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Johnson v. Davis

United States District Court, E.D. New York

March 20, 2015

JOHN ARTHUR JOHNSON, Plaintiff,
v.
JOANNA DAVIS, Warden GMDC; OFFICER CHAVEZ; CAPTAIN HEADLEY, Defendants.

MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

ROSLYNN R. MAUSKOPF, District Judge.

Plaintiff pro se John Arthur Johnson, an inmate at Rikers Island, alleges that the defendants, all corrections officers employed at Rikers Island, denied him his constitutional rights on three separate occasions. First, he claims that when he slipped on a wet floor in the course of a fire evacuation, defendant Davis walked by him without offering any assistance. Next, he argues that "jail officials" failed to protect him from another inmate throwing coffee at him. Last, he contends that defendants Chavez and Headley failed to protect him from an assault by a different inmate, and then falsified their reports after the incident.

Before the Court is defendants' fully-briefed motion for summary judgment. For the reasons below, that motion is granted.

BACKGROUND

The following undisputed facts are drawn from the defendants' Local Rule 56.1 statement together with Johnson's opposition to the instant motion. On July 11, 2011, Johnson was moving through a hallway at Rikers Island as part of an evacuation due to a nearby fire. Because the fire-prevention sprinklers had been activated, the floor of the hallway was wet, and as Johnson moved through, he slipped and fell to the ground. He alleges that, at that point, Davis walked by him without offering him any assistance. Johnson got off the ground and walked to the cafeteria, where a different officer then took him to the medical clinic. X-rays of his back were negative, and he was diagnosed with a contusion on his right arm.

A few months later, on October 15, 2011, Johnson claims that another inmate threw coffee at him and then charged at him. In response, Johnson hit the inmate with his cane. Johnson further claims that on January 1, 2012, a different inmate, whom Johnson had never seen before, attacked him, punching him 15 to 18 times before officers separated them. Johnson alleges that Chavez falsified his report of the incident, and that Headley did the same in order to "validate" Chavez's report. Johnson was taken to the clinic after the incident, and was diagnosed with contusions on his face, scalp, and neck.

Johnson filed the instant Complaint on May 14, 2012. (Doc. No. 1.) On May 24, 2012, the Court dismissed sua sponte claims against the City of New York. (Doc. No. 5.) Chavez and Davis filed their Answer on October 9, 2012 (Doc. No. 14), and after Headley was identified as the third defendant, he filed his Answer on February 25, 2013. (Doc. No. 32.) Following discovery, including the disclosure of medical records and Johnson's deposition, the defendants filed their motion for summary judgment on June 20, 2014, together with Johnson's opposition and their letter in lieu of a reply. (Doc. Nos. 49-54.)

LEGAL STANDARD

Summary judgment may be granted when the pleadings, depositions, interrogatories, admissions, and affidavits demonstrate that there are no genuine issues of material fact in dispute and that one party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. See Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c); Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322 (1986); Salahuddin v. Goord, 467 F.3d 263, 272 (2d Cir. 2006). A genuine issue of material fact exists "if the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party." Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986); Savino v. City of New York, 331 F.3d 63, 71 (2d Cir. 2003). And in deciding whether a genuine issue of material fact exists as to an essential element, "all ambiguities must be resolved and all inferences drawn in favor of the party against whom summary judgment is sought." Gallo v. Prudential Residential Servs., Ltd. P'ship, 22 F.3d 1219, 1223 (2d Cir. 1994).

Summary judgment may also be appropriate "if the nonmovant fails to make a showing sufficient to establish the existence of an element essential to [his or her] case, " on which "the nonmoving party bears the burden of proof at trial." Nebraska v. Wyoming, 507 U.S. 584, 590 (1993) (quoting Celotex, 477 U.S. at 322) (internal quotation marks omitted); Abramson v. Pataki, 278 F.3d 93, 101 (2d Cir. 2002). To defeat the defendants' motion for summary judgment, the plaintiff must offer "concrete evidence from which a reasonable juror could return a verdict in his [or her] favor, " Anderson, 477 U.S. at 256, and "may not rely on conclusory allegations or unsubstantiated speculation." Scotto v. Almenas, 143 F.3d 105, 114 (2d Cir. 1998).

The Court is also mindful, however, that the plaintiff is proceeding pro se. As such, his allegations are held to a less exacting standard than those drafted by an attorney. See Haines v. Kerner, 404 U.S. 519, 520-21 (1972); Boykin v. KeyCorp, 521 F.3d 202, 213-14 (2d Cir. 2008) (citation omitted). Because pro se litigants "are entitled to a liberal construction of their pleadings, " the Court reads Johnson's filings to "raise the strongest arguments that they suggest." Green v. United States, 260 F.3d 78, 83 (2d Cir. 2001) (internal citations omitted). Nonetheless, the Court "need not argue a pro se litigant's case nor create a case for the pro se which does not exist." Molina v. New York, 956 F.Supp. 257, 259 (E.D.N.Y. 1995). Where a pro se plaintiff has altogether failed to satisfy a pleading requirement, the Court must dismiss the claim. See Rodriguez v. Weprin, 116 F.3d 62, 65 (2d Cir. 1997) (citation omitted).

As discussed below, none of Johnson's allegations can survive summary judgment. He has produced no evidence of a constitutional violation by Davis; he accuses "jail officials" rather the named defendants of failing to protect him from the inmate throwing coffee; and he has produced no evidence of any prior encounters between him and his assailant, nor any evidence that he lodged a complaint or made a request to be separated from this inmate, and or that defendants Chavez and/or Headley knew or purposely ignored that he was in danger before the assault. As a result, the defendants' motion for summary judgment is granted.

DISCUSSION

Section 1983 protects individuals from the deprivation of the rights, privileges, and immunities secured to them by the Constitution and federal laws. See 42 U.S.C. § 1983. But §1983 "itself creates no substantive rights; it provides only a procedure for redress for the deprivation of rights established elsewhere." Hawkins v. Nassau County Correctional Facility, 781 F.Supp.2d 107, 111 (E.D.N.Y. 2011) (quoting Sykes v. James, 13 F.3d 515, 519 (2d Cir. 1993)). As a result, in order to survive this motion for summary judgment on his § 1983 claim, Johnson must be able to offer concrete ...


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