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Stile v. Somerset County

United States District Court, D. Maine

December 30, 2014

JAMES STILE, Plaintiff
v.
SOMERSET COUNTY, et al., Defendants

JAMES STILE, Plaintiff, Pro se, DOVER, NH.

For SOMERSET COUNTY, SOMERSET COUNTY SHERIFF, CORRECTIONS OFFICER MEUNIER, CORRECTIONS OFFICER JACQUES, CORRECTIONS OFFICER BUGBEE, CORRECTIONS OFFICER CRAFTS, CORRECTIONS OFFICER FAILS, CORRECTIONS OFFICER MUNN, CORRECTIONS OFFICER HERRERA, CORRECTIONS OFFICER PIKE, CORRECTIONS OFFICER PLOURD, CORRECTIONS OFFICER CAMPBELL, CORRECTIONS OFFICER MARONEY, CORRECTIONS OFFICER MOORE, CORRECTIONS OFFICER ALMEIDA, CORRECTIONS OFFICER DAVIS, CORRECTIONS OFFICER BROWN, CORRECTIONS OFFICER LIBBY, CORRECTIONS OFFICER SHER, CORRECTIONS OFFICER JEWELL, CORRECTIONS OFFICER KELLY, CORRECTIONS OFFICER HINTON, CORRECTIONS OFFICER RIZZO, CORRECTIONS OFFICER GARLING, CORRECTIONS OFFICER BOONE, CORRECTIONS OFFICER DUCHARME, CORRECTIONS OFFICER FRENCH, CORRECTIONS OFFICER HALEY, CORRECTIONS OFFICER MAGUIRE, CORRECTIONS OFFICER MARTIN, CORRECTIONS OFFICER POOLER, CORRECTIONS OFFICER MADORE, CORRECTIONS OFFICER GILBLAIR, CORRECTIONS OFFICER SWOPE, CORRECTIONS OFFICER BERUBE, CORRECTIONS OFFICER RIVARD, CORRECTIONS OFFICER PULLEN, CORRECTIONS OFFICER HAYDEN, CORRECTIONS OFFICER LAPLANTE, CORRECTIONS OFFICER BALDINELLI, CORRECTIONS OFFICER RICHARDS, CORRECTIONS OFFICER CUNNINGHAM, CORRECTIONS OFFICER KARWARSKI, CORRECTIONS OFFICER MILLIGAN, CORRECTIONS OFFICER BUSSELL, CORRECTIONS OFFICER CARSON, CORRECTIONS OFFICER SIMONDS, CORRECTIONS OFFICER SMITH, CORRECTIONS OFFICER LIGHTBODY, CORRECTIONS OFFICER MCLAUGHLIN, CORRECTIONS OFFICER WHITNEY, CORRECTIONS OFFICER HAPWORTH, CORRECTIONS OFFICER SOARS, CORRECTIONS OFFICER MORROW, CORRECTIONS OFFICER GARNETT, CORRECTIONS OFFICER GRANT, DEPUTY SHERIFF TRAVISANDREWS, DEPUTY SHERIFF KLINE, DEPUTY SHERIFF LANCASTER, Defendants: CASSANDRA S. SHAFFER, PETER T. MARCHESI, LEAD ATTORNEYS, WHEELER & AREY, P.A., WATERVILLE, ME.

For DAVID ALLEN, Jail Administrator, Defendant: JOHN J. WALL, III, LEAD ATTORNEY, MONAGHAN LEAHY, LLP, PORTLAND, ME.

For CORRECTIONS OFFICER GILLIAN, Defendant: CASSANDRA S. SHAFFER, LEAD ATTORNEY, WHEELER & AREY, P.A., WATERVILLE, ME.

For CORRECTIONS OFFICER PULLEN, Defendant: CASSANDRA S. SHAFFER, WHEELER & AREY, P.A., WATERVILLE, ME; PETER T. MARCHESI, LEAD ATTORNEY, WHEELER & AREY, P.A., WATERVILLE, ME.

RECOMMENDED DECISION ON MOTION TO DISMISS

John C. Nivison, United States Magistrate Judge.

In this action, Plaintiff James Stile, proceeding pro se, alleges that for more than 30 days, corrections officers at the Somerset County Jail subjected him to an ongoing pattern of excessive force in response to his assertion that he could not walk and his decision to engage in a hunger strike.

The matter is before the Court on Defendant David Allen's Motion to Dismiss (ECF No. 105) (" Motion"). Defendant Allen maintains that Plaintiff has failed to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. As explained below, following a review of the pleadings, and after consideration of the parties' arguments, the recommendation is that the Court grant in part and deny in part the motion.

Standard of Review

Pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6), a party may seek dismissal of " a claim for relief in any pleading" if that party believes that the pleading fails " to state a claim upon which relief can be granted." In its assessment of the motion, the Court must " assume the truth of all well-plead facts and give the plaintiff[] the benefit of all reasonable inferences therefrom." Blanco v. Bath Iron Works Corp., 802 F.Supp.2d 215, 221 (D. Me. 2011) (quoting Genzyme Corp. v. Fed. Ins. Co., 622 F.3d 62, 68 (1st Cir. 2010)). To overcome a motion to dismiss, a plaintiff must establish that his allegations raise a plausible basis for a fact finder to conclude that the defendant is legally responsible for the claim(s) at issue. Id.

Factual Background

The facts set forth herein are derived from Plaintiff's Amended Complaint (Final), which facts are deemed true when evaluating the Motion to Dismiss.[1] Beddall v. State St. Bank & Trust Co., 137 F.3d 12, 16 (1st Cir. 1998).

Plaintiff was incarcerated at the Somerset County Jail as a pretrial detainee between September 13, 2011, and September 30, 2013. (Amended Complaint (Final), ¶ 3, ECF No. 92.) Plaintiff alleges, inter alia, that Defendants violated his Fourteenth Amendment rights when they confined him under conditions that constituted punishment, imposed disciplinary sanctions without due process of law, and employed excessive force in connection with prison administration. (Id., Introduction.)

Plaintiff alleges that he was assaulted by more than 30 different corrections officers during his stay in the Somerset County Jail (SCJ). (Id. ¶ 4.) Plaintiff also asserts that he suffered " voluminous amounts of violations committed ... by so many different perpetrators over such a long period of time (39) thirty nine days, multiple times each day, amounting to a few hundred acts." (Id. ¶ 4.) Defendant Allen, as Jail Administrator, held a supervisory position over all corrections officers involved in the assaults. (Id. ¶ 5.)

Plaintiff maintains that beginning in December 2011, he was harassed by various corrections officers. (Id. ¶ 10.) In addition, according to Plaintiff, while he was in a special management unit, on a daily basis, he was subjected to strip searches and visual body cavity searches by multiple corrections officers. (Id. ¶ 12.) Plaintiff also contends that an officer spit in and threatened to place glass in Plaintiff's food. (Id. ¶ 13.) For a period of 39 days, Plaintiff stopped eating his meals. (Id. ¶ 14.)

On December 26, 2011, Plaintiff refused to relinquish his blanket and was sprayed with a chemical agent, shocked with an electric shield and another device, kicked and punched, and dragged to a suicide cell by a group of corrections officers. (Id. ¶ 15.) Plaintiff asserts that following the encounter, as the result of pain, including pain from spinal impairment, he was unable to walk. (Id. ¶ ¶ 16, 21.) Plaintiff also alleges that on more than one occasion, Plaintiff's attorney was turned away when he attempted to visit Plaintiff. (Id.)

In his complaint, Plaintiff contends that groups of multiple corrections officers came to his cell daily and employed coercive measures because of his refusal to stand and walk. The groups were usually supervised by a sergeant or lieutenant. (Id. ¶ ¶ 18-19.) The corrections officers, when moving Plaintiff to and from medical in the morning and in the evening, employed shock devices and stepped on his feet in the process. (Id. ¶ 28.) Corrections officers also placed Plaintiff in a restraint chair and manipulated him in such a way as to cause extreme back pain before they transported him to medical. (Id. ¶ ¶ 21, 29, 30.)

In a section of his Amended Complaint (Final) titled " Claims for Relief, " Plaintiff states:

The failure of defendants ... [including] JAIL ADMINISTRATOR DAVID ALLEN ... to take disciplinary or other action to curb or correct the known pattern of physical abuse of ... the plaintiff by the defendant [corrections officers] and their immediate supervisors constituted deliberate indifference to the plaintiff's ... safety and contributed to and proximately cause the above-described violation of the Fourteenth Amendment rights and assault and battery. The named individuals are responsible for the assault and batteries upon the plaintiff as they were directly supervising the [corrections officers] during cell extractions and forceful transports to [medical].

(Id. p. 25, ¶ 3.)

Discussion

Through his motion, Defendant Allen contends that dismissal is appropriate because Plaintiff does not state a plausible claim of supervisory liability under the federal civil rights act, and because individual liability cannot be imposed on him under the Americans with Disabilities Act as Plaintiff asserts. (Motion at 1, 7-9 & n.2.)

A. Supervisory Liability under 42 U.S.C. § 1983

In response to the motion, Plaintiff argues that the frequency and intensity of the actions of the corrections officers support the inference that Defendant Allen was aware of and condoned the conduct. Plaintiff contends that the number of cell extractions in just over a month " interrupt[ed] everybody's day ... including defendant David Allen's days." (Opposition at 2, ECF No. 117.) Plaintiff also argues that because one cell extraction requires the filing of a number of reports, Defendant Allen would have been aware of the conduct.[2] (Id.) In Defendant's view, " The horrible allegations ... could not have possibly happened without the express knowledge and consent or implied consent of defendant David Allen." (Id. at 3.)[3]

" Because vicarious liability is inapplicable to Bivens and § 1983 suits, a plaintiff must plead that each Government-official defendant, through the official's own individual actions, has violated the Constitution." Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 676, 129 S.Ct. 1937, 173 L.Ed.2d 868 (2009). " Public officials may be held liable under § 1983 for a constitutional violation only if a plaintiff can establish that his or her constitutional injury 'resulted from the direct acts or omissions of the official, or from indirect conduct that amounts to condonation or tacit authorization.'" Ocasio-Hernandez v. Fortuño-Burset, 640 F.3d 1, 16 (1st Cir. 2011) (quoting Rodrí guez-Garcí a v. Miranda-Marí n, 610 F.3d 756, 768 (1st Cir. 2010)). " Because precise knowledge of the chain of events leading to the constitutional violation may often be unavailable to a plaintiff" at the pleading stage of the litigation, " id., courts often must turn to " judicial experience and common sense, " Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 679, to make " a contextual judgment about the sufficiency of the pleadings, " Sanchez v. Pereira-Castillo, 590 F.3d 31, 48 (1st Cir. 2009).

A contextual judgment in this case supports a plausible inference that Defendant Allen, as the jail administrator, would have been informed of or otherwise aware of the measures employed by corrections officers to address the particular concerns associated with Plaintiff's detention.[4] Indeed, given the challenges presented by Plaintiff's detention, [5] given the number of the alleged cell extractions, and given Plaintiff's descriptions of the techniques used by the corrections officers, the inference that Defendant was aware of, and through inaction condoned or tacitly authorized, at least some of the alleged coercive measures, is plausible.[6]

B. The Americans with Disabilities Act

As Defendant Allen argues (Motion at 9 n.2), an individual cannot be liable for money damages under Title II of the ADA or section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act. DeCotiis v. Whittemore, 842 F.Supp.2d 354, 363 n.5 (D. Me. 2012), reconsideration denied (Mar. 16, 2012) (citing Maine Human Rights Comm'n v. Coffee Couple LLC, No. 1:10-cv-00180-JAW, at *17, 2011 WL 2312572, at *7 (D. Me. June 8, 2011) recommended decision adopted in the absence of objection, 2011 WL 2580644 (D. Me. June 29, 2011)). To the extent, therefore, that Plaintiff seeks to recover damages on his ADA claim, dismissal is appropriate.[7]

Conclusion

Based on the foregoing analysis, the recommendation is that the Court grant in part Defendant Allen's Motion to Dismiss (ECF No. 105), and dismiss Plaintiff's ADA claim to the extent that Plaintiff requests an award of money damages against Defendant Allen in his individual capacity. The recommendation is that the Court otherwise deny Defendant Allen's Motion to Dismiss.

NOTICE

A party may file objections to those specified portions of a magistrate judge's report or proposed findings or recommended decisions entered pursuant to 28 U.S.C. Section 636(b)(1)(B) for which de novo review by the district court is sought, together with a supporting memorandum, within fourteen (14) days of being served with a copy thereof. A responsive memorandum shall be filed within fourteen (14) days after the filing of the objection.
Failure to file a timely objection shall constitute a waiver of the right to de novo review by the district court and to appeal the district court's order.

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