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Henderson v. Tuttle

United States District Court, D. Connecticut

September 19, 2018

LIEUTENANT TUTTLE, et al., Defendants.


          Stefan R. Underhill United States District Judge

         On February 20, 2018, Mark Anthony Henderson, an inmate currently confined at Cheshire Correctional Institution, brought a pro se civil rights complaint under 42 U.S.C. §§ 1983, 1986, and 1988 against eleven employees of the Connecticut Department of Correction (“DOC”) in their individual and official capacities for various violations of his First and Eighth Amendment rights while he was confined at Northern Correctional Institution (“NCI”) in Somers, Connecticut. On March 7, 2018, the court, Garfinkel, J., granted Henderson's motion to proceed in forma pauperis. See Order #8. I dismissed the complaint without prejudice on April 26, 2018 because it failed to comply with the rules of proper pleading and joinder, Fed.R.Civ.P. 8 and 20, but allowed Henderson an opportunity to file an amended complaint.

         On May 11, 2018, Henderson filed an amended complaint against five of the eleven defendants previously listed for violating his Eighth Amendment right against cruel and unusual punishment. Am. Compl. [Doc.#13]. The five defendants are Lieutenant Tuttle, Lieutenant Blackstock, Nurse S. Duncan, Nurse L. Michaud-Alvarez, and Warden William Faneuff. He does not specify whether he is suing the defendants in their individual capacities, official capacities, or both. Based on his initial complaint, I will assume he is suing all five defendants in both their individual and official capacities. Henderson seeks an injunction in the form of an order for medical treatment and monetary damages. For the following reasons, his amended complaint is dismissed in part.

         I. Standard of Review

         Under 28 U.S.C. § 1915A, 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

         Henderson's amended complaint alleges the following facts:

         On March 29, 2017, at approximately 2:00 p.m., Henderson was in an outside recreation unit at NCI and asked to speak with his housing unit manager regarding an issue he had had with correctional staff taking his headphones and breaking his television. Am. Compl. ¶ 1. Ten minutes later, Lieutenants Tuttle and Blackstock and several other unidentified correction officers came to remove Henderson from the recreation unit. Id. at ¶ 2. Tuttle and Blackstock ordered Henderson to place his hands in handcuffs. Id. at ¶ 3. One minute later, pepper spray was released into the recreation unit, covering Henderson. Id. at ¶ 4. At that point, Tuttle stated, “Put him in in-cells, let him burn.” Id. After he was handcuffed, the officers removed him from the recreation unit and placed him in the 1 West medical unit. Id. at ¶ 5.

         When he arrived in the medical unit, Nurses Duncan and Alvarez instructed Henderson, while handcuffed, to place his head under running water from a nearby faucet. Am. Compl. ¶¶ 6-7. The nurses washed the chemical agent off his face and eyes and then wiped his face with a paper towel. Id. at ¶ 6. Shortly thereafter, Henderson was escorted out of the medical unit. Id. at ¶ 8. He had difficulty opening his eyes because of the pepper spray that had been applied to his head and neck area. Id. Tuttle, Blackstock, Duncan, and Alvarez did not allow Henderson to take a shower to fully wash off the chemical agent, in violation of DOC administrative policy. Id. at ¶ 9. The medical incident report that Duncan and Alvarez generated from Henderson's visit to the medical unit stated that Henderson received decontamination treatment in the form of a flushing of the eyes and that no other injuries or medical complaints were reported. Pl.'s Ex. 2B [Doc.# 13-2].

         Tuttle, Blackstock, and other correction officers placed Henderson in cell 102 and ordered him to change clothes. Am. Compl. ¶ 10. The staff then placed him in in-cell restraints, which consisted of handcuffs, a chain around his waist, and leg shackles with a black box and tether chain. Id. at ¶ 11. Henderson believes that the staff subjected him to in-cell restraints, despite his compliance with their orders, as an act of unnecessary punishment. Id. at ¶ 12.

         Once secured in cell 102, Henderson noticed that the toilet in the cell was not working properly and was filled with urine and feces. Am. Compl. ¶ 13. There was also dried blood on the toilet seat and urine on the floor next to the toilet. Id. at ¶ 14. The right leg shackle Henderson was wearing was also cutting into the back of his leg. Id. at ¶ 15. The improperly placed leg shackle and the malfunctioning toilet rendered Henderson unable to eat, sleep, drink water, or use the bathroom. Id. at ¶¶ 15-16. Henderson remained in cell 102 with these conditions for four days, during which time he engaged in a hunger strike. Id. at ¶ 17. He was taken off in-cell restraint status on April 1, 2017. Id.

         On May 4, 2017, Henderson filed a grievance regarding his placement in the unsanitary cell with the malfunctioning toilet. Am. Compl. ¶ 18. At the time, it was known that cells 101-103 contained such unsanitary conditions.[1] Id. at ¶¶ 18-19. One month later, he received a “compromised” disposition of his grievance from Warden Faneuff, which he could not appeal. Id. at ¶¶ 20-21; Pl.'s Exs. 4, 5 [Doc.#s 13-5, 13-6]. The disposition stated that “[t]here is no evidence to substantiate your claims of urine on the floor, feces on the floor or dried blood on the toilet, nonetheless, upon an inmate being removed from a cell and placed in another cell, the outside detail workers properly clean and sanitize the cell in accordance with Department Policies and Procedures.” Pl.'s Ex. 4.

         Henderson filed another a grievance against Tuttle and Blackstock for their failure to decontaminate him of the chemical agent on March 29. Am. Compl. ¶ 22. That grievance was denied on June 8, and the appeal was denied on July 16. Id. at ¶ 23. In denying the grievance, Warden Faneuff stated that “showers are not feasible at [NCI]” and, per DOC policy, an inmate in full restraints is not permitted to use the shower. Pl.'s Ex. 6 [Doc.# 13-7]. “Decontamination of any exposed person shall include flushing of [the] eyes, decontaminating exposed skin by medical personnel, and issuance of clean clothing.” Id. Faneuff noted that, after being subjected to pepper spray, Henderson was taken to the medical unit, where his eyes were flushed and his skin was decontaminated, and then to cell 102, where he was provided clean clothing. Id.

         On June 8, Henderson filed a third grievance against Duncan and Alvarez for their failure “to provide decontamination” of the chemical agent. Am. Compl. ¶ 24. He received a disposition of that grievance the same day. Id. Henderson tried to appeal the grievance, but he ...

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