to a ...


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