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Graham v. Metropolitan Detention Center

United States District Court, E.D. New York

September 8, 2014

COLLETTE GRAHAM, Plaintiff,
v.
METROPOLITAN DETENTION CENTER, Defendant.

MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

KIYO A. MATSUMOTO, District Judge.

Plaintiff Collette Graham ("plaintiff"), currently incarcerated at the Metropolitan Detention Center ("MDC"), brings this pro se complaint and alleges negligent maintenance of a fitness bicycle and inadequate medical care while a prisoner at the MDC. ( See ECF No. 1, Complaint filed 8/12/14 ("Compl.").) As the named defendant is a federal agency, the court construes plaintiff's complaint under the Federal Tort Claim Act, 28 U.S.C. §§ 2671 et seq. and Bivens v. Six Unknown Named Agents of the Federal Bureau of Narcotics, 403 U.S. 388 (1971). Plaintiff's request to proceed in forma pauperis pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915 is granted.

Plaintiff's claim, discussed below, against defendant MDC is dismissed for lack of subject matter jurisdiction. Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(h)(3). Plaintiff must timely comply with the administrative exhaustion requirements of the Bureau of Prisons, see 28 C.F.R. § 542.10 et seq., the Prison Litigation Reform Act ("PLRA"), 42 U.S.C. § 1997e(a), and the Federal Tort Claims Act, and timely refile a complaint in federal court.

Background

Plaintiff alleges that on June 20, 2014, she was using a fitness bike at MDC when her foot slipped, causing her to sustain a severe laceration on her shin. (Compl. at 1.) Plaintiff states that the laceration was 15 inches long and was close to the bone. ( Id. at 2.) Plaintiff avers that she was not seen by medical staff until July 23, 2013, and at that time she received a tetanus shot. (Id.) Plaintiff alleges that her shin is permanently scarred from her injury and that the fitness bike was negliegently maintained. ( Id. at 3.) She seeks monetary damages in the amount of $350, 000. (Id.)

Standard of Review

Under 28 U.S.C. § 1915A, a district court "shall review, before docketing, if feasible or, in any event, as soon as practicable after docketing, a complaint in a civil action in which a prisoner seeks redress from a governmental entity or officer or employee of a governmental entity." 28 U.S.C. § 1915A. Upon review, a district court shall dismiss a prisoner's complaint sua sponte if the complaint is "frivolous, malicious, or fails to state a claim upon which relief may be granted; or seeks monetary relief from a defendant who is immune from such relief." Id.; Liner v. Goord, 196 F.3d 132, 134 & n.1 (2d Cir. 1999) (noting that under PLRA, sua sponte dismissal of frivolous prisoner complaints is not only permitted but mandatory); see also Tapia-Ortiz v. Winter, 185 F.3d 8, 11 (2d Cir. 1999).

Moreover, at the pleadings stage of the proceeding, the court must assume the truth of "all well-pleaded, nonconclusory factual allegations" in the complaint. Kiobel v. Royal Dutch Petroleum Co., 621 F.3d 111, 123 (2d Cir. 2010) (citing Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662 (2009)). A complaint must plead sufficient facts to "state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face." Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007).

It is axiomatic that pro se complaints are held to less stringent standards than pleadings drafted by attorneys and the court is required to read the plaintiff's pro se complaint liberally and interpret it to raise the strongest arguments it suggests. Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89 (2007); Hughes v. Rowe, 449 U.S. 5, 9 (1980); Sealed Plaintiff v. Sealed Defendant #1, 537 F.3d 185, 191-93 (2d Cir. 2008).

Discussion

In Bivens, the Supreme Court created an implied right of action where an individual alleges a federal official violated his or her constitutional rights. Corr. Servs. Corp. v. Malesko, 534 U.S. 61, 66 (2001). A Bivens cause of action "is the federal analog to suits brought against state officials under... 42 U.S.C. § 1983." Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 683. The constitutional standard of review for Bivens actions is the same as for claims brought under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Tavarez v. Reno, 54 F.3d 109, 110 (2d Cir. 1995).

Sovereign Immunity

The United States and its agencies have sovereign immunity from suit and can only be sued with their consent and under the terms Congress may impose. United States v. Sherwood, 312 U.S. 584 (1941); Adeleke v. United States, 355 F.3d 144, 150 (2d Cir. 2004). Without a waiver of sovereign immunity, a district court lacks subject matter jurisdiction to hear a claim. See Liranzo v. U.S., 690 F.3d 78, 84 (2d Cir. 2012) ("The United States, as sovereign, is immune from suit save as it consents to be sued..., and the terms of its consent to be sued in any court define that court's jurisdiction to entertain the suit.").

Bivens actions do not lie against the United States, federal agencies, or federal employees sued in their official capacities. See, e.g., FDIC v. Meyer, 510 U.S. 471, 484-86 (1994); Robinson v. Overseas Military Sales Corp., 21 F.3d 502, 510 (2d Cir. 1994) (noting that Bivens claims "must be brought against the federal officers involved in their individual capacities."). Thus, where a Bivens action is filed against the United States, its agencies, or its employees in their official capacities, the court lacks jurisdiction to hear the claim and the action must be dismissed. See Jordan v. Federal Bureau of Prisons, No. 09 CV 8561, 2013 WL 1143617, at *4 (S.D.N.Y. Mar. 19, 2013) (dismissing claims against BOP, a federal prison and prison officer under FRCP 12(b)(1) because sovereign immunity had not been waived and the court ...


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