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Fabian v. Bukowski

United States District Court, N.D. New York

April 25, 2017

RAMON FABIAN, Plaintiff,
MICHAEL BUKOWSKI, Corrections Officer, individually and in his official capacity,, Defendants.


          Lawrence E. Kahn U.S. District Judge


         In this case, Roman Fabian brings constitutional and state-law tort claims against Michael Bukowski-a corrections officer Fabian alleges savagely beat him-and Anthony J. Annucci, Commissioner of the New York State Department of Corrections and Community Supervision (“DOCCS”). Dkt. No. 1 (“Complaint”) ¶¶ 1-2, 10-11. Presently before the Court are two motions: one by Annucci to dismiss the claims against him, Dkt. No. 23 (“Motion to Dismiss); see also Dkt. Nos. 23-1 (“Memorandum”), 27 (“Opposition”), 29 (“Reply”), and another by Fabian seeking a default judgment against Bukowski, Dkt. No. 31 (“Default Judgment Motion”); see also Dkt. No. 31-1 (“Default Judgment Memorandum”). For the following reasons, Annucci's Motion to Dismiss is granted, and Fabian is ordered to provide additional briefing and materials in support of his Default Judgment Motion.


         This lawsuit stems from Fabian's incarceration at Ulster Correctional Facility (“Ulster C.F.”). Compl. ¶ 17. In July 2014-several days after Fabian first arrived at the facility-Bukowski was conducting a morning head count and yelled at Fabian, telling him to “shut up.” Id. After the head count, Bukowski took Fabian to an area of the prison outside the view of other inmates and without camera coverage. Id. Bukowski ordered Fabian to face a wall with his arms outstretched and legs spread open. Id. Then, from behind, Bukowski kicked Fabian between the legs. Id. Fabian collapsed; despite Bukowski's orders to get up, Fabian had to crawl back to his cubicle in the dormitory. Id.

         Fabian remained on the floor of his cubicle for almost an hour before reporting to the mess hall for lunch. Id. A sergeant then sent him to the facility's medical unit, which in turn loaded him into a van and drove him to a hospital in Albany. Id. The attack had ruptured Fabian's right testicle, a part of which was subsequently removed by doctors in emergency surgery. Id. ¶¶ 2, 17. Because of the attack, Bukowski was eventually charged with misdemeanor assault and fired from his job with DOCCS. Id. ¶ 10.

         Though Bukowski's involvement in the attack is plainly alleged in the Complaint, Fabian also sued three others: Annucci (Commissioner of DOCCS), Colonel James Hanstein, [1] and Ulster County Sheriff Paul J. Van Blarcum. Id. ¶¶ 11-12.[2] In attempting to tie them to the attack, Fabian alleges that Bukowski had beaten other inmates in the past, and that Hanstein and Van Blarcum were aware of complaints concerning this behavior. Id. ¶ 18. Fabian does not allege that Annucci was aware of Bukowski's past misconduct, id., but Fabian later alleges that Annucci failed as a supervisor to prevent this incident and was “aware of widespread beatings of inmates by officers” within New York's corrections system. Id. ¶¶ 29-30. The Complaint does not mention any particular incident that Annucci was aware of, and does not allege that he knew of past violations committed by Bukowski.

         Fabian filed his Complaint in July 2016, Compl., but voluntarily dismissed his claims against Van Blarcum and Hanstein soon after, Dkt. Nos. 6, 20.[3] Still remaining were Fabian's claims against Annucci as a supervisor for excessive force, denial of medical care, and negligence. Compl. ¶¶ 26-40, 52-55. Annucci then moved to dismiss these claims, arguing that Fabian's claims against Annucci in his official capacity were barred by sovereign immunity, that he failed to sufficiently plead personal involvement for his individual-capacity claims, and that the Court should not exercise supplemental jurisdiction over his state-law claims. Mem. at 4-11.

         While Annucci moved to dismiss the claims against him, Bukowski did not answer or otherwise appear in this action, and the clerk noted his default. Dkt. No. 22. Fabian then moved for a default judgment against Bukowski. Default J. Mot. Fabian's motion, however, asks “for an inquest to determine” damages, Dkt. No. 31-2 (“Attorney Affidavit”) ¶ 9, and does not include a proposed damages amount or any evidence suggesting what amount of damages would be appropriate, id.; Default J. Mem. at 13.


         A. Motion to Dismiss

         To survive a motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, 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 court must accept as true the factual allegations contained in a complaint and draw all inferences in favor of the plaintiff. Allaire Corp. v. Okumus, 433 F.3d 248, 249-50 (2d Cir. 2006). Plausibility, however, requires “enough fact[s] to raise a reasonable expectation that discovery will reveal evidence of [the alleged misconduct].” Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556. The plausibility standard “asks for more than a sheer possibility that a defendant has acted unlawfully.” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678 (citing Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556). “[T]he pleading standard Rule 8 announces does not require ‘detailed factual allegations, ' but it demands more than an unadorned, the-defendant-unlawfully-harmed-me accusation.” Id. (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555). Where a court is unable to infer more than the mere possibility of the alleged misconduct based on the pleaded facts, the pleader has not demonstrated that she is entitled to relief and the action is subject to dismissal. Id. at 678-79.

         B. Default Judgment

         “Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 55 provides a two-step process that the Court must follow before it may enter a default judgment against a defendant.” Elec. Creations Corp. v. Gigahertz, Inc., No. 12-CV-1423, 2013 WL 3229125, at *3 (N.D.N.Y. June 25, 2013) (quoting Robertson v. Doe, No. 05-CV-7046, 2008 WL 2519894, at *3 (S.D.N.Y. June 19, 2008)). “First, under Rule 55(a), when a party fails to ‘plead or otherwise defend . . . the clerk must enter the party's default.'” Id. (alteration in original) (quoting Robertson, 2008 WL 2519894, at *3). Second, under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 55(b)(2), “the party seeking default judgment is required to present its application for entry of judgment to the court.” Id. (quoting Robertson, 2008 WL 2519894, at *3).

         “When a default is entered, the defendant is deemed to have admitted all of the well-pleaded factual allegations in the complaint pertaining to liability. . . .” Bravado Int'l Grp. Merch. Servs., Inc. v. Ninna, Inc., 655 F.Supp.2d 177, 188 (E.D.N.Y. 2009) (citing Greyhound Exhibitgroup, Inc. v. E.L.U.L. Realty Corp., 973 F.2d 155, 158 (2d Cir. 1992)). “While a default judgment constitutes an admission of liability, the quantum of damages remains to be established by proof unless the amount is liquidated or susceptible of mathematical computation.” Flaks v. Koegel, 504 F.2d 702, 707 (2d Cir. 1974); accord, e.g., Bravado Int'l, 655 F.Supp.2d at 189-90. “[E]ven upon default, a court may not rubber-stamp the non-defaulting party's damages calculation, but rather must ensure that there is a basis for the damages that are sought.” United States v. Hill, No. 12-CV-1413, 2013 WL 474535, at *1 (N.D.N.Y. Feb. 7, 2013) (alteration in original) (quoting Overcash v. United Abstract Grp., Inc., 549 F.Supp.2d 193, 196 (N.D.N.Y. 2008)). “The burden is on the plaintiff to establish its entitlement to recovery.” Bravado Int'l, 655 F.Supp.2d at 189. “While ‘the court must ensure that there is a basis for the damages specified in a default judgment, it may, but need not, make the determination through a hearing.'” Id. at 190 (quoting Fustok v. Conticommodity Servs., Inc., 122 F.R.D. 151, 156 (S.D.N.Y. 1988), aff'd, 873 F.2d 38 (2d Cir. 1989)).

         Under Local Rule 55.2(b), the moving party must submit with its motion for default judgment: (1) a clerk's certificate of entry of default, (2) a proposed form of default judgment, (3) a copy of the pleading to which no response has been made, and (4) an affidavit. L.R. 55.2(b). The affidavit must set forth that: (1) the party against whom judgment is sought is not an infant, incompetent, or in military service; (2) the party against whom judgment is sought “has defaulted in appearance in the action”; (3) service was properly effected under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 4; (4) the amount sought “is justly due and owing, ...

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