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Delgado v. Dougherty

United States District Court, D. Connecticut

January 11, 2019

LUIS A. DELGADO, Plaintiff,
DOUGHERTY, et al., Defendants.


          Michael P. Shea United States District Judge

         Plaintiff Luis A. Delgado, currently incarcerated at the Garner Correctional Institution in Newtown, Connecticut, filed this case under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. He contends that the defendants used excessive force against him in violation of the Eighth Amendment. The plaintiff seeks damages and asks that the defendants be disciplined for their actions.

         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. 28 U.S.C. § 1915A. This requirement applies to all prisoner filings regardless whether the prisoner pays the filing fee. Nicholson v. Lenczewski, 356 F.Supp.2d 157, 159 (D. Conn. 2005) (citing Carr v. Dvorin, 171 F.3d 115 (2d Cir. 1999) (per curiam)). Here, the plaintiff is proceeding in forma pauperis.

         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. “A claim has facial plausibility when the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged.” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678.

         I. Allegations

         On May 25, 2017, the plaintiff was in the AP room waiting to be transferred from Corrigan Correctional Institution to Garner Correctional Institution (“Garner”), when he was falsely accused of a minor aggression. ECF No. 1, ¶¶ 1-2. Correctional Officer Ocasio punched the plaintiff in the face. Id., ¶ 3. The plaintiff fell to the floor and covered himself for protection and as a sign of submission. Id. Correctional Officers Colby, St. John, and Thibodeau began kicking, punching, and spitting on the plaintiff. Id. Captain Dougherty and Lieutenant Holloran knew the incident was occurring but did not intercede. Id.

         After the incident was over, a handheld video camera was produced to document the plaintiff's placement in a holding cell and photograph his injuries. Id., ¶ 4. The plaintiff was then transferred to Garner. Id. Upon his arrival at Garner, the plaintiff was placed in segregation for fifteen days. Id., ¶ 5. Mental health staff told the plaintiff that he suffered from PTSD and anxiety, and prescribed medication. Id.

         Upon his release from segregation, the plaintiff filed a grievance. Id., ¶ 6. The grievance was not returned to him. Id. The plaintiff states that his attempts to exhaust his administrative remedies were blocked because his requests were unacknowledged. Id., ¶ 7. To this day, the plaintiff suffers from anxiety, depression, back pain, and a general fear of correctional staff. Id., ¶ 10.

         II. Analysis

         The plaintiff alleges that defendants Ocasio, St. John, Colby, and Thibodeau used excessive force against him and defendants Dougherty and Holloran did not intercede to protect him from harm. The Department of Correction website shows that the plaintiff was sentenced on September 25, 2012. (last visited January 3, 2019). Thus, he was a sentenced inmate at all times relevant to this action and his claims are properly considered under the Eighth Amendment. See Darnell v. Pineiro, 849 F.3d 17, 29 (2d Cir. 2017) (rights of pretrial detainees are considered under the Fourteenth Amendment while rights of sentenced prisoners are considered under the Eighth Amendment).

         The use of excessive force against a prisoner can constitute cruel and unusual punishment in violation of the Eighth Amendment regardless of the severity of injury suffered by the prisoner. See Hudson v. MacMillian, 503 U.S. 1, 4 (1992); accord Wilkins v. Gaddy, 559 U.S. 34, 34, 36 (2010) (per curiam). The “core judicial inquiry” is “not whether a certain quantum of injury was sustained but rather whether force was applied in a good faith effort to maintain or restore discipline, or maliciously and sadistically to cause harm.” Wilkins, 559 U.S. at 37 (quoting Hudson, 502 U.S. at 7) (internal quotation marks omitted).

         An excessive force claim has objective and subjective components. See Hudson, 503 U.S. at 8. Objectively, the court considers the amount of force used and whether that force is repugnant to the conscience of mankind. Id. at 9-10. Subjectively, the court must determine whether the correctional officer had a “wanton” state of mind when applying the force. Id. At 8. In evaluating these components, the court considers the extent of any injuries suffered by the inmate, the need for application of force, the relationship between that need and the amount of force used, the threat reasonably perceived by the correctional officers involved in the use of force, and any efforts made to temper the amount of force used. See Hudson, 503 U.S. at 7.

         The plaintiff alleges that Correctional Officer Ocasio punched him in the face after he was falsely accused of a minor aggression. He further alleges that Correctional Officers Colby, Thibodeau and St. John joined Correctional Officer Ocasio in punching and kicking him after he was on the floor in a submissive pose. The Court concludes that these allegations are sufficient to support an inference that the force used was excessive and done maliciously. The excessive force claim will proceed against defendants Ocasio, Thibodeau, Colby and St. John.

         The plaintiff also alleges that defendants Dougherty and Holloran were aware of the assault but did not intercede. To state a claim for failure to protect or deliberate indifference to safety, the plaintiff must show that prison officials were aware of and disregarded an excessive risk to the plaintiff's safety. See Farmer v. Brennan, 511 U.S. 825, 837 (1994); Bridgewater v. Taylor, 698 F.Supp.2d 351, 357 (S.D.N.Y. 2010) (explaining that defendants must be aware of facts supporting an inference that harm would occur and must actually draw that inference). When considering a failure to protect claim, the court “looks at the facts and circumstances of which the ...

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