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Rose v. Garritt

United States District Court, S.D. New York

January 16, 2018

NAKIA ROSE, Plaintiff,

          Michael H. Sussman, Esq. Valeria A. Gheorghiu, Esq. Sussman & Associates Goshen, NY Counsel for Plaintiff

          Paulina Stamatelos, Esq., Kara F. Sweet, Esq. Counsel for Defendants



         Plaintiff Nakia Rose (“Plaintiff”), currently incarcerated at Green Haven Correctional Facility, filed the instant Complaint, pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, against Superintendent William A. Lee (“Lee”), Deputy Superintendent of Security Edward R. Burnett (“Burnett”), Correction Officer Paul D. Miller (“C.O. Miller”), and Registered Nurse Warren Miller (“Nurse Miller”) (collectively, “Defendants”), and several other Correction Officers and Sergeants at Green Haven. (Compl. (Dkt. No. 2).) Plaintiff alleges that Defendants violated Plaintiff's rights under the Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments of the U.S. Constitution because Lee and Burnett failed to protect him from an assault by correction officers, C.O. Miller wrote a false disciplinary report after the assault causing Plaintiff to be placed in solitary confinement, and Nurse Miller falsified his medical records to cover up the assault. (See generally Compl.)

         Before the Court is Defendants' partial Motion To Dismiss the Complaint Pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6). (See Notice of Mot. To Dismiss (Dkt. No. 36); Mem. of Law in Support of Defs.' Mot. to Dismiss (“Defs.' Mem.”) (Dkt. No. 37).)[2] Defendants claim that Plaintiff fails to state an Eighth Amendment or a Due Process claim, and, in the alternative, they are entitled to qualified immunity. (Defs.' Mem.)[3] For the following reasons, Defendants' Motion is granted.

         I. Background

         A. Factual Background

         The following facts are drawn from Plaintiff's Complaint, (Dkt. No. 2), and are taken as true for the purpose of resolving the instant Motion.[4] Plaintiff was a prisoner incarcerated at Green Haven Correctional Facility during the time of the alleged events. (Compl. II(A), (D).)

         On September 14, 2014 at approximately 6:20 pm, Plaintiff was locked in cell number 147, “the fifth cell from the front door, ” in the H-Block Housing Unit at Green Haven Correctional Facility. (Id. at II(C), (D) ¶ 1.) “[P]laintiff's cell opened, [and] he and 3 prisoners exited H-Block to proceed to the exercise yard.” (Id. at II(D) ¶ 2.) “Plaintiff was [t]hen immediately surrounded by several security staff, ” and C.O. Miller gave him “loud boisterous orders to place his hands high on the wall.” (Id.) “[P]laintiff immediately complied.” (Id.) “The other prisoners were ordered to return back into the Housing Unit, ” and “the . . . door was slammed shut.” (Id.)

         “Plaintiff was th[e]n surrounded by” C.O. Miller, additional Correction Officers Warren Freeman (“Freeman”) and Robert J. Cocuzza (“Cocuzza”), and Correctional Sergeants O. Garritt (“Garritt”) and John Dole. (Id. ¶ 3.) C.O. Miller was on Plaintiff's right side, Freeman on his left side, and Cocuzza was behind him. (Id.) Correction Officers Daniel J. Lavelle and Za'Quawn Griset were “also in the immediate area.” (Id.) “While [P]lainitff's hands remained high and flat on the wall, [C.O. Miller] punched [P]laintiff in the face” on his “right side, ” and Plaintiff was “told ‘You better not take your hands off that fucking wall.'” (Id. ¶ 4.) Freeman then “punched [P]laintiff in the face” on the “left side.” (Id. ¶ 5.) Garritt gave an “order to take [P]laintiff to [the] floor, ” and C.O. Miller “then placed his arm around [P]laintiff's neck” in a “[h]eadlock” and “slammed [P]laintiff down to the floor, ” where he “was immediately handcuffed.” (Id.) “Plaintiff was th[e]n beaten by several of [D]efendants.” (Id. ¶ 6.) He “was kicked, knelt upon and punched several times all over his body.” (Id.) “Freeman grabbed [P]laintiff's right ankle and began twisting it.” (Id.)

         Superintendent Lee, who worked in his position from 2009 through 2014, and Deputy Superintendent of Security Burnett, who worked at Green Haven “for at least 15 years, ” were “well aware of . . . various inmates['] complaints filed against [Freeman] (whom has [been] employed in [Green Haven] for over 10 years).” (Id. ¶ 13.) However, Lee and Burnett “failed to take appropriate measures to deal with this problematic employee.” (Id.) Similarly, C.O. Miller had been “named in various complaints involving use of force, etc., ” which “the [Green Haven] Administration [was] familiar with, ” but the complaints “fell on dead ears.” (Id. ¶ 14.) “As a direct result of [Lee and Burnett's] inaction . . . [C.O. Miller's and Freeman's] actions [were] in essence condoned at the highest level inside [Green Haven] whereas [C.O. Miller and Freeman] feel[] comfortable in continuing to break the law because [Green Haven's] Chief Executive Officer and Executive Staff are going to protect [them].” (Id. ¶¶ 13-14.)

         After the incident, “Plaintiff was taken and admitted into the Special Housing Unit ([‘]SHU[']) and was medically examined by . . . Nurse Miller, RN.” (Id. ¶ 7.) “During the medical examination, [P]laintiff gave a detailed description of what happened to him” and his “pains” and “injuries.” (Id.) His “detailed description included telling [Nurse Miller] that he [wa]s having excruciating pain in his jaw, severe pain in [his] right shoulder, lower back[, ] and his right ankle[, ] and how these injuries came about ([p]rison guard abuse).” (Id. ¶ 8.) During the medical examination, “plaintiff's face was visibly bruised and swollen, ” and his body was “visibly bruised.” (Id. ¶ 8.)

         “On September 22, 2014, [P]laintiff was issued a Tier III Misbehavior Report, reported by [C.O. Miller] on September 14, 2014.” (Id. ¶ 9.) The Report, which was “falsified, ” (Id. ¶ 16), charged Plaintiff with violating several Department of Corrections and Community Services (“DOCCS”) rules, including violent conduct, creating a disturbance, refusing a direct order, and refusing a search or frisk, (id. ¶ 9). Plaintiff had a Tier III Hearing which lasted from September 26 through October 2, 2014. (Id. ¶ 10.) Captain R. Harris, who conducted the hearing, found Plaintiff “Not Guilty” of all the charges except refusing a direct order, “and imposed a disposition of 9 [d]ays of SHU confinement; 9 [d]ays of [l]oss of [p]ackages; 9 [d]ays [l]oss of [c]ommissary and 9 [d]ays [l]oss of [p]hones, ” to run from September 26 through October 5, 2014. (Id.) On December 18, 2014, this “Guilty Disposition” was reversed, and all references to the incident were ordered “expunged from [P]laintiff's records.” (Id. ¶ 11.)

         However, Plaintiff had already spent 21 days in SHU, from which he was released on October 3, 2014. (Id. ¶ 12.) Upon his release, Plaintiff was “returned back to the general population” in the J-Block. (Id.) On October 6, 2014, he “went to Sick-Call, ” and two days later, “was seen by a Medical Provider (Ms. Welsh).” (Id.) Plaintiff then “became aware that his [m]edical files did not accurately reflect what [he] had told to the nurse ([Nurse Miller]) on September 14, 2014.” (Id.) Nurse Miller “purposely omitted his detailed description and by doing so . . . failed in his medical professional responsibilities to accurately record [P]laintiff['s] account o[f] how he suffered these injuries.” (Id.)

         B. Procedural Background

         Plaintiff filed the Complaint on May 13, 2016. (Compl. (Dkt. No. 2).) The Court initially granted Plaintiff's pro se request to proceed in forma pauperis on June 7, 2016, (Dkt. No. 5), and issued two Orders of Service directing service on Defendants, (see Dkt. Nos. 7, 24). After all Defendants were served, (see Dkt. Nos. 10-13, 18-19, 25-26), Defendants requested an extension of time to answer or move against the Complaint, (Letter from Paulina A. Stamatelos, Esq. to the Court (May 3, 2017) (Dkt. No. 28)), which the Court granted, (Dkt. No. 29). On June 19, 2017, Valeria A. Gheorghiu, Esq. filed a notice of appearance on behalf of Plaintiff. (Dkt. No. 30.) On June 22, 2017, the Court denied Defendants' request for another extension and ordered them to respond to a purported amended complaint within 20 days. (Dkt. No. 32.) However, on July 25, 2017, Defendants informed the Court that Plaintiff's counsel “would not be filing an amended complaint and will treat Plaintiff's pro se complaint as the operative complaint.” (Letter from Paulina A. Stamatelos, Esq. to the Court (July 25, 2017) (Dkt. No. 33).) The Court approved the Parties' proposed briefing schedule in a memo endorsement. (Dkt. No. 34.)

         On August 2, 2017, certain Defendants, including C.O. Miller, filed an Answer. (Answer (Dkt. No. 35.) The same day, Defendants filed a partial Motion To Dismiss and an accompanying memorandum. (Notice of Mot. To Dismiss; Defs.' Mem.) On October 4, 2017, Plaintiff filed a motion for an extension of time to file opposition papers, which the Court granted. (See Letter from Michael H. Sussman, Esq. to Court (Oct. 4, 2017) (Dkt. No. 45)); Dkt. No. 47.) Plaintiff subsequently filed a memorandum of law in opposition to the Motion To Dismiss, (Pl.'s Mem. of Law in Opp. to Defs.' Mot. for Partial Dismissal (“Pl.'s Mem.”) (Dkt. No. 48)), and Defendants filed a reply memorandum in support of their Motion, (Reply Mem. of Law in Supp. of Mot. To Dismiss (“Defs.' Reply”) (Dkt. No. 49)).[5]

         II. Discussion

         A. Standard of Review

         The Supreme Court has held that although a complaint “does not need detailed factual allegations” to survive a motion to dismiss, “a plaintiff's obligation to provide the grounds of his entitlement to relief requires more than labels and conclusions, and a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action will not do.” Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007) (alteration and internal quotation marks omitted). Indeed, Rule 8 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure “demands more than an unadorned, the-defendant-unlawfully-harmed-me accusation.” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (internal quotation marks omitted). “Nor does a complaint suffice if it tenders naked assertions devoid of further factual enhancement.” Id. (alteration and internal quotation marks omitted). Instead, a complaint's “[f]actual allegations must be enough to raise a right to relief above the speculative level.” Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555. Although “once a claim has been stated adequately, it may be supported by showing any set of facts consistent with the allegations in the complaint, ” id. at 563, and a plaintiff must allege “only enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face, ” id. at 570, if a plaintiff has not “nudged [his or her] claims across the line from conceivable to plausible, the[] complaint must be dismissed, ” id.; see also Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 679 (‚ÄúDetermining whether a complaint states a plausible claim for relief will . . . be a context-specific task that requires the reviewing court to draw on its judicial experience and common sense. But where the well-pleaded facts do not permit the court to infer more than the mere ...

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