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Vail v. City of New York

United States District Court, S.D. New York

January 10, 2020

ANDREW VAIL, Plaintiff,
v.
THE CITY OF NEW YORK et al., Defendants.

          OPINION AND ORDER

          J. PAUL OETKEN, DISTRICT JUDGE.

         Plaintiff Andrew Vail alleges that he was denied medical treatment while being incarcerated after informing prison authorities that he had swallowed two AA batteries and various components of a radio. He eventually underwent two endoscopies to remove the foreign objects, which had become lodged in his gastrointestinal tract. Vail brings suit under 28 U.S.C. § 1983 against the social worker who initially denied him treatment, the social worker's supervisor, and two municipal defendants. Defendants have moved to dismiss. For the reasons that follow, the motion is granted in part and denied in part.

         I. Background

         The following facts are taken from the operative complaint (Dkt. No. 43 (“Compl.”)) and are assumed true for purposes of this motion to dismiss.

         On May 15, 2018, Plaintiff Andrew Vail (proceeding pro se) was incarcerated at the Anna M. Kross Center, or AMKC, on Rikers Island. (Compl. ¶¶ 3, 5, 23.) He began experiencing anxiety, depression, and hopelessness. (Compl. ¶ 23.) He requested mental health treatment, but his request was ignored. (Id.) On May 17, Vail swallowed two AA batteries and various components of a Sony radio in order to obtain the attention of mental health services. (Compl. ¶ 26.) He was taken to the AMKC mental health clinic, where he was seen by Defendant Lionel Brown, a social worker. (Compl. ¶ 28.) Brown “became brusque, abrupt and borderline hostile” and left to speak to his supervisor, Defendant Beth LaGrange. (Compl. ¶ 30.) Moments later, he returned and sent Vail back to his cell. (Compl. ¶ 31.) Vail alleges that Brown “lied to and omitted information from LaGrange about [Vail's] swallowing objects, or [that] Brown and LaGrange together made the decision to ignore [Vail's] admission of swallowing objects.” (Compl. ¶ 31.)

         Upon returning to his cell, Plaintiff began coughing up blood and experiencing extreme pain. (Compl. ¶ 33.) On May 20, he was taken to the AMKC clinic. (Compl. ¶ 37.) There, an X-ray revealed that he had foreign objects lodged in his stomach and esophagus. (Compl. ¶ 38.) Vail underwent two endoscopies to remove the objects. (Compl. ¶ 40.)

         Vail brings suit against both Brown and LaGrange under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 for deliberate indifference to his medical needs in violation of the Eighth Amendment. (Compl. ¶¶ 49-54.) Vail also asserts several state-law tort claims. (Compl. ¶¶ 44-48, 55-69.) In addition, Vail brings corresponding claims against two municipal entities: the City of New York and New York City Health and Hospitals Corporation. (Compl. ¶¶ 49-69.) Vail seeks compensatory and punitive damages, as well as declaratory relief. (Compl. ¶¶ 70-73.) Defendants have collectively moved to dismiss under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6).

         II. Legal Standard

         To withstand a motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6), a plaintiff must plead sufficient factual allegations “to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.” Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007). A claim is plausible if the well-pleaded factual allegations of the complaint, presumed true, permit the court to “draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged.” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (citing Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556).

         “[W]hen [a] plaintiff proceeds pro se, as in this case, a court is obliged to construe h[er] pleadings liberally, particularly when [she] allege[s] civil rights violations.” McEachin v. McGuinnis, 357 F.3d 197, 200 (2d Cir. 2004). But “even pro se plaintiffs asserting civil right claims cannot withstand a motion to dismiss unless their pleadings contain factual allegations sufficient to raise a ‘right to relief above the speculative level.'” Jackson v. NYS Dep't of Labor, 709 F.Supp.2d 218, 224 (S.D.N.Y. 2010) (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 55).

         III. Discussion

         Vail brings § 1983 claims and state-law tort claims against Brown and LaGrange. Vail also brings § 1983 claims against the municipal entities. Defendants have moved to dismiss all claims except the § 1983 claim against Brown. Each set of claims is discussed in turn.

         A. Section 1983 Claims

         Defendants move to dismiss the § 1983 claims against LaGrange and the municipal defendants, leaving only the ...


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