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Davis v. Chapdelaine

United States District Court, D. Connecticut

July 28, 2017

TONY P. DAVIS, Plaintiff,
v.
CHAPDELAINE, et al., Defendants.

          RULING ON MOTIONS FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT

          VANESSA L. BRYANT, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         On February 18, 2016, the plaintiff, Tony P. Davis, an inmate currently incarcerated at MacDougall-Walker Correctional Institution (“MacDougall-Walker”) and proceeding pro se, filed a complaint pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against Warden Carol Chapdelaine, Captain Butkiewicus, Captain Sharp, and Lieutenant Burgos, all of whom are employees of the Connecticut Department of Correction (“DOC”). He claimed that the defendants acted with deliberate indifference to his safety, in violation of his Eighth Amendment protection against cruel and unusual punishment, when they placed him in a restrictive housing cell with an inmate who immediately assaulted him, despite knowing that the inmate had refused other cellmates in the past.

         On May 2, 2016, this Court dismissed his complaint for failure to state a plausible claim under 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(b)(1) because the plaintiff failed to sufficiently allege that the conditions of confinement at the restrictive housing unit posed a serious risk of harm to him or that the defendants knew that the inmate who assaulted him had violent tendencies or a desire to assault him. See Initial Review Order #10 at 3.

         The plaintiff filed an amended complaint on May 13, 2016 [Doc.#12], which contained more factual support for his deliberate indifference claim. After reviewing this complaint, the Court permitted the plaintiff's deliberate indifference claim to proceed against the defendants. The defendants answered the complaint on August 1, 2016.[1]

         On February 22, 2017, the defendants moved for summary judgment against the plaintiff [Doc.#55]. The plaintiff filed a written opposition to the defendant's motion on March 27, 2017 [Doc.#63]. The plaintiff then filed his own motion for summary judgment against the defendants [Doc.#64], to which the defendants filed an opposition [Doc.#65]. Afterward, the plaintiff filed a supplemental memorandum in support of his motion for summary judgment [Doc.#68]. For the following reasons, the Court will GRANT the defendants' motion and DENY the plaintiff's motion.

         I. Relevant Legal Principles

         In a motion for summary judgment, the burden is on the moving party to establish that there are no genuine issues of material fact in dispute and that it is “entitled to judgment as a matter of law.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). A fact is “material” if it “might affect the outcome of the suit under the governing law” and is “genuine” if “a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party” based on it. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986); see also Dister v. Continental Group, Inc., 859 F.2d 1108, 1114 (2d Cir. 1988) (mere existence of alleged factual dispute will not defeat summary judgment motion).

         When a motion for summary judgment is supported by documentary evidence and sworn affidavits and “demonstrates the absence of a genuine issue of material fact, ” the nonmoving party must do more than vaguely assert the existence of some unspecified disputed material facts or “rely on conclusory allegations or unsubstantiated speculation.” Robinson v. Concentra Health Servs., Inc., 781 F.3d 42, 44 (2d Cir. 2015) (citation omitted). Thus, the party opposing the motion for summary judgment “must come forward with specific evidence demonstrating the existence of a genuine dispute of material fact.” Id.; see also First Nat. Bank of Ariz. v. Cities Service Co., 391 U.S. 253, 289 (1968) (nonmoving party must submit sufficient evidence supporting claimed factual dispute to require factfinder to resolve parties' differing versions of truth at trial).

         In reviewing the record, the Court must “construe the evidence in the light most favorable to the non-moving party and to draw all reasonable inferences in its favor.” Gary Friedrich Enters., L.L.C. v. Marvel Characters, Inc., 716 F.3d 302, 312 (2d Cir. 2013) (citation omitted). If there is any evidence in the record from which a reasonable factual inference could be drawn in favor of the opposing party for the issue on which summary judgment is sought, however, summary judgment is improper. See Security Ins. Co. of Hartford v. Old Dominion Freight Line Inc., 391 F.3d 77, 83 (2d Cir. 2004).

         Where one party is proceeding pro se, the Court must read the pro se party's papers liberally and interpret them “to raise the strongest arguments that they suggest.” Willey v. Kirkpatrick, 801 F.3d 51, 62 (2d Cir. 2015) (internal quotation marks and citation omitted). Despite this liberal interpretation, however, “[u]nsupported allegations do not create a material issue of fact” and cannot overcome a properly supported motion for summary judgment. See Weinstock v. Columbia Univ., 224 F.3d 33, 41 (2d Cir. 2000), cert. denied, 540 U.S. 811 (2003).

         II. Factual Allegations

         The following factual allegations are not in dispute.

         On April 1, 2015, Lieutenant Burgos escorted the plaintiff, who was handcuffed, to a restrictive housing unit where he would share a cell with another inmate named Talton. Before escorting the plaintiff into the cell, Burgos ordered Talton, who was not handcuffed, to sit on his bunk, and Talton complied. Once Talton was seated, Burgos opened the cell door and ordered the plaintiff to step inside while remaining handcuffed. Per protocol, Burgos had to remove the plaintiff's handcuffs through the trap on the cell door after it closed behind the plaintiff. However, as the cell door was closing, Talton stood up from his bed and rushed toward the door where the plaintiff was standing. Talton attempted to push his way toward the correction officers and, in doing so, assaulted the plaintiff, who was still handcuffed, by punching him in the chest. The correction officers immediately rushed into the cell and separated Talton from the plaintiff. They deployed a chemical agent to Talton's face in an effort to subdue him. Def.'s Mot. Summ. J. Ex. 1 [Doc.#55-2 at 15].

         The plaintiff was taken to a nearby empty cell, where medical staff asked him if he had sustained any injuries from the attack. Def.'s Mot. Summ. J. Ex. 1 [Doc.#55-2 at 7]. The plaintiff informed medical staff that “he was fine, ” and the staff's assessment of his chest showed no signs of raised, red or tender areas. Id. [Doc.#55-2 at ...


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