United States District Court, D. Connecticut
INITIAL REVIEW ORDER
MICHAEL P. SHEA UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
February 27, 2019, the plaintiff, Victor Anderson, a pro
se inmate currently confined at the MacDougall-Walker
Correctional Institution in Suffield, Connecticut, brought a
civil rights action under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against
Lieutenant Matias and five other unidentified Department of
Correction (“DOC”) officials in their individual
capacities for damages and declaratory relief. Compl. (ECF
No. 1). He claims that the defendants violated his rights
under the Eighth Amendment to the United States Constitution.
Id. at 2. He is also raising state law claims of
assault, battery, and spoliation of evidence against the
defendants. Id. at ¶¶ 25-26. On March 6,
2019, Magistrate Judge William I. Garfinkel granted the
plaintiff's motion to proceed in forma pauperis.
See Order No. 6. For the following reasons, the complaint is
dismissed in part.
Standard of Review
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).
November 19, 2016, at approximately 6:14 a.m., the plaintiff
became involved in an altercation with another inmate at the
Hartford Correctional Center, which prompted staff to call a
“Code Blue.” Compl. ¶ 8. The defendants
responded to the area but paused at the door to the
plaintiff's wing, which was closed. Id. at
¶¶ 9-11. At that moment, the plaintiff pushed the
other inmate away in an attempt to end the altercation.
Id. at ¶ 10. When the door to the wing opened,
Lieutenant Matias entered the unit and deployed chemical
agent to the left side of the plaintiff's face.
Id. at ¶ 11. The plaintiff then turned to his
right and sat down “in a viable position” with
his legs extended and crossed and his hands behind his back,
facing away from Matias. Id. Matias continued to
deploy chemical agent on the back of the plaintiff's head
for approximately fifteen seconds. Id. at ¶ 12.
At no time did any of the defendants order the plaintiff to
stop fighting or assume a particular position. Id.
Matias finished deploying chemical agent, one of the
defendants ordered the plaintiff to roll over onto his
stomach with his hands behind his back. Compl. ¶ 13. The
plaintiff complied with the order, and one of the defendants
handcuffed him. Id. The defendants first removed the
other inmate from the area and then ordered the plaintiff to
stand and walk to the medical unit. Id. at ¶
arrived at the medical unit, medical staff removed the
chemical agent from his face, thereby relieving the burning
pain in his eyes and his shortness of breath. Compl. ¶
15. The plaintiff was then brought to another room and held
under a stream of water. Id. at ¶ 16. The water
“reactivated” the chemical agent causing the
plaintiff to again experience difficulty breathing.
Id. The plaintiff tried to pull his face away from
the stream to catch his breath, but the official who was
holding his head would not let him move. Id. at
¶ 17. The plaintiff was kept under running water for
approximately fifteen seconds, which was long enough to
“reactivate” the chemical agent but not long
enough for adequate decontamination. Id. He was then
brought to a restrictive housing unit (“RHU”) for
a strip search. Id. at ¶ 18.
completing the strip search, officers placed the plaintiff in
a cell without permitting him to shower to fully
decontaminate. Compl. ¶ 19. The plaintiff was not
permitted to shower until two days later. Id.
plaintiff spent seven days in the RHU without shoes or a
change of clothes. Compl. ¶ 20. He was not allowed to
change his bed linens and, thus, was forced to sleep in the
same linens while still covered in the chemical agent that
Matias had deployed on him. Id. The plaintiff was
released from the RHU on November 26, 2016, but he did not
receive his property or an opportunity to shower until
December 3, 2016. Id. at ¶ 21. While in the
RHU, he continued to experience difficulty breathing.
plaintiff claims that the defendants violated his Eighth
Amendment protection against cruel and unusual punishment by
subjecting him to excessive force and/or failing to report
staff misconduct during the altercation. See Compl.
¶ 23. However, upon further review, the Court concludes
that the Eighth Amendment does not apply in this case because
the plaintiff was a pretrial detainee at the time of the
incident, not a prisoner. See Darnell v. Pineiro, 849
F.3d 17, 29 (2d Cir. 2017) (pretrial detainee's claims
challenging conditions of confinement governed by Due Process
Clause of Fourteenth Amendment, not Eighth Amendment). Thus,
the Court will analyze his excessive force claim under the
Fourteenth Amendment. See Brown v. Harrington, No.
3:18-CV-2029 (KAD), 2019 WL 135654, at *2 (D. Conn. Jan. 8,
2019) (analyzing pretrial detainee's excessive force
claim under Fourteenth Amendment). The plaintiff is also
raising state law claims of assault, battery, and spoliation
of evidence. The Court will permit his Fourteenth Amendment
excessive force claim for damages to proceed against all
defendants and his assault and battery claims to proceed
against defendant Matias for damages.
order to state an excessive force claim under the Fourteenth
Amendment, the plaintiff “‘must show only that
the force purposely or knowingly used against him was
objectively unreasonable.'” Fletcher v. City of
New London, No. 3:16-CV-241 (MPS), 2018 WL 4604306, at
*10 (D. Conn. Sept. 25, 2018) (quoting Kingsley v.
Hendrickson, 135 S.Ct. 2466, 2473 (2015)).
“‘[O]bjective reasonableness turns on the facts
and circumstances of each particular case.'”
Id. (quoting Kingsley, 135 S.Ct. at 2473).
In Ki ...