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Valdiviezo v. The City of New York

United States District Court, S.D. New York

March 29, 2017

Mario Valdiviezo, Plaintiff,
The City of New York, et al., Defendants.


          ALISON J. NATHAN, District Judge

         In this 42 U.S.C. § 1983 action, Plaintiff Mario Valdiviezo alleges that his Eighth Amendment rights were violated by a one hour delay in medical care after he slipped and fell in the shower and because he was exposed to various unsanitary conditions in prison. Valdiviezo has sued the City of New York on a municipal liability theory, and he has sued several individual officers involved in the shower incident. Before the Court is Defendants' motion to dismiss Valdiviezo's complaint in the entirety. For the following reasons, the Court grants that motion.

         I. Background

         The following facts are derived from Plaintiffs third amended complaint and are assumed to be true for purposes of this motion. See DP WN Holdings (USA), Inc. v. United Air Lines, Inc., 747 F.3d 145, 147 (2d Cir. 2014).

         At the times of the incidents alleged in Valdiviezo's third amended complaint, Valdiviezo was a New York state inmate. Third Amended Complaint ("TAC") at 2 (Dkt No. 32); Mot. at 2 (Dkt No. 36). He was originally housed at the George R. Vierno Center ("GRVC") on Rikers Island, and he was relocated to the George Motchan Detention Center ("GMDC") in September 2014. TAC at 2-3; Mot. at 2-3.

         The first incident described in Valdiviezo's complaint involves a fall in a prison shower. Valdiviezo alleges that on August 12, 2014, he slipped on a piece of soap in the shower. TAC at 2. He "immediately fell to the floor." Id., His back, head, and left shoulder hit the floor. Id. According to Valdiviezo, this fall left him in "excruciating pain, " and he was unable to get up. Id. Other inmates who witnessed the fall reported it to Corrections Officer Velez. Id. Officer Velez arrived at the shower and asked Valdiviezo if he was in pain, to which Valdiviezo responded "Yes!" Id. Officer Velez then reported a medical emergency to fellow Corrections Officer Ayou, who was in the control booth. Id. Instead of calling emergency personnel, Officer Ayou called Captain Boyer. Id. Valdiviezo alleges that it took twenty minutes for Captain Boyer to arrive. Id. at 2, 5. Once he finally arrived, instead of attending to Valdiviezo (who was still on the floor in pain), Officer Boyer decided to review the security footage of the fall in order to make sure that no one had pushed Valdiviezo. Id. at 2. Overall, Valdiviezo alleges that he was left on the floor "for no less than [an] hour in pain while people stepped over [him] going back and forth taking showers." Id. Eventually, a medical response team arrived. Id. The medical responders instructed several other inmates to pick Valdiviezo up and carry him to the medical clinic. Id. The inmates ended up dropping Valdiviezo twice. Id. at 2, 5-6. Valdiviezo alleges that the second drop caused him to lose consciousness, and he later woke up in the prison's medical clinic. Id. at 2, 4. According to Valdiviezo, he suffered "injury to [his] back, left shoulder, [and] neck" and he also suffered from "impaired vision and a searing headache." Id. at 4. He was eventually transported from the prison to a hospital. Id.

         The other incidents described in Valdiviezo's complaint relate to certain conditions of confinement. According to Valdiviezo, the conditions of the prison showers were "unsanitary" and "deplorable." Id. at 2. Specifically, Valdiviezo alleges that the "showers were used as urinals and smelled of urine" because the prison refused to add a restroom to the housing unit. Id. at 2, 4. He also alleges that shower tiles were cracked and missing (therefore increasing the risk that an inmate would cut himself and get an infection), that the walls, ceiling, pipes, and paint in the showers were corroded, that "water worms were found in the showers on multiple occasions, " and that there were no shower pads or mats. Id. at 2-3. Valdiviezo alleges that several complaints and grievances were filed regarding these conditions and that "on [a] few occasions" state officials inspected the showers, but that nothing happened as a result. Id. at 3. According to Valdiviezo, these unsanitary conditions persisted for at least eighteen months. Id. at 2, 4.

         Valdiviezo also alleges that he was exposed to human waste. According to Valdiviezo, on both December 31, 2014 and January 19, 2015, his cell block flooded with "sewage, " "human waste, " "feces, " and "polluted water." Id. at 3, 6. He further alleges that prison officials refused to move him or allow him to clean his cell. Id. at 3. As a result, Valdiviezo was forced to "live in [these] squalor and unsanitary conditions" for an unspecified period of time. Id. at 6. As with the shower conditions, Valdiviezo alleges that several grievances were filed to no avail. Id. at 3.

         Finally, Valdiviezo alleges that his sleep was disturbed on one night by another prisoner. According to Valdiviezo, on the night of December 31, 2014 (the same night as one of the floods), he was "expos[ed] to [the] extreme behavior, " namely the "constant screaming, " of another prisoner. Id. at 3. This deprived Valdiviezo of sleep that night. Id.

         On May 12, 2015, Valdiviezo filed apro se complaint against the City of New York and Captain Boyer. Dkt No. 2. On July 27, 2015, then Chief Judge Preska sua sponte ordered Valdiviezo to file an amended complaint. Dkt No. 5. That order laid out the standards relevant to Eighth Amendment claims and directed Valdiviezo to provide more factual detail to support his claims. Id. Accordingly, on October 2, 2015, Valdiviezo filed an amended complaint naming Captain Boyer, the GRVC, and the GMDC as defendants. Dkt No. 6. On November 19, 2015, the Court dismissed Valdiviezo's allegations against the GRVC and GMDC because, as agencies of the City of New York, these entities could not be sued. Dkt No. 8 at 2. The Court, however, construed the complaint as asserting claims against the City of New York and accordingly ordered service on the City and Boyer. Id. at 2-3. On February 26, 2016, the City of New York and Captain Boyer filed a motion to dismiss Valdiviezo's initial and amended complaints. Dkt No. 14. The Court sua sponte granted Valdiviezo leave to amend his complaint in response to this motion to dismiss. Dkt No. 17. Valdiviezo did so on April 26, 2016. Dkt No. 22. The City of New York and Boyer once again moved to dismiss, see Dkt No. 26, and the Court again provided Valdiviezo leave to amend, see Dkt No. 28. On August 1, 2016, Valdiviezo filed his third amended complaint, the operative pleading for purposes of this motion. Dkt No. 32. Defendants renewed their motion to dismiss. Dkt No. 35.

         II. Standard of Review

         To survive a motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6), a plaintiff must plead "enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face." Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007). 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." Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (citing Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556). "Threadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action" and "mere conclusory statements" in a complaint are insufficient to survive a motion to dismiss. Id. Courts "are not bound to accept as true a legal conclusion couched as a factual allegation." Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555 (citation omitted).

         "Where, as here, the complaint was filed pro se, it must be construed liberally to raise the strongest arguments it suggests." Walker v. Schult, 717 F.3d 119, 124 (2d Cir. 2013) (citations, quotation marks, and brackets omitted). "Nonetheless, a pro se complaint must state a plausible claim for relief." Id. A court may dismiss a pro se complaint if it is clear that the plaintiff cannot demonstrate a set of facts that would entitle him to relief. Weixel v. Bd, of Educ, 287 F.3d 138, 145 (2d Cir. 2002); see also Twombly, 550 U.S. at 558 (noting that dismissal is appropriate if "the allegations in a complaint, however true, could not raise a claim of entitlement to relief).

         III. ...

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