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Wegrzyn v. Murphy

United States District Court, D. Connecticut

August 29, 2017

PETER MURPHY, et al., Defendant.


          Janet Bond Arterton, U.S.D.J.

         Plaintiff Michael Wegrzyn brings this action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against Defendants Peter Murphy, Gary Wright, Scott Semple, Correctional Officer Billie, Captain Beaudry, Correctional Treatment Officer Massoia, Captain Harnett, and Lieutenant Roy, alleging negligent breach of duty to protect, negligent denial of medical treatment, and retaliation for filing a lawsuit. Each Defendant has been sued in both individual and official capacities. Defendants now move [Doc. #122] for summary judgment on the Second Amended Complaint in its entirety. For the reasons set forth below, Defendants' Motion is GRANTED.

         I. Facts

         Plaintiff Michael Wegrzyn's claims relate to allegations of events that occurred while he was incarcerated at MacDougall Correctional Institution ("MacDougall") in Connecticut and are brought against Peter Murphy (warden at MacDougall), Gary Wright (deputy warden at MacDougall), Scott Semple (warden at Garner Correctional Institution ("Garner")), Mr. Harnett (captain at MacDougall), Correctional Officer Billie, Captain Beaudry, Correctional Treatment Officer Massoia, and Lieutenant Roy.

         Mr. Wegrzyn's wide-ranging complaint alleges deliberate indifference to three assaults committed by a fellow inmate, denial of medical treatment by John and Jane Does, as well as by Defendant Roy, and retaliation for filing a lawsuit (the "Initial Lawsuit") on March 3, 2011 (served May 13, 2011), by means of the assaults and through a strategy of deliberate transfers between institutions and cells. Mr. Wegrzyn swore to his first complaint, thereby qualifying it as a verified complaint and permitting the Court to treat it as an affidavit for summary judgment purposes. (See Complaint, Part I [Doc. # 2] at 6). Colon v. Coughlin, 58 F.3d 865 (2d Cir. 1995). This first, verified complaint will be referred to as the "Wegrzyn Affidavit."

         In opposing Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment, Plaintiff has not supplemented his affidavit with any further evidence. Defendants have submitted documentary evidence and affidavits from non-party witnesses that contradict the factual assertions in Mr. Wegrzyn's affidavit. In determining whether Plaintiff has raised any material issues of fact requiring trial disposition, the Court proceeds under the principle that a party's affidavit, unsupported by any other evidence in the record, fails to raise a triable issue of fact when it conflicts with uncontroverted documentary evidence. Christiana Bank & Trust Co. v. Dalton, No. 06-CV-3206, 2009 WL 4016507, at *4 (E.D.N.Y. Nov. 17, 2009) ("a self-serving, contradictory affidavit fails to raise a triable issue of fact when it conflicts with documentary evidence"); see also Henderson v. Wells Fargo Bank, N.A., No. 13-cv-378, 2017 WL 731780 (D. Conn. Feb. 2, 2017); Dzanoucakis v. Chase Manhattan Bank, USA, No. 06-cv-5673, 2009 WL 910691 at *8 (E.D.N.Y. Mar. 31, 2009) (where the "uncontroverted record clearly supports a [particular] finding, " then "[p]laintiff s own self-serving declaration to the contrary is insufficient, under the circumstances, to raise a triable issue of fact").

         Plaintiffs affidavit sets forth the circumstances of the first alleged assault, claiming that on April 24, 2011 Defendant Officer Billie opened Plaintiffs cell door and instructed Inmate Daniel Klimas to ask Plaintiff "why he filed the lawsuit?" before assaulting him. (Wegrzyn Aff. ¶ 4.) After the assault, Officer Billie told Plaintiff, "this is how we do things in MacDougall." (Id.) Plaintiff then claims he was taken to the medical department where his requests for medical attention and a keep-away order were denied. (Id. ¶ 5.) Plaintiff repeated this request in the next few days. (Id. ¶¶ 6-7.) The affidavit also claims a second assault occurred on May 24, 2011, during which Defendant Billie again opened Plaintiffs cell door and instructed Mr. Klimas to enter and assault Plaintiff. (Id. ¶ 22.) Plaintiff again asked for medical treatment and issuance of a keep-away order, and was again refused. (Id. ¶ 24.)

         A third assault is alleged to have occurred on October 24, 2011. (Id. ¶ 28.) According to Plaintiff, this assault took place in similar fashion to the other two: Defendant Billie opened Plaintiffs cell and Mr. Klimas entered the cell to assault Plaintiff. (Id.) This time, however, no one said anything. (Id.) Plaintiff asserts that he was taken to the medical unit where he again requested to file charges against Mr. Klimas and to file a grievance, but the doctors refused.

         The documentary evidence submitted by Defendants shows that the first two assaults could not have taken place because Mr. Klimas and Plaintiff were not housed in the same facility on those dates. (Ex. D ("O'Neill Aff") to Mot. Summ. J. [Doc. # 122-6] at ¶ 23; Ex. E ("Wegrzyn RT60") and Ex. F ("Klimas RT60") [Docs. ## 122-7, 122-8].)[1], [2]If these assaults could not have taken place in the timeframe and location that Plaintiff claims, then the retaliatory comments accompanying the assaults likewise cannot be shown to have taken place, and any request by Plaintiff for a keep-away order against Mr. Klimas would be meaningless because they were not housed together.

         Unlike the first two claimed attacks for which no credible evidence has been offered, the third confrontation undisputedly occurred. The prison records confirm that on October 24, 2011, Plaintiff and Mr. Klimas engaged in a physical fight, but that the fight was documented to have taken place during "pod recreation, " not in Plaintiffs cell. (Ex. G ("Cassidy Aff") to Mot Summ. J. [Doc. # 122-9]; Ex. H ("Incident Report") to Mot. Summ. J. [Doc. # 122-10].)[3] After non-party Officer Cassidy reported the fight, responding staff including Defendant Billie came and secured the unit and both inmates. (Cassidy Aff. ¶¶ 6-7.) Aside from Defendant Billie, no other Defendants were on the scene and none of the other Defendants responded to the call. (Id. ¶21.) That same day, an Inmate Separation Profile was created to ensure Plaintiff and Mr. Klimas remained separated and Plaintiff was transferred to a different cell in the S unit.[4] (Id. ¶23.)

         With respect to the one fight shown to have occurred between Mr. Klimas and Plaintiff, the record does not support Plaintiffs claim that Officer Billie instructed Mr. Klimas to assault Plaintiff. Officer Billie's affidavit (which also is deemed a self-serving affidavit because he is a party) declares that before Officer Cassidy called the alarm in response to the fight on October 24, 2011, "I did not know that the two inmates would fight or that they had problems with one another ... ." (Ex. J ("Billie Aff.") to Mot. Summ. J. [Doc. # 122-12] ¶ 4-5].) Plaintiff offers no rebuttal other than his discredited allegations about Mr. Billie's role in two prior fights.

         In addition to Officer Billie's affidavit, non-party Scott O'Neill, a correctional counselor for the Connecticut Department of Corrections, submitted an affidavit stating that "if either inmate raised concerns about safety that information would be documented in their Department of Correction file and an inmate separation profile would be initiated" and that "there is no indication in either inmate's Department of Correction file that an inmate separation profile was warranted prior to October 24, 2011." (Ex. D ("O'Neill Aff.") to Mot. Summ. J. [Doc. # 122-6] ¶¶ 21-22.) The inmate separation profile created after the fight indicates that the fight occurred because of gang disputes. (Ex. I ("Inmate Separation Profile") to Mot. Summ. J. [Doc. # 122-11].)

         Plaintiffs affidavit further claims that he was transferred between correctional facilities seven times between April 21, 2011 and October 31, 2011, and that he was transferred at least 10 times between cells during that same period. The prison records submitted by Defendants contradict these claims and show that he was transferred between facilities four times in 2005, once in 2010, and three times in 2011 after filing the Complaint. (Ex. E ("RT60 Movement Record") to Mot. Summ. J. [Doc. # 122-4].) In 2010 and January 2011, before the lawsuit was filed, Plaintiff was transferred among cells nine times, and after the lawsuit was initiated, he was transferred between cells another five times. (Ex. B ("Locator Card") to Mot. Summ. J. [Doc. # 22-4].)

         II. Discussion

         Summary judgment is appropriate where, "resolvfing] all ambiguities and draw[ing] all permissible factual inferences in favor of the party against whom summary judgment is sought, " Holcomb v. Iona Coll.,521 F.3d 130, 137 (2d Cir. 2008), "the movant shows that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law, " Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). "A dispute regarding a material fact is genuine if the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party." Williams v. Utica Coll. of Syracuse Univ.,453 F.3d 112, 116 (2d Cir. 2006) (quotation marks omitted). "The substantive law governing the case will identify those facts that are material, and '[o]nly disputes over facts that might affect the outcome of the suit under the governing law will properly preclude the entry of summary judgment."' Bouboulis v. Transp. Workers Union of Am., 442 F.3d 55, 59 (2d Cir. 2006) (quoting Anderson v. Liberty ...

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