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Anderson v. Quiros

United States District Court, D. Connecticut

July 13, 2018

ANGEL QUIROS, et al. Defendants.


          Michael P. Shea United States District Judge

         On July 2, 2018, the plaintiff, Victor C. Anderson, an inmate currently confined at the MacDougall-Walker Correctional Institution (“MWCI”) in Suffield, Connecticut, brought a civil action pro se under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against five employees of the Connecticut Department of Correction for violating his constitutional rights. Compl. (ECF No. 1). The five defendants are District Administrator Angel Quiros, Lieutenant Chevalur, Correction Officer Bennett, Disciplinary Hearing Officer John Doe 1, and Disciplinary Investigator John Doe 2. The plaintiff is suing all five defendants for damages.[1] On July 12, 2018, this Court granted the plaintiff's motion to proceed in forma pauperis (ECF No. 7). For the following reasons, the complaint is dismissed without prejudice to amend.

         I. Standard of Review

         Under 28 U.S.C. § 1915A, 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. 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 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.” Bell Atlantic, 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

         Around 7:00 p.m. on December 17, 2017, the plaintiff exited his cell and entered the kitchenette area at MWCI to make a cup of coffee. Compl. ¶ 1. While standing in the kitchenette, another inmate asked the plaintiff to leave the area so that he could cut a third inmate's hair. Id. at ¶ 2. He also asked the plaintiff to watch Correction Officer Bennett. Id. The plaintiff agreed and moved to a nearby railing to chat with another inmate named David Kent. Id. at ¶ 3. There, the plaintiff had a direct view of Bennett in the television room. Id.

         While chatting with Kent, the plaintiff discreetly watched Bennett, who was in the nearby television room watching a sports game and socializing with inmates. Compl. ¶ 4. The plaintiff told the inmate in the kitchenette what Bennett was doing and that he could proceed with the haircut. Id. at ¶ 5.

         As he continued to watch Bennett and chat with Kent, another inmate named Jose Vazquez sneaked up behind the plaintiff and punched him in the back of his leg. Compl. ¶ 6. The strike caused the plaintiff to twist and fall to the ground, spilling the cup of coffee he was holding. Id. at ¶ 7. The plaintiff then took three steps while holding onto the railing and threw the remainder of his coffee at Vazquez. Id. at ¶ 8. Afterward, the plaintiff looked toward the television room and noticed Bennett looking at him “with a confused look on his face.” Id. at ¶ 9. Bennett came out of the television room as the plaintiff began walking back up to his cell. Id. at ¶ 10. Bennett saw Vazquez covered in coffee and proceeded to lock down the block. Id. Shortly thereafter, several correctional officials apprehended the plaintiff and brought him to a restrictive housing unit (“RHU”) for assaulting Vazquez. Id. at ¶ 11.

         On January 11, 2018, correction officials called the plaintiff for a disciplinary hearing on the incident with Vazquez. Compl. ¶ 12. The plaintiff had not been given prior notice of the hearing. Id. When he responded to the call, the plaintiff learned from Officer Doe 1 that the video from the incident had not yet been reviewed. Id. The plaintiff told Doe 1 that inmate Kent could testify as a witness on his behalf, but Doe 1 did not take note of Kent's name. Id. at ¶ 13. Doe 1 suspended the disciplinary hearing for one week to allow time to review the video from the incident. Id. at ¶ 14.

         One week later, Doe 1 called the plaintiff and resumed the hearing. Compl. ¶ 15. He informed the plaintiff that the area where he had been standing when Vazquez allegedly punched him was a “dead zone, ” meaning that it was out of the view of the security cameras. Id. at ¶ 16. Thus, the camera did not capture Vazquez's assault on the plaintiff. Id. The plaintiff expressed concern that there were “dead zones” in a “medium/high level facility” like MWCI. Id. at ¶ 17. He also asked about producing Kent as a witness to the incident. Id. Doe 1 told him that “it is not worth the time to speak with the witness” and then found him guilty of assaulting Vazquez. Id. at ¶ 18.

         The plaintiff appealed the disciplinary finding on January 22, 2018. Compl. ¶ 19. He received a response from District Administrator Quiros affirming the finding. Id. Quiros did not speak with the plaintiff's witness. Id.

         To date, the plaintiff suffers from ongoing medical issues from the incident with Vazquez, including sciatic nerve damage and pain in his hip and knee. Compl. ¶ 20. He experiences pain when he walks long distances or stands for long durations. Id. III. Analysis The plaintiff does not specify which constitutional rights he claims the defendants violated. Based on the Court's reading of the allegations, the only conceivable claims the plaintiff could raise in this instance would be an Eighth Amendment claim against Bennett for failing to protect him from the assault by Vazquez and a Fourteenth Amendment procedural due process claim against Doe 1 for failing to investigate the incident with Vazquez or to permit the plaintiff an opportunity to present Kent as a witness.

         A. Failure to Protect

         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 suffered by one ...

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