United States District Court, D. Connecticut
INITIAL REVIEW ORDER
Michael P. Shea United States District Judge.
14, 2017, the plaintiff, Johnny Peterson, an inmate currently
housed at Osborn Correctional Institution
(“Osborn”) in Somers, CT, brought a civil
complaint against Warden Edward Maldonado, Correction Officer
Dowles, Captain Chapdelaine, and two unnamed correction
officers, identified only as John Does 1 and 2, in their
individual and official capacities. On June 23, 2017, this
Court granted the plaintiff's motion to proceed in
forma pauperis. See Order #6. For the following
reasons, the complaint is dismissed in part.
Relevant Legal Principles
28 U.S.C. § 1915A of the United States Code, the Court
must review prisoner civil complaints and dismiss any portion
of the complaint that is frivolous or malicious, that fails
to state a claim upon which relief may be granted, or that
seeks monetary relief from a defendant who is immune from
such relief. Although detailed allegations are not required,
the complaint must include sufficient facts to afford the
defendants fair notice of the claims and the grounds upon
which they are based and to demonstrate a right to relief.
Bell Atlantic v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555-56
(2007). Conclusory allegations are not sufficient.
Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009). The
plaintiff must plead “enough facts to state a claim to
relief that is plausible on its face.” Bell
Atlantic, 550 U.S. at 570. Nevertheless, it is
well-established that “[p]ro se
complaints ‘must be construed liberally and interpreted
to raise the strongest arguments that they
suggest.'” Sykes v. Bank of Am., 723 F.3d
399, 403 (2d Cir. 2013) (quoting Triestman v. Fed. Bureau
of Prisons, 470 F.3d 471, 474 (2d Cir. 2006)); see
also Tracy v. Freshwater, 623 F.3d 90, 101-02 (2d Cir.
2010) (discussing special rules of solicitude for pro
February 23, 2017, the plaintiff was housed in the E-Block
unit at Osborn. At approximately 9:00 or 9:30 a.m., he was
instructed to exit his cell and proceed to the gym. Around
that time, two officers, apparently John Doe 1 and 2, were
conducting a training exercise, in violation of Department of
Correction administrative directives. The two officers were
part of the Correctional Emergency Response Team or
“CERT” team. When the plaintiff exited his cell,
he observed approximately 150 to 200 CERT officers in full
riot gear carrying assault rifles, shot guns, and tear gas
guns. The officers “were supervised by Captain
Chapdelaine in Osborn, which was under the administration of
Warden Edward Maldonado.” The lead CERT officer,
Officer Dowles, shouted at the plaintiff, “I'll
fuckin kill you! I'll fuck you up! Don't fuckin look
at me! I'll break your skull!” The threatening
remarks and display of weapons caused the plaintiff to suffer
a panic attack. When he arrived at the gym, the plaintiff was
subject to further ridicule and “constant dehumanizing
next day, the plaintiff spoke with Warden Maldonado, who
informed him that he did not authorize a CERT training
exercise and that inmates were not supposed to be involved in
any such training. As a result of the incident, the plaintiff
now suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder, anxiety
attacks, and panic attacks. He is suing each defendant for
plaintiff does not specify in his complaint the cause of
action for his case. Although the plaintiff states that the
prison was in violation of its own regulations by conducting
a drill in the presence of an inmate, “a prison inmate
does not have a viable § 1983 claim based solely on
prison officials' failure to adhere to the requirements
of prison regulations, directives or policy
statements.” Lopez v. Reynolds, 998 F.Supp.
252, 259 (W.D.N.Y. 1997); see also Russell v.
Coughlin, 910 F.2d 75, 78 n. 1 (2d Cir. 1990). Because
he is pursuing his case under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, the
Court will construe his allegations as a claim of deliberate
indifference to safety under the Eighth Amendment.
state a claim for deliberate indifference to safety, the
plaintiff must show that the alleged conduct is sufficiently
serious and that the defendants acted with a sufficiently
culpable state of mind, that is, that they acted maliciously
and sadistically to cause harm. See Farmer v.
Brennan, 511 U.S. 825, 834 (1994). The defendants must
have been aware that the plaintiff faced an excessive risk to
his health and safety and ignored that risk. See Id.
at 837. To determine whether the plaintiff faced an excessive
risk of serious harm, the courts “look at the facts and
circumstances of which the official was aware at the time he
acted or failed to act.” Hartry v. County of
Suffolk, 755 F.Supp.2d 422, 436 (E.D.N.Y. 2010)
(internal quotation marks and citation omitted). 42 U.S.C.
§ 1997e(e) (emphasis added).
liberally, the plaintiff states a plausible Eighth Amendment
deliberate indifference to safety claim against Officer
Dowles in his individual capacity. Plaintiff makes the
deliberate indifference claim based on allegedly threatening
remarks Officer Dowles made to the plaintiff, while he was
wearing tactical gear and carrying a weapon. The plaintiff
states that this caused him emotional distress.
the PLRA allegations of emotional distress-absent allegations
of a physical injury-will not suffice for a plaintiff to
recover compensatory damages. 42 U.S.C. § 1997e(e)
(“No Federal civil action may be brought by a prisoner
confined in a jail, prison, or other correctional facility,
for mental or emotional injury suffered while in custody
without a prior showing of physical injury.”). But if
“the plaintiff alleges the violation of a
constitutional right, the action is not entirely barred and
the plaintiff may obtain injunctive or declaratory relief,
and nominal or punitive, but not compensatory damages
irrespective of any physical injury if [he] proves that
violation.” Voorhees v. Goord, No. 05 Civ.
1407, 2006 WL 1888638, at *9 (S.D.N.Y. Feb. 24, 2006). As
such, although the plaintiff will not be able to recover
compensatory damages based on the injury alleged, he may be
able to obtain nominal and/or punitive damages.
the plaintiff is only seeking monetary damages, he cannot sue
Dowles in his official capacity. See Kentucky v.
Graham, 473 U.S. 159 (1985) (claims for monetary damages
against defendants in official capacities are barred by