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Delacruz v. City of New York

United States District Court, S.D. New York

May 31, 2017





         The plaintiff, Jose Delacruz, alleges that while he was incarcerated the defendants provided inadequate bedding and interfered with his legal mail in violation of 42 U.S.C. § 1983. He also brings a failure to intervene claim against the John Doe defendants under New York State law. The defendants have moved for summary judgment pursuant to Rule 56 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. For the reasons set forth below, I recommend that the motion be granted.


         Mr. Delacruz was in the custody of the New York City Department of Corrections at Rikers Island from September 20, 2013, through July 27, 2015. (Defendant City of New York's Local Rule 56.1 Statement of Material Facts Not in Dispute ("Def. 56.1 Statement"), ¶ 20). On October 27, 2014, he slipped and fell in the "shower/bathroom area" of the jail because the floors allegedly became dangerously slippery when wet.[1] (Third Amended Complaint (“TAC”), attached as Exh. to Letter Motion for Leave to Amend Complaint dated Oct. 6, 2016, ¶ 21). Throughout his incarceration, he alleges that he suffered unconstitutional conditions of confinement and inadequate medical care because the bedding provided by Rikers staff exacerbated a pre-existing injury to his left side and a back injury caused by the slip-and-fall incident. (TAC, ¶¶ 24-25, 32, 63-66). He also alleges that the Rikers mailroom staff delayed the mailing of a notice of claim to the New York City Comptroller's office notifying it of claims he planned to bring against the City arising out of the slip-and-fall incident. (TAC, ¶¶ 50-62).

         The defendants move for summary judgment on the following grounds: (1) failure to prosecute the claims against the John Doe defendants; (2) failure to establish unconstitutional conditions of confinement or inadequate medical care; (3) failure to establish unconstitutional interference with legal mail; and (4) failure to establish municipal liability. The defendants also argue that this Court should decline to exercise jurisdiction over the plaintiff's state law claim in the event that all of the constitutional claims are dismissed.

         The plaintiff's opposition to summary judgment, submitted in the form of an Affirmation by counsel, argues only that his claim of interference with his legal mail should survive summary judgment; it does not address the remainder of the defendants' arguments. (Affirmation of Michael A. Huerta dated March 14, 2017 (“Pl. Memo.”), at 3-4). The plaintiff also fails to submit any evidence in support of his opposition memorandum. Instead, he cites his own deposition and the declaration of a corrections officer that addresses the processing of inmate mail at Rikers, both of which were submitted by the defendants in connection with their motion for summary judgment. (Pl. Memo. at 3-4; Deposition of Jose Delacruz dated Nov. 23, 2016 (“Delacruz Dep.”), attached as Exh. C to Declaration of Carolyn Kruk dated Jan. 26, 2017; Declaration of Kimberly Henderson dated Jan. 24, 2017). Although the plaintiff does not provide a statement or counterstatement of material facts pursuant to Local Rule 56.1, he states in his opposition memorandum that he disputes two paragraphs of the defendant's 56.1 statement that concern the timeliness of the plaintiff's interrogatories and document requests (Pl. Memo. at 2; Def. 56.1 Statement, ¶¶ 16-17), but that he concedes the veracity of the remainder of the facts asserted in the defendants' 56.1 statement. (Pl. Memo. at 2).


         A. Summary Judgment Standard

         Under Rule 56 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, summary judgment is appropriate where “the movant shows that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a); accord Doninger v. Niehoff, 642 F.3d 334, 344 (2d Cir. 2011). A dispute is “genuine” where “the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party.” Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986); accord SCR Joint Venture L.P. v. Warshawsky, 559 F.3d 133, 137 (2d Cir. 2009). A material fact is one that “might affect the outcome of the suit under the governing law.” Roe v. City of Waterbury, 542 F.3d 31, 35 (2d Cir. 2008) (quoting Anderson, 477 U.S. at 248). In assessing whether there is a genuine issue of material fact, “a court must ‘construe the facts in the light most favorable to the non-moving party and must resolve all ambiguities and draw all reasonable inferences against the movant.'” Seeman v. Local 32B-32J, Service Employees Union, 769 F.Supp.2d 615, 620 (S.D.N.Y. 2011) (quoting Dallas Aerospace, Inc. v. CIS Air Corp., 352 F.3d 775, 780 (2d Cir. 2003)).

         The moving party bears the initial burden of identifying those portions of the record that demonstrate “the absence of a genuine issue of material fact, ” Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323 (1986), following which the non-moving party must come forward with “specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial, ” Wrobel v. County of Erie, 692 F.3d 22, 30 (2d Cir. 2012) (emphasis omitted) (quoting Matsushita Electric Industrial Co., Ltd. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 586-87 (1986)). “[W]here the non[-]moving party will bear the burden of proof on an issue at trial, the moving party may satisfy its burden by point[ing] to an absence of evidence to support an essential element of the non[-]moving party's case.” New York City Health & Hospitals Corp. v. Burwell, 174 F.Supp.3d 792, 796 (S.D.N.Y. 2016) (alterations in original) (quoting Crawford v. Franklin Credit Management Corp., 758 F.3d 473, 486 (2d Cir. 2014)). The parties can support their claims with documents, stipulations, affidavits, or other discovery materials. See Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c)(1)(A). However, “only admissible evidence need be considered by the trial court in ruling on a motion for summary judgment.” Presbyterian Church of Sudan v. Talisman Energy, Inc., 582 F.3d 244, 264 (2d Cir. 2009) (quoting Raskin v. Wyatt Co., 125 F.3d 55, 66 (2d Cir. 1997)).

         B. John Doe Defendants

Under Rule 4(m) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, “[i]f a defendant is not served within 120 days after the complaint is filed, the court . . . must dismiss the action without prejudice against that defendant or order that service be made within a specified time. But if the plaintiff shows good cause for the failure, the court must extend the time for service for an appropriate period.”

Fed. R. Civ. P. 4(m). The plaintiff commenced this action on April 9, 2015, and retained counsel on July 5, 2015. Discovery closed on December 2, 2016. The plaintiff has yet to serve process on any of the John Doe defendants, let alone identify them, despite having more than one year to do so. He does not offer any reason for his failure to comply with Rule 4(m). The claims against the John Doe defendants should ...

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