United States District Court, S.D. New York
G. GARDEPHE, U.S.D.J.
se Plaintiff Hiawatha Cuffee, Jr., brings this action,
pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, against the City of New
York (the "City") and New York City Department of
Corrections ("DOC") Officers Gonzalez and
Squillaro. (Am. Cmplt. (Dkt. No. 33)) Plaintiff alleges that,
while he was incarcerated, the individual defendants violated
his constitutional rights in connection with a motor vehicle
accident involving a DOC bus that was transporting Plaintiff
to Rikers Island. (Id.) Plaintiff also brings a
Monell claim against the City. (Id.) On
June 16, 2017, Defendants moved to dismiss the Amended
Complaint pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure
12(b)(6) (Def. Mot. (Dkt. No. 39)), arguing that Plaintiffs
claims are barred by a general release signed by Plaintiff.
(Def. Br. (Dkt. No. 42) at 7-10) Plaintiff has not filed an
opposition to Defendants' motion.
September 4, 2017, this Court referred Defendants' motion
to Magistrate Judge Debra Freeman for a Report and
Recommendation ("R & R"). (Dkt. No. 49) On
November 14, 2017, Judge Freeman issued a 14-page R & R
recommending that Defendants' motion to dismiss be
converted to one for summary judgment, and granted. (Nov. 14,
2017 R&R (Dkt No. 51)) No. objections have been filed to
the R&R. For the reasons stated below, this Court will
adopt the R & R in its entirety.
31, 2015, the DOC transported Plaintiff by bus from Rikers
Island -where Plaintiff was being detained -to Bellevue
Hospital Center. (Am. Cmplt. (Dkt. No. 33) at
At Bellevue Hospital, Plaintiff underwent a prostate
examination and biopsy. (Id. at 7-8) After the
procedure, Plaintiff got on a DOC bus for transport back to
Rikers Island. (Id. at 7) Plaintiff alleges that he
"was handcuffed and shackled at the waist [, ] and
confined in a steel, locked cage approximately
31/2 feet wide." (Id. at 7-8) The
cage "was positioned directly behind the driver" of
the bus. (Id. at 7) Plaintiff did not have a
seatbelt. (Id. at 11) Defendant Gonzalez was driving
the bus (Id. at 8), while Defendant Squillaro was a
passenger. (See id, at 11)
about 12:40 p.m., as the bus was returning to Rikers Island,
Defendant Gonzalez "pull[ed] out into traffic ... at an
unusually high rate of speed." (Id at 7)
Plaintiff then "heard the screeching of tires, "
and the DOC bus collided with another motor vehicle.
(Id. at 7-9) Plaintiff "was thrown
forward" in the steel cage and, "upon impact,
" he "injured [his] knee, lower back, .. . neck,
and ... was also bleeding from [his] rectal area [due] to
[his] recent biopsy." (Id. at 7-8) Plaintiff
alleges that he "began screaming to [Defendant] Gonzalez
... to ... get [him] back to the hospital because [he]
desperately needed medical assistance." (Id. at
8) Other inmates on the bus also "scream[ed] for
help" and "plead[ed] for medical assistance."
(Id. at 11) Notwithstanding Plaintiffs pleas for
assistance, Defendants did not provide Plaintiff with medical
attention for "several  hours." (Id. at
THE GENERAL RELEASE
support of their motion to dismiss, Defendants have submitted
two "Personal Injury Claim Form[s], " dated August
4, 2015 and September 3, 2015, which Plaintiff filed with the
New York City Comptroller (Englert Decl., Ex. A (Aug. 4, 2015
Claim) (Dkt. No. 41-1); Englert Decl, Ex. B (Sept. 3, 2015
Claim) (Dkt. No. 41-2)), and a January 28, 2016 "General
Release" signed by Plaintiff and
notarized. (Englert Deck, Ex. C (Jan. 28, 2016
Release) (Dkt. No. 41-3)) The Personal Injury Claim Forms
address injuries Plaintiff allegedly suffered as a result of
the July 31, 2015 DOC bus accident. (See Englert Decl., Ex. A
(Aug. 4, 2015 Claim) (Dkt. No. 41-1); Englert Decl., Ex. B
(Sept. 3, 2015 Claim) (Dkt. No. 41-2)) Plaintiff submitted
the first Personal Injury Claim Form pro se, while a lawyer
submitted the second Personal Injury Claim Form on Plaintiffs
behalf. (See Englert Deck, Ex. A (Aug. 4, 2015 Claim) (Dkt.
No. 41-1); Englert Deck, Ex. B (Sept. 3, 2015 Claim) (Dkt.
General Release provides in pertinent part:
[Plaintiff] ... in consideration of the payment of $5,
000.00, receipt whereof is hereby acknowledged, . ..
voluntarily, knowingly, and willingly releases and forever
discharges the City of New York, and all past and present
officials, officers .. . [and] employees .. . of the City of
New York .. ., collectively the "Releasees", from
any and all liability, claims, or rights of action alleging a
violation of civil rights and any and all claims, causes of
action, [or] suits .. . which [Plaintiff] .. . now has or
hereafter can, shall or may have ... against the Releasees
for, upon or by reason of any matter, cause or thing
whatsoever that occurred through the date of this Release.
(Englert Deck, Ex. C (Jan. 28, 2016 Release) (Dkt. No. 41-3)
Complaint was filed on November 12, 2015, and alleges that
Defendants violated Plaintiffs constitutional rights during
and immediately after the July 31, 2015 bus accident. (Cmplt.
(Dkt. No. 2)) On June 30, 2016, Defendants moved to dismiss
the Complaint pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure
12(b)(6). (Dkt. No. 16) On October 20, 2016, this Court
referred Defendants' motion to Magistrate Judge Debra
Freeman for a Report and Recommendation ("R &
R"). (Dkt. No. 27) On March 3, 2017, Judge Freeman
issued a 28-page R & R, recommending that Defendants'
motion to dismiss be granted in part and denied in part, and
that Plaintiff be given leave to amend the Complaint. (March
3, 2017 R & R (Dkt. No. 29) at 26) On March 27, 2017, the
Court adopted the March 3, 2017 R&R in its entirety.
(March 27, 2017 Order (Dkt. No. 31))
filed an Amended Complaint on May 2, 2017, alleging that
Defendants subjected him to "cruel and unusual
punishment" in violation of the Eighth Amendment. (Am.
Cmplt. (Dkt. No. 33) at 14) Plaintiff contends that
Defendants Gonzalez and Squillaro "placed [him] in a
dangerous situation and position" on the DOC bus, that
Defendant Gonzalez was "reckless" in driving the
DOC bus, that Defendants Gonzalez and Squillaro denied
Plaintiff timely medical treatment, and that the City
subjected Plaintiff to unsafe conditions by transporting him
in a DOC bus that was not equipped with "standard safety
seat belts" and "protective] air bags."
(Id.14 at 14-15)
16, 2017, Defendants moved to dismiss the Amended Complaint,
arguing that Plaintiffs claims are barred by the General
Release. (See Dkt. Nos. 39, 42) Defendants also served
Plaintiff with a formal, written notice that Defendants'
motion to dismiss could be treated by the Court as a motion
for summary judgment under Rule 56. (Notice to Pro Se