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West v. City of New York

United States District Court, S.D. New York

August 28, 2014

ADAM WEST, Plaintiff,
v.
CITY OF NEW YORK, C.O. RANDAL #9841, Defendants.

OPINION & ORDER

PAUL A. ENGELMAYER, District Judge.

Adam West, proceeding pro se and in forma pauperis, sues the City of New York (the "City") and Corrections Officer Ginea Randal, alleging, among other things, that she used excessive force against him. The City, although not Randal, now moves to dismiss. For the following reasons, the City's motion is granted, and the Complaint is dismissed as to the City.

I. Background

A. Factual Background[1]

West is an inmate on Riker's Island. Compl. at 1. On June 27, 2013, Randal refused to allow West to eat or take a shower. Id. at 2-3. As a result, another corrections officer put West in the shower around 2 p.m. Id. at 3. When Randal learned that West was in the shower, Randal entered the bathroom, spit in West's face, and sprayed him with mace - also known as OC spray or pepper spray - for approximately 15 seconds. Id. Randal then left West in the shower for nearly two hours, id., which aggravated the burning from the mace, id. at 5. West also had difficulty breathing while attempting to wash off the mace, a problem worsened by his preexisting heart murmur. Id. For days afterward, West suffered itching, burning, and skin discoloration on his chest. Id. at 3, 5. The prison medical clinic initially instructed West to wash off the mace while in his cell, id. at 3, and for two days did not give him medication for his injuries, id. at 9 (Personal Injury Claim Form).

On June 28, 2013, the day after the shower incident, corrections officers gave West a "booth visit" even though he had not been caught with any weapons or contraband. Id. at 3. From then on, the officers engaged in harassment that included refusing to grant West recreation time, searching West twice a day without cause, making West's visitors wait to see him, and withholding West's mail. Id. at 3, 5.

B. Procedural Background

On July 17, 2013, West filed a signed and notarized Personal Injury Claim Form with the City. Compl. at 8-12. The City does not dispute receiving this form.

On July 24, 2013, West filed the Complaint. Dkt. 3. The Complaint does not identify particular causes of action. It consists instead of a narrative of the actions that Randal and other, unidentified corrections officers took against West, and of the injuries that West claims to have suffered. Liberally construed, [2] however, the Complaint can be read to allege five distinct constitutional violations that are potentially actionable under 42 U.S.C. ยง 1983: that (1) Randal used excessive force against West, in violation of the Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments; (2) Randal and other corrections officers failed to furnish West with adequate medical care for his injuries, rising to the level of cruel and unusual punishment in violation of the Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments; (3) corrections officers denied West recreation time, in violation of the Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments; (4) the officers searched West without probable cause, in violation of the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments; and (5) the officers withheld West's mail, depriving him of personal property without due process of law, in violation of the First and Fourteenth Amendments. West seeks $100, 000 in damages. Compl. at 5.

The Complaint originally named the New York City Department of Correction ("DOC") and Corrections Officer Randal as defendants. Dkt. 3. On August 2, 2013, the Court dismissed West's claims against the DOC and added the City as a defendant, on the grounds that the agency cannot be sued in its own name. Dkt. 6.

On November 1, 2013, the City filed an Answer to the Complaint, Dkt. 12, and on December 23, 2013, Randal did the same, Dkt. 15. On January 14 and May 13, 2014, the Court appointed limited discovery counsel for both pro se plaintiff West and pro se defendant Randal. Dkt. 18, 27.

On May 30, 2014, the City moved to dismiss, Dkt. 29, and filed an accompanying memorandum of law, Dkt. 31 ("Def. Br."), and declaration, Dkt. 30. The City argues there that the Complaint does not allege an official policy or custom, as required to hold a municipality liable for constitutional violations. Def. Br. 3-4. On July 9, 2014, West filed an affirmation opposing the motion to dismiss. Dkt. 35 ("Pl. Opp. Br."). West stated there, for the first time, that the DOC had failed to properly train Randal and that Randal had been involved in several other incidents before the shower incident. Pl. Br. at 1. On August 6, 2014, the City notified the Court that it would not file a reply memorandum. Dkt. 36.[3]

II. Discussion

A. Applicable Legal ...


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