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Constant v. Annucci

United States District Court, S.D. New York

April 5, 2018

WILLIAM CONSTANT, Plaintiff,
v.
ANTHONY J. ANNUCCI, Acting Commissioner of the New York State Department of Corrections and Community Supervision DOCCS, ALBERT PRACK, Director of Special Housing and Inmate Disciplinary Programs, DOCCS, WILLIAM LEE, Superintendent of Green Haven Correctional Facility "Green Haven", FREDERICK BERNSTEIN, M.D., Facility Health Services Director, Green Haven, ROBERT BENTTVEGNA, M.D., physician, Green Haven, Collections Officers N. DAPCEVIC, R. CABRAL, A. ALBAN, B. STURTEVENT, J. MARKWICK, B. HESS, M. VENNERO, and JOHN and JANE DOES 1-20, all Individual Defendants in their individual and official capacities, Defendants.

          OPINION & ORDER

          NELSON S. ROMAN United States District Judge

         Plaintiff William Constant commenced this action against Defendants Anthony J. Annucci, Commissioner of the New York State Department of Corrections and Community Supervision ("DOCCS"), Albert Prack, Director of Special Housing and Inmate Disciplinary Programs for DOCCS, William Lee, Superintendent of the Green Haven Correctional Facility ("Green Haven"), Frederick Bernstein, M.D., Facility Health Services Director for Green Haven, Robert Bentivegna, M.D., a physician at Green Haven, and Corrections Officers N. Dapcevic, R. Cabral, A. Alban, B. Sturtevent, J. Markwick, B. Hess, M. Vennero, and John and Jane Does 1-20 in their individual and official capacities. Plaintiff asserts five claims pursuant to 42 U.S.C. §§ 1983 and 1985(3), alleging that Defendants: (1) deprived him of the right to be free from excessive force in violation of the Eighth Amendment; (2) acted with deliberate indifference to the serious risk of violence against Plaintiff in violation of the Eighth Amendment; (3) acted with deliberate indifference to Plaintiff's serious medical needs in violation of the Eighth Amendment; (4) deprived Plaintiff of his due process rights under the Fourteenth Amendment by denying him a fair and impartial disciplinary hearing; and (5) deprived Plaintiff of his due process rights under the Fourteenth Amendment by subjecting him to atypical and substantial hardship during his one year sentence in the Special Housing Unit. Before the Court are Defendants William Lee and Albert Prack's Partial Motion to Dismiss the Complaint pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6). For the following reasons, Defendants' motion is GRANTED in part and DENIED in part.

         BACKGROUND

         This case stems from a grisly incident at the Green Haven Correctional facility (“Green Haven”)-a maximum security facility run by the New York State Department of Corrections and Community Supervision (“DOCCS”). (Compl. ¶ 11, ECF No. 1.) On May 27, 2013, Plaintiff, who was incarcerated at Green Haven, was playing cards with another inmate at one of the facility's yards (Id.) when, without provocation, another inmate by the name of William Reyes slashed Plaintiff repeatedly with a razor-like object on the head, face, and ear. After slashing Plaintiff, Reyes began running towards an area where various corrections officers stood. Plaintiff, who began bleeding profusely, ran after Reyes. (Id. ¶¶ 12-13.) When both Plaintiff and Reyes approached the area where the officers stood, the officers backed away, leaving Plaintiff vulnerable to another attack. (Id. ¶ 14.)

         Reyes attacked Plaintiff once again. (Id. ¶¶ 16-17.) This time they both fell to the ground, with Plaintiff on top of Reyes, at which point one of the Correction Officers “brutally beat plaintiff twice in the side of the head with his baton.” (Id. ¶ 17.)[1] Correction Officers then took Plaintiff and Reyes to the facility's medical clinic where the clinic staff determined that Plaintiff suffered serious injuries and required emergency hospital treatment. (Id. ¶¶ 20-21.) Plaintiff was taken to St. Francis Hospital where he received more than sixty-five stitches to close the wounds to his face, head, and ear. (Id. ¶¶ 21-22.) Plaintiff was later informed that he sustained brain injury to the side of his head where Officer Dapcevic had struck him twice with his baton. (Id. ¶ 22.)

         Upon Plaintiff's release from the hospital, one of the Defendants served him with a “Tier III disciplinary ticket.” (Id. ¶ 27.) Plaintiff was then sent to the Special Housing Unit (“SHU”), where he awaited resolution of his disciplinary hearing over the course of two months. (Id. ¶¶ 27-28.) Meanwhile, his purported attacker, Reyes, who was not charged with slashing Plaintiff, returned to the general population. (Id. ¶ 29.) Several inmates were set to testify on Plaintiff's behalf at his disciplinary proceeding, however, they refused to testify soon thereafter, “fearing retribution.” (Id.) Once the disciplinary proceeding began, the hearing officer denied Plaintiff's requests to call several witnesses on his behalf. (Id. ¶ 30.) Further, although the hearing officer recorded each day's proceedings, the hearing officer did not record the day Officer Vennero, an eyewitness from the yard, testified, or the day Plaintiff argued his request for inmate witnesses. (Id. ¶ 31.) The hearing officer found Plaintiff guilty on “all charges” and sentenced him to one year's confinement in the SHU along with other “deprivations.” (Id. ¶ 32.) Plaintiff appealed the findings and his sentence, which Defendant Albert Prack, Director of Special Housing and Inmate Disciplinary programs for DOCCS, upheld. (Id. ¶ 33.)

         While in the SHU, Plaintiff suffered “numerous physical and emotional hardships.” (Id. ¶ 34.) He frequently suffered from migraines, dizziness, muscle spasms, nausea, impaired vision, and hearing loss (Id.) as well as “excruciating pain” from headaches including migraines. (Id. ¶ 38.) Plaintiff made repeated requests for medical assistance, yet he did not receive any medical treatment to alleviate his severe pain or debilitating symptoms. (Id. ¶ 34, 39.) Further, Plaintiff often found parts of his meal missing or that someone had tampered with the food. (Id. ¶ 35.) Plaintiff lost significant weight as a result. (Id.)

         Plaintiff was also subjected to smoke inhalation from a fire set by an inmate in his cell block. This caused lung problems and difficulty breathing. Plaintiff again requested medical treatment but received none. (Id. ¶ 36.) Plaintiff further asserts that Defendants left urine and feces in the hallway outside of Plaintiff's cell without cleaning it up for extended periods of time. Plaintiff, as a result, ate his meals in close proximity to the urine and feces. (Id. ¶ 37.)

         Plaintiff alleges that he continues to suffer from physical injuries, severe pain from those injuries, and emotional distress. (Id. ¶ 40.)

         STANDARD ON MOTION TO DISMISS

         Under Rule 12(b)(6), the inquiry for motions to dismiss is whether the complaint “contain[s] sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to ‘state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.'” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (quoting Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007)). “While legal conclusions can provide the framework of a complaint, they must be supported by factual allegations.” Id. at 679. The Court must take all material factual allegations as true and draw reasonable inferences in the non-moving party's favor, but the Court is “‘not bound to accept as true a legal conclusion couched as a factual allegation, '” or to credit “mere conclusory statements” or “[t]hreadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action.” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678 (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555). In determining whether a complaint states a plausible claim for relief, a district court must consider the context and “draw on its judicial experience and common sense.” Id. at 679. A claim is facially plausible when the factual content pleaded allows a court “to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged.” Id. at 678.

         DISCUSSION

         Plaintiff brings two claims against Defendants Lee and Prack in their individual capacity pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983.[2] First, Plaintiff alleges that Defendants Lee and Prack violated his due process rights under the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution by subjecting him to atypical and substantial hardship during his one year sentence in the SHU. (Compl. ¶¶ 69-76.) Second, Plaintiff also alleges that Defendant Prack violated his due process rights under the Fourteenth Amendment by denying him a fair and impartial disciplinary hearing. (Compl. ¶¶ 61-68.) Defendants argue that both of these claims should be dismissed because Defendants were not personally involved in the purported constitutional violations under § 1983 and they are both entitled to qualified immunity.

         42 U.S.C. ยง 1983 and ...


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