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Miller v. Mann

United States District Court, D. Connecticut

December 28, 2017

DAVON MILLER, Plaintiff,
v.
MANN, et al., Defendants.

          INITIAL REVIEW ORDER PURSUANT TO 28 U.S.C. § 1915A

          Jeffrey Alker Meyer, United States District Judge.

         Plaintiff Davon Miller is a prisoner in the custody of the Connecticut Department of Correction. He has filed a complaint pro se and in forma pauperis under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. After an initial review, the Court concludes that the amended complaint shall be allowed to proceed in part as to some of plaintiff's claims against some of the defendants.

         BACKGROUND

         Plaintiff names seven defendants: Correctional Officer Mann, Lieutenant Squires, Lieutenant Cavagnoff, Lieutenant Beebe, Deputy Warden Roach, Medical Administrator Lightner, and Captain Rivera. The following allegations from plaintiff's amended complaint are accepted as true for purposes of the Court's review.

         On August 17, 2017, plaintiff was an unsentenced detainee at the MacDougall Correctional Institution (“MacDougall”). Cavagnoff instructed Mann to place plaintiff in a segregation cell with a sentenced inmate who had a history of violence and mental illness. Because the inmate wanted a single cell, he assaulted his cellmates. Staff at MacDougall were aware of this behavior. Doc. #1 at 5 (¶ 1). When plaintiff entered the cell, he went to use the toilet. His cellmate assaulted him, repeatedly smashing plaintiff's head against the steel toilet until plaintiff became unconscious. Id. (¶ 2).

         As plaintiff began to regain consciousness, Mann opened the cell door and sprayed a chemical agent (mace) into plaintiff's face and open wound. Id. (¶ 3). Plaintiff again lost consciousness. When he awoke, a nurse was stitching his wound. His boxers were off, and his face and body were burning from the chemical agent. Id. (¶ 4).

         Plaintiff was admitted to the infirmary. He had suffered two black eyes, six stitches under his right eye, a blood clot in his right eye, a bone fracture in his right eye socket, a swollen jaw and a cut in his right eye. Id. at 6 (¶ 5). Plaintiff was not taken to the hospital or given a bottom bunk pass. He was not given a tetanus shot or a CAT scan. He was given a Motrin tablet at the end of the day. The following day, he was transferred to the Walker Correctional Institution segregation unit. Id. (¶ 6).

         Plaintiff asked Squires and Beebe if he could press charges. They told him no, that he should have done so on the day of the incident. Beebe also told plaintiff that calling the state police is a privilege and that he was refusing to let plaintiff call or make an incident report. Id. (¶¶ 7-8).

         DISCUSSION

         Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(a), 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. The Court must accept as true all factual matters alleged in a complaint, although a complaint may not survive unless its factual recitations state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face. See, e.g., Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009); Mastafa v. Chevron Corp., 770 F.3d 170, 177 (2d Cir. 2014) (same). To be sure, “pro 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 se litigants). Still, a pro se complaint may not survive dismissal if its factual allegations do not meet the basic plausibility standard. See, e.g., Fowlkes v. Ironworkers Local 40, 790 F.3d 378, 387 (2d Cir. 2015).

         Administrative Exhaustion

         The Prison Litigation Reform Act requires prisoners to exhaust administrative remedies before filing a federal lawsuit relating to prison conditions. See 42 U.S.C. § 1997e(a) (“No action shall be brought with respect to prison conditions under section 1983 of this title, or any other Federal law, by a prisoner confined in any jail, prison, or other correctional facility until such administrative remedies as are available are exhausted.”). This exhaustion requirement applies to all claims regarding “prison life, whether they involve general circumstances or particular episodes, and whether they allege excessive force or some other wrong.” Porter v. Nussle, 534 U.S. 516, 532 (2002). Exhaustion of all available administrative remedies must occur regardless of whether the administrative procedures provide the relief that the inmate seeks. See Booth v. Churner, 532 U.S. 731, 740-41 (2001). Furthermore, prisoners must comply with all procedural rules regarding the grievance process prior to commencing an action in federal court. See Woodford v. Ngo, 548 U.S. 81, 90-93 (2006).[1]

         An inmate's failure to exhaust administrative remedies is excusable if the remedies are in fact unavailable. See Ross v. Blake, 136 S.Ct. 1850, 1858 (2016). An administrative remedy procedure is unavailable when it operates as a simple dead end, with officers unable or consistently unwilling to provide any relief to aggrieved inmates. Id. at 1859. Unavailability may also be found where an administrative scheme is so opaque that it becomes incapable of use. Ibid. Finally, a grievance process is rendered unavailable if prison administrators thwart inmates from taking advantage of it through machination, misrepresentation, or intimidation. Id. at 1860. See also Sango v. VanWagner, 2017 WL 674035 (W.D. Mich.) (inmate's administrative remedies were unavailable where a grievance was returned with “let it go, or die” written on it), report and recommendation approved, 2017 WL 661505 (W.D. Mich. 2017).

         Plaintiff's initial complaint did not allege that he exhausted his administrative remedies before filing this action. Plaintiff did however allege that he was transferred to a different correctional facility within a day of the incident, seemingly immediately upon his release from the infirmary. Doc. #8 at 6 (¶ 6). He further alleged that Lieutenants Squires and Beebe prevented him from “press[ing] charges, ” id. (¶ 7), and that Lieutenant Beebe told him it was “a privilege to make a call to the Connecticut state police” and refused to let him “call or make a[n] incident report.” Id. (¶¶ 7-8). Additionally, plaintiff's response to this Court's order to show cause (Doc. #9) alleges that plaintiff has made numerous attempts to pursue his administrative remedies within the prison and has been rebuffed. See Doc. #12 at 1. ...


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