United States District Court, D. Connecticut
M.A. EDWARDS, Plaintiff,
COMMISSIONER ARNONE et al., Defendants.
RULING ON DEFENDANT’S RENEWED MOTION FOR
JUDGMENT AS A MATTER OF LAW AND MOTION FOR NEW TRIAL AND
R. Underhill United States District Judge
Edwards (“Edwards”) filed this Section 1983 civil
action against former Connecticut Department of Corrections
(“DOC”) Commissioner Leo Arnone and various
prison officials (“Defendants”) at Northern
Correctional Institution (“Northern”), asserting
that the Defendants violated the Eighth Amendment’s
prohibition on cruel and unusual punishment. Specifically,
Edwards alleged that the Defendants denied him any meaningful
opportunity to exercise by requiring him to recreate in full
restraints while he was in Phase 1 of the Administrative
Segregation (“AS”) Program at Northern.
case proceeded to a jury trial against Warden Quiros
(“Quiros”) and Deputy Warden Lauren Powers
(“Powers”). On December 19, 2018, after a three-day
trial, the jury ruled in Edwards’ favor, finding that
Quiros violated Edwards’ constitutional right to be
free from cruel and unusual punishment. The jury awarded
Edwards $500, 000 in compensatory damages and $250, 000 in
now challenges that verdict and award, moving for judgment as
a matter of law under Rule 50(b), or, in the alternative, for
a new trial under Rule 59 of the Federal Rules of Civil
Procedure. See Mem. in Supp. Mot. for Judgment/Mot.
for New Trial (“Def’s Mot.”) (Doc. No.
188-1). Quiros asserts five grounds in support of his motion:
(1) Edwards failed to present evidence that Quiros violated
his Eighth Amendment rights; (2) Quiros is protected by
qualified immunity; (3) there was no evidence to support an
award of punitive damages; (4) the jury instructions
improperly shifted the burden of proof to the Defendants to
prove that there were no other alternatives to recreating
Edwards in full restraints; and (5) remittitur of
compensatory and punitive damages is appropriate. For the
reasons set forth below, Quiros’ motion for judgment as
a matter of law is granted.
has been incarcerated in Connecticut for the past twenty-two
years after being convicted of murder. Trial Tr. at 375. He
was transferred to Northern, a level 5 maximum security
prison, on September 21, 2010 after assaulting a correctional
officer at Corrigan-Radgowski Correctional Institution. Trial
Tr. at 37, 82. When Edwards arrived at Northern, Quiros was
the Warden and the facility’s highest ranking official.
Trial Tr. at 39–40, 51.
housed inmates who were involved in the DOC’s AS
program. See Trial Tr. at 231–32. The purpose
of the AS program was to reacclimate inmates who were charged
with violent infractions in other DOC facilities back to
general population. Trial Tr. at 72–74. The AS program
at Northern was conducted in three phases. Trial Tr. at
72–73. An inmate would begin in Phase I, the most
restrictive phase, where his behavior would be closely
monitored by DOC staff. Trial Tr. at 73, 202. Inmates in
Phase I were in “full restraints” when outside of
their cells, which Qurios described as “handcuffs
behind the back, leg irons applied to the ankles, and a
tether chain applied to the handcuff and the leg iron.”
Trial Tr. 42, 203. Quiros testified that Phase I is a
“cool-down period so that the offender can come to
term[s] that he’s been assigned, classified to
Northern; that in order to go back to general population,
he’s going to have to participate in the
programs.” Id. Inmates are kept in Phase I for
approximately six months, until a progression hearing to
determine if they can move to Phase II. Id.
II is somewhat less restrictive than Phase I. Trial Tr. at
203. During Phase II, inmates are in handcuffs for the first
thirty days and are assigned to small groups of four to eight
inmates for programming and recreation. Id. After
Phase II, an inmate would progress to Phase III, the least
restrictive phase. Id. In Phase III, inmates would
eat meals in the day room and have more opportunities for
out-of-cell recreation and programming. Trial Tr. at
203–04. Upon successful completion of Phase III, an
inmate would be transferred out of Northern back to general
population. Trial Tr. at 76.
accommodate the AS program, Northern was divided into three
sections to house inmates from each phase. Trial Tr. at 207.
Inmates in Phase I were housed in Unit One (“the
1s”), inmates in Phase II were housed in Unit 2
(“the 2s”), and inmates in Phase 3 were housed in
Unit 3 (“the 3s”). See Trial Tr. at
207–10. Quiros testified that there were many
differences between Units 1 and 3. Id. Unit 3 was
typically quieter than Unit 1 and did not have as many doors
between cells. Trial Tr. at 207. In addition, he testified
that Unit 3 was much more open. Id. “The day
room is open. The recreation area is open versus having the
sections in the 1s. The overall unit is quieter. It’s
more – mirrors more of a general population
unit.” Id. Unlike the 3s, the 1s did not have
open recreation. Id. Instead, inmates in Phase I
were required to recreate in “secure cages”
within Unit One where their restraints would be removed
through trap doors after entering each cage. Trial Tr. at
September 2010 to March 2011, Northern was described as an
“extremely volatile” and “high
stress” environment, due to an increase in inmate
assaults on staff. Trial Tr. at 320. While Edwards was at
Northern, the facility was at maximum capacity. See
Trial Tr. at 93. Often there would be no available beds to
house all Phase I inmates in Unit One. Id.
Therefore, Northern implemented an “overflow”
policy, where Phase One inmates on full restraint status
would temporarily be held in Unit Three. Trial Tr. at 93.
During the period when the overflow policy was in effect,
Phase One inmates were required to recreate in full
restraints, due to the lack of secure cages in Unit Three.
Trial Tr. at 161, 258. Quiros testified that as the Warden at
Northern, he had discretion at any time to modify the
restraint status of any inmate. Trial Tr. at 50–51.
arrived at Northern on September 21, 2010. See Trial
Tr. at 37. He transferred to the Phase I overflow unit
November 3, 2010 until March 24, 2010. Id. As a
result, from September 21, 2010 to March 24, 2011, Edwards
was kept in full restraints during recreation. Trial Tr. at
43. On March 5, 2011, Edwards sent an inmate request form
concerning his restraint status to Quiros. See
Pl’s Tr. Ex. 23. Quiros responded on March 8, 2011,
denying his request. Id. On March 10, 2011, Edwards
filed a formal grievance addressed to Quiros regarding his
full restraint status during recreation. Pl’s Tr. Ex.
26. Edwards’ grievance stated:
I arrived at Northern on 9/21/2010. I am being forced to go
to my one hour recreation fully restrained. I’m [hand]
cuffed behind [my] back, my handcuffs tethered to my foot
shackles. I cannot exercise like this. I would like facility
to put traps on outside recreation -- rec doors so that I can
be uncuffed when I go to the rec, just like I am cuffed in
cell to go to rec. I have been going to rec like this for six
Trial Tr. at 110; Pl’s Tr. Ex. 26.
March 24, 2011, two weeks after filing his grievance, Edwards
was transferred from Phase I to Phase II. Trial Tr. at 116.
As a result, he was no longer on full restraint status during
recreation in Unit Three. See Trial Tr. at 42, 257.
Quiros denied Edwards’ grievance on April 11, 2011,
stating “[t]he restraint policy that you referenced has
been reviewed and approved and will remain in place.”
Pl’s Tr. Ex. 26.
October 6, 2011, Edwards filed a pro se complaint in
this court, asserting an Eighth Amendment claim for denial of
his ability to recreate for six months because he was
required to attend recreation in full restraints. See
generally Compl. (Doc. No. 1). On January 9, 2014,
United States District Judge Alfred V. Covello granted the
Defendants’ motion for summary judgment on qualified
immunity grounds. See Doc. No. 82. Edwards appealed
that ruling, (doc. no. 83) and the Second Circuit ruled in
his favor, holding that “[u]nder existing clearly
established case law, a reasonable juror may conclude that
reasonable officers would agree that fully restraining
inmates during out-of-cell exercise without an adequate
safety justification is unconstitutional.” Doc. No. 87
at 6. The Defendants filed a supplemental motion for summary
judgment, which Judge Covello denied on August 9, 2016.
See Doc. No. 116. On December 21, 2016, Judge
Covello granted Edwards’ renewed motion to appoint
counsel. See Doc. No. 119. On October 20, 2017, the
case was transferred to my docket. See Doc. No. 128.
The case proceeded to trial on December 17, 2018.
See Doc. No. 174.
close of Edwards’ case, the remaining Defendants orally
moved for judgment as a matter of law. See Doc. No.
176; Trial Tr. at 431–32. Quiros renewed his motion at
the conclusion of evidence. See Doc. No. 179; Trial
Tr. at 554. I took both motions under advisement and directed
Quiros’ counsel to file an accompanying memorandum of
law at a later date. See Trial Tr. at 554. I denied
the Defendants’ oral motions on September 25, 2019
(doc. no. 208), in light of Quiro’s instant motion
filed on January 16, 2019 (doc. no. 188).
Standard of Review
50(b) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure allows for the
entry of judgment as a matter of law if a jury returns a
verdict for which there is no legally sufficient evidentiary
basis. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 50. The standard under
Rule 50 is the same as that for summary judgment: A court may
not grant a Rule 50 motion unless “the evidence is such
that, without weighing the credibility of the witnesses or
otherwise considering the weight of the evidence, there can
be but one conclusion as to the verdict that reasonable
[persons] could have reached.” This Is Me, Inc. v.
Taylor, 157 F.3d 139, 142 (2d Cir. 1998) (citation and
internal quotation marks omitted). Thus, in deciding such a
motion, “the court must give deference to all
credibility determinations and reasonable inferences of the
jury . . . and it may not itself weigh the credibility of the
witnesses or consider the weight of the evidence.”
Galdieri-Ambrosini v. Nat’l Realty & Dev.
Corp., 136 F.3d 276, 289 (2d Cir. 1998) (citations
omitted). In short, the court cannot “substitute its
judgment for that of the jury.” LeBlanc-Sternberg
v. Fletcher, 67 F.3d 412, 429 (2d Cir. 1995) (citations
omitted). Rather, judgment as a matter of law may only be
(1) there is such a complete absence of evidence supporting
the verdict that the jury’s findings could only have
been the result ...