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Sanders v. City of New York

United States District Court, S.D. New York

December 9, 2014

CITY OF NEW YORK, et al., Defendants.


PAUL A. ENGELMAYER, District Judge.

Plaintiff Robert Sanders, proceeding pro se and in forma pauperis, was previously incarcerated at several correctional facilities in New York City. On July 16, 2014, he filed this Complaint under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, alleging violations of his constitutional rights and seeking damages. Named as defendants are the City of New York; former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg; the New York City Department of Correction ("DOC"); former DOC Commissioner Dora Schriro;[1] Warden Duffy of the George Motchan Detention Center ("GMDC") on Rikers Island; Warden Perino of the Robert N. Davoren Center ("RNDC") on Rikers Island; and Warden Vasquez of the Vernon C. Bain Center ("VCBC") in the Bronx. For the reasons set forth below, the Complaint is dismissed with leave to replead.

I. Background[2]

Plaintiff's Complaint alleges that beginning with his January 12, 2013 entry into the VCBC, and continuing after his transfer to the GMDC and then to the RNDC, he was provided inadequate mattresses that caused him back, shoulder, hip, and leg pain. The Complaint alleges that the mattresses distributed to prisoners in those DOC facilities were too thin. Dkt. 1 ("Compl."), ¶ 4. The Complaint suggests that the manufacturer's tags attached to those mattresses indicated that it is inadvisable to use those mattresses on steel or metal bed frames, as the DOC did for prisoners. Id. The Complaint further alleges that the City of New York and the DOC knew or should have known that the "mattresses were not safe to use for [the] support of [prisoners'] back[s]." Id. ¶ 5. According to the Complaint, the only action that mitigated plaintiff's discomfort was placing several blankets on the bed frame before putting a mattress atop the frame and blankets. Id. ¶ 6. DOC directives, however, allow a prisoner only one blanket. Id.

The Complaint alleges that plaintiff sought medical treatment for his pain and received pain medication, but was not allowed other means to improve his sleeping situation. Id. ¶ 8. At one point, plaintiff requested the use of a second mattress, but that request was denied. Id. ¶ 11.

More than 90 prisoners have filed pro se complaints regarding the beds at the Anna M. Kross Center, another facility that the DOC operates. By order dated February 11, 2013, the Court adopted the Hon. James C. Francis IV's Report and Recommendation dismissing those actions for failure to state a claim on which relief may be granted. See Howard v. City of New York, No. 12 Civ. 4069 (PAE) (JCF), 2013 WL 504164 (S.D.N.Y. Feb. 11, 2013) (Dkt. 23).

II. Discussion

A. Standard of Review

The Court is required to screen complaints brought by prisoners seeking relief against a governmental entity or an officer or employee of a governmental entity. 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(a). The Court must dismiss a complaint, or portion thereof, that is frivolous or malicious, fails to state a claim on which relief may be granted, or seeks monetary relief from a defendant who is immune from such relief. 28 U.S.C. §§ 1915A(b), 1915(e)(2)(B); see also Abbas v. Dixon, 480 F.3d 636, 639 (2d Cir. 2007). Although the law mandates dismissal on any of these grounds, district courts "remain obligated to construe a pro se complaint liberally." Harris v. Mills, 572 F.3d 66, 72 (2d Cir. 2009). Thus, pro se complaints should be read with "special solicitude" and should be interpreted to raise the "strongest [claims] that they suggest. " Triestman v. Fed. Bureau of Prisons, 470 F.3d 471, 474-75 (2d Cir. 2006) (citations omitted).

B. Eighth Amendment[3]

Plaintiff's Complaint, which is similar to the ones previously before the Court, does not state an Eighth Amendment conditions-of-confinement claim. The Court refers plaintiff to Magistrate Judge Francis's Report and Recommendation, a copy of which is attached, for a thorough discussion of the legal issues, but summarizes the analysis here.

To state an Eighth Amendment claim, a plaintiff must show that: (1) objectively, the deprivation he suffered was "sufficiently serious" as to deny him "the minimal civilized measure of life's necessities, " and (2) subjectively, the defendants acted with "deliberate indifference, " Wilson v. Seiter, 501 U.S. 294, 298, 303 (1991), in that they "kn[ew] of and disregard[ed] an excessive risk to inmate health or safety, " Hathaway v. Coughlin, 37 F.3d 63, 66 (2d Cir. 1994) (quotation omitted). The Eighth Amendment does not require "comfortable prisons." Rhodes v. Chapman, 452 U.S. 337, 349 (1981). In the context of the claims that plaintiff attempts to assert, he must allege facts showing that: "(1) he had a pre-existing medical condition requiring a special bed to protect against serious damage to his future health; (2) he made that medical condition known to the prison officials; (3) he requested a special bed to accommodate such medical condition; and (4) his request was denied by an official [who knew] of and disregard[ed] an excessive risk to [the plaintiff's] health or safety.'" Howard v. City of New York, No. 12 Civ. 4069 (PAE) (JCF), 2012 WL 7050623, at *9 (S.D.N.Y. Dec. 20, 2012) (Dkt. 22) (quoting Phelps v. Kapnolas, 308 F.3d 180, 186 (2d Cir. 2002) (alteration in original)).[3]

Plaintiff's Complaint fails to allege sufficient, specific facts to satisfy this standard. Although the Complaint arguably satisfies at least the third and fourth conditions, plaintiff does not describe what his prior injuries are. As currently pled, plaintiff's Complaint therefore fails to state a claim ...

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