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Guzman v. Sposato

United States District Court, E.D. New York

March 31, 2018

HERBER GUZMAN, Plaintiff,
v.
SHERIFF SPOSATO, CO OFFICER HAHN, Badge #2493, CO FRED GRAY, Badge #2490, and CO JOSE ROMAN, Badge #2003, Defendants.

          Herber Guzman Pro se Plaintiff

          Samantha Goetz Office of the Nassau County Attorney Attorney for Defendant

          MEMORANDUM & ORDER

          JOAN M. AZRACK UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         Incarcerated pro se plaintiff Herber Guzman filed the instant action under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 alleging that Corrections Officers Jose Roman and Dennis Hahn verbally abused him and subjected him to excessive force on September 17, 2013 and September 18, 2013.

         Defendants have moved for summary judgment on plaintiff's claims, asserting that plaintiff failed to exhaust his administrative remedies before filing this lawsuit and that plaintiff's claims also fail on the merits. For the reasons stated below, defendants' motion is denied on the issue of exhaustion and on plaintiff's claim that he was subjected to excessive force based on allegedly tight handcuffing and multiple punches to plaintiff's ribs. Defendants' motion is granted on plaintiff's claims concerning denial of toilet paper and verbal abuse.

         I. BACKGROUND

         The facts set forth below are taken from plaintiff's verified complaint, the written supplement attached to the complaint, plaintiff's sworn narrative statement, and the documentary evidence that both parties have submitted in their summary judgment briefing. Defendants have not submitted: (1) any deposition testimony from plaintiff; or (2) any deposition testimony or declarations from the defendant officers.

         Because defendants have moved for summary judgment, the Court must construe the facts in the light most favorable to plaintiff and must resolve all ambiguities and draw all reasonable inferences against defendants. Dallas Aerospace, Inc. v. CIS Air Corp., 352 F.3d 775, 780 (2d Cir. 2003).

         In September 2013, plaintiff was incarcerated at the Nassau County Correctional Center (“NCCC”). He appears to have been a pretrial detainee. Plaintiff is blind in one eye. (Compl. at 4, ECF No. 1.)

         On September 17, 2013, plaintiff was in the holding pens at the Mineola Courthouse when he told corrections officers that he needed toilet paper to use the bathroom because he “had to poop.” (Handwritten Addendum to the Complaint (“Addendum”) at 1, ECF No. 1.) The officers refused to give him toilet paper. (Id.) Around 10 a.m., plaintiff again asked for toilet paper to use the bathroom. Then, Officer Roman “handcuffed [him] very tight and verbally assaulted [him saying] ‘Shut up you piece of shit mother fucker' in Spanish.” (Id. at 1; Pl.'s Narrative Statement (“Narrative”) at 2, ECF No. 26.) The handcuffs were on him for an hour and allegedly caused severe bruises to plaintiff's wrists. (Narrative at 2.) At one point, plaintiff told Roman, “it's too hard, ” presumably referring to the tight handcuffs. (Internal Affairs Dep. (“IA Dep.”) at 1, ECF No. 68.) After plaintiff was brought up to court, he was placed in different holding cells for the rest of the day and “everything was OK.” (Addendum at 1.)

         The next day, September 18, 2013, plaintiff returned to the courthouse around 10 a.m. and saw Officer Roman and Officer Hann. (Addendum at 1; Narrative at 3.) Officer Hahn then handcuffed plaintiff “very tight.” (Addendum at 1.) After plaintiff said to Officer Hahn, “[you are] hurting me, ” Officer Hahn responded, “Shut up Cyclops, I am going to take your other eye out, you Mexican spic, I am really going to hurt you, I am going to send you to the hospital.” (Id.) Officer Hahn then punched plaintiff in his ribs, pushed him into another room, and continued to punch him. (Id.) All told, Officer Hahn punched him several times. (Id.) Plaintiff claims that he ended up with marks from the excessively tight handcuffs. (Id.)

         After complaining to prison staff, plaintiff was examined that same day by a doctor, who ordered x-rays of plaintiff's ribs and prescribed Motrin for plaintiff. (Id.; Defs.' Ex. D, ECF No. 67.) The medical record from this visit indicates “mild erythema” for plaintiff's right wrist.[1](Defs.' Ex. D.) The record also indicates that plaintiff reported pain in his right ribs and that his ribs were “tender to touch, ” but there was no “crepitus.”[2] (Id.) Plaintiff maintains that the next day-September 19, 2013-a “big bruise . . . formed on the right side of [his] ribs where [he] had been punched.” (Addendum at 2.)

         On September 19, 2013, plaintiff filed a complaint with Internal Affairs about the incidents. (IA Dep.) On September 27, 2013, plaintiff filed a grievance that discusses both the underlying incidents as well as a perceived threat of retaliation that allegedly resulted from the plaintiff's Internal Affairs complaint. (Grievance, ECF No. 68.)

         Prison officials took pictures of plaintiff's wrists and ribs on September 18 and September 19.[3] (Addendum at 1; see also Inmate Injury Report, ECF No. 68.)

         On September 20, 2013, plaintiff's ribs were x-rayed. The radiology report for that x-ray found no evidence of acute injury to plaintiff's right ribs. (Defs.' Ex. E, ECF No. 67.) Another x-ray was taken on October 16, 2013, which also found no evidence of a fracture. (Defs.' Ex. F, ECF No. 67.)

         During the Internal Affairs investigation, one inmate reported that plaintiff was punched three times by a corrections ...


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