United States District Court, S.D. New York
MEMORANDUM OPINION & ORDER
PAUL G. GARDEPHE, District Judge.
Pro se Plaintiff Tyrone Rosado brings this action, pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, alleging that Defendant Daphnee Herard - a mental health clinician at Rikers Island - violated his constitutional, statutory, and common law rights by denying him and other Spanish-speaking detainees at the George R. Vierno Detention Center at Rikers Island access to "therapeutic group sessions, " and by disclosing to other detainees that Rosado has H.I.V. (Cmplt. (Dkt. No. 2); Am. Cmplt. (Dkt. No. 25)) Defendant has moved to dismiss the Complaint. (Dkt. No. 30) In an August 28, 2013 order, this Court referred the motion to Magistrate Judge Frank Maas for a Report and Recommendation ("R&R"). (Dkt. No. 35) On November 25, 2013, Judge Maas issued a 25-page R&R recommending that the Court grant Defendant's motion in part and deny it in part. (Dkt. No. 42) For the reasons stated below, this Court will adopt the R&R in part and modify it in part.
Rosado is a pre-trial detainee in the custody of the New York City Department of Correction at Rikers Island. (Dkt. No. 52) On July 17, 2012, Rosado was assigned to the Rikers Island Mental Health Assessment Unit for Infracted Inmates (the "Mental Health Unit" or the "Unit"). (Am. Cmplt. (Dkt. No. 25) ¶ 6) Rosado suffers from bipolar disorder and anti-social personality disorder, as well as H.I.V. (Pltf. Affirm. (Dkt. No. 36) at 7) Defendant Herard - a licensed mental health clinician - is responsible for treating detainees, such as Rosado, who are confined in punitive segregation in the Unit. (Amended Cmplt. (Dkt. No. 25) ¶ 5)
While Rosado was in the Unit, he was denied access to "therapeutic group sessions." (Id. ¶ 7) According to Rosado, other inmates - "mainly Spanish speaking detainees" like himself - were also prohibited from participating in these sessions. (Id.) Rosado complained to Herard about being "denied access to his therapeutic group sessions, " but received no response. (Id. ¶¶ 8-9) He then filed a complaint against Herard through the facility's Inmate Grievance and Request Program ("I.G.R.P."), challenging the denial of access to group sessions. (Id. ¶ 10)
Herard was informed of Rosado's grievance, which alleged that she was "discriminating against Spanish speaking mental health detainees by den[y]ing them their right to participate in [the group] therapeutic treatment." (Id. ¶ 11) Herard visited Rosado in his cell and "inquired as to why he [had filed] a grievance." (Id. ¶ 12) Rosado responded by asking Herard why "only African American[ ] inmates [were] allow[ed] to attend... group session[s] an[d] not Spanish speaking inmates." (Id.) Defendant then "became [agitated] and [belligerent]" and "stated out loud that [Rosado was] just mad because [he was] on the verge of dying because he[']s (H.I.V.-positive)." (Id. ¶ 13)
After this exchange, other detainees asked Herard about her encounter with Rosado. (Id. ¶ 14) Herard told these inmates that "Rosado was indeed H.I.V.-positive." (Id.) As a result, Rosado's medical condition "became known throughout the prison." (Id. ¶ 16) Rosado alleges that, because of Herard's disclosures, he suffered "psychological episodes of mental anguish" in the form of "depression, insomnia, scornful [harassment], headaches, inability to [concentrate], fatigue, [and] loss of appetite"; "became annoyed [continually]"; was "a target of gossip [and r]umor[, ] as well as harassment by prisoners which might lead to inmate on inmate violence"; and suffered anxiety and panic attacks. (Id. ¶ 17)
Rosado's original complaint, dated November 27, 2012, was received by the Pro Se Office on December 7, 2012. (Cmplt. (Dkt. No. 2)) On July 19, 2013, Defendant filed a motion to dismiss. (Dkt. Nos. 29, 30) On July 31, 2013, Rosado filed an Amended Complaint. (Am. Cmplt. (Dkt. No. 25)) Defendant has requested that her motion to dismiss be deemed to address the Amended Complaint. (Dkt. No. 29)
On August 28, 2013, this Court referred the motion to Magistrate Judge Maas for a Report and Recommendation ("R&R"). (Dkt. No. 35) On November 25, 2013, Judge Maas issued an R&R concerning the motion. (Dkt. No. 42)
Reading Rosado's pleadings liberally, Judge Maas concluded that Rosado had asserted claims under (1) the Privacy Act, 5 U.S.C. § 552A; (2) the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 ("HIPAA"), 42 U.S.C. § 1320d et seq.; (3) the Americans with Disabilities Act ("ADA"), 42 U.S.C. § 12101 et seq.; (4) the Rehabilitation Act, 29 U.S.C. § 794 et seq.; (5) the First Amendment; (6) the Fourteenth Amendment; and (7) New York state law. Rosado v. Herard, No. 12 Civ. 8943 (PGG) (FM), 2013 WL 6170631, at *3 (S.D.N.Y. Nov. 25, 2013). Judge Maas determined that Rosado's First Amendment retaliation claim, his ADA and Rehabilitation Act claims - to the extent they seek non-monetary relief against Herard in her official capacity - and his state law claims should be permitted to proceed. Id. at *11. Judge Maas recommended that Rosado's remaining claims be dismissed. Id.
On December 4, 2013, Rosado filed objections to the R&R. (Dkt. No. 48) Rosado argues that Judge Maas erred in concluding that Rosado's Fourteenth Amendment deliberate indifference and equal protection claims should be dismissed. This Court construes Rosado's objections as including the argument that Judge Maas erred in not addressing his "state-created danger" theory of liability under the Fourteenth Amendment. In submissions dated December 9, 2013, and January 21, 2014, Defendant objects to the R&R, arguing that the Amended Complaint should be dismissed in its entirety. (Dkt. Nos. 44, 50)
I. LEGAL STANDARD
A. Review of Magistrate Judge's Report and Recommendation
In evaluating a Magistrate Judge's R&R, a district court may "accept, reject, or modify, in whole or in part, the findings or recommendations made by the magistrate judge." 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1). When a timely objection has been made to an R&R, "[the district judge] shall make a de novo determination of those portions of the report or specified proposed findings or recommendations to which objection is made." Id . "[T]o the extent... that the [objecting] party makes only conclusory or general arguments, or simply reiterates the original arguments, the Court will review the [R&R] strictly for clear error.'" DiPilato v. 7-Eleven, Inc., 662 F.Supp.2d 333, 339 (S.D.N.Y. 2009) (quoting IndyMac Bank, F.S.B. v. Nat'l Settlement Agency, Inc., No. 07-CV-6865 (LTS) (GWG), 2008 WL 4810043, at *1 (S.D.N.Y. Nov. 3, 2008)). Although "[t]he objections of parties appearing pro se are generally accorded leniency' and should be construed to raise the strongest arguments that they suggest, '... even a pro se party's objections to a Report and Recommendation must be specific and clearly aimed at particular findings in the magistrate's proposal, such that no party be allowed a second bite at the apple by simply relitigating a prior argument." Id. at 340 (quoting Milano v. Astrue, No. 05 Civ. 6527 (KMW) (DCF), 2008 WL 4410131, at *2 (S.D.N.Y. Sept. 26, 2008)).
Here, Rosado's objections to the Magistrate Judge's findings concerning his deliberate indifference and equal protection claims lack specificity. Rather than addressing the Magistrate Judge's analysis, Rosado simply reiterates his arguments that "Defendant Daphnee Herard deliberately and recklessly retaliated against Plaintiff for daring to file a grievance against the Defendant" and acted "with deliberate indifference to his physical safety." (Pltf. Objections (Dkt. No. 48) at 3) Moreover, Rosado has not objected to the Magistrate Judge's recommendation that other claims in the Amended Complaint should be dismissed. Accordingly, these portions of Judge Maas's R&R will be reviewed for clear error. See Gilmore v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec., No. 09 Civ. 6241 (RMB) (FM), 2011 WL 611826, at *1 (S.D.N.Y. Feb. 18, 2011) (quoting Chimarev v. TD Waterhouse Investor Servs., Inc., 280 F.Supp.2d 208, 212 (S.D.N.Y. 2003)) ("The district judge evaluating a magistrate judge's recommendation may adopt those portions of the recommendation, without further review, where no specific objection is made, as long as they are not clearly erroneous.'").
In her objections, Herard contends that Judge Maas erred in concluding that (1) Rosado has stated a claim under the ADA and Rehabilitation Act; (2) Rosado has adequately pled a First Amendment retaliation claim; and (3) Rosado's state law claims should not be dismissed. (Def. Objections (Dkt. No. 44) at 4-12) Because Defendant has made specific arguments addressing Judge Maas's findings, the portions of the R&R relevant to these issues will be reviewed de novo.
B. Motion to Dismiss Standard
Defendant has moved to dismiss the Amended Complaint for failure to state a claim under Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6). "To survive a motion to dismiss, a complaint must contain 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)). "In considering a motion to dismiss... the court is to accept as true all facts alleged in the complaint, " Kassner, 496 F.3d at 237 (citing Dougherty v. Town of N. Hempstead Bd. of Zoning Appeals, 282 F.3d 83, 87 (2d Cir. 2002)), and must "draw all reasonable inferences in favor of the plaintiff." Id . (citing Fernandez v. Chertoff, 471 F.3d 45, 51 (2d Cir. 2006)).
A complaint is inadequately pled "if it tenders naked assertion[s]' devoid of further factual enhancement, '" Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678 (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 557), and does not provide factual allegations sufficient "to give the defendant fair notice of what the claim is and the grounds upon which it rests." Port Dock & Stone Corp. v. Oldcastle Ne., Inc., 507 F.3d 117, 121 (2d Cir. 2007) (citing Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555).
Because Rosado is proceeding pro se, this Court is required to read his complaint liberally. See Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 94 (2007) ("A document filed pro se is to be liberally construed.'") (quoting Estelle v. Gamble, 429 U.S. 97, 106 (1976)). Accordingly, this Court will construe Rosado's pleadings "to raise the strongest arguments that they suggest.'" Fulton v. Goord, 591 F.3d 37, 43 (2d Cir. 2009) (quoting Green v. United States, 260 F.3d 78, 83 (2d Cir. 2001)). "Moreover, [factual] allegations made in a pro se plaintiff's memorandum of law, where they are consistent with those in the complaint, may also be considered on a motion to dismiss." Braxton v. Nichols, No. 08 Civ. 08568 (PGG), 2010 WL 1010001, at *1 (S.D.N.Y. Mar. 18, 2010). However, "the court need not accept as true conclusions of law or unwarranted deductions of fact.'" Whitfield v. O'Connell, No. 09 Civ. 1925 (WHP), 2010 WL 1010060, at *4 (S.D.N.Y. Mar. 18, 2010) (quoting First Nationwide Bank v. Gelt Funding Corp., 27 F.3d 763, 771 (2d Cir. 1994)).
II. PLAINTIFF'S PRIVACY ACT & HIPAA CLAIMS WILL BE DISMISSED
This Court finds no error in Judge Maas's recommendation that Rosado's Privacy Act and HIPAA claims be dismissed.
"[U]nder the Privacy Act, a plaintiff may file a suit against an agency, and not an individual... [I]ndividual officers are not proper parties to a Privacy Act action." Mandel v. U.S. Office of Pers. Mgmt., 244 F.Supp.2d 146, 153 (E.D.N.Y. 2003); see also Young v. Tryon, No. 12-CV-6251-CJS-MWP, 2013 WL 2471543, at *5 (W.D.N.Y. June 7, 2013) ("[T]he Privacy Act does not provide for a cause of action against individuals."); Williams v. McCausland, 791 F.Supp. 992, 1000 (S.D.N.Y. 1992) ("The Privacy Act authorizes suits only against agencies' and not individuals."). Accordingly, Rosado's Privacy Act claim against Herard must be dismissed.
"HIPAA does not provide for either an express or implied private right of action." Warren Pearl Constr. Corp. v. Guardian Life Ins. Co. of Am., 639 F.Supp.2d 371, 377 (S.D.N.Y. 2009); see also Mascetti v. Zozulin, No. 3:09-CV-963 (PCD), 2010 WL 1644572, at *4 (D. Conn. Apr. 20, 2010) ("Enforcement of [HIPAA] and its regulations is limited to the Secretary of Health and Human Services; thus, there is no private right of action."); Barnes v. Glennon, No. 9:05-CV-0153 (LEK) (RFT), 2006 WL 2811821, at *6 (N.D.N.Y. Sept. ...