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Little v. Municipal Co.

United States District Court, S.D. New York

March 29, 2017


          Clifton Little Dannemora, NY Pro Se Plaintiff.

          Anthony Romero Romulus, NY Pro Se Plaintiff.

          Evan Schnittman, Esq., Corporation Counsel of the City of New York New York, NY Counsel for Defendants.

          OPINION & ORDER


         Anthony Romero (“Romero”) and Clifton Little (“Little, ” and together, “Plaintiffs”), proceeding pro se, bring this Action against Municipal Corporation, the City of New York (“the City”), Commissioner of the New York City Department of Correction Dora B. Schriro (“Commissioner Schriro”), Warden Duffy (“Duffy”), Deputy Williams (“Williams”), Captain Bernadette Brown (“Brown”), Warden Ardo (“Ardo”), Officer Romeiro Hill (“Hill”), Ms. Jackson (“Jackson”), Officer Cregg (“Cregg”), Officer Chapman (“Chapman”), Captain Vaughn (“Vaughn”), Officer Stokes (“Stokes”), Deputy Warden Bailey (“Bailey”), Officer Yousuf (“Yousuf”), Officer Lewis (“Lewis”), Captain Wynn (“Wynn”), Captain Cimato (“Cimato”), Officer Antonio Bravo (“Bravo”), Officer Mikell Spears (“Spears”), and Captain Elio Elias (“Elias, ” and collectively, “Defendants”), for violations of constitutional rights Plaintiffs suffered while incarcerated at the George R. Vierno Center (“GRVC”) at Rikers Island.[1] Both Romero and Little separately filed Second Amended Complaints, (Dkt. Nos. 68, 99), that are the subject of the instant Motion To Dismiss pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) (the “Motion”). (Dkt. No. 116.)[2] For the reasons to follow, Defendants' Motion is granted in part and denied in part.

         I. Background

         A. Factual Background

         The following facts are drawn from Plaintiffs' Second Amended Complaints (“SACs”) and are taken as true for the purpose of deciding the instant Motion.[3]

         1. Plaintiff Romero's Allegations

         Romero alleges that he was subjected to excessive confinement on “about 15 to 20 [occasions]” when “for long periods of time” he was “locked in [his] cell[].” (Second Am. Compl. of Anthony Romero (“Romero SAC”) 3-4 (Dkt. No. 68).) Specifically, Romero asserts that on July 11, 2012, he and other inmates “were held and locked in [their] cells [for] approximately 23 hours for no apparent reason.” (Id. at 7.)

         Romero asserts that 4-B Housing Unit (“4-B”) “started having sewage back[]ups and the housing area would get flooded with feces[] [and] urine, ” (id. at 3), and he was forced to wait in the flooded cell while Defendants “fix[ed] the problem, ” (id. at 4). Romero was denied “a linen [e]x[]change so that [he] could receive clean sheets, blankets, [and] towels, ” and he and other inmates “had to clean [their] own property . . . without the help of a washer or dryer.” (Id.) Romero was not reimbursed for the property which was damaged during the flooding. (Id. at 7.) As a result of the “dirty environment” to which Romero was subjected, he “developed . . . bad allergies . . . [and] skin irr[i]tation.” (Id. at 4.)

         Romero and other inmates at GRVC “were strip searched and all of [their] property [was] taken from [them].” (Id. at 3.) Additionally, Romero was “without food for . . . about 14 or 16 hours.” (Id.)[4]

         Romero also asserts that he was functionally denied access to the law library because “if [he] had a call-out . . . [he] had to decide which one [he] wanted to go to or which one was the most important that day, ” as the available resources were offered at the same time. (Id. at 4.) Consequently, Romero “wasn't able to research [his] [criminal] case properly.” (Id. at 5.)

         2. Plaintiff Little's Allegations[5]

         On March 3, 2012, Little's cell in 4-B was flooded when a “slop sink” overflowed and he was denied access to his cell to remove his property from the floor to ensure it was not damaged. (See Second Am. Compl. of Clifton Little (“Little SAC”) ¶¶ 3-8 (Dkt. No. 99).)[6] Little was subsequently confined to the cell flooded with water “filled with urine, feces[, ] and other unidentified substances, ” with “no ventilation and a window that would not open.” (Id. ¶ 15.)

         Following the flooding, Little was escorted to the prison gym, where “the windows were open and the air was extremely cold.” (Id. ¶ 19.) Little requested that the windows be closed and that he be given a blanket, but was denied both requests. (Id. ¶¶ 19-20.) During this time, Little alleges that he alerted Defendant Elias that he had not eaten for 13 hours, but was told he could eat at 6 a.m. when breakfast was served. (Id. ¶ 21.) Little was returned to his flooded cell, where he discovered his sink and toilet were not working. (Id. ¶ 23.) At 6 a.m., 18 hours after Little's previous meal, inmates were “issued half a pint of 1% milk and [four] slices of hard molded bread.” (Id. ¶ 25.)

         On or about April 4, 2012, Little was “reclassified and placed on a Security Risk Group [(‘SRG')] list” by Defendant Vaughn because he was “an alleged ‘active' gang member.” (Id. ¶ 28.) Little asserts that such action was taken “without conducting any form of an investigation or providing [him] any form of a notice.” (Id.) As a result of Little's reclassification, he lost his job as an inmate hair stylist. (Id. ¶ 29.) When Little sought to file a grievance in response, he was told “being fired was not a grievable issue” and was denied his request for a grievance number for the grievances he eventually filed in connection with both losing his job and the alleged inhumane conditions due to the flooding of 4-B. (Id. ¶ 30.)

         Little also asserts that Defendants Vaughn, Stokes, and Chapman denied Little's right of access to the courts and restricted him from using the law library. (Id. ¶¶ 31-36, 48.) “Due to this denial of legal services[, ] [Little] was unable to file any Article 78 petition challenging” his reclassification as SRG and his property damage. (Id. ¶ 34.) Little further alleges that the denial “affected [his] criminal proceedings, ” (id. ¶ 35), and that “[h]ad it not been for [Defendant] Chapman's denial of law library services, [Little] would not have been convicted or faced a trial, ” (id.).

         On August 11, 2012, Little alleges that Defendant Yousuf sprayed Little with “‘O.C.' ([c]hemical [a]gent)” and he was “handcuffed . . . and taken to intake and placed in a holding pen, . . . until he was seen by medical staff for the exposure to ‘O.C.'” (Id. ¶ 37.) Before being seen by medical staff, Defendant Wynn told Little “when medical calls you in you better say you have no injuries because if you don't hold it down and my officer gets in trouble you will get fucked up.” (Id. ¶ 38 (internal quotation marks omitted).) “[O]ut of fear, ” Little told medical staff “he had no injuries and refuse[d] to sign any documents.” (Id. ¶ 39.)

         On August 12, 2012, Little “was handcuffed, placed in a [Department of Correction (‘DOC')] van and taken from GRVC to [Otis Bantum Correctional Center (‘OBCC')] for [prehearing detention (‘PHD')] in OBCC's [Central Punitive Segregation Unit (‘CPSU')] area under the recommendation of [D]efendant Wynn and approval of [D]efendant Duffy.” (Id. ¶ 42.) Little “remained in a single cell with no vent[i]l[]ation for a total of seven days without any of his personal property.” (Id.) Little was not given a hearing, notice of infraction, or misbehavior report in relation to the incident, and suffered “extreme headaches and anxiety” as a result of this confinement. (Id.)[7]

         B. Procedural History

         Due to the age and procedural complexity of the Action, the Court recounts only the procedural history relevant to the instant Motion.[8]

         In an Opinion & Order (“Opinion”) dated September 29, 2014, the Court granted Defendants' motion to dismiss and dismissed Plaintiffs' Amended Complaint without prejudice. (Op. & Order (“Opinion”) 41 (Dkt. No. 61).) In doing so, the Court granted Plaintiffs permission to file a second amended complaint. (Id.) The Court's Opinion further instructed that “[t]he other Plaintiffs must file their own amended complaint, which must include the signature of the Plaintiff to which it is to be attributed” and that “if a Plaintiff cannot sign, and thereby join, another Plaintiff's amended complaint, he must submit his own signed amended complaint to the Court.” (Id.) On November 10, 2014, Plaintiff Romero filed his signed SAC. (Dkt. No. 68.)

         In an attempt to comply with the Court's order, Little filed an Amended Complaint on November 19, 2014, naming John and Jane Doe Defendants. (Dkt. No. 72.) On January 15, 2015, the Court directed Defendants to identify the John and Jane Doe Defendants who appear in Little's Amended Complaint pursuant to Valentin v. Dinkins, 121 F.3d 72 (2d Cir. 1997). (See Dkt. No. 76.)[9] By letter dated March 9, 2015, Defendants informed the Court that they had partially complied with the Valentin Order and requested an extension of time to continue their attempt to ascertain the identities of certain John Doe Defendants, (see Dkt. No. 78), which the Court granted on March 10, 2015, (Dkt. No. 79). By letter dated March 30, 2015, Defendants informed the Court that they “ha[d] made a genuine effort to comply with the Court's Valentin Order, and . . . ha[d] been working with [DOC] employees to determine the remaining identi[t]ies of the John [or Jane] Doe Defendants.” (Dkt. No. 80.) Defendants sought more information from Little to ascertain the identities of two (or more) John and/or Jane Doe Defendants, (id. at 2), and on April 1, 2015, the Court ordered that Little supply certain information towards that end, (Dkt. No. 82). Little responded by letter dated April 14, 2015, (Dkt. No. 83), but was unable to provide information sufficient to allow Defendants to identify the remaining John Does, (Dkt. No. 84). Several letters were exchanged between the Parties, but Little did not provide any additional information as to the identities of the remaining John Does. (Dkt. Nos. 87-88, 90.) On February 9, 2016, the Court provided Little with one final opportunity to provide more information to allow Defendants to identify the remaining John Does, ordering Little to provide the information by March 1, 2016, or risk dismissal of the claims against those Defendants, (Dkt. No. 94), but Little never provided the requested information. On March 18, 2016, the Court dismissed the claims against the remaining John Does, without prejudice, pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 41(b) for failure to prosecute. (Dkt. No. 95.) The Court instructed Little to file a Second Amended Complaint naming the John Doe Defendants identified by Defendants in their March 9, 2015 letter. (Id. at 2.)

         On May 2, 2016, Little filed his SAC. (Dkt. No. 99.) On July 8, 2016, Defendants filed the instant Motion and accompanying papers. (Dkt. Nos. 116-20). On August 22, 2016, Defendants' counsel filed a letter requesting that the Court deem the Motion as submitted on behalf of Defendants Lewis, Vaughn, Hill, Wynn, Bravo, Cimato, Cregg, Stokes, and Bailey, (Dkt. No. 131), and the Court granted the request the following day, (Dkt. No. 132).

         On October 3, 2016, Romero filed his opposition, (Dkt. No. 136), and on November 2, 2016, Little filed his opposition, (Dkt. No. 144). On November 9, 2016, Defendants' counsel filed a letter requesting that the Court deem the Motion as submitted on behalf of Defendant Yousuf, (Dkt. No. 147), and the Court granted the request on the same day, (Dkt. No. 148). In a letter to the Court dated November 16, 2016, Little requested reconsideration of the Court's decision to consider the Motion submitted on behalf of Defendant Yousuf, and additionally requested that the Court grant default judgment against Defendants Spears, Hill, Brown, Bailey and Cregg. (Dkt. No. 149). Defendants filed a response to Little's letter on November 23, 2016, (Dkt. No. ...

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