United States District Court, E.D. New York
Pro Se Dannemora, NY For Plaintiff.
Jeffrey S. Dantowitz, Law Department, City of New York New York, NY, For City of New York Defendants.
MEMORANDUM & OPINION
JACK B. WEINSTEIN, Sr. District Judge.
Roy Taylor, an incarcerated pro se plaintiff, brings seven unrelated constitutional claims against various defendants. See 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Most, but not all, of plaintiff's claims assert wrongdoing by jail officials at Rikers Island ("City Defendants"). Defendants moved to dismiss all claims on assorted grounds. See ECF No. 22, Mar. 7, 2013 (statute of limitations); ECF No. 41, June 3, 2013 (failure to state a claim and failure to exhaust administrative remedies). The motions to dismiss were converted to motions for summary judgment at a March 6, 2014 hearing. See ECF No. 68. Defendants have since filed renewed motions for summary judgment. ECF No. 69, Mar. 27, 2014; ECF No. 74, Mar. 27, 2014.
Addressed here is City Defendants' contention that two of plaintiff's claims-(1) jail officials failed to protect him from a beating by other inmates, and (2) jail official used excessive force against him-must be dismissed because plaintiff failed to exhaust administrative remedies.
Objectively, a reasonable person in plaintiffs position would not conclude that there were administrative remedies available before bringing a federal action based on these two claims. Subjectively, plaintiff did not believe that there were such administrative remedies. City Defendants' motion is denied.
A. Plaintiff's Allegations
Plaintiff's failure-to-protect claim stems from a dispute he allegedly had with jail authorities concerning food service in May 2012. Compl., *6. He was upset that, under the claimed indifferent supervision of Rikers Island officers, members of the Crips gang served him and other non-gang members "tiny food portions while serving gang members large food portions." Id. Shortly after plaintiff sent an anonymous complaint to the Correction Commissioner, officers assembled the inmates in plaintiffs housing unit and admonished them collectively: "Someone dropped a slip to central office[, ] and when we get heat, the entire unit get heat.... Any inmate believes the above problem is going on speak now." Id. Plaintiff's complaint does not indicate whether he spoke up.
The day after this chiding, it is alleged that plaintiff and two other non-Crips-affiliated inmates "were victims of gang assault where [plaintiff] & [another inmate] got cut & stabbed." Id. While the attack was occurring, plaintiff claims that "[Correction Officer] Morgan allowed the Crips to act with impunity and... waited 20 to 30 minutes to press the alarm and... [Correction Officer] Ballart[, ] who was in [the] Bubble, failed to open [the] door for our safety when the Crips were jumping on us, and [failed] to use mace to breakup this gang assault.'" Id., *7.
Injuries to plaintiffs knees, arm, leg, back, torso, hand, and neck allegedly resulted from the attack. Id:, *6.
The excessive force claim arises out of an incident that occurred three months later. Ordinarily, after being escorted from the showers to his locked cell by a jail official, plaintiff would "place his hands through the feedup flap to be uncuffed." Id., *7. On August 9, 2012, however, he asserts he lost his footing inside the cell in the midst of uncuffing, causing him to withdraw his wrists momentarily from the open slot. Id., *7. According to plaintiff, defendant Correction Officer Benbow "panic[ked]" and "began yanking & pulling cuffs shouting Hell no, your [sic] not taking my cuffs.[']" Id. Plaintiff yelled out in pain and explained that he had simply slipped, but the officer continued pulling on the cuffs. He asserts that this gratuitous yanking was done "maliciously" and "to cause harm." Id., *8. Defendant used so much force tugging on the cuffs, according to plaintiff, "that [defendant] scraped chunks of skin off [his] hands and fingers." Id. His injuries were sufficiently severe, he asserts, to require "transport[ation] to urgent care at West Facility at Rikers Island for a skin graft." Doctors treated plaintiffs injuries daily and ordered that he use a sling for a month. Id.
There is no evidence that plaintiff filed grievances related to either of these incidents ...