United States District Court, S.D. New York
IN RE RADPRO SECURPASS SCANNER CASES. ISAAC MIDDLETON, Plaintiff,
THE CITY OF NEW YORK, DORA B. SCHRIRO (COMMISSIONER), Defendants.
Isaac Middleton, Brooklyn, New York, Plaintiff Pro Se.
Eric B. Porter, Assistant Corporation Counsel, Corporation Counsel of the City of New York, New York, New York, Counsel for Defendants .
OPINION AND ORDER
CATHY SEIBEL, District Judge.
Plaintiff Isaac Middleton, who was incarcerated at the Anna M. Kross Center ("AMKC") on Rikers Island when he filed this Complaint, brings this pro se action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against Commissioner Dora B. Schriro and the City of New York. Plaintiff alleges that Defendants violated his constitutional rights by forcing him to go through a radiation-emitting X-ray security screening machine during his incarceration at AMKC. 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.
When Plaintiff filed this Complaint, he was a prisoner in the custody of the New York City Department of Correction at AMKC on Rikers Island. (Complaint ("Compl."), (Doc. 2), 1-2.) Plaintiff alleges that each time he entered or exited that facility, he was required to pass through a full-body X-ray screening machine called the RadPro SecurPass ("SecurPass"). (Compl. at 3.) Plaintiff states that he was scanned by the SecurPass five times in total: on August 22, 2013, October 1, 2013, October 2, 2013, and twice on September 4, 2013. ( Id. at 2.) After reading an article about the negative health effects potentially caused by X-ray screening devices, Plaintiff became frightened that SecurPass scans were causing physical damage to his body. See Michael Grabell, Drive-by Scanning: Officials Expand Use and Dose of Radiation for Security Screening, PROPUBLICA (Jan. 27, 2012, 9:30 AM), http://www.propublica.org/article/drive-by-scanning-officials-expand-use-and-dose-of-radiationfor-security-s ("Grabell") (last visited Aug. 11, 2014). The following facts concerning the SecurPass and the health effects of radiation are taken from that article (which the Court can consider in connection with the instant Motion, as discussed below) and the Complaint Plaintiff filed on November 22, 2013, and are accepted as true for the purposes of this Motion.
The SecurPass, like all X-ray devices, produces radiation. (Grabell at 4.) At high dosages, radiation "has been shown to damage DNA and mutate genes, " and exposure to radiation can potentially cause cancer. ( Id. at 2.) "A comprehensive study by the National Academy of Sciences concluded that the more radiation a person gets, however little at a time, the greater their [ sic ] lifetime risk of dying from cancer." ( Id. ) The SecurPass emits a radiation dose that, while "still a fraction of the radiation received in a chest X-ray or cross-country flight, " is ten to fifty times higher than that of the full-body X-ray scanners in use at airports. ( Id. at 4.) Manufacturers of X-ray security scanning devices contend that this level of radiation is "trivial" in comparison to that absorbed by humans from naturally-occurring, background sources. ( Id. at 2.)
Plaintiff alleges that exposure to high levels of radiation through SecurPass scans "truly hurt[s]" him and is causing him to suffer a "slow death" due to damaging genetic mutation. (Compl. at 3.) He further alleges that the correction officers responsible for operating the SecurPass are verbally abusive towards the inmates being scanned. ( Id. ) Plaintiff filed two inmate grievances with AMKC officials in which he explained his concerns regarding the dangers of radiation exposure, but he did not receive a response to either grievance. ( Id. at 5.)
On November 22, 2013, Plaintiff filed this action alleging that exposure to radiation poses unreasonable risks to his future health, including the possibility of cancer. Defendants filed the instant Motion to Dismiss, (Doc. 12), on April 8, 2014, arguing that: (1) Plaintiff does not state a claim under the Eighth or Fourteenth Amendments, and (2) the relief Plaintiff requests is unavailable to him as a matter of law. ( See Ds' Mem. 6-10, 12.) Plaintiff has not filed any opposition to Defendants' motion.
A. Legal Standard
"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)). "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)).
Because Plaintiff is proceeding pro se, the Court must read his Complaint "liberally" and interpret it "to raise the strongest arguments" that it may suggest. Chavis v. Chappius, 618 F.3d 162, 170 (2d Cir. 2010). "Dismissal of a pro se complaint is nevertheless appropriate where a plaintiff has clearly failed to meet minimum pleading ...