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Burks v. Perrotta

United States District Court, S.D. New York

May 15, 2015



EDGARDO RAMOS, District Judge.

Plaintiff Devonte Burks ("Plaintiff"), currently incarcerated and appearing pro se, brings this action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 alleging that his civil rights were violated during his arrest and post-arrest questioning at the City of Poughkeepsie Police Department building. Compl., Doc. 2. Specifically, Plaintiff alleges that Police Officers B. Sukeena ("Sukeena") and M. Egan ("Egan") violently dragged and beat him on the head with a flashlight during his arrest. Compl. at 2. He further alleges that Detectives R. Perrotta ("Perrotta") and L. Bartolotti ("Bartolotti") denied him the opportunity to receive prompt medical attention and persisted in questioning him despite his visible suffering. Id. at 4-5. The Court reads these allegations as raising claims for (1) the use of excessive force and (2) an unconstitutional delay in providing Plaintiff with access to necessary medical care.[1]

Plaintiff brings suit against Sukeena, Egan, Perrotta, and Bartolotti (together, "Defendants") in their individual and official capacities, seeking damages in an amount of $12.7 million. Id. at 6. Defendants have moved for summary judgment pursuant to Rule 56 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. Defs.' Mot. Summ. J., Doc. 43.

For the reasons discussed below, Defendants' motion for summary judgment is GRANTED in part and DENIED in part.

I. Background[2]

Poughkeepsie police officers Sukeena and Egan arrested Plaintiff and another suspect, Michael Armstrong ("Armstrong"), early in the morning on August 21, 2010 in response to a call that an armed robbery and shooting had occurred. Compl. at 3; Defs.' Mem. L. Supp. Mot. Summ. J, Doc. 44 at ¶ 3. In his Complaint, Plaintiff claims that, during the course of his arrest, Sukeena and Egan dragged him by his ankles, slammed him on his chest, kicked him, and beat him on the head with a flashlight, causing him to temporarily lose consciousness. Compl. at 3-4.[3] Plaintiff also claims that the officers punched him in the face as they removed him from the police car when they arrived at the police station. Id. at 4. Plaintiff maintains that he was not resisting arrest. Id. at 3.

Defendants tell a different story.[4] Defendants claim that Plaintiff "attempted to elude" responding officers and was found hiding under a porch.[5] Doc. 44 at ¶ 3. According to Defendants, Plaintiff refused a demand to show his hands and the arresting officers had to remove him from beneath the porch in order to ensure that he was unarmed. Id. Defendants also point to the fact that Plaintiff told Perrotta and hospital personnel that a third individual involved the robbery, and not the arresting officers, had struck him in the head with a gun. Doc. 44 at ¶ 7; Doc. 46 at ¶ 2.

The parties' accounts also diverge as to what occurred during Plaintiff's interrogation by Detectives Perrotta and Bartolotti. Plaintiff claims that he slipped in and out of consciousness and repeatedly requested medical attention for his injuries during the interrogation. Compl. at 6. Plaintiff further alleges that Perrotta and Bartolotti were aware of his injuries, Burks Decl., Doc. 49 at ¶¶ 13-14, and nevertheless insisted on finishing their interrogation before seeking medical assistance. Compl. at 6. Meanwhile, Defendants maintain that Plaintiff's injury was imperceptible to the detectives because of his "Afro" hairstyle. Doc. 44 at ¶ 4.

The parties do not dispute that, eventually, Plaintiff was taken to the hospital where he was treated for his wounds.[6] Id.; see also Doc. 49 at ¶ 28. The parties agree that he sustained a laceration to the head, which required two staples to close. See Compl. at 4;[7] Defs.' Rule 56.1 Stmt., Doc. 46 at ¶ 6. Plaintiff also claims that his forearms, wrist, and fingers were swollen. Compl. at 4. In addition, Plaintiff maintains that he continues to suffer from memory loss and headaches. Id. at 30.

As relevant to the instant motion, Defendants provide the Court with three discs containing video recordings of the interrogation of Plaintiff, by Detectives Perrotta and Bartolotti.[8] See Kelly Affirm'n, Doc. 60, Exs. L-N. The interrogation took place over several hours in at least two different sessions. One session occurred before Plaintiff was taken to the hospital for treatment, and one after he was brought back to the station. Plaintiff's private conversations with his mother and stepfather, who visited him at the police station both before and after he was taken to the hospital, are dispersed throughout these recordings. Defendants only transcribed the contents of the third disc, which contain the portion of Plaintiff's interrogation and discussions with his parents that occurred after he had returned from the hospital. See id. at Ex. F.

II. Legal Standard on Motion for Summary Judgment

Summary judgment is appropriate where "the movant shows that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact." Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). "An issue of fact is genuine' if the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the non-moving party." Senno v. Elmsford Union Free Sch. Dist., 812 F.Supp.2d 454, 467 (S.D.N.Y. 2011) (citing SCR Joint Venture L.P. v. Warshawsky, 559 F.3d 133, 137 (2d Cir. 2009)). A fact is "material" if it might affect the outcome of the litigation under the governing law. Id.

The party moving for summary judgment is first responsible for demonstrating the absence of any genuine issue of material fact. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323 (1986). If the burden of proof at trial would fall on the movant, that party's "own submissions in support of the motion must entitle it to judgment as a matter of law." Albee Tomato, Inc. v. A.B. Shalom Produce Corp., 155 F.3d 612, 618 (2d Cir. 1998). Conversely, "[w]hen the burden of proof at trial would fall on the nonmoving party, it ordinarily is sufficient for the movant to point to a lack of evidence to go to the trier of fact on an essential element of the nonmovant's claim." Cordiano v. Metacon Gun Club, Inc., 575 F.3d 199, 204 (2d Cir. 2009) (citing Celotex Corp., 477 U.S. at 322-23). If the moving party meets its burden, "the nonmoving party must come forward with admissible evidence sufficient to raise a genuine issue of fact for trial in order to avoid summary judgment." Jaramillo v. Weyerhaeuser Co., 536 F.3d 140, 145 (2d Cir. 2008) (citing Celotex Corp., 477 U.S. at 322-23).

In deciding a motion for summary judgment, the Court must "construe the facts in the light most favorable to the non-moving party and must resolve all ambiguities and draw all reasonable inferences against the movant." Brod v. Omya, Inc., 653 F.3d 156, 164 (2d Cir. 2011) (quoting Williams v. R.H. Donnelley, Corp., 368 F.3d 123, 126 (2d Cir. 2004)) (internal quotation marks omitted). However, in opposing a motion for summary judgment, the non-moving party may not rely on unsupported assertions, conjecture or surmise. Goenaga v. March of Dimes Birth Defects Found., 51 F.3d 14, 18 (2d Cir. 1995). The non-moving party must do more than show that there is "some metaphysical doubt as to the material facts[.]" McClellan v. Smith, 439 F.3d 137, 144 (2d Cir. 2006) (quoting Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 586 (1986)) (internal quotation mark omitted). To defeat a motion for summary ...

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