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Asberry v. Connecticut Dept. of Corrections

United States District Court, D. Connecticut

June 3, 2019



          Charles S. Haight, Jr., Senior United States District Judge.

         Plaintiff Edward D. Asberry, a convicted prisoner currently incarcerated at the MacDougall-Walker Correctional Institution in Suffield, Connecticut, has filed a civil rights complaint pro se pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against the Connecticut Department of Correction (“DOC”)[1] and six of its employees: Commissioner Rollin Cook, Warden Nick Rodriguez, Nurse Ellen Doe (last name unknown), Captain Robles, Correction Officer Caron, and Lieutenant Blackstock. Doc. 1 (Compl.) at 2-3.[2] Based on the Court's review of the Complaint, Asberry appears to allege that he was denied a safe living environment and adequate medical care in violation of the Eighth Amendment. Id. at 5-6. He seeks damages for “mental, emotional, and physical injury.” Id. at 6. For the following reasons, the complaint is dismissed in part.


         Under 28 U.S.C. § 1915A, the Court must review prisoner civil complaints against governmental actors and dismiss any portion of the complaint that is “frivolous, malicious, or fails to state a claim upon which relief may be granted; or seeks monetary relief from a defendant who is immune from such relief.” 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(b)(1)-(2). “[T]he district judge's § 1915A review of whether a complaint ‘fails to state a claim upon which relief can be granted' is guided by the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, as interpreted by [United States] Supreme Court and Second Circuit decisions whose principles have become familiar.” Green v. Martin, 224 F.Supp.3d 154, 160 (D. Conn. 2016). Although detailed allegations are not required, a complaint must “must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to ‘state a claim 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 is liable for the misconduct alleged.” Id. This plausibility standard is not simply a “probability requirement, ” but imposes a standard higher than “a sheer possibility that a defendant has acted unlawfully.” Id.

         In undertaking this analysis, the Court must “draw all reasonable inferences in [the plaintiff's] favor, assume all well-pleaded factual allegations to be true, and determine whether they plausibly give rise to an entitlement to relief.” Faber v. Metro. Life Ins. Co., 648 F.3d 98, 104 (2d Cir. 2011) (internal quotation marks omitted). However, the Court is “not bound to accept conclusory allegations or legal conclusions masquerading as factual conclusions, ” id., and “a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action will not do.” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678. Ultimately, “[d]etermining whether a complaint states a plausible claim for relief will . . . be a context-specific task that requires the reviewing court to draw on its judicial experience and common sense.” Id. at 679.

         Pro se submissions “are reviewed with special solicitude, and ‘must be construed liberally and interpreted to raise the strongest arguments that they suggest.'” Matheson v. Deutsche Bank Nat'l Tr. Co., 706 Fed.Appx. 24, 26 (2d Cir. 2017) (quoting Triestman v. Fed. Bureau of Prisons, 470 F.3d 471, 474 (2d Cir. 2006) (per curiam)). See also Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 94 (2007) (“A document filed pro se is ‘to be liberally construed,' and ‘a pro se complaint, however inartfully pleaded, must be held to less stringent standards than formal pleadings drafted by lawyers.'” (internal citations omitted)). This liberal approach, however, does not exempt pro se litigants from the minimum pleading requirements described above: A pro se plaintiff's complaint still must “‘state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.'” Mancuso v. Hynes, 379 Fed.Appx. 60, 61 (2d Cir. 2010) (quoting Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678). Therefore, even in a pro se case, “threadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action, supported by mere conclusory statements, do not suffice, ” Chavis v. Chappius, 618 F.3d 162, 170 (2d Cir. 2010) (citation and internal quotation marks omitted), and the Court may not “invent factual allegations” that the plaintiff has not pleaded. Id.


         The events giving rise to this complaint occurred while Asberry was confined in cell 1 West 118 (“Cell 118”) at the Northern Correctional Institution (“Northern”) in Somers, Connecticut. Doc. 1 at 5-6. At some point during his confinement at Northern, Asberry informed Lieutenant Blackstock that an inmate confined in the cell above him had poured water in his vent, which leaked into Asberry's cell. Id. at 6. Asberry told Blackstock that the inmate would likely do it again, and therefore requested to be moved to another cell. Id. Asberry was temporarily moved out of Cell 118, but Blackstock subsequently ordered him to return. Id.

         On August 24, 2018, at approximately 1:30 a.m., after Asberry had been returned to Cell 118, he slipped and fell as he was attempting to use the bathroom. Id. at 5. When he switched on the light, he noticed that the ground floor was covered in water and what smelled like coffee. Id. Asberry alerted Correction Officer Caron, told him that he was in pain from having fallen in his cell, and requested permission to see medical staff. Id. Caron saw the liquid on the cell floor and walked away. Id. He returned a short time later and told Asberry to pack his belongings because he was being moved to another cell. Id. He also told Asberry that medical staff would see him shortly. Id.

         After about an hour, Asberry asked Caron when he would be evaluated by medical staff. Id. at 6. Caron told him, “Go to bed. It's not an emergency.” Id. Asberry responded that his shoulder and hips hurt badly, but Caron walked away. Id. Asberry remained awake and in pain for the remaining hours of the night. Id.

         At 7:30 or 8:00 a.m., Nurse Ellen arrived at Asberry's unit to administer morning medications to the inmates. Id. at 6. Asberry tried to explain to her what had happened the previous night, but she told him to write a “sick call” request and continued walking through the unit. Id. Asberry asked her for medication to treat his pain, and Ellen told him to purchase it through commissary. Id.

         III. ANALYSIS

         Based on these allegations, Asberry appears to be suing the Defendants for acting with deliberate indifference to his health and safety in violation of the Eighth Amendment. Specifically, he alleges that (1) Lieutenant Blackstock kept him confined in Cell 118, despite knowing that the inmate in the cell above him would endanger Asberry by pouring water down his vent, and (2) Officer Caron and Nurse Ellen refused to provide medical treatment following his injury. The Complaint contains no specific allegations concerning the remaining Defendants.

         A. Person ...

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