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Parker v. Corrigan Radgowski Doc Staff

United States District Court, D. Connecticut

August 9, 2019



          Stefan R. Underhill, United States District Judge.

         On June 18, 2019, Kimorah Parker, an inmate currently confined at the MacDougall-Walker Correctional Institution in Suffield, Connecticut, brought a complaint pro se and in forma pauperis under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against seven Connecticut Department of Correction (“DOC”) officials: Warden Stephen Faucher, Lieutenant Muzykoski, Correction Officer Yaqle, Lieutenant Cronin, Captain Diloretto, Correction Officer Witherspoon, and Correction Officer Miser. Compl., Doc. No. 1. Parker seeks damages against the defendants in their individual capacities for violating her[1] constitutional rights while she was confined as a pretrial detainee[2] at Corrigan-Radgowski Correctional Center in Uncasville, Connecticut. See Id. at 6. For the following reasons, the complaint is dismissed in part.

         I. Standard of Review

         Under 28 U.S.C. § 1915A, 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).

         II. Factual Allegations

         Parker alleges the following facts. On August 17, 2018, at approximately 12:00 p.m., Officer Yaqle denied Parker a shaving razor. Compl. ¶ 1. This caused Parker to suffer “an emotional and mental health breakdown.” Id. at ¶ 2. She asked to speak with someone from the mental health unit, covered her cell window, and then sat down in the corner of her cell. Id. A short time later, Yaqle told Parker that the mental health unit had been called, and Parker removed the window covering. Id.

         Later, Lieutenant Muzykoski, Officer Witherspoon, and Officer Miser entered Parker's cell and told her that she was being sent to a restrictive housing unit (“RHU”). Compl. ¶ 3. Parker stood in the back of the cell and explained to the officers that she was emotionally distraught. Id. Muzykoski told Parker that they “will talk about it later” and then instructed Witherspoon and Miser to handcuff her. Id. at ¶ 4. Parker told the officers that she needed female staff members to handcuff her because she was a transgender inmate, but the officers pushed her against the wall and proceeded to handcuff her. Id. Muzykoski then deployed chemical mace on Parker and said that she was resisting, which was false. Id. The officers then escorted her out of the cell. Id. at ¶ 5. Due to her anxiety and depression, Parker could not walk, which prompted the officers to carry her down the stairs. Id.

         When they reached the RHU, Parker stood against the wall outside the unit and once again tried to explain her situation to the camera operator, but she only “s[u]nk deeper into [her] pani[c] attack and fear.” Compl. ¶ 5. Witherspoon and Miser then placed her in a wheelchair. Id. at ¶ 6. Although her feet were still touching the ground, the officers spun the wheelchair around, which caused her to feel as if she was falling backwards. Id. Out of fear for her safety, Parker stood up out of the wheelchair but was otherwise compliant. Id. Witherspoon then “slamm[ed]” Parker onto the floor, causing Parker to injure her head, and then placed his knee on her neck, restricting her ability to breathe. Id. at ¶ 7. Muzykoski then sprayed mace on her a second time. Id. Parker said that she was unable to breathe, and the officers told her to stop resisting, even though Parker was compliant. Id. at ¶ 8.

         The officers escorted Parker to the medical unit where they placed her on suicide watch. Compl. ¶ 9. There, Parker informed medical personnel that she was suffering from headaches and neck pain. Id. She also spoke with Warden Faucher about the incident. Id. Faucher said that he had seen the surveillance footage from the RHU unit and would look into the incident, but he never conducted any investigation. Id.

         After she was placed in the RHU, Parker continued to endure headaches and neck pain. Compl. ¶ 10. She spoke with Lieutenant Cronin and Captain Diloretto about what had occurred. Id. Both officials stated that they would investigate the incident and instructed Parker to write a statement about it, but the officials “found nothing.” Id.

         III. Analysis

         Parker is suing the defendants for subjecting her to “excessive force, deliberate indifference, reckless disregard, unnecessary force, cruel and unusual punishment, target[ed] discrimination, ment[a]l distress, and emotional distress.” Compl. at 6. Based on the allegations and the fact that Parker was a pretrial detainee at the time of the events, I construe her complaint as asserting claims of excessive force and a violation of equal protection under the Fourteenth Amendment and a state law claim of intentional infliction of emotional distress.

         A. Excessive Force

         “A pretrial detainee's claims of unconstitutional conditions of confinement are governed by the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment, rather than the Cruel and Unusual Punishments Clause of the Eighth Amendment . . . because ‘pretrial detainees have not been convicted of a crime and thus may not be punished in any manner - neither cruelly and unusually nor otherwise.'” Darnell v. Pineiro, 849 F.3d 17, 29 (2d Cir. 2017) (citations omitted) (quoting Iqbal v. Hasty, 490 F.3d 143, 168 (2d Cir. 2007)); see also Shakir v. Derby Police Department, 284 F.Supp.3d 165, 205 (D. Conn. 2018) (analyzing claim challenging conditions of confinement during pretrial detention under Fourteenth Amendment Due Process Clause). “A detainee's rights are ...

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