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Torres v. Wright

United States District Court, D. Connecticut

March 6, 2018

LUIS TORRES, Plaintiff,
CARSON WRIGHT, et al., Defendants.



         Plaintiff Luis Torres 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 against Dr. Carson Wright, the Connecticut Department of Correction, Warden William Mulligan, Deputy Warden Derick Molden, Captain Gregorio Robles, Jr., and Nurse Vicki Scruggs. He alleges various constitutional and statutory violations based on the lack of an operable emergency call button in his cell. Plaintiff is suing all defendants in their individual and official capacities. After initial review, I conclude that plaintiff has not alleged any plausible claims for relief and will dismiss the complaint.


         The following facts are alleged in the complaint and are accepted as true only for purposes of this initial ruling. At the time of the events which gave rise to this complaint, plaintiff was housed at Northern Correctional Institution in a cell that had a non-operable emergency call button. Plaintiff was concerned that the lack of an operable intercom button would hinder his ability to access care in the event of a medical emergency. In February or March of 2017, plaintiff expressed his concerns about the non-operable button to defendants Robles, Mulligan, and Molden. The officials responded that plaintiff did not need a working call button because nothing was going to happen to him and that a working call button was not required by the administrative directives. They also told him that they did not care whether the call button worked and threatened him with disciplinary action and punitive segregation for “refusing housing” if he did not remain housed in his cell. Doc. #1 at 7-8 (¶¶ 16-17).

         Plaintiff subsequently filed grievances regarding the call button in his cell. In response, defendants Mulligan, Molden, and Robles told him that the availability of an in-cell emergency call button was not required to meet his needs. Mulligan further stated that he was aware that plaintiff's call button was not working. Plaintiff alleges that none of his grievances were answered. When plaintiff inquired further regarding fixing the call button, Mulligan threatened to place him in punitive segregation and issue a disciplinary report against him. Id. at 8 (¶¶ 18-19).

         On March 3, 2017, Robles informed plaintiff that he was going to move into a cell with inmate Jose Aviles. Plaintiff protested that he was supposed to be housed alone. Aviles also protested to Robles and stated that he has problems with cellmates and had assaulted cellmates in the past. Aviles further explained that a judge had recommended that he be housed alone and that a social worker wrote a letter indicating the danger of placing him with a cellmate. Nonetheless, Robles, along with two correctional officers, moved plaintiff into a cell with Aviles. Id. at 8-9 (¶ 20).

         Three days later, on March 6, Aviles asked Robles about a letter he had sent to Molden demanding the return of his personal property and threatening to hurt his cellmate if his property was not returned. Robles yelled at Aviles that he was never going to get his property back. Later that afternoon, a correction officer gave Aviles and plaintiff razors to shave their faces, but did not supervise either inmate's use of the razor. While plaintiff was shaving, Aviles attacked him with his razor, slashing his arms, legs, chest, neck, back, and other parts of his body. Plaintiff pressed the emergency call button but the button was not working. After being assaulted by Aviles, plaintiff developed post-traumatic stress disorder. He also has an unspecified disability for which he takes Clonodine and Elavil, medications he states cause severe side effects. Id. at 9-11 (¶¶ 21-23, 28).

         On March 10, medical staff sent plaintiff back to the housing unit. Robles placed plaintiff in a different cell that also had an inoperable emergency call button. On May 5, plaintiff realized that the button was inoperable and informed Robles, Mulligan, Molden, and Scruggs that he needed a working call button and that he had almost gotten killed after the Aviles attack due to the inoperable button. Robles, Mulligan, and Molden said that they would send maintenance staff to fix the problem. Scruggs told plaintiff that there was nothing she could do because the call button was a “custody issue.” Id. at 10-11 (¶¶ 24-26)

         Plaintiff also alleges that Dr. Wright was informed of the defective button at some point, and both he and Nurse Scruggs failed to order custody officials to move him to a different cell with an operable button. The button was never fixed. Plaintiff states that he remains under threats of discipline if he refuses to be housed without a working call button. He does not specify when or by whom these threats were issued. Id. at 13-14 (¶ 36).


         Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915A, the Court must review a prisoner's civil complaint against a governmental entity or governmental actors and “identify cognizable claims or dismiss the complaint, or any portion of the complaint, if the complaint-(1) is frivolous, malicious, or fails to state a claim upon which relief may be granted; or (2) seeks monetary relief from a defendant who is immune from such relief.” If the prisoner is proceeding pro se, the allegations of the complaint must be read liberally to raise the strongest arguments that they suggest. See Tracy v. Freshwater, 623 F.3d 90, 101-02 (2d Cir. 2010).

         In recent years, the Supreme Court has set forth a threshold “plausibility” pleading standard for courts to evaluate the adequacy of allegations in federal court complaints. A complaint must allege enough facts-as distinct from legal conclusions-that give rise to plausible grounds for relief. See, e.g., Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009); Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007). Notwithstanding the rule of liberal interpretation of a pro se complaint, 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).[1]

         Duplicative claims

         As a matter of judicial discretion, a court may dismiss in whole or in part an action that is duplicative of another, previously filed suit. See Curtis v. Citibank, N.A., 226 F.3d 133, 138 (2d Cir. 2000). The reason for this rule is that “plaintiffs have no right to maintain two actions on the same subject in the same court, against the same defendant at the same time.” Id. at 139. Courts may address duplicative lawsuits in several ways, including by dismissing the later-filed case. Similarly, a court may dismiss “a single duplicative claim lodged within a lawsuit containing additional ...

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