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Sanders v. City of New York

United States District Court, S.D. New York

June 22, 2018

GARY SANDERS, Plaintiff,


          Paul G. Gardephe United States District Judge

         Pro se Plaintiff Gary Sanders - a former pretrial detainee at the Anna M. Kross Center ("AMKC") on Rikers Island - brings this action under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against the City of New York (the "City"), AMKC Warden Max'solaine Mingo, Captain Katia Leon, Correction Officer Shanika Lewis, physician's assistants Kelly Guy and Susan Noah, and nurse practitioner Kathleen Lehey (collectively, "Defendants"). Construed liberally, the Second Amended Complaint ("SAC") alleges that Defendants subjected Plaintiff to unconstitutional conditions of confinement and did not provide constitutionally adequate medical care, because they did not provide Plaintiff with an orthopedic mattress to accommodate his back injury. (SAC (Dkt. No. 11) at 6-7) Plaintiff also asserts a Monell claim against the City. (Id.)

         Defendants have moved to dismiss the SAC pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6). (Def. Mot. (Dkt. No. 26)) For the reasons stated below, Defendants' motion to dismiss will be granted.



         Plaintiff alleges that on May 28, 2016 - after his admission to the AMKC - he was interviewed by Physician's Assistant Susan Noah. (SAC (Dkt. No. 11) at 6) During the interview, Plaintiff told Noah that he had a "prior back injury," suffers from sciatica, and treats the condition with a "tens machine," which "shoots electrical pulses into [his] nerves." (Id.) Plaintiff claims that Noah "refuse[d] to acknowledge" this information. (Id.)

         Plaintiff was later interviewed by Nurse Practitioner Kathleen Lehey. (Id.) Plaintiff requested "medication" and an orthopedic mattress as a "special accommodation" for his back condition. (Id.) According to Plaintiff, Lehey "ignored" both requests. (Id.)

         Plaintiff further alleges that, "after constantly going to the clinic complaining [and] seeing [] physician assistant Kelly Guy," he underwent an X-ray and was prescribed naproxen, an anti-inflammatory drug. (Id. at 6-7) Plaintiff was later transferred to the Brooklyn Detention Complex, where he has been prescribed gabapentin for his back pain. (Id. at 7)

         Plaintiff complains that he currently suffers from "extreme back pain[]" that runs from his back to his left leg, as well as alternating numbness and pain "like a million needles ... sticking ... all over [his] leg [and] feet." (Id.) It is not clear from the SAC whether these symptoms developed before or after Plaintiffs detention at the AMKC.

         On June 23, 2016, Plaintiff filed a grievance - pursuant to the Inmate Grievance Request Program ("IGRP") at the AMKC - regarding his back pain and his requests for a mattress that is "suitable for [a] metal foundation frame." (Id. at 12) Plaintiff alleges that there was no response to his grievance. (Id. at 8) Plaintiff forwarded a copy of his grievance to Warden Mingo on July 13, 2016, and requested her assistance. (Id. at 8, 13) The SAC is silent as to whether Warden Mingo responded to Plaintiffs letter. The SAC does not allege that Plaintiff took any other steps to exhaust his administrative remedies. (Id. at 8)


         Plaintiff commenced this action on September 20, 2016. The Complaint names Warden Mingo and Bob Barker - a mattress manufacturer - as defendants. (Cmplt. (Dkt. No. 2)) On October 25, 2016, Chief Judge McMahon issued an Order to Amend which identified certain deficiencies in the Complaint, and granted Plaintiff leave to file an amended complaint within sixty days. (Oct. 25, 2016 Order (Dkt. No. 6))

         The Order to Amend explains that - in order to state an unconstitutional conditions of confinement claim based on inadequate bedding

a plaintiff must allege facts showing that (1) he had a pre-existing medical condition requiring a special bed to protect against serious damage to his future health; (2) he made that medical condition known to the prison officials; (3) he requested a special bed to accommodate such medical condition; and (4) an official who knew of and disregarded an excessive risk to the plaintiffs health or safety denied his request.. .. [A] [plaintiffs] naked assertions that [he] suffered extreme pain as a result of [an] inadequate bed[], without more, d[o] not meet the standard for pleadings in a § 1983 action.

(Id. at 3 (internal quotation marks omitted) (citing Howard v. City of New York, 12 Civ. 4069 (PAE) (JCF), 2013 WL 504164, at *2, 4 (S.D.N.Y. Feb. 11, 2013)))

         The Order to Amend further states that,

[i]n his [C]omplaint, Plaintiff does not allege that his mattress exacerbated any prior injuries, that he informed anyone at Rikers Island about a pre-existing injury requiring a special bed, or that any Defendant refused to accommodate any medical condition. Plaintiff thus fails to allege facts showing that any Defendant knew of an excessive risk to his health and acted with deliberate indifference in disregarding that risk. Moreover, Plaintiff also fails "to provide the factual detail necessary to state a claim that he suffered injuries as a result of the bed." DelaCruz v. City of New York, No. 15 Civ. 3030 (PAE) (JCF), 2015 WL 2399346, at *2 (S.D.N.Y. May 19, 2015). Plaintiffs allegations thus fail to state a claim on which relief can be granted. For these reasons, Plaintiff is granted leave to amend his complaint to address the deficiencies detailed above.


The Order to Amend also explains that, [t]o state a claim under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, a plaintiff must allege facts showing the defendants' direct and personal involvement in the alleged constitutional deprivation.... Plaintiff alleges that he wrote to Warden Mingo regarding his grievance. But he has not identified any specific individuals or stated whether any of those individuals were aware of an excessive risk of injury to Plaintiff. If Plaintiff seeks to hold any individuals liable under § 1983, he must name them as defendants in an amended complaint and provide facts demonstrating that those individuals were personally involved in the alleged violation of his constitutional rights.

(Id. at 4-5 (internal citations omitted)) The Order also informs Plaintiff that "the body of Plaintiffs amended complaint must tell the Court: who violated his federally protected rights; what facts show that his federally protected rights were violated; when such violation occurred; where such violation occurred; and why Plaintiff is entitled to relief." (Id at 6)

         Although the City of New York is not named as a defendant in the Complaint, the Order to Amend also explains that, "to state a § 1983 claim against a municipality, the plaintiff must allege facts showing: (1) the existence of a municipal policy, custom, or practice, and (2) that the policy, custom, or practice caused the violation of the plaintiffs constitutional rights." (Id. at 4 (citing Bd. of Cnty. Comm'rs of Bryan Cnty. v. Brown, 520 U.S. 397, 403 (1997); Jones v. Town of East Haven, 691 F.3d 72, 80 (2d Cir. 2012)))

         On December 5, 2016, Plaintiff filed the First Amended Complaint ("FAC"), in which he adds the City, Captain Leon, Officer Lewis, Physician's Assistant Guy, and John and Jane Doe as defendants. (FAC (Dkt. No. 7)) The case was assigned to this Court on December 27, 2016. On January 26, 2017, Plaintiff filed the SAC, which removes Bob Barker and the Doe parties as defendants, and adds Noah and Lehey as defendants. (SAC (Dkt. No. 11))

         On October 17, 2017, Defendants moved to dismiss the SAC on the grounds that Plaintiff has not (1) exhausted his administrative remedies as required by the Prisoner Litigation Reform Act, 42 U.S.C. § 1997(e) (the "PLRA"); (2) stated a Monell claim against the City; and (3) pled a violation of his constitutional rights. (Def Mot. (Dkt. No. 26)) Plaintiffs opposition was due on November 17, 2017. (Oct. 31, 2017 Order (Dkt. No. 30)) Because Plaintiff has not filed any opposition to Defendants' motion, the motion will be deemed unopposed.



         "To survive a motion to dismiss, a complaint must contain 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 Atlantic v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007)). These factual allegations must be "sufficient to raise a right to relief above the speculative level.'" Rahman v. Fisher. 607 F.Supp.2d 580, 584 (S.DN.Y. 2009) (quoting ATSI Commc'ns. Inc. v. Shaar Fund, Ltd.. 493 F.3d 87, 98 (2d Cir. 2007)). "In considering a motion to dismiss ... the court is to accept as true all facts alleged in the complaint," Kassner v. 2nd Ave. Delicatessen Inc.. 496 F.3d 229, 237 (2d Cir. 2007) (citing Dougherty v. Town of N. Hempstead Bd. of Zoning Appeals. 282 F.3d 83, 87 (2d Cir. 2002)), and must "draw all reasonable inferences in favor of the plaintiff." Id. (citing Fernandez v. Chertoff, 471 F.3d 45, 51 (2d Cir. 2006)).

         A complaint is inadequately pled "if it tenders 'naked assertion[s]' devoid of 'further factual enhancement, '" Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678 (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 557), and does not provide factual allegations sufficient "to give the defendant fair notice of what the claim is and the grounds upon which it rests." Port Dock & Stone Corp. v. Oldcastle Northeast, Inc., 507 F.3d 117, 121 (2d Cir. 2007).

         "In considering a motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6), a district court may consider the facts alleged in the complaint, documents attached to the complaint as exhibits, and documents incorporated by reference in the complaint." DiFolco v. MSNBC Cable L.L.C.. 622 F.3d 104, 111 (2d Cir. 2010) (citations omitted). Additionally, "[w]here a document is not incorporated by reference, the court may never [the] less consider it where the complaint 'relies heavily upon its terms and effect,' thereby rendering the document 'integral' to the complaint." Id. (quoting Mangiafico v. Blumenthal, 471 F.3d 391, 398 (2d Cir. 2006)).

         Because Plaintiff is proceeding pro se, this Court must construe his pleading liberally. See Erickson v. Pardus. 551 U.S. 89, 94 (2007) ("A document filed pro se is 'to be liberally construed.'") (quoting Estelle v. Gamble. 429 U.S. 97, 106 (1976)). Accordingly, the Court reads the SAC "to raise the strongest arguments [it] suggests]." Fulton v. Goord, 591 F.3d 37, 43 (2d Cir. 2009) (quoting Green v. United States, 260 F.3d 78, 83 (2d Cir. 2001)). "As in any other case, however, the Court accepts as true only factual allegations, and does not accept as true allegations stating only legal conclusions." Braxton v. Nichols, No. 08 Civ. 08568 (PGG), 2010 WL 1010001, at *1 (S.D.N.Y. Mar. 18, 2010) (citing Harris v. Mills, 572 F.3d 66, 72 (2d Cir. 2009) ("[T]hreadbare recitals of a cause of action, supported by mere conclusory statements, do not suffice [to establish entitlement to relief].")).

         II. EXHAUSTION OF ...

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