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Hill v. City of New York

United States District Court, S.D. New York

January 20, 2015

DESEAN HILL, Plaintiff,
CITY OF NEW YORK, Defendant.



In late 2013, Plaintiff Desean Hill, who is proceeding pro se and is currently incarcerated, was exposed to black smoke from fires lit by other inmates at the Anna M. Kross Center ("AMKC"), a jail located on Rikers Island. Plaintiff brings this action under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against Defendant City of New York, alleging deliberate indifference in violation of the Eighth Amendment. Defendant now moves to dismiss the Complaint for failure to state a claim. For the reasons discussed herein, that motion is granted; however, because Plaintiff has introduced additional facts in opposing this motion that might constitute a viable constitutional claim, the Court grants Plaintiff leave to file an amended complaint, subject to the directives outlined in this Opinion.


A. Factual Background

Plaintiff was incarcerated at AMKC in the latter part of 2013. (Compl. 2).[2] During this period - specifically, on October 30, November 9, and November 11, 2013 - numerous other inmates set fire to their mattresses. ( Id. at 3). At some unspecified point during this period, New York City Department of Corrections ("DOC") staff searched for and confiscated flammable materials belonging to Plaintiff and other inmates. ( Id. ). However, despite this effort, the fires continued to occur. ( See id. ).

As a result, Plaintiff was exposed to "[b]lack [s]moke, " which, he alleges, "[p]lace[d] Plaintiff and others in a life or [d]eath situation." (Compl. 3, 5). On two occasions, the smoke caused Plaintiff to lose consciousness. ( See id. at 3; see also Pl. Opp. 1). After each of these incidents, Plaintiff was seen by a doctor. ( See Compl. 3). Plaintiff showed the doctor "[b]lack [r]esidue" that had exuded from his nose, and voiced a complaint that his lungs were burning. ( Id. at 3, 5). On each occasion, the doctor administered an "as[t]hma pump treatment, " and sent him back to "the House." ( Id. at 3).

B. Procedural Background

On December 11, 2013, Plaintiff filed his Complaint, naming the DOC and the New York City Department of Correction Health Services ("CHS") as Defendants. (Dkt. #1). On December 23, 2013, the Court issued an Order substituting Defendant City of New York for DOC, and dismissing Defendant CHS because DOC and CHS are not entities that can be sued. ( See Dkt. #6 at 2-4).

In dismissing CHS, the Court specifically considered whether to substitute as a Defendant the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene ("DOHMH"). The Court "decline[d] to substitute DOHMH for CHS, however, because Plaintiff fail[ed] adequately to allege any federal constitutional claim under § 1983 relating to his medical care." (Dkt. #6 at 3). Additionally, with respect to municipal liability, the Court found that "Plaintiff fail[ed] to state any § 1983 claim for deliberate indifference to his serious medical needs against DOHMH under these standards. He does not allege that DOHMH's policies, customs, decisions, actions, or failures to act caused any violation of his rights." ( Id. at 4). The Court noted that the dismissal was "without prejudice to any amended pleading that Plaintiff may wish to bring, consistent with Rule 15(a) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, asserting a federal claim for deliberate indifference to serious medical needs." ( Id. ).

Further, the Court gave guidance to Plaintiff on how to amend his Complaint in such a way to state a claim against any individual doctors or nurses who he alleges were deliberately indifferent to his medical needs. ( See Dkt. #6 at 4 ("[H]e may refer to that individual as John Doe' or Jane Doe' in both the caption and the body of any amended complaint that Rule 15(a) permits him to file."); id. at 4 n.4 ("For example, a defendant may be identified as: Doctor John Doe #1 on duty August 31, 2010, at Sullivan Correctional Facility, during the 7-3 p.m. shift.'")).

No amendment was filed, and, on March 28, 2014, Defendant City of New York requested a pre-motion conference in anticipation of filing a motion to dismiss. (Dkt. #10). Pursuant to the briefing schedule set forth at the April 23, 2014 pre-motion conference ( see Dkt. #12, 14), Defendant moved to dismiss on May 27, 2014 (Dkt. #16); Plaintiff filed his opposition on May 19, 2014 (Dkt. #28); and the motion was fully briefed as of the filing of Defendant's reply on August 25, 2014 (Dkt. #32).[3] The Court now considers Defendant's motion to dismiss.


A. Applicable Law

When considering this motion, the Court should "draw all reasonable inferences in Plaintiff's favor, assume all well-pleaded factual allegations to be true, and determine whether they plausibly give rise to an entitlement to relief." Faber v. Metro. Life Ins. Co., 648 F.3d 98, 104 (2d Cir. 2011) (internal quotation marks omitted) (quoting Selevan v. N.Y. Thruway Auth., 584 F.3d 82, 88 (2d Cir. 2009)). A plaintiff will survive a motion to dismiss if he alleges "enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face." Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 569 (2007); see also In re Elevator Antitrust Litig., 502 F.3d 47, 50 (2d Cir. 2007) ("[W]hile Twombly does not require heightened fact pleading of specifics, it does require enough facts to nudge [plaintiff's] claims across the line from conceivable to plausible." (internal citation omitted)). The Court is not, however, bound to accept ...

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