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Rivera v. Correction Officer Hackett

United States District Court, D. Connecticut

July 18, 2018

VICTOR M. RIVERA, Plaintiff,


          Michael P. Shea United States District Judge.

         On June 14, 2018, the plaintiff, Victor M. Rivera, an inmate currently confined at the Carl Robinson Correctional Institution in Enfield, Connecticut, brought a civil action pro se under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against twelve employees of the Connecticut Department of Correction (“DOC”) for violating his rights under the Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution while he was confined at the MacDougall-Walker Correctional Institution (“MWCI”) in Suffield, Connecticut and Osborn Correctional Institution (“Osborn”) in Somers, Connecticut. Compl. (ECF No. 1). The twelve defendants are Correction Officer Hackett, Captain Burgos, Captain Rivera, Captain Black, Lieutenant Jasmin, Correction Officer Williams, Lieutenant Michaud, Correction Officer Griffin, Correction Officer Coro, Lieutenant Charter, Captain John Doe, and Lieutenant Perez. The plaintiff seeks damages against the defendants in their individual capacities. On July 10, 2018, this Court granted the plaintiff's motion to proceed in forma pauperis (ECF No. 10). For the following reasons, the complaint is dismissed without prejudice.

         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

         At approximately 4:30 p.m. on October 19, 2017, the plaintiff was sweeping the floor in the dayroom at MWCI. Compl. ¶ 1. MWCI is a “level-4” facility, but the plaintiff had always been a “level-3” inmate and, therefore, should not have been confined at MWCI. Id. at ¶ 14. While working, he became involved in a verbal altercation with another inmate, Tyrone Blash. Id. at ¶ 2. After arguing with Blash, the plaintiff returned to his single cell. Id. at ¶ 3.

         At 4:57 p.m., Blash exited his cell and approached the plaintiff's cell with another inmate named Bruce. Compl. ¶¶ 4-5. When he reached the plaintiff's cell, Blash continued arguing with the plaintiff while Bruce waited by the cell door looking for any correctional staff. Id. at ¶ 5. After a couple minutes of arguing, Blash stepped into the plaintiff's cell, pulled a shank from his pocket, and attacked the plaintiff while Bruce remained by the door as “the lookout.” Id. at ¶ 6. Blash stabbed the plaintiff on the side of his head and slashed his neck. Id. at ¶ 7. When the plaintiff tried to block the attack, Blash cut him on his left arm and chin. Id. The plaintiff was ultimately able to grab Blash's arm, which was holding the shank, and “bull rush[]” Blash out of his cell. Id. at ¶ 8. The struggle continued in the dayroom where officers called a “code blue” and separated and restrained the two inmates. Id. at ¶¶ 9-10. The plaintiff lost a substantial amount of blood in his cell and in the dayroom. Id. at ¶ 9.

         After the attack, the plaintiff was escorted to the medical unit and then sent to UCONN hospital, where he received three staples for his head laceration. Compl. ¶ 11. When he returned to MWCI, Correction Officer Hackett issued him a disciplinary report for fighting. Id. at ¶ 12. Hackett's description of the incident was not truthful. Id. The plaintiff was not given a hearing on the charge and was placed in a restrictive housing unit (“RHU”) for ten days. Id. at ¶¶ 13, 17.

         Following his confinement in the RHU, the plaintiff was transferred to Osborn and housed in a “5x9 cell” with another inmate. Compl. ¶ 15. There, he requested evaluation from the mental health unit, but a staff member told him that, if he sought treatment, his mental health score would be increased. Id. at ¶ 19. The plaintiff interpreted the statement as a threat. Id.

         III. Analysis

         The plaintiff claims that the defendants violated his Eighth Amendment protection against cruel and unusual punishment by failing to protect him from the assault by Blash, which resulted in serious injuries. See Compl. ¶¶ 18-19. He also claims that the failure of the defendants to grant him a hearing on the disciplinary report for fighting and subsequent placement in the RHU violated his Fourteenth Amendment right to procedural due process. Id. at ¶ 17. The plaintiff's claim regarding the lack of mental health treatment at Osborn is vague, but, construing the allegations liberally, it appears he is attempting to state a claim that Osborn officials denied him adequate mental health care, in violation of the Eighth Amendment. See Id. at ¶ 19. As shown below, however, the case cannot proceed on any of these claims.

         A. Eighth Amendment 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 prisoner from another prisoner establishes constitutional liability on the part of the prison official. 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 v. Seiter, 501 U.S. 294, 298 (1991)). 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). ...

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