Matias v. Chapdelaine et al
INITIAL REVIEW ORDER: Discovery due by 9/13/2018, Dispositive Motions due by 10/15/2018. Signed by Judge Stefan R. Underhill on 2/12/18. (Kaas, E.)
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
DISTRICT OF CONNECTICUT
WARDEN C. CHAPDELAINE, et al.,
No. 3:18-cv-17 (SRU)
INITIAL REVIEW ORDER
On January 3, 2018, Joel Matias, an inmate currently confined at MacDougall-Walker
Correctional Institution (“MWCI”) in Suffield, Connecticut, brought a civil rights complaint
under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against four Department of Correction (“DOC”) employees (Warden
Chapdelaine, Counselor Supervisor R. Weldon, Correction Officer Anderson, and Captain
Ogando), and Mark Silver, another inmate at MWCI. Matias claims that the defendants violated
his Eighth Amendment rights against cruel and unusual punishment, his right to equal protection
of the laws under the Fourteenth Amendment, the Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”), and
various state tort laws. He is suing all defendants in their individual and official capacities and
seeks monetary, injunctive, and declaratory relief. On January 9, 2018, the court, Garfinkel, J.,
granted Matias’ motion to proceed in forma pauperis. See Order # 6. For the following reasons,
I dismiss the complaint in part.
I. Standard of Review
Under section 1915A of Title 28 of the United States Code, 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
At all relevant times, Matias was confined at MWCI. Compl. ¶ 3. On February 2, 2017,
he was transferred from the M-Pod housing unit to the L-Pod housing unit. Id. at ¶ 10. Upon
arrival, Correction Officer Anderson informed him that he would be placed in cell 21. Id. As
Matias attempted to enter cell 21, Mark Silver, the other inmate assigned to that cell, became
belligerent and blocked Matias’ entry. Id. at ¶ 11. Silver adamantly expressed to Anderson that
he was unwilling to accept a cellmate because he had been granted single cell status and would
only accept a cellmate of his choosing. Id. at ¶ 12. Silver showed Anderson documentation that
his single cell status had been granted, but Anderson ignored his demands. Id. at ¶ 13.
After Silver had threatened Matias several times, Matias “did not try to move into cell
21,” but Anderson told him that, if he did not enter the cell, he would be taken to segregation.
Compl. ¶ 15. Reluctant, Matias entered the cell. See id. Approximately ten minutes later, Silver
assaulted Matias, rendering him unconscious and causing him severe injuries. Id. at ¶¶ 15-16.
Matias was immediately transported to UConn Medical Center for treatment. Id. at ¶ 16.
At the time of the incident, Matias was disabled and could barely walk without the
assistance of medical staff or a walker. Compl. ¶ 17. He was in no condition to defend himself
against Silver. Id. at ¶ 18. He continues to suffer headaches and neck and back pain as a result
of the assault. Id.
Matias is suing Anderson for violating his Eighth Amendment protection against cruel
and unusual punishment by failing to protect him from Silver’s assault. See Compl. ¶ 20. As for
the other three DOC defendants, Chapdelaine, Weldon, and Ogando, Matias claims that they
“knew or should have known [that] . . . Silver was assaultive . . . being . . . Unit Manager,
Warden, and Classification Supervisor.” Id. at ¶ 19. He is also raising state law claims of
negligence, intentional infliction of emotional distress, and negligent infliction of emotional
distress against all defendants and what appears to be assault and battery against Silver. See id.
at ¶¶ 2, 19.
Failure to Protect from Harm
Matias claims that Anderson, Chapdelaine, Weldon, and Ogando violated his Eighth
Amendment protection against cruel and unusual punishment by failing to protect him from
Silver’s assault. I conclude that he has stated a plausible Eighth Amendment claim against
Anderson but not against the other defendants.
The Eighth Amendment requires prison officials to “take reasonable measures to
guarantee the safety of . . . inmates.” Hudson v. Palmer, 468 U.S. 517, 526-27 (1984). “[P]rison
officials have a duty . . . to protect prisoners from violence at the hands of other prisoners.”
Farmer v. Brennan, 511 U.S. 825, 833 (1994) (internal quotations omitted). However, not every
injury inflicted by one prisoner on another prisoner establishes constitutional liability on the part
of the prison official responsible for the victim. Id. at 834.
A prison official violates the prisoner’s Eighth Amendment protection against cruel and
unusual punishment only when the following two requirements are satisfied. First, the prisoner
must prove that the deprivation was “objectively, sufficiently serious . . . .” Farmer, 511 U.S. at
834 (quoting Wilson, 501 U.S. at 298). If the claim is based on the official’s failure to prevent
harm, the plaintiff must prove that he is “incarcerated under conditions posing a substantial risk
of serious harm.” Id. To determine whether the prisoner faced an excessive risk of serious harm,
courts “look at the facts and circumstances of which the official was aware at the time [s]he
acted or failed to act.” Hartry v. County of Suffolk, 755 F. Supp. 2d 422, 436 (E.D.N.Y. 2010)
(internal quotations and citation omitted). Secondly, the prisoner must prove that the prison
official acted with a “sufficiently culpable state of mind.” Farmer, 511 U.S. at 834 (quoting
Wilson, 501 U.S. at 302-03). This requirement is based on the principle that “only the
unnecessary and wanton infliction of pain implicates the Eighth Amendment.” Id. (quoting
Wilson, 501 U.S. at 297). The prison official must have disregarded an excessive risk to the
prisoner’s health or safety. See id. at 837. Whether an official had knowledge of a substantial
risk of harm is a question of fact “subject to demonstration in the usual ways, including inference
from circumstantial evidence.” Id. at 842.
In this case, Matias alleges that Anderson dismissed Silver’s threats, demands, and
aggressive behavior in response to the decision to move Matias into his cell. When Matias
showed hesitance to enter the cell, Anderson threatened to move him to segregation if he did not
comply. As a result, Matias entered the cell, and Silver assaulted him shortly thereafter.
Construed liberally, those allegations plausibly state an Eighth Amendment claim against
Anderson for her failure to protect Matias from harm.
Matias has not, however, alleged any facts to support an Eighth Amendment claim
against Chapdelaine, Weldon, or Ogando. He makes one conclusory statement that those
defendants “knew or should have known” about Silver’s aggressive behavior, but he alleges no
facts to support such a statement. There are no facts showing how, if at all, Chapdelaine,
Weldon, and Ogando became aware of Silver’s situation or the decision to move Matias into his
cell. Therefore, the Eighth Amendment claim against those three defendants is dismissed.
Fourteenth Amendment Equal Protection
The Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment “is essentially a direction that
all persons similarly situated should be treated alike.” City of Cleburne, Tex. v. Cleburne Living
Ctr., 473 U.S. 432, 439 (1985). The Clause “protects prisoners from invidious discrimination.”
Riddick v. Arnone, 11 Civ. 631 (SRU), 2012 WL 2716355, *3 (D. Conn. Jul. 9, 2012). It does
not, however, require identical treatment for each individual; rather, it requires that a similarly
situated person be treated the same. City of Cleburne, Tex., 473 U.S. at 439-40. “To state a
claim for an equal protection violation, a plaintiff must plausibly allege that he was treated
differently than others similarly situated as a result of intentional or purposeful discrimination.”
Rossi v. Fischer, 13 Civ. 3167 (PKC/DF), 2015 WL 769551, *13 (S.D.N.Y. Feb. 24, 2015)
(quoting Phillips v. Girdich, 408 F.3d 124, 129 (2d Cir. 2005)).
A prisoner may also state an Equal Protection claim under the “class of one theory.” To
state such a claim, he must allege that (1) he has been intentionally treated differently than other
similarly situated inmates; and (2) there is no rational basis for the disparity in treatment.
Holmes v. Haugen, 356 F. App’x 507, 509 (2d Cir. 2009); Green v. Martin, 224 F. Supp. 3d 154,
171 (D. Conn. Dec. 14, 2016). The prisoner must allege an “extremely high” level of similarity
with the person to whom he is comparing himself. Neilson v. D'Angelis, 409 F.3d 100, 104 (2d
Cir. 2005). His circumstances and the other person's must be “prima facie identical.” Id. at 105.
Matias has not alleged any facts in this case that would support a Fourteenth Amendment
Equal Protection Clause claim. He has not alleged either that he was a member of a protected
class of inmates or that he was treated differently than other similarly situated inmates. Thus, his
Fourteenth Amendment claim is dismissed.
To state a claim under the ADA, Matias must allege: (1) that he is a “qualified
individual” with a disability; (2) that he was excluded from participation in a public entity’s
services, programs or activities or was otherwise discriminated against by a public entity; and (3)
that such exclusion or discrimination was due to his disability. Fulton v. Goord, 591 F.3d 37, 43
(2d Cir. 2009) (quoting Hargrave v. Vermont, 340 F.3d 27, 34-35 (2d Cir. 2003)). A “qualified
an individual with a disability who, with or without reasonable modifications
to rules, policies, or practices, the removal of architectural, communication, or
transportation barriers, or the provision of auxiliary aids and services, meets
the essential eligibility requirements for the receipt of services or the
participation in programs or activities provided by a public entity.
Id. (quoting 42 U.S.C. § 12131(2)). “A qualified individual can base a discrimination claim on
any of three available theories: (1) intentional discrimination (disparate treatment); (2) disparate
impact; and (3) failure to make a reasonable accommodation.” Id. (quoting Tsombanidis v. West
Haven Fire Dep’t, 352 F.3d 565, 573 (2d Cir. 2003)).
Aside from alleging that he is disabled, Matias has not alleged any facts supporting an
ADA claim against any of the defendants. He has not alleged facts showing that they
discriminated against him, excluded him from any programs or activities, or failed to make any
reasonable accommodations for him. Therefore, I will dismiss the ADA claim.
State Law Claims
In addition to his constitutional and ADA claims, Matias is suing all defendants for
negligence, intentional infliction of emotional distress, and negligent infliction of emotional
distress. Although not clearly stated in his complaint, his factual allegations also support claims
for assault and battery against Silver. I can exercise supplemental jurisdiction over a state law
(1) there is a claim arising under the federal constitution or federal laws; (2) the
relationship between the federal claim and the state claim permits the conclusion
that the entire action comprises but one constitutional case; (3) the federal claim
has substance sufficient to confer subject matter jurisdiction on the court; and (4)
the state and federal claims derive from a common nucleus of operative fact.
Miller v. Lovett, 879 F.2d 1066, 1071 (2d Cir. 1989), abrogated on other grounds, Graham v.
Connor, 490 U.S. 386 (1989) (citing United Mine Workers of Am. v. Gibbs, 383 U.S. 715, 725
To prevail on a negligence claim, Matias must show that the defendants owed him a duty,
that the duty was breached, and that he suffered an actual injury as a result of that breach. See
Considine v. Waterbury, 279 Conn. 830, 858 (2006).
To state a claim for negligent infliction of emotional distress under Connecticut law,
Matias must allege:
(1) that the defendant[s’] conduct created an unreasonable risk of causing
[him] emotional distress; (2) [his] distress was foreseeable; (3) the emotional
distress was severe enough that it might result in illness or bodily harm; and
(4) the defendant[s’] conduct was the cause of [his] distress.
Lavoie v. United States, 361 F. App’x 206, 207 (2d Cir. 2010) (quoting Carrol v. Allstate Ins.
Co., 262 Conn. 433, 444 (2003)).
To state a claim of intentional infliction of emotional distress under Connecticut law,
Matias must allege that:
(1) the defendant[s] intended to inflict emotional distress or that [they] knew or
should have known that emotional distress was the likely result of [their]
conduct; (2) . . . the defendant[s’] conduct was extreme and outrageous; (3) . . .
the defendant[s’] conduct was the cause of [Matias’] distress; and (4) . . . the
resulting emotional distress sustained by [Matias’] was severe.
Id. (quoting Appleton v. Bd. of Educ. of the Town of Stonington, 254 Conn. 205, 210 (2000)).
“A civil assault is defined, [under Connecticut law], as ‘the intentional causing of
imminent apprehension of harmful or offensive contact with another.’” Germano v. Dzurenda,
09 Civ. 1316 (SRU), 2011 WL 1214435, *22 (D. Conn. Mar. 28, 2011) (quoting Dewitt v. John
Hancock Mutual Life Ins. Co., 5 Conn. App. 590, 594 (1985)). “[A]n actor is subject to liability
to another for battery if (a) he acts intending to cause a harmful or offensive contact with the
person of the other or a third person, or an imminent apprehension of such a contact, and (b) a
harmful contact with the person of the other directly or indirectly results.” Id. (quoting Alteiri v.
Colasso, 168 Conn. 329, 334 n.3 (1975)).
As shown above, the only plausible claim under the United States Constitution in this
case is the Eighth Amendment claim against Anderson for her failure to protect Matias from the
assault by Silver. Matias’ negligence claim against Anderson arises from the same set of facts as
the Eighth Amendment claim. Thus, I will exercise supplemental jurisdiction over the
negligence claim. I will also exercise supplemental jurisdiction over the assault and battery
claim against Silver because those claims arose from the same set of facts as the Eighth
Amendment claim and are factually supported. However, Matias has failed to allege sufficient
facts to support a claim for negligent infliction of emotional distress or intentional infliction of
emotional distress against any of the defendants. Therefore, I will dismiss all state law claims
except for the negligence claim against Anderson and the assault and battery claim against
Silver, which I will allow to proceed in conjunction with the Eighth Amendment claim.
Claim for Damages Against Anderson and Silver in their Official Capacities
To the extent Matias is suing Anderson in her official capacity for damages, that claim is
barred by the Eleventh Amendment; see Kentucky v. Graham, 473 U.S. 159 (1985); Quern v.
Jordan, 440 U.S. 332, 342 (1979); and is, therefore, dismissed. Because Silver is not a
government actor, Matias is limited to suing him in his individual capacity.
Declaratory relief serves to “settle legal rights and remove uncertainty and insecurity
from legal relationships without awaiting a violation of that right or a disturbance of the
relationship.” Colabella v. American Inst. Of Certified Pub. Accountants, 10 Civ. 2291 (KAM)
(ALC), 2011 4532132, *22 (E.D.N.Y. Sep. 28, 2011) (citations omitted). Declaratory relief
operates prospectively to enable parties to adjudicate claims before either side suffers great
damages. See In re Combustion Equip. Assoc., Inc., 838 F.3d 35, 37 (2d Cir. 1998).
Matias’ request for declaratory relief in this case only concerns Anderson’s and Silver’s
past actions. He has not identified any legal relationships or issues that require resolution by
declaratory relief. See Ward v. Thomas, 207 F.3d 114, 119-20 (2d Cir. 2000) (Eleventh
Amendment bars declaration that state violated federal law in the past). Therefore, his claim for
declaratory relief is unwarranted and is hereby dismissed.
Matias’ claims against Chapdelaine, Weldon, and Ogando are dismissed. His
Eighth Amendment and negligence claims may proceed against Anderson in her individual
capacity for damages and in her official capacity for injunctive relief. His assault and battery
claim may proceed against Silver in his individual capacity for damages. All other state tort and
constitutional claims are dismissed.
The Clerk shall verify the full names and current addresses for Officer Anderson
and inmate Mark Silver with the DOC Office of Legal Affairs. When such information is
received, the clerk shall prepare a summons form and send an official capacity service packet to
the U.S. Marshal Service. The U.S. Marshal is then directed to effect service of the complaint on
Anderson in her official capacity at the Office of the Attorney General, 55 Elm Street, Hartford,
CT 06141, within twenty-one (21) days from date said packet is received and to file a return of
service within thirty (30) days from the same date. The clerk shall also mail two waiver of
service of process request packets containing the complaint to Anderson and Silver at the
confirmed addresses within twenty-one (21) days of this Order, and report to the court on the
status of the waiver requests on the thirty-fifth (35) day after mailing. If Anderson and/or
Silver fail to return the waiver requests, the Clerk shall make arrangements for in-person service
by the U.S. Marshals Service on him/her, and he/she shall be required to pay the costs of such
service in accordance with Fed. R. Civ. P. 4(d).
Anderson and Silver shall file their responses to the complaint, either an answer
or motion to dismiss, within sixty (60) days from the date the notice of lawsuit and waiver of
service of summons forms are mailed to them. If they choose to file an answer, they shall admit
or deny the allegations and respond to the cognizable claims recited above. They may also
include any and all additional defenses permitted by the Federal Rules.
Discovery, pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. P. 26-37, shall be completed within six
months (180 days) from the date of this order. Discovery requests need not be filed with the
All motions for summary judgment shall be filed within seven months (210
days) from the date of this order.
It is so ordered.
Dated at Bridgeport, Connecticut this 12th day of February 2018.
/s/ STEFAN R. UNDERHILL
Stefan R. Underhill
United States District Judge
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