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Campbell v. Gardiner

United States District Court, W.D. New York

March 7, 2014

CHRISTOPHER O. CAMPBELL, Plaintiff,
v.
SHERIFF DEPUTY GARDINER, Defendant.

DECISION & ORDER

MARIAN W. PAYSON, Magistrate Judge.

PRELIMINARY STATEMENT

Plaintiff Christopher Campbell ("Campbell") has initiated this action under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against defendant Shawn Gardiner ("Gardiner"), asserting violations of his First and Eighth Amendment rights arising out of an incident that occurred while he was incarcerated at the Steuben County Jail. (Docket # 1). Currently before the Court is Gardiner's motion to dismiss or, in the alternative, for summary judgment. (Docket # 15). Also pending before the Court is Campbell's motion to compel. (Docket # 11).

Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(c), the parties have consented to the disposition of this case by a magistrate judge. (Docket # 5). For the reasons discussed below, Gardiner's motion to dismiss is granted, and Campbell's motion to compel is denied as moot.

FACTUAL BACKGROUND

Campbell alleges the following facts, which are accepted as true for purposes of considering the pending motion to dismiss. On November 28, 2011, Campbell was incarcerated at the Steuben County Jail. (Docket # 1). On that date, Gardiner escorted Campbell and other inmates from the law library. ( Id. at 5). During the escort, Gardiner stated that he had spoken with Campbell's co-defendant who had informed Gardiner that Campbell had "snitch[ed] on him." ( Id. ). Campbell alleges that Gardiner's act of labeling him a "snitch" in the presence of the other inmates "put [Campbell's] safety at risk." ( Id. ).

Campbell contends that Gardiner's act constituted a "failure to protect, " which this Court interprets as a claim under the Eighth Amendment. ( Id. ). Campbell also asserts that Gardiner's act violated Campbell's "First Amendment Rights." ( Id. ). Campbell seeks "monetary damages for fear of [his] life, and [his] family's li[ves], stress and anxiety." ( Id. at 6). In addition, Campbell seeks injunctive relief, namely, an order compelling the "Steuben County staff and its officers to implement training regarding [the] proper way of handling inmates and their personal information." ( Id. ).

Gardiner seeks dismissal of Campbell's complaint in its entirety under 42 U.S.C. § 1997e(e) on the grounds that he has failed to allege a physical injury. (Docket # 15-8 at 2-5). In addition, Gardiner contends that Campbell's allegations are insufficient to state an Eighth Amendment constitutional claim. ( Id. at 3-5). Gardiner further contends that Campbell's First Amendment claim is wholly conclusory and lacks the factual detail necessary to state a constitutional claim for retaliation. ( Id. at 5-6). Finally, Gardiner contends that Campbell's claim for injunctive relief should be denied as moot because Steuben County is not a party to the action and, in any event, Gardiner has been transferred from the Steuben County Jail.[1] ( Id. at 6-7).

In the alternative, Gardiner contends that he is entitled to summary judgment on all claims. According to Gardiner, even if the Court determines that the complaint adequately states a claim, Campbell's Eighth Amendment claim must nonetheless be dismissed because no evidence exists that he indeed suffered any injury. ( Id. at 8). In addition, Gardiner contends that he is entitled to summary judgment on the grounds of qualified immunity. ( Id. at 9-10).

Gardiner has not supported his summary judgment motion with affidavits of any individuals with personal knowledge of the material events alleged in Campbell's complaint. Rather, Gardiner has submitted an affidavit from Christopher Lian ("Lian"), the former Superintendent for the Steuben County Jail. (Docket # 15-6). The factual assertions in Lian's affidavit relate to the grievance process for Campbell's claim and to Gardiner's training, both prior and subsequent to the incident alleged in the complaint. ( Id. ). Campbell has not opposed Gardiner's pending dispositive motion.

DISCUSSION

I. Motion to Dismiss the Complaint

"A motion to dismiss under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) tests the legal sufficiency of the party's claim for relief." Zucco v. Auto Zone, Inc., 800 F.Supp.2d 473, 475 (W.D.N.Y. 2011). "To survive a motion to dismiss, a complaint must plead enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.'" Ruotolo v. City of New York, 514 F.3d 184, 188 (2d Cir. 2008) (quoting Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007)). "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." Turkmen v. Ashcroft, 589 F.3d 542, 546 (2d Cir. 2009) (quoting Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 663 (2009)).

The plausibility standard applies to claims brought by pro se litigants. Zucco v. Auto Zone, Inc., 800 F.Supp.2d at 475. "At the same time, ... a document filed pro se is to be liberally construed and a pro se complaint, however inartfully pleaded, must be held to less stringent standards than formal pleadings drafted by lawyers.'" Id. at 476 (quoting Boykin v. KeyCorp, 521 F.3d 202, 214 (2d Cir. 2008)). "A court must make reasonable allowances so that a pro se plaintiff does not forfeit rights due to [his] lack of legal training." Forbes v. State Univ. of New York at Stony Brook, 259 F.Supp.2d 227, 232 (E.D.N.Y. 2003). Thus, a court must construe pro se pleadings liberally and "interpret them to raise the strongest arguments that they suggest.'" McPherson v. Coombe, 174 F.3d 276, 280 (2d Cir. 1999) (quoting Burgos v. Hopkins, 14 F.3d 787, 790 (2d Cir. 1994)). "Nevertheless, all pleadings, pro se or otherwise, ...


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