United States District Court, S.D. New York
[Copyrighted Material Omitted]
Malik Rahman, Plaintiff, Pro se, East Elmhurst, New York.
For Defendants: Eric Brent Porter, New York City Law Department, New York, New York.
OPINION AND ORDER
CATHY SEIBEL, U.S.D.J.
Plaintiff Malik Rahman, currently incarcerated at the Anna M. Kross Center
(" AMKC" ) on Rikers Island, brings this pro se action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against Commissioner Dora Schriro, Warden Luis Rivera, Deputy Warden Russo, Deputy of Security Pervus, Captain Lee, Captain Levy, and Officer Othman. Plaintiff alleges that Defendants have violated his constitutional rights by forcing him to go through a radiation-emitting X-ray security screening machine in order to get to and from his daily work assignment. Defendants now move under Rule 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure to dismiss the claims against them. For the reasons set forth below, Defendants' motion is granted in part and denied in part.
Plaintiff is a pretrial detainee currently in the custody of the New York City Department of Correction at AMKC on Rikers Island. (Complaint (" Compl." ), (Doc. 2), 25.) On or about May 14, 2013, Defendants placed a full-body X-ray screening machine called the RadPro SecurPass (" SecurPass" ) in the intake area of AMKC. ( Id. at 9.) Since the SecurPass was installed, Plaintiff has been forced to undergo an X-ray scan each time he goes to or from his work assignment in the facility's law library. ( Id.) Because Plaintiff works one daily shift in the law library, he is required to pass through the SecurPass at least twice each day. ( Id.) Inmates are issued disciplinary infractions if they refuse to be scanned. ( Id.)
The SecurPass, like all X-ray devices, produces radiation. ( Id.) Radiation breaks chemical bonds in the cells of the human body and can cause several negative health effects. ( Id. at 13.) The following facts concerning the health effects of radiation are taken from the complaint Plaintiff filed on August 28, 2013, and are accepted as true for the purposes of this motion. As will be discussed below, discovery may reveal that the device in question does not actually present a significant risk of causing these effects.
The type and probability of the effects produced by radiation generally depend on the dose received. ( Id. at 14.) At high doses, radiation causes " threshold effects," that is, effects that arise soon after an individual is exposed to a threshold level of radiation. ( Id.) These threshold effects include radiation sickness, cataracts, and sterility. ( Id.) Moreover, radiation causes complications that do not appear until long after exposure; these complications are called " non-threshold effects." ( Id.) It is assumed that there are no threshold doses for these effects and that any radiation exposure can increase a person's chances of experiencing non-threshold effects. ( Id.) The most common non-threshold effect of radiation exposure is cancer. ( Id. at 15.) Scientists believe that even low doses of radiation lead to increased cancer risks and that the degree of risk is directly proportional to the size of the dose. ( Id.)
Due to his fear of suffering these health effects, Plaintiff submitted an inmate grievance in which he explained his concerns regarding his daily exposure to radiation, requested a medical examination, and asked for a written document exempting him from SecurPass scans. ( Id. at 10.) At the time his complaint was filed, Plaintiff had not received a response to his grievance. ( Id.) Plaintiff also notified both Captain Lee and Captain Levy that he believed the SecurPass to be dangerous, and both officers told Plaintiff that he was required to continue undergoing X-ray scans. ( Id.) When Plaintiff notified Officer Othman of his concerns, Officer Othman made derogatory remarks towards Plaintiff and " turned the Dose Rating level up" while Plaintiff passed through the machine. ( Id.)
On August 28, 2013, Plaintiff filed this action alleging that his repeated exposure to radiation poses an unreasonable risk of future health effects, including cancer and sterility. On December 2, 2013, Defendants filed this motion to dismiss the complaint, (Doc. 15), arguing that: (1) Plaintiff has failed to state a claim upon which relief may be granted, because he cannot satisfy the objective prong of the deliberate indifference test and does not sufficiently allege any causal connection between the SecurPass and his claimed injury; (2) Defendants are entitled to qualified immunity; and (3) the Prison Litigation Reform Act (" PLRA" ), 42 U.S.C § 1997e(e), bars receipt of damages for emotional injuries.
A. Applicable Legal Standard on Motion to Dismiss
" 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, 129 S.Ct. 1937, 173 L.Ed.2d 868 (2009) (quoting Bell A. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570, 127 S.Ct. 1955, 167 L.Ed.2d 929 (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." Id. " While a complaint attacked by a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss does not need detailed factual allegations, a plaintiff's obligation to provide the grounds of his entitlement to relief requires more than labels and conclusions, and a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action will not do." Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555 (alteration, citations, and internal quotation marks omitted). While Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 8 " marks a notable and generous departure from the hyper-technical, code-pleading regime of a prior era, . . . it does not unlock the doors of discovery for a plaintiff armed with nothing more than conclusions." Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678-79.
In considering whether a complaint states a claim upon which relief can be granted, the court " begin[s] by identifying pleadings that, because they are no more than conclusions, are not entitled to the assumption of truth," and then determines whether the remaining well-pleaded factual allegations, accepted as true, " plausibly give rise to an entitlement to relief." Id. at 679. Deciding whether a complaint states a plausible claim for relief is " a context-specific task that requires the reviewing court to draw on its judicial experience and common sense." Id. " [W]here the well-pleaded facts do not permit the court to infer more than the mere possibility of misconduct, the complaint has alleged -- but it has not 'shown' -- 'that the pleader is entitled to relief.'" Id. (alteration omitted) (quoting Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2)).
Pro se complaints are held to less stringent standards than those drafted by lawyers, even following Twombly and Iqbal. See Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 94, 127 S.Ct. 2197, 167 L.Ed.2d 1081 (2007) (per curiam); Harris v. Mills, 572 F.3d 66, 72 (2d Cir. 2009). But while pleadings of a pro se party should be read " to raise the strongest arguments [that they] suggest," Walker v. Schult, 717 F.3d 119, 124 (2d Cir. 2013) (internal quotation marks omitted), dismissal of a pro se complaint is nevertheless appropriate where a plaintiff ...