United States District Court, D. Connecticut
CHAZ O. GULLEY, Plaintiff,
WARDEN MULLIGAN, et al., Defendants.
RULING ON MOTION TO DISMISS
R. UNDERHILL, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
22, 2018, Chaz O. Gulley, a prisoner confined at the Northern
Correctional Institution in Somers, Connecticut, brought a
civil rights complaint pro se under 42 U.S.C. § 1983
against six Department of Correction (“DOC”)
officials for violating his Eighth Amendment protection
against cruel and unusual punishment. Compl., Doc. No. 1.
After initial review, I permitted Gulley's Eighth
Amendment excessive force claim and state law claims for
assault and battery to proceed against three of the
defendants: Correction Officers Cashman, Rodriguez, and
Gonzalez. Initial Review Order, Doc. No. 10 at 8.
December 13, 2018, those defendants moved to dismiss all
claims against them pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil
Procedure 12(b)(6). See Mot. to Dism., Doc. No. 14. The
defendants argue that Gulley's claims are barred by a
previous settlement agreement between Gulley and the State of
Connecticut. Id.; Mem. of Law in Supp. of Mot. to
Dism. (“Defs.' Mem.”), Doc. No. 14-1;
Settlement Agreement, Defs.' Attach. B, Doc. No. 14-3.
Gulley filed an opposition to the defendants' motion on
December 24, 2018, arguing that the settlement agreement is
unrelated to, and therefore does not bar, the instant case.
Pl's Opp'n to Defs.' Mot. to Dism. (“Gulley
Opp'n”), Doc. No. 18. For the following reasons,
the Motion to Dismiss (Doc. No. 14) is denied.
Standard of Review
survive a motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6), “a
complaint must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as
true, to ‘state a claim to relief that is plausible on
its face.'” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S.
662, 678 (2009) (quoting Bell Atlantic Corp. v.
Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007)). “A claim has
facial plausibility when the plaintiff pleads factual content
that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that
the defendant[s] [are] liable for the misconduct
alleged.” Id. The plausibility standard is not
a probability requirement; the complaint must show, not
merely allege, that the plaintiff is entitled to relief. See
all allegations contained in the complaint are assumed to be
true, this tenet is ‘inapplicable to legal
conclusions.'” LaMagna v. Brown, 474
Fed.Appx. 788, 789 (2d Cir. 2012) (quoting Ashcroft,
556 U.S. at 678); see also Amaker v. New York State Dept.
of Corr. Services 435 Fed.Appx. 52, 54 (2d Cir. 2011)
(same). Accordingly, the court is not “bound to accept
conclusory allegations or legal conclusions masquerading as
factual conclusions.” Faber v. Metro. Life Ins.
Co., 648 F.3d 98, 104 (2d Cir. 2011) (quoting Rolon
v. Henneman, 517 F.3d 140, 149 (2d Cir. 2008) (internal
quotation marks omitted)). Consequently, “[t]hreadbare
recitals of the elements of a cause of action, supported by
mere conclusory statements, do not suffice.”
Ashcroft, 556 U.S. at 678 (citing Twombly,
550 U.S. at 555). This is true whether the plaintiff has
counsel or appears pro se. Chavis v. Chappius, 618
F.3d 162, 170 (2d Cir. 2010). However, “[w]here . . .
the complaint was filed pro se, it must be construed
liberally with ‘special solicitude' and interpreted
to raise the strongest claims that it suggests.”
Hogan v. Fischer, 738 F.3d 509, 515 (2d Cir. 2013)
(quoting Hill v. Curcione, 657 F.3d 116, 122 (2d
deciding a motion to dismiss, I may consider
“statements or documents incorporated into the
complaint by reference . . . and documents possessed by or
known to the plaintiff and upon which [he] relied in bringing
the suit.” ATSI Communications, Inc. v. Shaar Fund,
Ltd., 493 F.3d 87, 98 (2d Cir. 2007). I may also
“take judicial notice of public records such as
pleadings, orders, judgments, and other documents from prior
litigation, including state court cases.” Lynn v.
McCormick, 2017 WL 6507112, at *3 (S.D.N.Y. Dec. 18,
2017) (citing Lou v. Trutex, Inc., 872 F.Supp.2d
344, 349 n.6 (S.D.N.Y. 2012)); see also Samuels v. Air
Transport Local 504, 992 F.2d 12, 15 (2d Cir. 1993).
Such records may include settlement agreements in prior
cases. See Moore v. City of New York, 2017 WL 35450,
at *23 n.13 (S.D.N.Y. Jan. 3, 2017) (district courts not
constrained from considering settlement agreements at motion
to dismiss stage).
stated in my Initial Review Order, Gulley alleged the
following facts against the defendants:
On October 20, 2017, approximately one week before the start
of Gulley's civil trial in the United States District
Court at Hartford, Connecticut, District Judge Michael P.
Shea sent a writ of habeas corpus ad testificandum to Warden
Mulligan at [the MacDougall-Walker Correctional Institution
(“MWCI”)] to bring Gulley to the district court
in Hartford on October 25, 2017 and November 8, 9, 13, 14,
15, 16, and 17, 2017.[] [Compl. ¶ 6]. Judge Shea also sent a
notice to DOC officials stating that inmates were expected to
appear on time for their scheduled court proceedings and that
the officials needed to take steps to ensure that the inmates
appeared on time. See Id. at ¶¶ 10, 17.
On the morning of November 8, 2017, Gulley asked multiple
correction officers at MWCI why they were not preparing him
for his scheduled transport to court. Compl. ¶ 7. The
officers repeatedly told him that they “had nothing to
do with” his situation and that it was Officer
Cashman's fault because he oversees court transports for
MWCI inmates. Id. at ¶ 8. At 8:20 a.m.,
twenty-five minutes before his scheduled time to appear in
court, Officers Rodriguez and Gonzalez removed Gulley from
his cell and brought him to the Admitting and Processing
(“A&P”) area for transport. Id. at
¶¶ 9-10. Gulley was frustrated because, by the time
he arrived at the courthouse, he would not have time to speak
with his attorneys before his court proceedings began.
Id. at ¶ 10. When he arrived at the A&P
area, Gulley asked Cashman why DOC officials were
deliberately making him late for his court appearances, and
the two began arguing about the situation. Compl.
¶¶ 10-11. During the argument, Cashman grabbed
Gulley's arm and Gulley pulled his arm out of
Cashman's grasp. Id. at ¶ 12. At that
moment, Cashman, Rodriguez, and Gonzalez starting pushing,
pulling, punching and choking Gulley. Id. at ¶
13. Other correction officers responded and ultimately
restrained Gulley in handcuffs and shackles. Id. at
¶¶ 14-15. Gulley was then transported to the
district court in Hartford. Id. at ¶ 16. Gulley
suffered facial bruising, constant pain, fear, anxiety, and
emotional distress from the incident. Id. at ¶
21. He was not issued a disciplinary report for the incident.
Id. at ¶ 17.
At some point, Warden Mulligan and Deputy Warden Guadarrama
became aware of the incident. See Compl. ¶ 17. They told
Gulley that “they messed up” and that “it
won't happen again.” Id. at ¶ 18.
Gulley believes that they made these statements because they
received the notice from Judge Shea about the failure of DOC
officials to ensure that inmates appear on time for scheduled
court proceedings. Id. at ¶ 19.
Gulley filed a grievance regarding the incident with Cashman,
Rodriguez, and Gonzalez. Compl. p. 7. When the grievance was
denied, he appealed to District Administrator Quiros, but
Quiros denied his appeal. Id. at pp. 5, 8. Gulley
also wrote a separate letter to Quiros regarding the
incident, and ...