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Boland v. Wilkins

United States District Court, D. Connecticut

April 15, 2019

LIEUTENANT WILKINS, et al., Defendants.



         On November 30, 2018, the plaintiff, Matthew D. Boland, a pro se inmate currently confined at the Cheshire Correctional Institution (“Cheshire”) in Connecticut, brought a civil rights action under 42 U.S.C. §§§§ 1983, 1985, 1986, and 1988 against five Department of Correction (“DOC”) officials: Lieutenant Wilkins, Correction Officer Orengo, Correction Officer Duquette, Correction Officer Mulligan, and another official named Mendez. Compl. (ECF No. 1). The plaintiff filed an amended complaint on December 14, 2018. Am. Compl. (ECF No. 7). He claims that the defendants violated his rights under the Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution. Id. at ¶ 1. He is also raising state law claims of intentional infliction of emotional distress, assault, and battery. Id. at ¶¶ 14-16. The plaintiff seeks damages against the defendants in their individual capacities and injunctive relief against them in their official capacities. Id. at pp. 14-15. On March 5, 2019, Magistrate Judge William I. Garfinkel granted the plaintiff's motion to proceed in forma pauperis. See Order No. 14. For the following reasons, the amended complaint is dismissed in part.

         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. “A claim has facial plausibility when the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the [C]ourt to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged.” Ashcroft, 556 U.S. at 678 (citing Bell Atlantic, 550 U.S. at 556). 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 America, 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

         On March 6, 2016, the plaintiff was housed in the North Block 1 Unit at Cheshire. Am. Compl. ¶¶ 7, 11. At approximately 10:45 a.m., a “high security inmate” named Joseph Walker came to the plaintiff's cell and threatened to harm him. Id. at ¶ 7. The plaintiff tried to inform Correction Officer Bournival about the threat, but before he could do so, Walker swung his fist at the plaintiff's face. Id. Walker missed, and the plaintiff grabbed him in defense to stop the attack. Id.

         Correction officers immediately responded to the cell and ordered the plaintiff to stop fighting and get on the ground. Am. Compl. ¶ 8. When the plaintiff complied, Officer Orengo placed his knee into his back and pushed his face onto the floor with his forearm. Id. Officer Duquette then applied handcuffs to the plaintiff's wrists behind his back. Id. The amount of force applied by the officers damaged a vertebra in the plaintiff's back. Id.

         Orengo and Duquette brought the plaintiff to his feet and escorted him out of the unit. Am. Compl. ¶ 9. During the transport, the plaintiff kicked a food cart out of his way, which prompted Lieutenant Wilkins to discharge a “considerable amount” of chemical agent in his eyes, nose, and mouth “to the point of near unconsciousness.” Id. Orengo and Duquette then lifted the plaintiff off the ground and “slam[med] him into the wall, ” causing a sprain in his right wrist and tendonitis in his right shoulder which persists to this day. Id. at ¶ 10.

         After the attack by Walker and the force used by the defendants, Dr. Syed Naqvi ordered that the plaintiff be immediately transported to the UConn Health Center for treatment. Am. Compl. ¶ 14.

         III. Analysis

         The plaintiff claims that the defendants violated his Eighth Amendment protection against cruel and unusual punishment and his right to due process under the Fourteenth Amendment by subjecting him to excessive force after the attack by Walker. Am. Compl. ¶¶ 8, 13. He is also raising state law claims for assault, battery, and intentional infliction of emotional distress. The Court will permit his Eighth Amendment claim and state law assault and battery claims to proceed against the defendants in their individual capacities for damages.

         A. Personal Involvement

         “It is well settled . . . that personal involvement of defendants in alleged constitutional deprivations is a prerequisite to an award of damages under § 1983.” Wright v. Smith, 21 F.3d 496, 501 (2d Cir. 1994) (internal quotation marks omitted); see also Johnson v. Glick, 481 F.2d 1028, 1034 (2d Cir. 1973) (doctrine of respondeat superior does not suffice for claim of monetary damages under ยง 1983). Although he lists them as defendants to this action, the plaintiff has not alleged any facts showing ...

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