United States District Court, S.D. New York
P. Griesa United States District Judge.
Shone Brown brings this action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. §
1983 against the City of New York (the "City") and
eleven individuals employed by the New York City Department
of Correction (the "DOC"). Brown alleges that
Defendants violated his constitutional rights while he was a
pretrial detainee at Rikers Island. Brown also brings claims
against Defendants under New York State law. Defendants move
to partially dismiss the complaint pursuant to Federal Rule of
Civil Procedure 12(b)(6). For the reasons stated below,
Defendants' motion is granted in part and denied in part.
was arrested in April 2012 following a domestic dispute with
his ex-wife. Compl. ¶ 22. After his arraignment, Brown
was held as a pretrial detainee at the Otis Bantum
Correctional Center, a DOC facility on Rikers Island.
Id. ¶ 23-24. On July 7, 2012, the DOC moved
Brown to a different facility on Rikers Island: the George
Motchan Detention Center ("GMDC"). Id.
Attack on Brown in GMDC's Dayroom
approximately 4:30 PM on July 15, 2012, Brown entered a
dayroom at GMDC and sat down in a chair. Id.
¶¶ 46-47. After Brown sat down, four inmates who
were members of the Bloods gang approached him and told him
to get up because "the chair belonged to Bloods."
Id. ¶ 48. Brown did not get up and instead
asked why he could not sit in the chair. Id. ¶
49. The four inmates then attacked him. Id. The
attack lasted for about twenty minutes and rendered Brown
unconscious. Id. ¶¶ 50-51.
Officer ("CO") Regina James and CO Kenyonda
Grinkley witnessed the attack but did not intervene.
Id. ¶¶ 52, 54. They "merely stood
idly by and watched." Id. ¶ 54. After
Brown had been severely wounded, CO James and CO Grinkley
called for aid. Id. Brown's attackers then left
the area. Id. ¶ 57. Before assistance arrived,
Brown regained consciousness and asked CO James why she did
not protect him. Id. ¶ 55.
of additional DOC personnel, known as a "probe
team," responded to the dayroom. Id. ¶ 56.
The probe team was led by Captain Ronald Rudolph.
Id. ¶ 16. Brown told Captain Rudolph that he
had been attacked by four members of the Bloods. Id.
¶ 58. Brown also told Captain Rudolph that he wanted to
press charges against the four Bloods members, but Brown did
not know their names because he had just been transferred to
GMDC. Id. ¶ 60-61. Brown asked Captain Rudolph
and CO James to help him identify the four inmates who
attacked him. Id. ¶ 61. Brown also complained
to Captain Rudolph that CO James saw the attack but did not
intervene. Id. ¶ 59.
personnel took Brown to GMDC's medical clinic. The doctor
who saw Brown at the clinic noted that Brown had visible
injuries to his back, lips, jaw, and ankle. Id.
¶ 72. At approximately 6:15 PM, Brown was transported
from GMDC to Elmhurst Hospital Center, and later to Bellevue
Hospital, for additional treatment. Id. ¶¶
73, 132-33. Brown was diagnosed with a broken jaw and a
fractured ankle. Id. ¶¶ 50, 134. Doctors
performed surgery on Brown and implanted a plate, wires, and
screws into his ankle. Id. ¶¶ 142-143.
Brown was confined to a wheelchair for several months.
Id. ¶ 144.
Edwin Skepple was a supervisor on duty at the time of the
incident. Id. ¶¶ 15, 105. Assistant Deputy
Warden Raymond Beltz was the commanding officer on duty.
Id. ¶¶ 14, 105. Assistant Deputy Warden
Beltz tasked Captain Skepple with investigating the incident.
Id. ¶ 105. Brown contends, however, that
Captain Skepple did not conduct an investigation.
Id. ¶ 106.
Post-Attack Events and Incident Reports
the incident, CO James prepared and signed a handwritten
report, dated July 15, 2012, detailing what she had observed.
Id. ¶ 62. In the report, CO James wrote that
she saw Brown and another inmate, "D.T.," engaged
in a fist fight. Id. CO James said she ordered Brown
and D.T. to stop fighting but they ignored her commands.
Id. ¶ 63. According to the report, CO James
then warned Brown and D.T. that she would use pepper spray if
they continued fighting. Id. ¶ 64. CO James
wrote that the fight then ended, and both inmates were
escorted out of the area without further incident.
Id. ¶¶ 64, 67. CO James also noted in her
report that CO Grinkley witnessed the fight. Id.
¶ 65. Brown claims that CO James lied in this report to
cover up the attack and to retaliate against him for his
complaint about her to Captain Rudolph. Id. ¶
similar report about the incident, also dated July 15, 2012,
bears CO Grinkley's signature. Id. ¶ 69-70.
Brown says this report, despite purporting to be authored by
CO Grinkley, was really prepared by CO James as well.
Id. ¶ 69.
20, 2012, CO Jose Freire met with Brown to discuss the
incident. Id. ¶ 166. At this meeting, Brown
prepared a handwritten complaint stating that he was attacked
by four members of the Bloods while CO James stood by and
watched. Id. ¶ 79. Brown also wrote that he
wanted to press charges against CO James and the gang
members. Id. CO Freire told Brown that he would show
Brown a photo array of GMDC inmates to help Brown identify
his attackers. Id. ¶ 166. CO Freire also said
he would investigate Brown's complaint and assist Brown
in pressing charges against CO James and the gang members.
speculates that, after this exchange, CO Freire met with CO
James, CO Grinkley, and Captain Skepple (the supervisor) to
discuss the situation. Id. ¶ 168. Brown claims
that, during this discussion, CO James, CO Grinkley, and
Captain Skepple told CO Freire that they were working with
other DOC personnel to cover up the truth about the incident.
Id. ¶ 169. Specifically, Brown contends that CO
James, CO Grinkley, and Captain Skepple informed CO Freire
that Captain Rudolph (the probe team leader), Assistant
Deputy Warden Beltz (the commanding officer), Deputy Warden
Daniel O'Connell, and Deputy Warden Felipe
Laboriel were all part of the conspiracy to cover
up the incident. Id. According to Brown, once CO
Freire learned that these seven DOC personnel were working
together to hide the truth, CO Freire agreed to join the
effort to conceal the actual facts of the incident.
Id. ¶ 170. Thus, after the discussion, CO
Freire refused to meet with Brown again, did not provide
Brown with the promised photo array, and did not assist Brown
in pressing charges against CO James and the four gang
members. Id. ¶ 171.
23, 2012, Captain Rudolph filed a report about the incident.
Id. ¶ 77. Captain Rudolph wrote that he
responded to the dayroom with the probe team on July 15, and
Brown told him at the scene that he was involved in a fight
with one other inmate. Id. ¶ 78. Brown contends
that Captain Rudolph submitted this false report as part of
his collusion with CO James, CO Grinkley, Captain Skepple,
and other DOC personnel. Id. ¶¶ 77, 79.
30, 2012, Captain Skepple submitted a report detailing the
findings of his investigation. Id. ¶ 107. In his
report, Captain Skepple wrote that he attempted to question
Brown on July 15 at GMDC's medical clinic but Brown
refused to provide a statement or any information as to how
he got hurt. Id. ¶ 108. Captain Skepple also
noted that he told Brown that fighting was not tolerated in
DOC facilities, and that Brown would be "infracted"
for violating DOC rules. Id. ¶ 109. Captain
Skepple wrote that he tried to give Brown a formal notice of
the infraction during the morning of July 20, 2012-i.e., just
before CO Freire went to meet with Brown-but Brown refused to
sign and take a copy. Id. ¶¶ 110-11.
Captain Skepple concluded in his report that no other inmates
besides Brown and D.T. were involved in the altercation.
Id. ¶¶ 113, 118. Captain Skepple
speculated that Brown lied in his statement to CO Freire on
July 20 because Brown had just been given notice of the
infraction and wanted to make himself look like a victim to
avoid discipline. Id. ¶¶ 115-17. Moreover,
Captain Skepple praised CO James for her quick response to
the situation. Id. ¶ 120. Brown claims that he
never spoke to Captain Skepple and that this report, like the
others, is inaccurate. Id. ¶¶ 107, 110.
Warden Laboriel, Deputy Warden O'Connell, and Assistant
Deputy Warden Beltz reviewed all of the reports, agreed with
their findings, and "signed off on them. Id.
¶ 150. Deputy Warden Laboriel, Deputy Warden
O'Connell, and Assistant Deputy Warden Beltz also praised
their staff for responding quickly to the incident,
exonerated CO James of any wrongdoing, and summarily
dismissed Brown's complaint against CO James and the gang
members. Id. ¶ 151. As the commanding officer,
Assistant Deputy Warden Beltz submitted a final report about
the incident. Id. ¶ 152. Beltz wrote that Brown
and D.T. were "horse playing" when the situation
escalated and turned into a fist fight. Id. ¶
154. Brown contends that Beltz's report contains numerous
lies and was fabricated to cover up the incident.
supports his allegation that Defendants' fist-fight
theory is implausible by highlighting D.T.'s physical
traits and medical records. D.T. is 5 feet, 7 inches tall and
weighs 140 pounds. Id. ¶ 140. Brown, on the
other hand, is 5 feet, 9 inches tall and weighs 180 pounds.
Id. ¶ 139. Like Brown, D.T. was seen by a
doctor at GMDC's clinic after the incident. Id.
¶ 135. But unlike Brown, D.T. did not sustain any
visible injuries and did not need treatment. Id.
¶¶ 135-36. Brown says it is impossible that D.T.,
who weighs less than Brown, inflicted such severe injuries on
Brown without sustaining any injuries of his own.
Id. ¶ 146.
September 18, 2012, Brown met with Captain Rudolph to
complete an application for protective custody. Id.
¶ 81. Brown wrote that he was attacked by four members
of the Bloods gang, and that he was worried the Bloods would
target him again. Id. ¶ 84. Captain Rudolph
signed Brown's application as a witness. Id.
¶ 85. Captain Rudolph wrote in his own separate form,
though, that Brown was involved in an altercation with just
one other inmate who is a known member of the Bloods.
Id. ¶¶ 86-87.
did not hold a hearing to adjudicate the merits of the
misbehavior report filed against Brown. Id.
¶¶ 157, 159, 163. The infraction remained in
Brown's official inmate file. Id. ¶¶
161-62. Defendants relied on the misbehavior report to
maintain Brown's custody level at a classification that
deprived him of several benefits available to inmates with a
lower custody level classification. Id. ¶ 164.
Screening for Gang Membership
claims that D.T. did not belong in GMDC's general
population. Brown says CO Tietjen, who processed D.T.'s
inmate classification, failed to screen D.T. for gang
membership. Id. ¶ 187. Further, Brown alleges
that Warden Brian Suprenant, the individual responsible for
approving D.T.'s initial placement, also improperly
reviewed D.T.'s criminal history and missed D.T.'s
gang membership. Id. ¶¶ 188-89. According
to Brown, had CO Tietjen and Warden Suprenant properly
evaluated D.T., then D.T. would have been placed in a special
housing area away from the general population. Id.
Allegations of Violence and Corruption at GMDC
further alleges that GMDC is known for inmate assaults. Brown
says that DOC Commissioner Joseph Ponte and other DOC
officials are aware of gang-related violence at GMDC but do
not take corrective action. Id. ¶¶ 35-44,
197-98. Moreover, Brown claims that correction officers
regularly recruit inmates who are gang members to help
control the general prison population. Id.
¶¶ 27-28, 45. Brown contends that correction
officers give these gang members exclusive use of common
areas, including dayrooms and chairs, and allow gang members
to attack other inmates who attempt to use these areas.
Id. ¶ 32-34. According to Brown, a few days
before he was attacked, another inmate at GMDC was attacked
by the Bloods in a similar manner. Id. ¶ 193.
brought this lawsuit on September 30, 2013. Defendants
answered the original complaint and, on April 16, 2015, moved
for partial judgment on the pleadings pursuant to Federal
Rule of Civil Procedure 12(c). Brown responded on June 2,
2015 by moving for leave to amend his complaint. The court
granted Brown's motion for leave to file an amended
complaint on November 13, 2015. ECF No. 49. In light of that
decision, the court denied Defendants' motion for partial
judgment on the pleadings.
filed his amended complaint on November 17, 2015 and listed
the following parties as defendants: the City, Commissioner
Ponte, Warden Suprenant, Deputy Warden Laboriel, Deputy
Warden O'Connell, Assistant Deputy Warden Beltz, Captain
Skepple, Captain Rudolph, CO James, CO Grinkley, CO Tietjen,
and CO Freire. Each of the Individual Defendants is named in
his or her official capacity and individual capacity. Six of
these defendants-Ponte, Suprenant, Laboriel, O'Connell,
Rudolph, and Tietjen- were not listed in the original
complaint. On the other hand, some defendants listed in the
original complaint were not named in the amended complaint,
including former DOC Commissioner Dora Schriro and numerous
"John Doe" and "Jane Doe" defendants.
amended complaint, Brown brings various claims against
Defendants through eight causes of action. The first four
causes of action arise under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and allege
(1) Commissioner Ponte, Warden Suprenant, Deputy Warden
Laboriel, Deputy Warden O'Connell, Assistant Deputy
Warden Beltz, Captain Skepple, CO James, CO Grinkley, and CO
Tietjen engaged in conduct that "amounted to deliberate
indifference to a serious threat to the health or safety,
cruel and inhuman treatment, cruel and unusual punishment and
denial of due process rights." Id. ¶¶
(2) Deputy Warden Laboriel, Deputy Warden O'Connell,
Assistant Deputy Warden Beltz, Captain Skepple, CO James, CO
Grinkley, and Captain Rudolph engaged in conduct that
"amounted to first amendment retaliation and denial of
due process rights." Id. ¶¶ 208-11.
(3) Deputy Warden Laboriel, Deputy Warden O'Connell,
Assistant Deputy Warden Beltz, Captain Skepple, CO James, CO
Grinkley, Captain Rudolph, and CO Freire engaged in conduct
that "amounted to conspiracy, denial of equal protection
of the laws and denial of due process rights."
Id. ¶¶ 212-15.
(4) The City is liable for having an unconstitutional
municipal policy or custom, and for failing to properly
train, supervise, or discipline its correction officers.
Id. ¶¶ 216-45.
remaining four causes of action arise under state law and
make the following allegations:
(5) All defendants violated Brown's rights under various
provisions of the New York State Constitution. Id.
(6) All defendants are liable for "other New York
torts," including "negligence, assault and battery,
and breach of special duty or relationship."
Id. ¶¶ 251-53.
(7) Unspecified defendants are liable for intentional
infliction of emotional distress and negligent infliction of
emotional distress. Id. ¶¶ 254-57.
(8) The City negligently hired and retained DOC employees.
Id. ¶¶ 258-62.
March 16, 2016, all defendants except for CO James and CO
Grinkley moved to dismiss the complaint pursuant to Federal
Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6). Specifically, the City,
Commissioner Ponte, Warden Suprenant, Deputy Warden Laboriel,
Deputy Warden O'Connell, Assistant Deputy Warden Beltz,
Captain Skepple, Captain Rudolph, CO Tietjen, and CO Freire
seek dismissal of all Brown's claims against them.
Standard of Review
survive a motion to dismiss, a complaint must contain
sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to 'state a
claim to relief that is plausible on its face.'"
Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (quoting
Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570
(2007)). "A claim has facial plausibility when the
plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to
draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable
for the misconduct alleged." Iqbal, 556 U.S. at
678. However, "[t]hreadbare recitals of the elements of
a cause of action, supported by mere conclusory statements,
do not suffice." Id.
Claims Against the Individual Defendants in their Official
court notes that Brown has sued the Individual Defendants in
both their official and individual capacities. Compl.
¶¶ 10-20. Brown's claims against the Individual
Defendants in their official capacities are duplicative of
his claims against the City because "a suit against a
governmental officer in his official capacity is the same as
a suit against the entity of which the officer is an
agent." McMillian v. Monroe Cty., 520 U.S. 781,
785 n.2 (1997) (internal quotation marks and citations
omitted). "As long as the government entity receives
notice and an opportunity to respond, an official-capacity
suit is, in all respects other than name, to be treated as a
suit against the entity." Kentucky v.
Graham, 473 U.S. 159, 166 (1985); see also Davis v.
Stratton, 360 F. App'x 182, 183 (2d Cir. 2010)
("[I]n a suit against a public entity, naming officials
of the public entity in their official capacities add[s]
nothing to the suit." (internal quotation marks and
citation omitted)). "Within the Second Circuit, where a
plaintiff names both the municipal entity and an official in
his or her official capacity, district courts have
consistently dismissed the official capacity claims as
redundant." Phillips v. Cty. of Orange, 894 F.
Supp. 2d 345, 384 n.35 (S.D.N.Y. 2012). Thus, Brown's
claims against the Individual Defendants in their official
capacities are dismissed.