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Maldonado v. Schriro

United States District Court, S.D. New York

June 16, 2017


          OPINION & ORDER

          PAUL A. ENGELMAYER, District Judge.

         Plaintiff Angel Maldonado, proceeding pro se, brings this action under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, alleging that his constitutional rights were violated while incarcerated in a dormitory that exposed him to toxic fumes. By opinion and order dated December 14, 2016, the Court granted defendants' motion to dismiss but granted Maldonado leave to file a second amended complaint. Dkt. 25 (the "Order"). On February 28, 2017, the Court received Maldonado's second amended complaint. Dkt. 28 ("SAC"). Defendants now again move to dismiss pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6). Dkt. 31. Maldonado has not filed an opposition to this motion. The Court treats the motion as unopposed and independently considers the merits of the motion. See Goldberg v. Danaher, 599 F.3d 181, 183 (2d Cir. 2010). For the reasons set forth below, the motion to dismiss is granted.

         I. Background

         Maldonado alleges the New York City Department of Corrections ("DOC") confined him in a dormitory in which he was exposed to "hazardous and toxic substances, " to wit "black mold, toxic fumes and Asbestos." SAC at 1. After the DOC performed tests, the area was determined to be uninhabitable and Maldonado was removed from the area. Id. at 1-2, 5. Maldonado was in the dormitory and exposed to the toxic substances for approximately 90 days. Id.

         Maldonado alleges that defendants, "through [their] negligence[, ] failed to adhere" to a number of laws and policies that were intended to protect individuals from asbestos. Id. at 2; see also Id. at 3 ("These policies . . . were put in place to protect tenants/inmates and employees from negligent owners/employers .... Plaintiff was not at liberty to protect himself from the negligence of the New York City Department of [Corrections.").

         Maldonado alleges that Warden Tony Durante failed to "see to the buildings being held to the proper building standards, " id., and that "in his capacity ... to oversee day to day operation of the facilities ... Durante should be held liable for any action or inaction of [those] under his authority, " id. at 4. Maldonado alleges that it is Durante's "responsibility to maintain the buildings on Rikers Island in a fashion that would cause no harm to" the buildings' inmates. Id. at 5. Maldonado also alleges that the New York City Board of Corrections should have "had a watchful eye on these facilities" to prevent such injuries, and that the New York City Corporation Counsel failed in its "duty to advise the city on legal matter[s] . . . [and] failed in its duty to protect prison inmates from" harm. Id. at 3-4.

         Maldonado seeks punitive and compensatory damages, measured at $300 million plus all present and future medical expenses. Id. at 5.

         II. Discussion

         To survive a motion to dismiss, a complaint "must contain sufficient factual matter ... to 'state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face."' Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (quoting Bell Ail. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007)). When, as here, a plaintiff proceeds pro se, a court must liberally construe the plaintiffs pleadings and briefs, "reading such submissions 'to raise the strongest arguments they suggest.'" Bertin v. United States, 478 F.3d 489, 491 (2d Cir. 2007) (quoting Burgos v. Hopkins, 14 F.3d 787, 790 (2d Cir. 1994)) (internal citations omitted). "The policy of liberally construing pro se submissions is driven by the understanding that '[i]mplicit in the right to self-representation is an obligation on the part of the court to make reasonable allowances to protect pro se litigants from inadvertent forfeiture of important rights because of their lack of legal training.'" Abbas v. Dixon, 480 F.3d 636, 639 (2d Cir. 2007) (citing Traguth v. Zuck, 710 F.2d 90, 95 (2d Cir. 1983)). But, although courts are "obligated to draw the most favorable inferences that [a pro se plaintiffs] complaint supports, [courts] cannot invent factual allegations that he has not pled." Chavis v. Chappius, 618 F.3d 162, 170 (2d Cir. 2010).

         A. Claims Against New York City Agencies

         Maldonado's SAC names the New York City Corporation Counsel and the New York City Board of Corrections as defendants. SAC at 1. The New York City Charter states that "[a] 11 actions and proceedings for the recovery of penalties for the violation of any law shall be brought in the name of the City of New York and not in that of any agency, except where otherwise provided by law." N.Y.C. Admin. Code & Charter Ch. 16 § 396. It is, therefore, well-established law that an agency of the City of New York "lacks independent legal existence and is not a suable entity." Merced v. City of New York, No. 14 Civ. 6285 (WFK), 2014 WL 5682516, at *1 (E.D.N.Y. Nov. 3, 2014); see also, e.g., Colon-Rodriguez v. New York City Dep 't of Corr., No. 07 Civ. 8126 (GBD), 2009 WL 995181, at *5 (S.D.N.Y. Apr. 13, 2009) (dismissing claims against the Board of Corrections as a non-suable entity).

         However, making "reasonable allowances to protect [a] pro se litigant[], " Abbas, 480 F.3d at 639, the Court construes Maldonado's claims against the Corporation Counsel and the Board of Corrections as, instead, claims against the City of New York. See, e.g., Harrison v. New York City Admin, for Children's Servs., No. 02 Civ. 947 (RCC) (RLE), 2003 WL 21640381, at *6 (S.D.N.Y. July 7, 2003) (granting pro se plaintiff leave to amend to name the City of New York as the proper party), report and recommendation adopted, 2003 WL 22271219 (S.D.N.Y. Sept. 30, 2013).

         Nevertheless, as discussed below, the Court finds that Maldonado fails to state facts sufficient to plead municipal liability. Therefore, granting Maldonado leave to further amend his complaint would be futile. McCarthy v. Dun & Bradstreet Corp., 482 F.3d 184, 200 (2d Cir. 2007) ("A district court has discretion to deny leave [to amend] for good reason, including futility .. ..").

         B. ...

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