United States District Court, S.D. New York
OPINION AND ORDER
Edgardo Ramos, U.S.D.J.
se Plaintiff Deval Mowatt brings this action against
Deputy Melissa Matthews (“Matthews”), Captain
Charles Harris (“Harris”), Corrections Officer
Johnson (“Johnson”), and the City of New York
(the “City, ” and collectively
“Defendants”) pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983,
alleging that the conditions of his confinement at Rikers
Island Correctional Facility (“Rikers”) amounted
to cruel and unusual punishment in violation of the Eighth
the Court is Defendants' motion to dismiss pursuant to
Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6). For the reasons
discussed below, the motion is GRANTED as to Defendant City
of New York and is DENIED as to Defendants Matthews, Harris,
October 15, 2015, while in the custody of the New York City
Department of Correction, Plaintiff was placed in “C95
Housing area 5 upper cell 16, ” a cell in the Anna M.
Kross Center on Rikers Island. Amended Complaint (“Am.
Compl.”), Doc. 7, at II.D. Upon entering, Plaintiff
realized that the cell was “corroted [sic] [and]
polluted” and that the “ceiling was vulnerable of
a collapse [sic].” Id. After complaining about
the condition of the cell, Plaintiff was moved to cell 23.
Id. Two days later, Johnson removed Plaintiff from
cell 23 and returned him to cell 16-the cell that was in
disrepair. Id. Plaintiff alleges that although he
was told he had to return to the cell for “security
reasons, ” the actual purpose of the move was to punish
him, particularly because other cells, presumably in
habitable conditions, were available at the time of his move.
Id. On October 17, 2015, Plaintiff complained to
Johnson, Harris, and Matthews and explained to them that cell
16 was “on [the] verge of collapse.” However his
requests to be moved were denied. Id. Two days
later, on October 19, while Plaintiff was sitting in his
cell, the ceiling collapsed on his head. Upon hearing the
collapse, Johnson went over to the cell, saw debris on floor,
and took Plaintiff to the medical ward where he was
prescribed Tylenol. Id. After receiving an injury
report Plaintiff was again placed in cell 16 over his
repeated objections. Id. The next morning, Plaintiff
was moved to a different cell. Id. A few days later,
Plaintiff went back to the medical facility, where he
received Ibuprofen. Id. at III. Plaintiff claims
that as result of the collapse, he suffers from, among other
things, severe head and neck pain, dizziness, blurred vision,
and weakness of limbs.
commenced this action on December 29, 2015. Doc. 1. On
February 9, 2016, the Court directed Plaintiff to file an
Amended Complaint, Doc. 6, which he filed on February 25,
2016. Doc. 7. On March 23, 2016, the Court issued an Order of
Service requesting that Defendants waive service of summons.
Doc. 10. On April 13, 2016, the waiver of service was
returned executed as to Matthews, Harris, and the City. Docs.
13, 15. The waiver of service was returned unexecuted as to
Johnson, who could not be properly identified because the
name is so common. Doc. 14. The City, Matthews, and Harris
filed the instant motion on June 13, 2016.Doc. 17. On
November 2, 2016 the Court issued a Valentin Order directing
counsel for Defendants to provide Johnson's full name and
service address within 60 days of the order. Doc. 22. On
January 31, 2017 - more approximately one month after the due
date - the Court issued an order directing counsel for
Defendants to file a response by February 3, 2017. Doc. 23.
In response, counsel asked for a two week extension, which
the Court granted. Docs. 25, 26. On February 26, counsel
again requested a two week extension. Doc. 27. Though the
Court granted the extension, to date, counsel has not
responded to the November 2, 2016 Valentin Order.
Standard of Review
motion to dismiss pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6) of the Federal
Rules of Civil Procedure, the court must accept as true all
of the factual allegations from the complaint, and draw all
reasonable inferences in the plaintiff's favor.
Nielsen v. Rabin, 746 F.3d 58, 62 (2d Cir. 2014).
However, this requirement does not apply to legal
conclusions, bare assertions, or conclusory statements.
Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (citing
Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555
(2007)). The complaint must adhere to Rule 8(a), which has
been interpreted to require that it contain enough factual
matter for the claim to be plausible on its face.
Id. (citing Twombly, 550 U.S. at 570). A
claim is facially plausible “when the plaintiff pleads
factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable
inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct
alleged.” Id. (citing Twombly, 550
U.S. at 556). Rule 8(a) “does not unlock the doors of
discovery for a plaintiff armed with nothing more than
conclusions.” Id. at 678-79. If the plaintiff
has not “nudged [his] claims across the line from
conceivable to plausible, [the] Complaint must be
dismissed.” Twombly, 550 U.S. at 570.
same standard applies to motions to dismiss pro se
complaints. See Mancuso v. Hynes, 379 F. App'x
60, 61 (2d Cir. 2010). However, the Court is also obligated
to construe a pro se complaint liberally and to
interpret a pro se plaintiff's claims as raising
the strongest arguments that they suggest. Hill v.
Curcione, 657 F.3d 116, 122 (2d Cir. 2011);
Triestman v. Fed. Bureau of Prisons, 470 F.3d 471,
474 (2d Cir. 2006) (per curiam). The obligation to be lenient
while reading a pro se plaintiff's pleadings
“applies with particular force when the plaintiff's
civil rights are at issue.” Jackson v. N.Y.S.
Dep't of Labor, 709 F.Supp.2d 218, 224 (S.D.N.Y.
2010) (citing McEachin v. McGuinnis, 357 F.3d 197,
200 (2d Cir. 2004)). “However, even pro se
plaintiffs asserting civil rights claims cannot withstand a
motion to dismiss unless their pleadings contain factual
allegations sufficient to raise a right to relief above the
speculative level.” Id. (quoting
Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555) (internal quotation marks
omitted). A complaint that “tenders naked assertions
devoid of further factual enhancement” will not
suffice. Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678 (quoting
Twombly, 550 U.S. at 557) (internal quotation marks
and brackets omitted); see also Triestman, 470 F.3d
at 477 (“[P]ro se status ‘does not
exempt a party from compliance with relevant rules of
procedural and substantive law.'”) (quoting
Traguth v. Zuck, 710 F.2d 90, 95 (2d Cir. 1983))
(internal quotation marks omitted).
state a claim under section 1983, a plaintiff must allege
“that the conduct complained of was committed by a
person or entity acting under color of state law, and that
the conduct deprived a person of rights, privileges, or
immunities secured by the Constitution.” Newton v.
City of New York, 566 F.Supp.2d 256, 270 (S.D.N.Y. 2008)
(citing Palmieri v. Lynch, 392 F.3d 73, 78 (2d Cir.
2004)). Section 1983 does not create any rights, but merely
provides “a procedure for redress for the deprivation
of rights [already] established.” Sykes v.
James, 13 F.3d 515, 519 (2d Cir. 1993) (citation
omitted). The conduct complained of must have “deprived
the plaintiff of a right, privilege or immunity secured by
the Constitution or laws of the United States.”
Eagleston v. Guido, 41 F.3d 865, 876 (2d Cir. 1994).
In the instant case, the alleged constitutional violation
falls within the ambit of the Eighth Amendment.
Eighth Amendment Claims
Eighth Amendment, which applies to the States through the Due
Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment, prohibits the
infliction of ‘cruel and unusual punishments' on
those convicted of crimes.” Wilson v. Seiter,
501 U.S. 294, 296-97 (1991). The Eighth Amendment requires
that prison officials take “reasonable measure[s] to
guarantee the safety of inmates in their custody.”
Hayes v. New York City Dep't of Corrections, 84
F.3d 614, 620 (2d Cir. 1996); see also Gilmore v.
Rivera, No. 13 Civ. 6955 (RWS), 2014 WL 1998227, at *2
(S.D.N.Y. May 14, 2014) (“Prison officials may neither
deprive a prisoner of basic human needs, e.g., food,
clothing, shelter, medical care, and reasonable safety, nor
expose an inmate to conditions that pose an unreasonable risk
of serious damage to his future health.”) (citations
omitted). And while the Constitution does not mandate
comfortable prisons, prisoners are entitled to satisfaction
of their basic human needs. Randle v. Alexander, 960
F.Supp.2d 457, 470 (S.D.N.Y. 2013) (quoting Helling v.
McKinney, 509 U.S. 25, 32 (1993)). “To prove a
violation of the Eighth Amendment, an inmate must show (1)
that the deprivation alleged is ‘objectively
sufficiently serious' such that the plaintiff was denied
‘the minimal civilized measure of life's
necessities, ' and (2) that the defendant official
possessed a ‘sufficiently culpable state of mind'
associated with ‘the unnecessary and wanton infliction
of pain.'” Trammel v. Keane, 338 F.3d 155,
161 (2d Cir. 2003); see also Farmer v. Brennan, 511
U.S. 825, 834 (1994) (“the inmate must show ...