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Fonck v. Allen

United States District Court, D. Connecticut

October 30, 2019

CARLOS ALLEN, et al., Defendants.


          Kari A. Dooley, United States District Judge

         Preliminary Statement

         Pro se plaintiff, Charles Christopher Fonck III (“Fonck”), a former inmate of the Department of Correction, brings this civil rights complaint under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against six defendants, Lieutenant Carlos Allen, Officer Smith, Officer Escobar, Nurse John Doe, Dr. Riccardo Ruiz, and Dr. James Elderkin. He alleges that the defendants, all DOC employees, used excessive force against him and/or provided inadequate treatment for his resulting injuries. Fonck seeks damages from the defendants in their individual capacities. The complaint was received on October 22, 2019, and Fonck's motion to proceed in forma pauperis was granted on October 24, 2019.

         Standard of Review

         Under section 1915(e)(2)(B) of title 28 of the United States Code, the Court must dismiss a case if the action is frivolous or malicious, the complaint fails to state a claim upon which relief may be granted, or the plaintiff seeks monetary relief from a defendant who is immune from such relief. Id. In reviewing a pro se complaint, the Court must assume the truth of the allegations, and interpret them liberally to “raise the strongest arguments [they] suggest[].” Abbas v. Dixon, 480 F.3d 636, 639 (2d Cir. 2007). see also Tracy v. Freshwater, 623 F.3d 90, 101-02 (2d Cir. 2010) (discussing special rules of solicitude for pro se litigants). 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.” Twombly, 550 U.S. at 570.


         On October 23, 2016, Fonck was incarcerated at Bridgeport Correctional Center. During morning “chow call” he requested a roll of toilet paper. Defendant Smith denied the request. While Fonck was waiting outside his cell to “lock in, ” defendants Allen, Escobar, and Smith approached and began to harass Fonck. At about 5:30 a.m., the officers deployed pepper spray and physically assaulted Fonck. The incident was not recorded on a hand-held camera as required when a planned use of force is conducted. Nor were medical personnel present. Doc. No. 1 at 4.

         As a result of the incident, Fonck sustained broken ribs and multiple contusions and lacerations. After minimal medical attention, he was confined in four-point restraints. Prior to being restrained, an unknown officer squeezed Fonck's testicles. Id. While wrist restraints were being applied, defendant Allen “dropped his knee” to the back of Fonck's neck. Fonck alleges that this action caused severe cervical complications which were not treated despite numerous requests for medical attention. Id. at 6. After four-point restraints were applied, Nurse Doe, without Fonck's consent, administered medication to “shut up” Fonck. Id.

         Reports of the incident falsely stated that Fonck was aggressive and hostile and had assumed a fighting stance. Fonck alleges that video surveillance footage shows otherwise. Id.


         Use of Excessive Force

         Fonck asserts that defendants Allen, Escobar, and Smith violated his Eighth Amendment right to be free from cruel and unusual punishment by using excessive force against him and by confining him in four-point restraints. The use of excessive force against a prisoner[1] can constitute cruel and unusual punishment in violation of the Eighth Amendment. Hudson v. McMillian, 503 U.S. 1, 4 (1992); accord Wilkins v. Gaddy, 559 U.S. 34, 34, 36 (2010) (per curiam). The “core judicial inquiry” is not “whether a certain quantum of injury was sustained, but rather whether force was applied in a good-faith effort to maintain or restore discipline, or maliciously and sadistically to cause harm.” Wilkins, 559 U.S. at 37 (quoting Hudson, 503 U.S. at 7).

         To state such a claim, Fonck must allege that, subjectively, the defendants acted maliciously or sadistically to cause harm rather than in a good-faith effort to maintain or restore discipline. Hudson, 503 U.S. at 7. In evaluating the defendants' conduct, the court considers multiple factors including: the extent of the injuries; the mental state of the inmate; “the need for application of force; the correlation between that need and the amount of force used; the threat reasonably perceived by the defendants; and any efforts by the defendants to temper the severity of a forceful response.” Scott v. Coughlin, 344 F.3d 282, 291 (2d Cir. 2003) (quoting Romano v. Howarth, 998 F.2d 101, 105 (2d Cir. 1993) (internal quotation marks omitted).

         In addition, Fonck must allege, objectively, that the defendants' actions violated “contemporary standards of decency.” Blyden v. Mancusi, 186 F.3d 252, 262-63 (2d Cir. 1999) (internal quotation marks omitted) (citing Hudson, 503 U.S. at 8). A de minimis use of force will rarely be sufficient to satisfy the objective element unless that force is also “repugnant to the conscience of mankind.” Wilkins, 559 U.S. at 38 (quoting Hudson, 503 U.S. at 9-10 (internal quotation marks omitted)). However, it is the force used, not the injury sustained, that “ultimately counts.” Id. A malicious use of force ...

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