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Clay v. Lee

United States District Court, S.D. New York

January 31, 2017

DANIEL CLAY, Plaintiff,
WILLIAM A. LEE, Superintendent of Green Haven C.F.; L. FRANCO, Deputy Superintendent of Programs; SERGEANT WAHLQUIST, STP/SHU Sergeant; C. TALIAFERRO, Mental Health Unit Chief; L. BACINO, STP Coordinator, Defendants.

          Daniel Clay Ossining, NY Pro Se Plaintiff

          Julinda Dawkins, Esq. New York State Office of the Attorney General New York, NY Counsel for Defendants

          OPINION & ORDER

          KENNETH M. KARAS, District Judge

         Pro se Plaintiff Daniel Clay (“Plaintiff”) currently incarcerated at Sing Sing Correctional Facility, brings this Action under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against Superintendent of Green Haven Correctional Facility (“Green Haven”) William A. Lee (“Lee”), Deputy Superintendent of Programs L. Franco (“Franco”), Special Treatment Program (“STP”)/Special Housing Unit (“SHU”) Sergeant Wahlquist (“Wahlquist”), Mental Health Unit Chief C. Taliaferro (“Taliaferro”), and STP Coordinator L. Bacino (“Bacino, ” and together with Lee, Franco, and Taliaferro, “Defendants”). Plaintiff alleges that the conditions of his confinement at Green Haven during the summer of 2010 violated his constitutional rights under the First, Sixth, Eighth, and Fourteenth Amendments. (See Second Am. Compl. 3 (Dkt. No. 50).) Specifically, Plaintiff alleges that he suffered “inhumane conditions” of a cockroach infestation, extreme heat that “hindered [his] ability to litigate” pending legal matters, and thirst due to fear of “drink[ing] the brown water that came out of the sink.” (Id. at 3, 4.) Before the Court is a Motion To Dismiss filed by Defendants Lee, Franco, Taliaferro, and Bacino. (See Mot. To Dismiss (Dkt. No. 57).)[1]For the following reasons, Defendants' Motion is granted.

         I. Background

         A. Factual Background

         Plaintiff was transferred to Green Haven on June 7, 2010, where he was placed in the SHU in a therapeutic program for inmates who receive mental health services. (Second Am. Compl. 2). Plaintiff alleges that a few days after his arrival, he found giant cockroaches crawling in his cell. (Id.) Plaintiff also asserts that during his 66 days in the STP at Green Haven, he suffered from “intense heat” as a result of 100 degree temperatures. (Id. at 3.) Plaintiff alleges that “[t]he heat was so intense that on certain days [D]efendants []Taliaferro and []Bacino did not bring [inmates] out of [their] cells for programs, ” (id.), and that Defendants cancelled the programs because Defendants did not themselves want to suffer under the intense heat, (id.). Plaintiff avers that Defendants either knew or should have known about the conditions and did nothing to remedy them. (Id.) Plaintiff asserts that he suffered from thirst due to the extreme temperatures, but “was afraid to drink the brown water that came out of the sink.” (Id. at 4.)

         Plaintiff further alleges that at the time of his stay in the STP, Plaintiff had a lawsuit pending in federal court and a visitation petition pending in Brooklyn Family Court. (Id. at 3.) As a result of the conditions in the STP and Defendants' alleged unwillingness to let the inmates out of their cells, Plaintiff asserts he was unable to litigate these pending matters. (Id.)

         Plaintiff seeks $10, 000 in compensatory damages, $10, 000 in punitive damages, and $500 in nominal damages as compensation for the “terror . . . [p]ain and mental anguish” that resulted from the conditions he endured while housed in the STP at Green Haven. (Id. at 4, 6.)

         B. Procedural Background

         On October 23, 2013, Plaintiff filed his original Complaint against Commissioner of the Department of Corrections Brian Fischer, Defendant Lee, and John and Jane Doe Commissioners of the Department of Mental Health. (Dkt. No. 2.) In a December 17, 2013 Order To Amend, then-Chief Judge Loretta A. Preska of the Southern District of New York dismissed Plaintiff's Complaint for failure to state a claim and granted Plaintiff leave to amend his Complaint to correct the deficiencies identified in the Order. (Dkt. No. 6.)[2] Plaintiff failed to amend in the time allotted and Judge Preska dismissed Plaintiff's Complaint on July 14, 2014. (Dkt. No. 14.)

         Plaintiff filed two letters on August 6 and 15, 2014, requesting additional time to file an Amended Complaint. (Dkt. Nos. 16, 17.) In a February 4, 2015 Order, Judge Preska liberally construed Plaintiff's letters as motions to alter or amend judgment under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 59(e) and motions for reconsideration under Local Civil Rule 6.3, and granted Plaintiff's motion for reconsideration. (Dkt. No. 18.)

         On March 11, 2015, Plaintiff filed an Amended Complaint naming Defendants Lee, Franco, Taliaferro, Bianco, and a John Doe STP/SHU Sergeant. (Dkt. No. 20.) The Court issued an Order of Service pursuant to Valentin v. Dinkins, 121 F.3d 72 (2d Cir. 1997), dated March 27, 2015, directing the New York State Attorney General (the “Attorney General”) to ascertain the identity and address of the John Doe defendant. (Dkt. No. 22.)[3] The Order of Service provided that Plaintiff was to file an amended complaint naming the John Doe defendant within 60 days of receiving information about the defendant from the Attorney General. (Id. at 2-3.) In response, the Attorney General notified the Court and Plaintiff by letter dated May 27, 2015 that “Sergeant Wahlquist was the Sergeant who had the bid for the post of Sergeant assigned to the Special Treatment Program of the Special Housing Unit at Green Haven.” (Dkt. No. 23.) Plaintiff then filed the Second Amended Complaint on February 29, 2016, substituting “Sergeant Wahlquist, STP/SHU Sergeant” for “John Doe STP/SHU Sergeant.” (Second Am. Compl. 1.)

         On June 20, 2016, Defendants filed the instant Motion To Dismiss and accompanying memorandum of law. (Mem. of Law in Supp. of Defs.' Mot. To Dismiss (“Defs.' Mem.”) (Dkt. No. 58).) Plaintiff did not file a response.

         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 (‚ÄúDetermining 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 ...

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