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White v. Schriro

United States District Court, S.D. New York

July 31, 2017

ERIK WHITE, Plaintiff,
v.
DORA B. SCHRIRO - Former Commissioner (Dept. of Corr.), JOSEPH PONTE --Commissioner (Dept. of Correction), K.STAUES - Warden (O.B.C.C. - Rikers Island), CORRECTION OFFICER TAYLOR (Security OBCC), CORRECTION OFFICER WILSON (Security OBCC), SECURITY CAPTAIN MITCHELL (OBCC), AREA CAPTAIN SPENCER (OBCC), CLEMENT GLENN -- Former Warden (RNDC - Rikers Island), ADA PRESLEY - Warden (RNDC), SECURITY CAPT. PINES (RNDC), SECURITY CAPTAIN JEAN (RNDC), CORRECTION OFFICE GORDON (RNDC), SECURITY; OFFICER CHAMBERS (RNDC), D. FRAZIER -- Former Acting Warden Brooklyn Detention Complex (BKDC), WARDEN BEAULIEU BKDC, SECURITY CAPT. THOMAS (BKDC), CAPT. RICHARDSON (BKDC), CORRECTION OFFICER TIMBERLAKE (Security BKDC), CORIZON HEALTH SERVICES MANAGER JOHN/JANE DOE, BOB BARKER COMPANY INC., CITY OF NEW YORK, DEPT. OF CORRECTIONS, Defendants.

          REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION

          JAMES C. FRANCIS IV, UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE

         Erik White brings this suit pro se pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against the City of New York (“the City”); former New York City Department of Correction (“DOC”) Commissioner Dora Schiro; current DOC Commissioner Joseph Ponte; Corizon Health Services Manager John/Jane Doe; Warden K. Staues; Warden Frazier; Warden Beaulieu; Warden Clement Glenn; Warden Ada Presely; Correction Officers Taylor and Timberlake; Security Officer Chambers; and Captains Spencer, Mitchell, Thomas, Jean, and Richardson (collectively, the “City Defendants”); and the Bob Barker Company Inc.[1] The plaintiff, who was held in the custody of the DOC at the Otis Bantum Correctional Center (“OBCC”), the Robert N. Davoren Center (“RNDC”), and the Brooklyn Detention Complex (“BKDC”), alleges that the conditions of his confinement violated his Fourteenth Amendment[2] rights. He seeks compensatory damages in the amount of $15, 000, 000 and injunctive relief. The City Defendants and Bob Barker Company have each moved to dismiss the claims against them. For the reasons set forth below, I recommend that the motions be granted. Background Mr. White was detained at several New York City jails from June 18, 2014, through October 31, 2016. (Amended Complaint (“Am. Compl.”) at 4).[3] He began experiencing back pain in April 2015 while detained at BKDC. (Am. Compl. at 11). He was later transferred to OBCC on Rikers Island, where he continued to “experience pain and soreness in [his] lower back, neck and shoulder.” (Am. Compl. at 5). The plaintiff alleges that this pain was caused by the thin, uncomfortable Bob Barker mattresses that were issued to him at each institution. (Am. Compl. at 4). Mr. White complained of these back problems and eventually received medical treatment from Dr. Harjinder Bhatti. (Am. Compl. at 5-6, 25). The plaintiff states that Dr. Bhatti “confirmed” his condition, prescribed medication, and wrote a referral form requesting that Mr. White be given a firm mattress. (Am. Compl. at 5).

         Mr. White presented this form to officers in his housing unit who were unable to help him procure such a mattress. (Am. Compl. at 6). He then discussed the issue with Warden Staues, who told him that the DOC does not provide such mattresses and that he would not be allowed to have two mattresses as an alternative. (Am. Compl. at 6). Nevertheless, the plaintiff found and started using an additional mattress, which was repeatedly confiscated by several correction officers, including Correction Officers Foster, Taylor, and Wilson and Captain Mitchell. (Am. Compl. at 6-7). Mr. White showed each of the officers “proof” of his need for a firm mattress -- presumably Dr. Bhatti's referral form -- when they confiscated the additional mattress. (Am. Compl. at 7).

         Mr. White complains that the lack of a proper mattress and the resulting lack of sleep and back pain caused his mental health to deteriorate. (Am. Compl. at 7-8). He was ultimately referred to the mental health department, where he was prescribed medication to treat depression, anxiety, and insomnia. (Am. Compl. at 7-8). The plaintiff eventually stopped taking this medication, feeling that he was growing too dependent on it. (Am. Compl. at 8).

         Mr. White was transferred from OBCC to RNDC in September 2015. (Am. Compl. at 8, 11). At RNDC, he was told that since his doctor's note was from another institution, he would need to get another one; however, he was cautioned that the doctors at RNDC would not write prescriptions for special mattresses. (Am. Compl. at 8). In response, and without authorization, Mr. White obtained a second mattress. (Am. Compl. at 8). Again, the second mattress was repeatedly confiscated by correction officers. (Am. Compl. at 8-9). The plaintiff also presented the referral form to these officers. (Am. Compl. at 9). When Mr. White was transferred to back to BKDC in August 2016, this same sequence of events occurred again. (Am. Compl. at 9, 12). He was taken to see a doctor at BKDC who diagnosed him with sciatica and prescribed medication. (Am. Compl. at 10). Mr. White refused to take this prescription, as he had concerns about the potential negative side effects. (Am. Compl. at 10). He was also scheduled for physical therapy to treat his sciatica, but he was transferred to New York State Department of Corrections and Community Supervision before receiving any further treatment. (Am. Compl. at 10).

         Discussion

         A. Legal Standard

         To survive a motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, “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 Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007)). The court's charge in ruling on a 12(b)(6) motion “is merely to assess the legal feasibility of the complaint, not to assay the weight of the evidence which might be offered in support thereof.” GVA Market Neutral Master Ltd. v. Veras Capital Partners Offshore Fund, Ltd., 580 F.Supp.2d 321, 327 (S.D.N.Y. 2008) (quoting Eternity Global Master Fund Ltd. v. Morgan Guaranty Trust Co. of New York, 375 F.3d 168, 176 (2d Cir. 2004)). The court must construe the complaint in the light most favorable to the plaintiff, “taking its factual allegations to be true and drawing all reasonable inferences in the plaintiff's favor.” Harris v. Mills, 572 F.3d 66, 71 (2d Cir. 2009).

         This standard applies equally to pro se plaintiffs, but their pleadings are read more liberally and are construed as raising the strongest claims implied. See Teichmann v. New York, 769 F.3d 821, 825 (2d Cir. 2014). The court may also consider “materials outside the complaint to the extent that they are consistent with the allegations in the complaint.” Martinez v. Aycock-West, 164 F.Supp.3d 502, 508 (S.D.N.Y. 2016) (quoting Alsaifullah v. Furco, No. 12 Civ. 2907, 2013 WL 3972514, at *4 n.3 (S.D.N.Y. Aug. 2, 2013)).

         B. City Defendants

         The City defendants have moved to dismiss the plaintiff's claims, arguing that (1) the constitutional claims are insufficiently pled, (2) the plaintiff has failed to state a valid municipal liability claim, and (3) Warden Glenn, Warden Presely, Warden Bealieu, Captain Frazier, Commissioner Ponte, and former Commissioner Schriro were not personally involved in any of the alleged deprivations.

         1. Inadequate Medical Care

         The plaintiff claims the defendants violated his constitutional rights by exhibiting deliberate indifference to his medical need. (Am. Compl. at 13-14). The conditions-of-confinement analysis under the Fourteenth Amendment consists of a two-pronged test. Cuffee v. City of New York, No. 15 Civ. 8916, 2017 WL 1134768, at *4 (S.D.N.Y. March 27, 2017). First, a plaintiff must establish “that the [constitutional] deprivation alleged is ‘objectively sufficiently serious' such that the plaintiff was denied ‘the minimal civilized measure of life's necessities.'” Id. (alteration in original) (quoting Trammell v. Keane, 338 F.3d 155, 161 (2d Cir. 2003)). In the context of an inadequate medical care claim, this requires a showing of a medical “condition of urgency, one that may produce death, degeneration, or extreme pain.” Johnson v. Wright, 412 F.3d 398, 403 (2d Cir. 2005) (quoting Hemmings v. Gorczyk, 134 F.3d 104, 108 (2d Cir. 1998)).

         Second, a plaintiff must establish a “‘sufficiently culpable state of mind' associated with ‘the unnecessary and wanton infliction of pain.'” Cuffee, 2017 WL 1134768, at *4 (quoting Trammell, 338 F.3d at 161). A pre-trial detainee -- unlike a convicted prisoner, for whom the state of mind requirement is defined subjectively -- can meet this prong by ...


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