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Lebron v. Mrzyglod

United States District Court, S.D. New York

January 24, 2017

ANGEL D. LEBRON, JR., Plaintiff,
SGT MICHAEL F. MRZYGLOD; C.O. RYDER S. BADER; C.O. WILLIAM J. WILLIAMS; C.O. BARRY A. STEVENS; C.O. RYAN A. KELLY; HEARING OFFICER B. LEVINE; ALBERT PRACK; BRIAN FISCHER, Commissioner of NYS Dept. of NYS DOCS; SUPT. W. LEE, of Green Haven Facility; CLIFFORD K. GUNSELT, individually and in their official capacities, Defendants.

          Angel D. Lebron, Jr. Coxsackie, NY Pro Se Plaintiff Neil Shevlin, Esq.

          New York State Office of the Attorney General New York, NY Counsel for Defendants

          OPINION & ORDER

          KENNETH M. KARAS, District Judge

         Angel D. Lebron, Jr. (“Plaintiff”), an inmate proceeding pro se, brought this suit pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 alleging that Defendants violated his constitutional rights when he was assaulted without cause and punished for his alleged misbehavior. (See Am. Compl. (Dkt. No. 47).) Although most of Defendants have filed their answer, Defendants Lee, Prack, and Fischer (collectively, “Moving Defendants”) have moved to dismiss Plaintiff's Amended Complaint on the grounds that Plaintiff has failed to allege personal involvement by Moving Defendants in the alleged constitutional violations and that Moving Defendants are entitled to qualified immunity. (See Mem. of Law in Supp. of Mot. To Dismiss Am. Compl. by Defs. Lee, Prack, & Fischer (“Defs.' Mem.”) (Dkt. No. 55).) For the reasons below, the Motion is granted in part and denied in part.

         I. Background

         A. Factual Background

         The following facts are taken from Plaintiffs Amended Complaint and are presumed true for purposes of the Motion.

         On December 26, 2013, while incarcerated at Green Haven Correctional Facility, Plaintiff was called out with 50 or 60 other inmates. (See Am. Compl. ¶ 1.) After Plaintiff passed through the gate area, a correction officer instructed Plaintiff to sit in the metal detector chair. (See id ¶ 2.) Plaintiff complied, and no contraband was found. (See id) Plaintiff was then told to approach the wall for a pat-frisk and to remove all objects out of his pockets. (See id ¶ 3.) Plaintiff complied and was then told to place his hands on the wall, spread his legs open, and stretch his body outward until he was on his toes. (See id ¶¶ 4-5.) Plaintiff was patted down, but the correction officer did not find anything. (See Id. ¶ 6.) After the pat-frisk was completed, the officer swiped Plaintiffs legs from underneath him and Plaintiff fell to the floor. (See Id. ¶ 7.) While on the floor, Plaintiff began to feel numerous punches and kicks that, he believes, were caused by more than one officer. (See Id. ¶¶ 8-9.) Plaintiff alleges that the officers assaulting him were Defendants Bader, Gunselt, Williams, and Stevens. (See Id. ¶ 11.) Plaintiff specifically notes that Stevens left his assigned area without permission to join in the assault. (See Id. ¶ 13.) During the assault, Bader and Gunselt held Plaintiffs body down and pulled his head up so that Defendant Mrzyglod, another correction officer, could punch Plaintiff in the eye until Plaintiff could no longer open it. (See Id. ¶¶ 14-15.)

         Sometime after this incident, although Plaintiff does not specify how long, Plaintiff was escorted to the Special Housing Unit (“SHU”) by Bader, Stevens, Gunselt, and Mrzyglod. (See Id. ¶ 16.) On the way, Plaintiff swung his leg out, and Stevens claimed that Plaintiff struck him in the groin. (See Id. ¶ 17.) Plaintiff was again put down on the ground forcibly, this time by Defendants Kelly, Gunselt, and Bader. (See Id. ¶ 18.) Plaintiff was then processed for his entry into the SHU and was seen by two nurses, but was not given any medication. (See Id. ¶ 19.) Plaintiff was put in a cell without any medical attention for several hours before being taken to the medical department. (See Id. ¶ 20.) There, he was seen by a nurse, but he did not receive any medication or treatment. (See id.) Plaintiff was put on a tele-med interview with a doctor from Erie County Medical Center and was taken to Putnam Hospital Center to have his injuries evaluated. (See Id. ¶ 21.) As a result of these incidents, Plaintiff was placed in the SHU for 14 months, was denied recreational and educational opportunities, and subsequently was moved to a facility much farther away from his family. (See Id. ¶¶ 26-27.)

         Plaintiff believes that Mrzyglod planned the initial assault on December 26 in retaliation for an earlier confrontation between Plaintiff and Mrzyglod wherein Plaintiff refused to say “please” when asking for permission to use the restroom. (See Id. ¶¶ 30-36.) Plaintiff alleges that after this confrontation, Mrzyglod told Plaintiff that he was going to “get” him. (See Id. ¶ 29.) Plaintiff further alleges that the five officers who assaulted him lied about the incident, falsified the incident report, and testified untruthfully at Plaintiffs disciplinary hearing. (See Id. ¶ 40.) Plaintiff points out that no alarm was raised during the altercation, a fact he finds suspicious because the officers alleged that he had a weapon. (See Id. ¶ 41.)

         Plaintiff names Defendant Levine as a defendant because, as the hearing officer at Plaintiffs disciplinary hearing, he failed to fully investigate the incident and denied Plaintiffs requests to call various witnesses. (See Id. ¶¶ 46-47.) Plaintiff posits that had Levine conducted a thorough investigation, the outcome of his hearing may have been different. (See Id. ¶ 51.) Plaintiff also names Defendant Lee, the superintendent of Green Haven, as a defendant because Lee allegedly overlooked the unusual features of the incident report. (See Id. ¶ 52.) Plaintiff also points out that two weeks prior to the incident, he sent Lee a grievance expressing fear that he would be assaulted because of the threat Mrzyglod made against him. (See Id. ¶ 53.) Plaintiff names Defendant Prack because he heard the appeal from the disciplinary hearing and failed to reverse the decision. (See Id. ¶ 54.) Plaintiff alleges that Prack failed to fully investigate the matter and that had Prack carefully read everything, he would have realized that the incident report was fabricated. (See Id. ¶¶ 54-55.) Finally, Plaintiff names Defendant Fischer, the former Commissioner of the New York State Department of Correctional Services, because “he is responsible for the safety of all the inmates” and he was aware that inmates were being victimized by correction officers. (See Id. ¶ 58.)

         B. Procedural History

         Plaintiff filed his initial Complaint on December 31, 2014. (See Compl. (Dkt. No. 1).) On December 2, 2015, Plaintiff was granted leave to file an amended Complaint, (see Order (Dkt. No. 46)), and Plaintiff filed his Amended Complaint on January 15, 2016, (see Dkt. No. 47). On February 25, 2016, the nonmoving Defendants filed their Answer. (See Dkt. No. 50.) On February 26, 2016, Moving Defendants were granted leave to file their Motion To Dismiss. (See Memo Endorsement (Dkt. No. 53).) Moving Defendants filed the Motion and supporting papers on March 17, 2016. (See Defs.' First Mot. To Dismiss Am. Compl. (Dkt. No. 54); Defs.' Mem.) Plaintiff filed his opposition on March 31, 2016. (See Pl.'s Opp'n to First Mot. To Dismiss Am. Compl. (Dkt. No. 56).) On April 18, 2016, Moving Defendants advised the Court that they did not intend to file a reply brief. (See Letter from Neil Shevlin, Esq., to Court (Apr. 18, 2016) (Dkt. No. 57).)

         II. Discussion

         A. Standard of Review The Supreme Court has held that although a complaint “does not need detailed factual allegations” to survive a motion to dismiss, “a plaintiff's obligation to provide the grounds of his entitlement to relief requires more than labels and conclusions, and a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action will not do.” Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007) (alteration and internal quotation marks omitted). Indeed, Rule 8 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure “demands more than an unadorned, the-defendant-unlawfully-harmed-me accusation.” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009). “Nor does a complaint suffice if it tenders naked assertions devoid of further factual enhancement.” Id. (alteration and internal quotation marks omitted). Rather, a complaint's “[f]actual allegations must be enough to raise a right to relief above the speculative level.” Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555. Although “once a claim has been stated adequately, it may be supported by showing any set of facts consistent with the allegations in the complaint, ” id. at 563, and a plaintiff must allege “only enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face, ” id. at 570, if a plaintiff has not “nudged [his] claims across the line from conceivable to plausible, the[] complaint must be dismissed, ” id.; see also Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 679 (“Determining whether a complaint states a plausible claim for relief will . . . be a context-specific task that requires the reviewing court to draw on its judicial experience and common sense. But where the well-pleaded facts do not permit the court to infer more than the mere possibility of misconduct, the complaint has alleged-but it has not ‘show[n]'-‘that the pleader is entitled to relief.'” (second alteration in original) (citation omitted) (quoting Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2))); id. at 678-79 (“Rule 8 marks a notable and generous departure from the hyper-technical, code-pleading regime of a prior era, but it does not unlock the doors of discovery for a plaintiff armed with nothing more than conclusions.”).

         “[W]hen ruling on a defendant's motion to dismiss, a judge must accept as true all of the factual allegations contained in the complaint, ” Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 94 (2007), and “draw[] all reasonable inferences in favor of the plaintiff, ” Daniel v. T & M Prot. Res., Inc., 992 F.Supp.2d 302, 304 n.1 (S.D.N.Y. 2014) (citing Koch v. Christie's Int'l PLC, 699 F.3d 141, 145 (2d Cir. 2012)). Additionally, “[i]n adjudicating a Rule 12(b)(6) motion, a district court must confine its consideration to facts stated on the face of the complaint, in documents appended to the complaint or incorporated in the complaint by reference, and to matters of which judicial notice may be ...

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