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Matias v. Chapdelaine

United States District Court, D. Connecticut

February 12, 2018

JOEL MATIAS, Plaintiff,
v.
WARDEN C. CHAPDELAINE, et al., Defendants.

          INITIAL REVIEW ORDER

          STEFAN R. UNDERHILL, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         On January 3, 2018, Joel Matias, an inmate currently confined at MacDougall-Walker Correctional Institution (“MWCI”) in Suffield, Connecticut, brought a civil rights complaint under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against four Department of Correction (“DOC”) employees (Warden Chapdelaine, Counselor Supervisor R. Weldon, Correction Officer Anderson, and Captain Ogando), and Mark Silver, another inmate at MWCI. Matias claims that the defendants violated his Eighth Amendment rights against cruel and unusual punishment, his right to equal protection of the laws under the Fourteenth Amendment, the Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”), and various state tort laws. He is suing all defendants in their individual and official capacities and seeks monetary, injunctive, and declaratory relief. On January 9, 2018, the court, Garfinkel, J., granted Matias' motion to proceed in forma pauperis. See Order # 6. For the following reasons, I dismiss the complaint in part.

          I. Standard of Review

         Under section 1915A of Title 28 of the United States Code, I 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. 28 U.S.C. § 1915A. 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 plausible 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.” Twombly, 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 se litigants).

         II. Factual Allegations

         At all relevant times, Matias was confined at MWCI. Compl. ¶ 3. On February 2, 2017, he was transferred from the M-Pod housing unit to the L-Pod housing unit. Id. at ¶ 10. Upon arrival, Correction Officer Anderson informed him that he would be placed in cell 21. Id. As Matias attempted to enter cell 21, Mark Silver, the other inmate assigned to that cell, became belligerent and blocked Matias' entry. Id. at ¶ 11. Silver adamantly expressed to Anderson that he was unwilling to accept a cellmate because he had been granted single cell status and would only accept a cellmate of his choosing. Id. at ¶ 12. Silver showed Anderson documentation that his single cell status had been granted, but Anderson ignored his demands. Id. at ¶ 13.

         After Silver had threatened Matias several times, Matias “did not try to move into cell 21, ” but Anderson told him that, if he did not enter the cell, he would be taken to segregation. Compl. ¶ 15. Reluctant, Matias entered the cell. See Id. Approximately ten minutes later, Silver assaulted Matias, rendering him unconscious and causing him severe injuries. Id. at ¶¶ 15-16. Matias was immediately transported to UConn Medical Center for treatment. Id. at ¶ 16.

         At the time of the incident, Matias was disabled and could barely walk without the assistance of medical staff or a walker. Compl. ¶ 17. He was in no condition to defend himself against Silver. Id. at ¶ 18. He continues to suffer headaches and neck and back pain as a result of the assault. Id.

         III. Analysis

          Matias is suing Anderson for violating his Eighth Amendment protection against cruel and unusual punishment by failing to protect him from Silver's assault. See Compl. ¶ 20. As for the other three DOC defendants, Chapdelaine, Weldon, and Ogando, Matias claims that they “knew or should have known [that] . . . Silver was assaultive . . . being . . . Unit Manager, Warden, and Classification Supervisor.” Id. at ¶ 19. He is also raising state law claims of negligence, intentional infliction of emotional distress, and negligent infliction of emotional distress against all defendants and what appears to be assault and battery against Silver. See Id. at ¶¶ 2, 19.

         A. Failure to Protect from Harm

         Matias claims that Anderson, Chapdelaine, Weldon, and Ogando violated his Eighth Amendment protection against cruel and unusual punishment by failing to protect him from Silver's assault. I conclude that he has stated a plausible Eighth Amendment claim against Anderson but not against the other defendants.

         The Eighth Amendment requires prison officials to “take reasonable measures to guarantee the safety of . . . inmates.” Hudson v. Palmer, 468 U.S. 517, 526-27 (1984). “[P]rison officials have a duty . . . to protect prisoners from violence at the hands of other prisoners.” Farmer v. Brennan, 511 U.S. 825, 833 (1994) (internal quotations omitted). However, not every injury inflicted by one prisoner on another prisoner establishes constitutional liability on the part of the prison official responsible for the victim. Id. at 834.

         A prison official violates the prisoner's Eighth Amendment protection against cruel and unusual punishment only when the following two requirements are satisfied. First, the prisoner must prove that the deprivation was “objectively, sufficiently serious . . . .” Farmer, 511 U.S. at 834 (quoting Wilson, 501 U.S. at 298). If the claim is based on the official's failure to prevent harm, the plaintiff must prove that he is “incarcerated under conditions posing a substantial risk of serious harm.” Id. To determine whether the prisoner faced an excessive risk of serious harm, courts “look at the facts and circumstances of which the official was aware at the time [s]he acted or failed to act.” Hartry v. County of Suffolk, 755 F.Supp.2d 422, 436 (E.D.N.Y. 2010) (internal quotations and citation omitted). Secondly, the prisoner must prove that the prison official acted with a “sufficiently culpable state of mind.” Farmer, 511 U.S. at 834 (quoting Wilson, 501 U.S. at 302-03). This requirement is based on the principle that “only the unnecessary and wanton infliction of pain implicates the Eighth Amendment.” Id. (quoting Wilson, 501 U.S. at 297). The ...


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