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Gulley v. Lizon

United States District Court, D. Connecticut

April 10, 2019

CHAZ O. GULLEY, Plaintiff,
LIZON, et al., Defendants.



         Chaz O. Gulley (“Gulley”), currently confined at Northern Correctional Institution in Somers, Connecticut, filed this complaint pro se under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 alleging that certain defendants used excessive force and other defendants were deliberately indifferent to his injuries. He names eight defendants: Captain Lizon, Lieutenant Blackstock, Correctional Officers Caron, Titus, and Severance, Nurses Ellen Durko and Victoria Scruggs, and D.H.O. Lieutenant Nicole Prior. Gulley seeks damages from the defendants in their individual capacities. Gulley's complaint was received on March 4, 2019, and his motion to proceed in forma pauperis was granted on March 6, 2019.

         Under section 1915A of Title 28 of the United States Code, 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).

         I. Allegations

         On April 16, 2018, Gulley was found guilty at a disciplinary hearing of assault on a correctional employee. As a result of the guilty finding, Gulley was returned to Phase One of the Security Risk Group (“SRG”) Program. ECF No. 1, ¶ 7. Gulley believed that Hearing Officer Nicole Prior had been pressured to find him guilty and covered his cell door window in protest. Id., ¶¶ 8-9.

         Lieutenant Blackstock deployed a chemical agent to get Gulley to remove the covering. Id., ¶ 10. Lieutenant Blackstock then ordered Gulley placed on in-cell restraints. Id., ¶ 11. Fifteen minutes later, Gulley covered the cell door window with his mattress in protest over the in-cell restraints. Id., ¶ 12. Captain Lizon supervised officers Caron, Titus and Severance in a use of excessive force that left Gulley injured. Id., ¶ 13.

         Gulley was experiencing severe pain. When Nurse Durko came to check Gulley's injuries, Lieutenant Blackstock claimed that Gulley was being defiant. Id., ¶ 14. Nurse Durko finally ignored Gulley's complaints of pain and left with the officers. Id., ¶ 15.

         On April 18, 2018, when the in-cell restraints were removed, Gulley's ankles and wrists were swollen and bruised. Gulley complained of pain to Nurse Scruggs. Id., ¶ 16. Nurse Scruggs noted in Gulley's medical chart that she saw no injuries. She did note Gulley's complaints of pain. Id., ¶ 17. Gulley believes that Nurse Scruggs deliberately fabricated her report. Id., ¶ 18. The use of force caused Gulley to experience pain, swelling, and limping. The incident has caused him to suffer fear, anxiety, humiliation and emotional distress. Id., ¶ 19.

         II. Analysis

         Gulley asserts claims for use of excessive force against defendants Blackstock, Lizon, Caron, Titus, and Severance and deliberate indifference to serious medical needs against defendants Durko and Scruggs.

         A. Use of Excessive Force

         Gulley describes two incidents that involve the use of force. First, he alleges that Lieutenant Blackstock ordered placement in in-cell restraints. Second, Gulley alleges that Captain Lizon and Officers Caron, Titus and Severance used excessive force when responding to Gully covering the cell door window with his mattress.

         To state a claim for use of excessive force in violation of the Eighth Amendment, Gulley must allege facts establishing objective and subjective components. See Sims v. Artuz, 230 F.3d 14, 20-21 (2d Cir. 2000). The objective component focuses on the harm done to the prisoner in light of contemporary standards of decency. The amount of harm required depends on the nature of the claim. Id. at 21. Although some degree of injury is usually required, the prisoner need not show that he suffered a significant injury to state a claim for use of excessive force. See Wilkins v. Gaddy, 559 U.S. 34, 34 (2010) (“[T]he use of excessive physical force against a prisoner may constitute cruel and unusual punishment [even] when the inmate does not suffer serious injury.”) (quoting Hudson v. McMillian, 503 U.S. 1, 4 (1992)). However, “not ‘every malevolent touch by a prison guard gives rise to a federal cause of action.'” Id. at 37 (quoting Hudson, 503 U.S. at 9). The subjective component of the excessive force standard requires a showing that the use of force was “carried out ‘maliciously and sadistically' rather than as part of ‘a good faith effort to maintain or restore discipline.'” Id. at 40 (quoting Hudson, 503 U.S. at 9).

         The extent of the inmate's injuries is one factor I may use to determine whether correctional staff could “plausibly” have considered the force necessary in a particular situation. Hudson, 503 U.S. at 7. Other factors include “the need for application of force, the relationship between that need and the amount of force used, the threat reasonably perceived by the responsible officials, and any ...

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