Ryan v. County of Nassau et al
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER granting 115 Motion for Judgment as a Matter of Law; granting 115 Motion for New Trial; For the foregoing reasons, the Armor Defendants' motion for judgment as a matter of law, or in the alternative, for a new trial (Docket Entry 115) is GRANTED. The Court GRANTS the Armor Defendants judgment as a matter of law on the Section 1983 deliberate indifference claim and VACATES the jury's compensatory damages award of $520,000 and punitive damages award of & #036;7,000,000 on that claim. Additionally, the Court finds that a new trial is required on the negligence claim and VACATES the jury's award of $370,000 in compensatory damages for negligence. The parties will be contacted regarding the scheduling of a new trial. So Ordered by Judge Joanna Seybert on 1/10/2018. C/ECF (Valle, Christine)
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
EASTERN DISTRICT OF NEW YORK
LILYANN RYAN, Individually and as
Administrator of the Estate of
BARTHOLOMEW RYAN, deceased,
MEMORANDUM & ORDER
COUNTY OF NASSAU, COUNTY OF
NASSAU CORRECTIONAL CENTER,
NASSAU COUNTY SHERIFF’S
DEPARTMENT, ARMOR CORRECTIONAL
HEALTH SERVICES, INC., and
ARMOR CORRECTIONAL HEALTH
SERVICES OF NEW YORK, INC.,
Nicholas E. Warywoda, Esq.
6 Harbor Park Drive
Port Washington, NY 11050
For the County
For the Armor
James R. Scott, Esq.
Nassau County Attorney’s Office
1 West Street
Mineola, NY 11501
John J. Doody, Esq.
Sana Suhail, Esq.
Lewis Brisbois Bisgaard & Smith, LLP
199 Water Street, 25th Floor
New York, NY 10038
SEYBERT, District Judge:
Plaintiff Lilyann Ryan (“Plaintiff”), individually and
as administrator of the Estate of Bartholomew Ryan (“Ryan”),
commenced this action against the County of Nassau, the Nassau
County Correctional Center, the Nassau County Sheriff’s Department
(together, the “County Defendants”), Armor Correctional Health
Services, Inc., and Armor Correctional Health Services of New York,
collectively, “Defendants”) on October 22, 2012.
On November 14, 2012, Plaintiff filed an Amended
Complaint asserting claims under 42 U.S.C. §§ 1981, 1983, and 1985
and state law claims for negligence and wrongful death.
Compl., Docket Entry 7, ¶¶ 108-180.)
After the Court dismissed the claims under Sections 1981
and 1985, and the Section 1983 claim against the County Defendants,
the remaining claims proceeded to trial.
Docket Entry 62, at 25.)
(See March 2016 Order,
The case was tried from April 3, 2017 to
April 12, 2017, and the following claims were submitted to the
jury: (1) a Section 1983 claim for deliberate indifference to
medical needs against the Armor Defendants, and (2) negligence and
wrongful death claims against the Armor Defendants and the County
(Verdict Sheet, Court Ex. 3, Docket Entry 108, at 2-
On April 12, 2017, the jury reached a verdict in Plaintiff’s
favor on both claims and awarded $370,000 for pain and suffering
on the negligence claim, and $520,000 for pain and suffering and
$7,000,000 in punitive damages on the Section 1983 claim. (Verdict
As to the negligence pain and suffering award,
the jury apportioned the fault as follows: twenty-five percent
(25%) to the County of Nassau, fifty-five percent (55%) to Armor,
and twenty percent (20%) to Ryan.
(Verdict Sheet 6(D).)
Defendants’ motion for judgment as a matter of law pursuant to
Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 50(b), or alternatively, for a new
trial pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 59(a)(A). (Armor
Mot., Docket Entry 115.)
The County Defendants have not moved for
any post-trial relief.
For the reasons that follow, the Armor
Defendants’ motion is GRANTED.
The Court assumes familiarity with its March 2016 Order
resolving the parties’ motions for summary judgment and will
discuss the evidence presented at trial as necessary in its
(See generally March 2016 Order.)
Briefly, Ryan was
remanded to the Nassau County Correctional Center (“NCCC”) on
February 23, 2012.
(March 2016 Order at 4.)
After his arrival,
he was assessed by a corrections officer, two nurses employed by
Armor, and Dr. Vincent Manetti (“Dr. Manetti”), a psychiatrist
employed by Armor.
(March 2016 Order at 5-8.)
While Ryan relayed
that he had a history of drug abuse and psychological disorders,
he did not indicate that he was experiencing suicidal ideations or
that he had previously attempted suicide.
(March 2016 Order at 5-
However, he did indicate to Dr. Manetti that he had used
heroin immediately prior to his arrival at NCCC. (March 2016 Order
As a result, Dr. Manetti referred Ryan to the medical
department for monitoring on an urgent basis, which according to
Armor’s guidelines, meant that Ryan would be seen within twentyfour hours.
(March 2016 Order at 8, 21.)
hours after his visit with Dr. Manetti, Ryan committed suicide.
(March 2016 Order at 2, 9.)
The Armor Defendants’ Motion for Judgment as a Matter of Law
A. Rule 50(b) Standard
If a party believes that “a reasonable jury would not
have a legally sufficient evidentiary basis” to find for its
adversary on a particular issue, it may move for judgment as a
matter of law during trial under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure
50(a), and renew the motion after trial under Rule 50(b).
CIV. P. 50(a)-(b).
In an order determining a Rule 50(b) motion,
the district court may: “(1) allow judgment on the verdict, if the
jury returned a verdict; (2) order a new trial; or (3) direct the
entry of judgment as a matter of law.”
FED. R. CIV. P. 50(b).
The district court may only grant a Rule 50(b) motion
when “‘there exists such a complete absence of evidence supporting
the verdict that the jury’s findings could only have been the
result of sheer surmise and conjecture, or the evidence in favor
of the movant is so overwhelming that reasonable and fair-minded
Protostorm, LLC v. Antonelli, Terry, Stout & Krauss, LLP, No. 084
CV-0931, 2015 WL 3605143, at *2 (E.D.N.Y. June 5, 2015) (quoting
Kinneary v. City of N.Y., 601 F.3d 151, 155 (2d Cir. 2010))
(alterations in original).
In other words, judgment as a matter
of law is appropriate only when “‘a reasonable juror would have
been compelled to accept the view of the moving party.’”
*2 (quoting This is Me, Inc. v. Taylor, 157 F.3d 139, 142 (2d Cir.
“When considering the evidence associated with a Rule
50(b) motion, the trial court may not weigh evidence, assess
credibility, or substitute its opinion of the facts for that of
the jury,” Rosioreanu v. City of N.Y., 526 F. App’x 118, 119 (2d
Cir. 2013) (internal quotation marks and citation omitted), and
nonmoving party,” Houston v. Cotter, No. 07-CV-3256, 2016 WL
1253391, at *1 (E.D.N.Y. Mar. 30, 2016) (internal quotation marks
and citation omitted).
B. Section 1983 Deliberate Indifference to Medical Needs
To establish a Section 1983 claim, a plaintiff must
demonstrate that the defendant violated a “right, privilege, or
States . . . by a person acting under the color of state law.”
Charles v. Cty. of Orange, N.Y., No. 16-CV-5527, 2017 WL 4402576,
at *6 (S.D.N.Y. Sept. 29, 2017); 42 U.S.C. § 1983.
a claim for deliberate indifference to medical needs under the Due
Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment, a pre-trial detainee
must establish two elements: (1) that the “deprivation of medical
defendant “acted or failed to act with ‘a sufficiently culpable
state of mind.’”
See Smith v. Outlaw, No. 15-CV-9961, 2017 WL
4417699, at *2 (S.D.N.Y. Sept. 30, 2017) (quoting Salahuddin v.
Goord, 467 F.3d 263, 279 (2d Cir. 2006); Farmer v. Brennan, 511
U.S. 825, 834, 114 S. Ct. 1970, 1977, 128 L. Ed. 2d 811 (1994));
see also Grimmett v. Corizon Med. Assocs. of N.Y., No. 15-CV-7351,
2017 WL 2274485, at *3 (S.D.N.Y. May 24, 2017).
The first element requires that the Court assess the
so, . . . how the offending conduct is inadequate and what harm,
Smith, 2017 WL 4417699 (internal quotations marks and
analysis “to the specific circumstances of each case[,] . . . .
the inmate must show that the conditions, either alone or in
combination, pose an unreasonable risk of serious damage to his
Id. (internal quotation marks and citations omitted).
Generally, the condition must be “‘a condition of urgency’ that
may result in ‘degeneration’ or ‘extreme pain.’”
WL 2274485, at *3 (quoting Chance v. Armstrong, 143 F.3d 698, 702
(2d Cir. 1998)).
If the plaintiff alleges that medical care was
delayed or interrupted, the appropriate inquiry is whether “the
objective terms, sufficiently serious,” to support a claim.
(internal quotation marks, citation, and emphasis omitted).
Prior to the Second Circuit’s decision in Darnell v.
Pineiro, 849 F.3d 17 (2d Cir. 2017), the second element--whether
the defendant acted with a sufficiently culpable state of mind-was evaluated subjectively.
See Grimmett, 2017 WL 2274485, at *4.
However, in Darnell, in light of the Supreme Court’s decision in
Kingsley v. Henderickson, 135 S. Ct. 2466 (2015), the Second
Circuit held that the standard for deliberate indifference depends
on whether the plaintiff is a pre-trial detainee, in which case
the claim arises under the Fourteenth Amendment, or a convicted
Amendment. Darnell, 849 F.3d at 32-36. The Second Circuit further
held that when a claim arises under the Fourteenth Amendment, “the
pre-trial detainee must prove that the defendant-official acted
intentionally . . . or recklessly failed to act with reasonable
care . . . even though the defendant-official knew, or should have
known that the condition posed an excessive risk to health or
Id. at 35; see also Charles, 2017 WL 4402576, at *10.
In other words, the second element of a deliberate indifference
claim under the Fourteenth Amendment “is defined objectively,” and
a plaintiff is not required to show subjective awareness by the
defendant that “[his] acts (or omissions) have subjected the pretrial detainee to a substantial risk of harm.”1
Darnell, 849 F.3d
at 35. Despite the slightly lower standard articulated in Darnell,
which is akin to objective recklessness, “‘any § 1983 claim or a
violation of due process requires proof of a mens rea greater than
mere negligence.’” Smith, 2017 WL 4417699, at *3 (quoting Darnell,
849 F.3d at 36); see also Grimmett, 2017 WL 2274485, at *4.
In order for a municipality or a corporation such as
Armor2 to be liable for deliberate indifference to medical needs
under Monell v. Department of Social Services, 436 U.S. 658, 694,
98 S. Ct. 2018, 56 L. Ed. 2d 611 (1978), the plaintiff must “show
that the action that caused the constitutional violation was
undertaken pursuant to an official policy.”
(March 2016 Order at
Specifically, the plaintiff “must ‘demonstrate that, through
its deliberate conduct, the [entity] [itself] was the moving force
While Darnell involved claims of unconstitutional conditions of
confinement, several courts in this Circuit have extended
Darnell’s holding to claims of deficient medical treatment. See
Grimett, 2017 WL 2274485, at *4 n.2; Smith, 2017 WL 4417699, at
*3; see also Charles, 2017 WL 4402576, at *10 (“This standard
for deliberate indifference applies to any underlying violation
of the due process clause, such as for maintaining
unconstitutional conditions of confinement or failing to provide
adequate medical care to a person in state custody, ‘because
deliberate indifference means the same thing for each type of
claim under the Fourteenth Amendment.’”) (quoting Darnell, 849
F.3d at 33, n.9.)
The Court previously found that Armor was a state actor for
purposes of Section 1983. (March 2016 Order at 19.)
behind the alleged injury.’”
Simms v. City of N.Y., 480 F. App’x
627, 629 (2d Cir. 2012) (quoting Roe v. City of Waterbury, 542
F.3d 31, 37 (2d Cir. 2008)) (second alteration in original).
However, “‘[a] policy or custom need not be memorialized in a
constitutional violations “can be ‘so permanent and well settled
as to constitute a custom or usage with the force of law,’” and
lead to the imposition of liability.
Houston, 2016 WL 1253391, at
*7 (quoting Kern v. City of Rochester, 93 F.3d 38, 44 (2d Cir.
1996); Sorlucco v. N.Y.C. Police Dep’t, 971 F.2d 864, 870 (2d Cir.
The Armor Defendants argue that they are entitled to
judgment as a matter of law on Plaintiff’s Section 1983 claim
because the evidence at trial did not establish either element of
a deliberate indifference claim.
(Armor Br., Docket Entry 117, at
1. The Objective Prong
As to the first element, the Armor Defendants maintain
that Plaintiff failed to show that Ryan received inadequate medical
(Armor Br. at 6-9.)
Specifically, they contend that “Armor
and its staff followed protocol in processing and evaluating the
plaintiff upon his arrival to NCCC . . . and there was simply no
notice of Ryan’s purported suicidal tendencies prior to and at the
time of his detention.”
(Armor Br. at 6.)
They point out that
withdrawal or mental illness when he arrived at NCCC.
at 6; see also NCCC Records, Doody Decl., Ex. B, Docket Entry 1162, at 2.)
However, because Ryan indicated that he had taken
medication for a psychological condition, he was placed on constant
observation until he could be assessed by the mental health
(Armor Br. at 6.)
Afterward, he was seen by a Licensed Practical Nurse,
Joe Mathews (“Nurse Mathews”), and a Registered Nurse, Tanya
Tinglin (“Nurse Tinglin”).
(Armor Br. at 7; see also Armor
According to the Armor Defendants, the evidence reflects that Ryan
told Nurse Mathews that he was previously diagnosed with Post
Traumatic Stress Disorder (“PTSD”) and was taking medication, and
indicated that although he used heroin in the past, he was not
currently using drugs.
(Armor Br. at 7; Armor Records at 12-13,
After assessing him, Nurse Mathews referred Ryan to the
mental health department on a routine basis.
(Armor Records at
The suicide prevention screening form (the “Screening Form”),
completed by Officer Michael Archer (“Officer Archer”),
indicates that Ryan failed the suicide screening because he
indicated that he had previously taken medication for a
psychological condition. (Screening Form, Doody Decl., Ex. C,
Docket Entry 116-3, at 6-7.) The Screening Form indicated that
he answered “no” to questions regarding suicidal thoughts and
prior suicide attempts. (Screening Form at 6.)
Next, the Armor Defendants assert that when Ryan saw Nurse
Tinglin, he reported a history of PTSD, bipolar disorder and
anxiety, and denied using drugs.
(Armor Br. at 7; Armor Records
His only complaint was lower back pain, and Nurse Tinglin
noted elevated blood pressure during her exam.
Armor Records at 14.)
prior suicide attempts.
(Armor Br. at 7;
He denied having any suicidal thoughts or
(Armor Br. at 8; Armor Records at 15.)
The next morning, Ryan saw Dr. Manetti and reported that
he used heroin two days prior to being remanded to NCCC.
Br. at 8; Armor Records at 20.)
He continued to deny suicidal
thoughts and prior suicide attempts.
(Armor Records at 20.)
Manetti’s diagnosis was opiate dependence, and he put in an urgent
referral to the medical department to monitor Ryan for symptoms of
(Armor Br. at 8; Armor Records at 18, 21.)
Manetti testified at trial that Ryan was not exhibiting any
symptoms of withdrawal when he evaluated him, and that he believed
that Ryan had actually used heroin more recently than reported.
(Trial Tr. (Manetti), Doody Decl., Ex. A, Docket Entry 116-1,
medication and recommended that Ryan be housed with the general
(Armor Records at 19-21.)
The Armor Defendants
maintain that all of this evidence shows that Ryan received
adequate care, and as a result, Plaintiff failed to meet her burden
of proof on the first element of her deliberate indifference claim.
intentional denial or delay of access to medical care.”
Opp., Docket Entry 119, at 13.)
She contends that Dr. Manetti,
following Armor’s referral protocol, referred Ryan to the medical
department on an urgent basis, even when he knew that it could
take as long as twenty-four hours for Ryan to been seen and despite
his concerns that Ryan was not being monitored for signs of drug
(Pl.’s Opp. at 13; Trial Tr. (Manetti) 346:17-348:10
(testifying regarding his concerns and agreeing that Ryan could
wait up to twenty-four hours before he was monitored for withdrawal
Further, she points out that Dr. Manetti failed to
forward the referral form to the medical department until an hour
and a half after his visit with Ryan.
Tr. (Manetti) 350:21-351:2.)
(Pl.’s Opp. at 13; Trial
As a result, Plaintiff argues, Ryan
was not being monitored after his visit with Dr. Manetti until he
(Pl.’s Opp. at 13.)
Plaintiff maintains that,
among other things, the evidence established that Dr. Manetti (1)
should have sought additional information regarding Ryan’s prior
treatment for psychological disorders based on his assessment that
(discussing his characterization of Ryan as a poor historian),
310:4-9 (testifying that the fact that Ryan was a poor historian
would be a reason to contact a treating physician or family)), and
(2) should have alerted corrections officers that Ryan could
experience withdrawal, (Trial Tr. (Manetti) 302:11-24 (agreeing
officers of imminent withdrawal), 355:23-356:3 (testifying that he
Plaintiff’s claim is based on a delay or interruption in care, the
Court should evaluate the seriousness of the delay or interruption
rather than the seriousness of Ryan’s condition alone.
Reply, Docket Entry 121, at 2.) They argue that the evidence shows
that Dr. Manetti did not believe that obtaining Ryan’s medical
records was necessary after his initial evaluation, and that he
understood that by referring him to medical, he would be seen
within twenty-four hours, which he felt was appropriate based on
the fact that Ryan was not exhibiting symptoms during his visit.
(Armor Reply at 2; Trial Tr. (Manetti) 337:17-338:7 (testifying
concerned . . . that I needed that history right away”), 393:8394:7 (testifying that Ryan was not showing any symptoms of
withdrawal, but to be cautious, he put in an urgent referral, which
in practice, meant Ryan would seen by the end of the day).)
Therefore, the Armor Defendants argue, there was no delay in
treatment to support a deliberate indifference claim, and even if
there was a delay that could be considered the result of negligence
by Dr. Manetti or other staff, negligence is not sufficient to
prove a constitutional violation.
(Armor Reply at 2.)
The Court previously concluded that “Ryan’s withdrawal,
combined with his numerous psychological problems amounted to a
‘sufficiently serious’ medical problem.”
(March 2016 Order at
16.) See, e.g., Iacovangelo v. Corr. Med. Care, Inc., 624 F. App’x
10, 13 (2d Cir. 2015) (“Although there is no per se rule that drug
or alcohol withdrawal constitutes an objectively serious medical
condition, courts in this Circuit have found many such instances
to satisfy the objective prong.”).
Turning to the adequacy of
care, the Armor Defendants maintain that their staff assessed Ryan
appropriately, and Dr. Manetti testified that he believed an urgent
referral was adequate based on his assessment that Ryan was not
experiencing symptoms of withdrawal.
(Trial Tr. (Manetti) 393:12-
However, Dr. Ziv Cohen (“Dr. Cohen”), a psychiatry expert,
testified that Ryan’s care was not adequate because Dr. Manetti
failed to: (1) treat the situation as a psychiatric emergency, (2)
psychiatric medication, (4) treat Ryan’s withdrawal from heroin,
(5) properly diagnose Ryan with PTSD, bipolar disorder, or any
other mental health condition, (6) conduct a proper examination
for PTSD, (7) order appropriate follow-up care, and (8) seek
information from family members or other doctors.
Viewing the evidence in the light most favorable
evidence for the jury to conclude that the deprivation of care was
2. The Mens Rea Prong4
evidence at trial did not establish that any Armor personnel
recklessly disregarded a risk to Ryan’s health.
(Armor Br. at 9-
They contend that “the evidence demonstrated that even if
withdrawal, they were equally aware that he was subject to ongoing
continuous observation patrols as well as 15-minute observations
by correctional officers who were trained to recognize the signs
and symptoms of withdrawal and advised to notify medical should
the inmate appear to be in any distress.”
(Armor Br. at 10; Trial
Tr. (Manetti) 282:18-285:7 (testifying that he participated in
suicide prevention training of corrections officers and advised
them to call him if any inmate exhibited any suicidal behavior);
officers alerted him to vomiting, cramping, sweating, and signs of
agitation by inmates in the past); Trial Tr. (Smith) 235:13-236:19
In Darnell, the Second Circuit indicated that this prong should
be referred to the mens rea prong, rather than the subjective
prong, to prevent confusion. See Darnell, 849 F.3d at 29.
(testifying that corrections officers were trained to look for
signs of withdrawal and would immediately send the inmate to the
reasonable to rely on the corrections officers to notify the mental
health or medical departments based on the testimony of several
corrections officers who were assigned to Ryan’s housing area on
the day of his suicide.
(Armor Br. at 10; Trial Tr. (Brown) at
435:22-436:4 (testifying that if he determined that an inmate
needed medical care, he would alert his supervisor, who would
medical department), 442:18-444:8 (testifying that
while on the mental health housing tier, he was looking for
behavior that would indicate an inmate was depressed and would
notice if an inmate was vomiting, sweating profusely, and shaking
and would ask the inmate if he needed to go to the medical
department); Trial Tr. (Vogt) 482:25-484:6 (testifying that he was
trained on signs of suicidal behavior and if an inmate indicated
that he planned to hurt himself, the inmate was taken out of his
cell and placed in a separate area until mental health department
Finally, the Armor Defendants point to testimony of
several corrections officers that Ryan did not exhibit any unusual
behavior that day. (See Trial Tr. (Brown) 448:21-449:7 (testifying
that when he conducted a tour of the housing unit, he observed
(testifying that he observed Ryan lying on his bunk).
Vogt specifically testified that he did not observe Ryan suffering
any symptoms of withdrawal.
(Trial Tr. (Vogt) 486:18-487:6.)
Plaintiff contends that the appropriate inquiry after
the Darnell decision is whether, aware of Ryan’s withdrawal, Armor
was reasonable in relying on the observations and patrols by
corrections officers who were trained to recognize symptoms of
withdrawal and patrolled the housing area every fifteen minutes.
(Pl.’s Opp. at 15.)
Plaintiff maintains that there was sufficient
evidence to support the jury’s finding that Armor’s reliance was
not reasonable, including Dr. Manetti’s testimony that he was
concerned that Ryan would begin to experience withdrawal and that
he was not being monitored for withdrawal.
(Trial Tr. (Manetti)
329:23-25 (Q: “At that point you became very, very concerned he
was going to begin going through withdrawal; is that correct?
“I thought that was a possibility, yes.”), 330:4-6.)
also appears to argue that Dr. Manetti should have seen Ryan sooner
in light of the assessments of Officer Archer, Nurse Mathews, and
Nurse Tinglin, each of whom noted a history of mental health
disorders and drug use.
(Pl.’s Opp. at 15-16.)
Additionally, relying on Dr. Manetti’s own testimony,
Plaintiff contends that Dr. Manetti acted recklessly by: (1)
failing to contact other physicians or family members regarding
Ryan’s prior treatment and diagnoses, (Trial Tr. (Manetti) 310:417
9 (testifying that it would be good practice to contact family or
treating physicians if patient was a poor historian)); (2) failing
to tell corrections officers that Ryan was at risk for withdrawal
symptoms, (Trial Tr. (Manetti) 302:11-24 (agreeing that it was
imminent withdrawal), 355:23-356:3 (testifying that he did not
tell any corrections officer about Ryan’s possible withdrawal));
and (3) despite his concerns, referring Ryan to the medical
department for monitoring knowing that he could wait twenty-four
hours to be seen, (Trial Tr. (Manetti) 346:17-348:10 (testifying
regarding his concerns and agreeing that Ryan could wait up to
(See Pl.’s Opp. at 16-17.)
maintains that Armor’s argument that it reasonably relied on the
corrections officers, even if it was believed by the jury, is
irrelevant in light of Dr. Manetti’s admission that he never told
the officers about his concerns.
(Pl.’s Opp. at 17.)
In light of
evidence to conclude that Dr. Manetti “knew or should have known”
that his conduct “posed an excessive risk” to Ryan’s health and
(Pl.’s Opp. at 18 (internal quotation marks omitted).)
The Court finds that no reasonable juror could conclude
that Dr. Manetti acted with a state of mind sufficient to support
a deliberate indifference claim. Focusing on the Darnell standard,
there is no evidence that Dr. Manetti intentionally deprived Ryan
of adequate medical care.
See Darnell, 849 F.3d at 35 (holding
official acted intentionally . . . or recklessly failed to act
with reasonable care . . . even though the defendant-official knew,
or should have known that the condition posed an excessive risk to
health or safety”).
Further, the evidence does not support a
finding that Dr. Manetti “‘knew or should have known’ that his
actions or omissions . . . ‘posed an excessive risk to [Ryan’s]
health or safety.’”
Lloyd v. City of N.Y., 246 F. Supp. 3d 704,
720 (S.D.N.Y. 2017) (quoting Darnell, 849 F.3d at 35). Dr. Manetti
assessed Ryan, and based on his assessment that Ryan was not
experiencing symptoms of withdrawal at that time, he determined
that the appropriate treatment plan was to refer Ryan to the
medical department on an urgent basis. (Trial Tr. (Manetti) 313:320.)
In other words, he recognized the risk that withdrawal posed
to Ryan’s health but exercising his medical judgment, concluded
that Ryan did not need treatment immediately.5
The Court previously denied summary judgment on the deliberate
indifference claim on the basis that “[i]f [Dr.] Manetti blindly
adhered to Armor’s policy and ignored his medical judgment with
respect to Ryan’s needs, a jury could find that [Dr.] Manetti
acted with deliberate indifference and that his action was
undertaken pursuant to Armor’s policy.” (March 2016 Order at
22.) No evidence to that effect was presented at trial.
The evidence also does not support a finding that Dr.
Manetti was, or should have been, aware of a substantial risk of
suicide because Ryan did not indicate to him, Nurse Mathews, Nurse
Tinglin, or Officer Archer that he was thinking about suicide or
had attempted suicide in the past.
Records at 15-16, 20-21.)
(Screening Form at 6; Armor
Ryan was initially deemed a suicide
risk after indicating to Officer Archer that he was prescribed
psychiatric medication in the past, but he explicitly denied
suicidal thoughts or prior suicide attempts.
(Screening Form at
Ryan was then housed in the mental health unit and observed
every fifteen minutes until he could be assessed by Dr. Manetti.
(Screening Form at 6-7.)
Thereafter, he was assessed by Nurse
Tinglin and Nurse Mathews, to whom he again denied suicidal
thoughts or prior suicide attempts.
(Armor Records at 15-16.)
also denied suicide thoughts or attempts during his visit with Dr.
(Armor Records at 20-21.)
Viewing the evidence in
Plaintiff’s favor, Dr. Manetti may have misjudged the risk of
suicide or misdiagnosed Ryan.
However, that is not enough to
establish objective recklessness.
Plaintiff contends that Dr. Manetti’s decision to refer
Ryan to the medical department on an urgent basis put him in
jeopardy because the referral “meant that an inmate in the throes
of withdrawal could be sitting in his cell for up to 24 hours
(Pl.’s Opp. at 8.)
However, Dr. Manetti’s referral
would not have prevented Ryan from receiving treatment if he needed
Dr. Manetti testified that if an inmate needed medical
attention for an acute condition, the medical department would see
the inmate on an expedited basis.
(Trial Tr. (Manetti) 395:24-
396:9 (testifying that an inmate could alert a corrections officer
department would expedite treatment for acute conditions); Trial
Tr. (Manetti) 372:14-21 (testifying that on several occasions,
corrections officers have notified him that an inmate was vomiting,
cramping, sweating, or exhibiting signs of agitation).)
acknowledged that he was not looking for symptoms of withdrawal
when he observed Ryan that day, Officer Brown testified that he
would notify his supervisor if he believed an inmate needed medical
care and that if an inmate was experiencing symptoms such as
vomiting, sweating, or shaking, he would notice.
(Brown) at 435:22-436:4, 437:22-24, 442:18-444:8.)
also testified that he was familiar with the symptoms of drug
(Trial Tr. (Vogt) 486:18-487:3.)
While the evidence
at trial reflected that corrections officers were not responsible
responsible for observing them for changes in behavior and ensuring
their safety. (Trial Tr. (Manetti) 298:23-299:7; Trial Tr. (Brown)
442:5-444:12; Trial Tr. (Vogt) 479:23-480:11.)
The Court is cognizant of its obligation to view the
evidence in the light most favorable to Plaintiff, and to be sure,
there is evidence in the record that Dr. Manetti’s actions were a
departure from the standard of care. Dr. Cohen testified at length
regarding what were, in his opinion, breaches of the standard of
care by Dr. Manetti.
(See Trial Tr. (Cohen) 675:19-677:6, 682:8-
683:3, 698:5-699:1, 699:7-700:10, 702:7-703:11.)
testimony supports, at most, a finding of negligence by Dr.
Manetti, and it is well established that negligence cannot form
the basis of a deliberate indifference claim. See, e.g., Grimmett,
2017 WL 2274485, at *5 (“[N]egligence alone is insufficient to
make out a deliberate indifference claim under the Fourteenth
Amendment.”); Lloyd, 246 F. Supp. 3d at 720 (“‘[N]egligence, even
if it constitutes medical malpractice, does not, without more,
engender a constitutional claim.’”) (quoting Chance v. Armstrong,
143 F.3d 698, 703 (2d Cir. 1998)).
3. Evidence of a Policy or Custom
The Armor Defendants also argue that “there was no
evidence that Armor implemented any policy or custom that resulted
in the violation of Ryan’s constitutional rights.”
(Armor Br. at
They maintain that the evidence related to Armor’s urgent
referral policy was inadequate for several reasons, including
because Ryan was not exhibiting any symptoms of withdrawal when he
was seen by Dr. Manetti and because corrections officers testified
that if they had noticed any symptoms, they would have taken
(Armor Br. at 13-14.)
Plaintiff argues that the evidence regarding Armor’s
urgent referral policy established the existence of a policy or
custom for purposes of Monell liability.
(Pl.’s Opp. at 18.)
maintains that “Armor’s policy of Dr. Manetti’s ‘urgent’ referral
being limited to seeing . . . Ryan sometime in 24 hours contributed
‘immediately’ rather than a day later, . . . Ryan would have
(Pl.’s Opp. at 18.)
Plaintiff claims that Armor’s
suggestion that Dr. Manetti did not believe Ryan was in active
withdrawal “flies in the face of the evidence,” including Dr.
Manetti’s own testimony that he believed Ryan had used heroin one
to two days before arriving at NCCC and that withdrawal typically
occurs within twenty-four to forty-eight hours.
(Pl.’s Opp. at
18; Trial Tr. (Manetti) 418:18-419:3 (testifying that symptoms of
withdrawal usually occur within twenty-four to forty-eight hours
and that Ryan committed suicide within one to three days of when
Dr. Manetti believed he last used heroin).) Therefore, she argues,
because Dr. Manetti followed Armor’s urgent referral policy, Ryan
was not monitored during the period between his visit with Dr.
Manetti and his death, a time period which coincided with when
symptoms of withdrawal typically become apparent.
(Pl.’s Opp. at
Viewing the evidence in the light most favorable to
Plaintiff, the Court finds that the evidence at trial failed to
demonstrate a “direct causal link” between Armor’s referral policy
and Ryan’s death.
See Mayo v. Cty. of Albany, No. 07-CV-0823,
2009 WL 935804, at *3 (N.D.N.Y. Apr. 3, 2009), aff’d, 357 F. App’x
339 (2d Cir. 2009) (“[T]he court’s ‘first inquiry . . . is the
question whether there is a direct causal link between a municipal
policy or custom and the constitutional deprivation.’”) (quoting
City of Canton, Ohio v. Harris, 489 U.S. 378, 385, 109 S. Ct. 1197,
1203, 103 L.Ed. 2d 412 (1989) (second alteration in original).
The urgent referral policy--which dictated that an inmate referred
on an urgent basis would be seen within twenty-four hours-effectively set an outside limit on the amount of time an inmate
established a constitutional violation, the policy did not cause
Plaintiff’s theory of the case, which was borne
out by the evidence, was that Dr. Manetti misdiagnosed Ryan, failed
to treat his drug withdrawal, and failed to recognize the risk of
(Trial Tr. (Opening) 24:12-29:7, 30:19-32:21; Trial Tr.
(Closing) 1076:11-1080:10, 1089:20-1095:25, 1097:1-1101:11.)
overwhelming amount of the evidence at trial focused on Dr.
Manetti’s assessment and his departures from the standard of care,
none of which were the result of any policy set by Armor.
e.g., Trial Tr. (Cohen) 675:19-677:6, 682:8-683:3, 698:5-699:1,
Plaintiff argues that the policy
caused Ryan’s death because if Ryan had been monitored immediately,
instead of being sent back to his cell, he would not have committed
(Pl.’s Opp. at 18.)
However, Ryan was not monitored
immediately because Dr. Manetti found it to be unnecessary based
withdrawal at that time--not because Armor’s policy dictated that
he should not be monitored.6
That Dr. Manetti chose to refer Ryan
to the medical department (and as a result, Ryan would be seen
within twenty-four hours) does not show that the cause of Ryan’s
death was the policy.
Further, if Dr. Manetti failed to recognize
that Ryan was experiencing withdrawal and needed treatment, that
deficient assessment was not “undertaken pursuant to an official
(See March 2016 Order at 20.)
Therefore, assuming that
the evidence established a constitutional violation, no reasonable
Plaintiff acknowledges this in her opposition brief. (See
Pl.’s Opp. at 9 (“As a result of Dr. Manetti’s actions,
Bartholomew was not being monitored for the signs of heroin
withdrawal for those critical six hours . . . between seeing Dr.
Manetti and Bartholomew’s suicide.”) (emphasis added).)
Additionally, to the extent that monitoring was arguably delayed
as a result of Dr. Manetti’s failure to forward the urgent
referral form to the medical department until an hour and a half
after his visit with Ryan, that delay is attributable solely to
Dr. Manetti and was also not the result of any policy
promulgated by Armor. (See Trial Tr. (Manette) 350:21-351:10.)
juror could find that Armor’s referral policy was the cause of
4. Punitive Damages Award
In light of the Court’s determination that the evidence
Plaintiff is not entitled to a punitive damages award.
in the interest of completeness, the Court addresses whether,
assuming that Plaintiff had proven her claim, the conduct warranted
an award of punitive damages.
The Armor Defendants argue that the punitive damages
award should be set aside because “the record is simply devoid of
any evidence that Armor acted with callous indifference.”
Br. at 15.) Plaintiff responds that there is “testimony that Armor
monitoring that endangered . . . Ryan’s life unnecessarily.”
(Pl.’s Opp. at 19.)
She argues that Armor chose not to be provide
adequate care for Ryan “by relying on its ‘protocol’ of denying
Additionally, she contends that, based on the evidence, the jury
was entitled to infer that Armor intentionally ignored Ryan’s
(Pl.’s Opp. at 21.)
See supra note 7.
“In a § 1983 suit, a jury may award punitive damages if
‘the defendant’s conduct is shown to be motivated by evil motive
or intent,’ or if the defendant’s conduct ‘involves reckless or
Amid v. Chase, --- F. App’x ----, 2017 WL 5624243, at
*5 (2d Cir. 2017) (quoting Smith v. Wade, 461 U.S. 30, 56, 103 S.
Ct. 1625, 1640, 75 L. Ed. 2d. 632 (1983)).
The standard requires,
consciousness of a risk of injury or illegality[,] and a criminal
indifference to civil obligations.’”
Amid, 2017 WL 5624243, at *5
(quoting Kolstad v. Am. Dental Ass’n, 527 U.S. 526, 536, 119 S.
Ct. 2118, 2125, 144 L. Ed. 2d 494 (1999)) (alteration in original).
The Court agrees with the Armor Defendants that the
punitive damages award must be set aside.
Assuming for purposes
of this analysis that Dr. Manetti acted in an objectively reckless
manner, there is no evidence that he was “motivated by evil motive
or intent” or acted with “reckless or callous indifference.” Amid,
2017 WL 5624243, at *5 (internal quotation marks and citation
As discussed above, there is evidence, including the
testimony of Dr. Cohen, that Dr. Manetti may have misdiagnosed
Ryan or instituted a treatment and monitoring plan that constituted
a departure from the standard of care.
(See Trial Tr. (Cohen)
703:11.) While Plaintiff repeatedly cites to Dr. Cohen’s testimony
to argue that the punitive damages award should stand, that
testimony, standing alone, does not demonstrate that Dr. Manetti
was reckless or callously indifferent to Ryan’s rights or was aware
of the risk to Ryan and disregarded it.
Plaintiff’s characterizations of the evidence are not supported by
Plaintiff asserts that “delaying . . . care by 24-
hours was a severe departure” from the standard of care and that
Armor “chose” not to treat Ryan by relying on its policy of
“denying immediate monitoring for 24-hours.”
(Pl.’s Opp. at 20-
However, there was no evidence that Armor delayed care for
twenty-four hours; Dr. Manetti, based on his assessment, referred
Ryan to the medical department on an urgent basis, which meant
that Ryan would be seen within twenty-four hours.
The implication that Ryan was subject to
a twenty-four-hour waiting period or its equivalent--particularly
if he began exhibiting symptoms--is inaccurate.
The record is
also devoid of evidence that Armor “chose” not to treat Ryan by
denying him immediate monitoring. (See Pl.’s Opp. at 21.) Rather,
Dr. Manetti determined the course of treatment and decided that
immediate monitoring was not necessary based on his observations.
Finally, Plaintiff’s contention that Dr. Manetti knew that an
urgent referral “would delay . . . care for at least 24-hours” is
not supported by the record.
(See Pl.’s Opp. at 22.)
Dr. Manetti testified that an inmate referred on an urgent basis
would be assessed within twenty-four hours, and in practice,
usually by the end of the day on which the referral was made.
(Trial Tr. (Manetti) 393:22-394:2.)
As detailed above, no reasonable juror could find that
Dr. Manetti acted with a sufficiently culpable state of mind or
that Ryan’s constitutional rights were violated pursuant to an
Armor policy or custom.
As a result, Armor’s motion for judgment
as a matter of law is GRANTED, and the compensatory damages award
for the deliberate indifference claim is VACATED.
Court finds that no reasonable juror could conclude that Dr.
Manetti acted with the requisite state of mind to support a
punitive damages award.
Thus, the punitive damages award is
The Armor Defendants’ Motion for a New Trial8
In the alternative, Armor moves for a new trial pursuant
to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 59(a)(A).
A. Legal Standard
A district court may grant a new trial under Federal
Rule of Civil Procedure 59 when the “court is ‘convinced that the
Under Federal Rule of
required to address the
despite its ruling that
judgment as a matter of
R. CIV. P. 50(c)(1).
Civil Procedure 50(c), the Court is
Armor Defendants’ motion for a new trial
the Armor Defendants are entitled to
law on the Section 1983 claim. See FED.
jury has reached a seriously erroneous result or that the verdict
is a miscarriage of justice.’”
Kogut v. Cty. of Nassau, Nos. 06-
CV-6695, 06-CV-6720, 2013 WL 3820826, at *2 (E.D.N.Y. July 22,
2013) (quoting Tesser v. Bd. of Educ. of City Sch. Dist. of City
of N.Y., 190 F. Supp. 2d 430, 440 (E.D.N.Y. 2002)).
On a Rule 59
motion, the district court is permitted to “weigh the evidence”
and, unlike a motion under Rule 50, “need not view the evidence in
the light most favorable to the verdict winner.”
Raedle v. Credit
Agricole Indosuez, 670 F.3d 411, 418 (2d Cir. 2012).
this Circuit have characterized the Rule 59(a) standard as “‘less
stringent’” than the standard for granting judgment as a matter of
law under Rule 50, because, among other reasons, the district court
may grant a new trial “‘even if there is substantial evidence
supporting the jury’s verdict.’”
Tatum v. Jackson, 668 F. Supp.
2d 584, 598 (S.D.N.Y. 2009) (quoting Manley v. AmBase Corp., 337
F.3d 237, 244 (2d Cir. 2003)).
1. Compensatory Damages Award
Because the jury found for Plaintiff on the negligence
(“Question 6”) on the Verdict Sheet.
(See Verdict Sheet at 6-7.)
directed to “state the amount of damages awarded . . . for
Decedent’s Pain and Suffering,” and the jury wrote $370,000.00.
(Verdict Sheet at 6.)
Under Question 6(D), the jury apportioned
the fault as follows: 25% to the County of Nassau, 55% to Armor,
and 20% to Ryan.9
(Verdict Sheet at 7.)
Under Question 6(E),
pertaining to the Section 1983 claim, the jury was instructed to
“state the amount of damages awarded” and cautioned that “[i]f you
awarded damages for Decedent’s pain and suffering in Question 6(A),
you may only award that amount once.”
(emphasis in original).)
(Verdict Sheet at 7
The jury wrote $520,000 in response to
(Verdict Sheet at 7.)
seriously erroneous because the jury’s compensatory damages awards
Based on several New York cases, the Court adapted New York
Pattern Jury Instruction 2:36 regarding comparative negligence.
See Padula v. State of N.Y., 48 N.Y.2d 366, 373, 398 N.E.2d 548,
422 N.Y.S.2d 366 (1979) (“[I]n relation to persons in the
custody of the State for treatment of a drug problem,
contributory (or comparative) negligence should
turn . . . on . . . whether based on the entire testimony
presented (including objective behavioral evidence, claimant’s
subjective testimony and the opinions of experts), the trier of
fact concludes that the injured person was able to control his
actions.”); Mochen v. State of N.Y., 43 A.D.2d 484, 487, 352
N.Y.S.2d 290 (4th Dep’t 1974) (discussing that in the context of
mental illness, “a plaintiff should not be held to any greater
degree of care for his own safety than that which he is capable
of exercising”); Arias v. State of N.Y., 195 Misc. 2d 64, 73,
755 N.Y.S. 2d 223 (N.Y. Ct. Cl. 2003) (“The issue of
contributory negligence in a suicide case is whether based upon
the entire testimony presented, the trier of facts concludes the
injured person was able to control his actions.”). See also
Gallo v. 800 Second Operating, Inc., 300 A.D.2d 537, 538, 752
N.Y.S.2d 394 (2d Dep’t 2002) (“A comparative negligence
instruction should be given where there is any valid line of
reasoning which could possibly lead rational individuals to
conclude that the plaintiff was also at fault.”).
for pain and suffering are duplicative.
(Armor Br. at 18-22.)
Specifically, they argue that because the two causes of action-negligence and Section 1983--arose from the same facts and sought
identical relief, the compensatory damages awards constitute a
(Armor Br. at 18.)
They claim that the only
explanation for the verdict is that the jury did not follow the
Court’s instructions on the Verdict Sheet, and as a result, they
are entitled to a new trial.
(Armor Br. at 19.)
they argue that if the Court allows the $890,000 aggregate award
to stand, the award must be reduced as it is “clearly excessive.”
(Armor Br. at 20.)
For support, they point to several cases in
which “the interval between injury and death [was] relatively
short” and argue that those cases, which resulted in damages awards
between $300,000 and $500,000, indicate that an award of $890,000
is outside the permissible range.
(Armor Br. at 20-21.)
Plaintiff argues that the two pain and suffering awards
are not duplicative because the jury found that Ryan suffered two
Plaintiff contends that there were two types of pain and suffering-
Plaintiff makes a passing reference to Federal Rule of Civil
Procedure 51, arguing that “Armor’s initial consent to the
charge and verdict sheet, together with the withdrawal of the
question following the verdict[ ] removes this issue from postverdict review.” (Pl.’s Opp. at 24.) Without the benefit of
fully developed arguments on this issue, the Court declines to
-the pain and suffering associated with withdrawal and the pain
and suffering Ryan experienced during the hanging.
(Pl.’s Opp. at
Plaintiff points out that the jury was warned in both the
damages should not be awarded “‘more than once for the same
(Pl.’s Opp. at 22 (quoting Trial Tr. 1183:2-4).)
in Plaintiff’s view, the jury awarded one amount as damages for
the pain and suffering from the withdrawal and a different amount
as damages for the pain and suffering resulting from the hanging.
Plaintiff avers that the idea of separate injuries was discussed
in her closing statement because “Plaintiff’s counsel bifurcated
the pain and suffering from drug withdrawal from the pain and
suffering of death by hanging.”
(Pl.’s Opp. at 24.)
to the Armor Defendants’ argument that the compensatory damages,
if allowed to stand, must be reduced, Plaintiff contends that the
aggregate amount of $890,000 is not excessive in light of the fact
that it compensated Plaintiff for two distinct injuries.
Opp. at 25-26.)
She also claims that the cases cited by the Armor
Defendants do not support reducing the compensatory damages award.
(Pl.’s Opp. at 25-27.)
Plaintiff maintains that the pain and suffering awards are for
different injuries, “[she] fails to explain how they are different
and why [s]he attributes particular pain and suffering to one claim
and other pain and suffering to another.”
(Armor Reply at 5.)
Further, they claim that “Plaintiff never . . . presented the jury
with any basis to differentiate between components of Ryan’s pain
and suffering,” and in the closing argument, requested one amount
for Ryan’s pain and suffering.
(Armor Reply at 5.)
Armor Defendants argue that there is no support in the record for
Plaintiff’s contention that the jury awarded damages for the sixhour period that Ryan allegedly experienced withdrawal, because
“there was absolutely no discussion of the symptoms that Ryan
actually experienced or the time frame for the onset of these
symptoms or how they purportedly progressed.”
(Armor Reply at 8.)
It is well-established that when awarding compensatory
damages, “an injury can be compensated only once”; in other words,
“[i]f two causes of action provide a legal theory for compensating
one injury, only one recovery may be obtained.”
Bender v. City of
N.Y., 78 F.3d 787, 793 (2d Cir. 1996); see also Conway v. Icahn &
Co., Inc., 16 F.3d 504, 511 (2d Cir. 1994) (“Where a plaintiff
seeks recovery for the same damages under different legal theories,
only a single recovery is allowed.”). Moreover, additional damages
may be awarded only when “the second cause of action entitles the
plaintiff to recover for an injury separate from the injury
compensated by the award for the first cause of action, or at least
for an additional component of injury not covered by the first
cause of action.”
Bender, 78 F.3d at 793.
When the district court
must determine whether damages awards are duplicative, “[t]here is
a presumption that a jury’s award is valid,” and if there is a
possibility that the awards are not duplicative, the court may
sustain the jury’s verdict.
E.J. Brooks Co. v. Cambridge Sec.
Seals, No. 12-CV-2937, 2015 WL 9704079, at *11 (S.D.N.Y. Dec. 23,
2015) (internal quotation marks and citation omitted) (alteration
The defendant cannot overcome that presumption by
simply alleging that the jury “allocated the damages under two
different causes of action.”
Gentile v. Cty. of Suffolk, 926 F.2d
142, 154 (2d Cir. 1991) (discussing the allocation of damages
between claims under federal and state law).
The Court concludes that, because the awards are likely
duplicative, a new trial is necessary.
First, both the negligence and the Section 1983 claim
arose from the same facts and there is no indication that Plaintiff
was seeking damages for separate injuries.
On the contrary,
Plaintiff sought damages only for Ryan’s pain and suffering. (See,
e.g., Trial Tr. 1060:3-8 (agreeing that Plaintiff was not seeking
pecuniary damages); Trial Tr. (Manion) 573:8-578:7; Am. Compl. at
24 (praying for a judgment “[a]warding compensatory damages to
Plaintiff for past and future damages, including but not limited
to pain and suffering and permanent personal injuries sustained by
The jury was presented with the same
evidence on both theories and was asked to determine, as to Dr.
Manetti and Armor, whether the conduct at issue arose to the level
of a constitutional violation, and/or constituted negligence.
other words, the two theories were alternate theories of liability,
and when a plaintiff pursues alternate theories, “only a single
recovery is allowed.”
Conway, 16 F.3d at 511.11
Second, there is no support in the record for Plaintiff’s
argument that the awards were compensation for distinct injuries.
As an initial matter, Plaintiff fails to explain which injury is
attributable to which legal theory.
Additionally, there was no
evidence presented at trial regarding the nature of Ryan’s alleged
pain and suffering due to withdrawal.
There was no testimony
experienced before his death. Dr. Cohen testified that he believed
that Ryan was in active withdrawal when he saw Dr. Manetti, but
there was no testimony from any witnesses who encountered Ryan at
NCCC that he was in any pain, distress, or discomfort. (See, e.g.,
Trial Tr. (Brown) 448:21-449:7; Trial Tr. (Killeen) 533:12-534:4;
Trial Tr. (Vogt) 486:18-487:6.)
(See also Trial Tr. (Charge) 1183:2-10 (“If you find that the
plaintiff is entitled to recovery, I caution that you that
should not award compensatory damages more than once for the
same injury. If a plaintiff were to prevail on two claims and
establish a one dollar injury on each claim, he’s entitled to be
made whole again, not to recover more than he lost. Of course,
if different injuries are attributed to the separate claims,
then you must compensate him fully for all of the injuries.”).)
As Armor points out, in the summation, Plaintiff asked
for one sum to compensate her for Ryan’s pain and suffering and
did not urge the jury to award different amounts under each theory.
(See Trial Tr. 1111:11-17 (“And I submit to you the pain and
suffering Bart Ryan endured during those six hours in his cell and
for that minute and a half to two minutes when he hung himself,
fair and reasonable compensation is $3 million for that pain and
suffering, the pain and suffering that caused someone to want to
end their own life.”). Plaintiff’s assertion that she “bifurcated”
the pain and suffering--based solely on one sentence in the
summation--cannot support the dual pain and suffering awards. (See
Trial Tr. 1109:12-16 (“Now, but not only does Bart Ryan--is that
experienced leading to the decision to end the suffering by
thinking that the only way out is for me to commit suicide.”).
Third, there is no indication that the jury intended to
award one sum but divided that sum equally between the two causes
of action. See Gentile, 926 F.2d at 154 (affirming denial of posttrial motion when jury awarded $75,000 in damages on state law
claim and $75,000 in damages on federal claim because it was
“conceivable that the jury found that each plaintiff suffered
$150,000 worth of discrete, unduplicated injuries . . . and merely
split the total amount equally between the state and federal causes
of action” based in part on polling of jury after verdict); Bender,
78 F.3d at 794 (ordering a new trial or remittitur, in part because
there was no indication that “the jury intended to award the
Here, the two awards total $890,000.
jury intended to award $890,000 and divided the award between the
two claims, presumably they would have awarded $445,000 for the
negligence claim and $445,000 for the Section 1983 claim. In light
of this ambiguity, and the lack of clarity regarding the jury’s
intent, the Court will not assume that they intended to award the
aggregate amount of $890,000.
Because the Armor Defendants sought a new trial in the
determination on the Rule 50 motion is reversed, a new trial is
warranted. See FED. R. CIV. P. 50(c). The parties have not provided
struggles to formulate one.
Additionally, regardless of the
outcome of any future appeal, the Court exercises its discretion
and orders a new trial on the negligence claim only.
Court granted the Armor Defendants judgment as a matter of law on
the Section 1983 claim, only the $370,000 award for negligence
against the County and the Armor Defendants remains.
discussed, it is unclear how or if the jury allocated damages for
pain and suffering between the two causes of action or if they
intended to award the aggregate amount.
For these reasons, the
Court cannot allow the $370,000 award to stand, and the award is
2. Punitive Damages Award
Having found that a new trial is necessary due to the
duplicative pain and suffering awards, the Court will briefly
address the remaining ground for a new trial.
The Armor Defendants argue that if the Court finds that
the evidence supports an award of punitive damages, the Court
should reduce the award because the $7,000,000 punitive damages
award “clearly shocks the conscience.”
(Armor Br. at 22.)
on a collection of cases from this Circuit and others, the Armor
Defendants contend that a punitive damages award of, at most,
between $100,000 and $200,000 would be appropriate in this case.
(Armor Br. at 24.)
Plaintiff responds that the Court should not disturb the
jury’s punitive damages award because the award does not run afoul
of due process and the conduct constituted “a callous prioritizing
of self-interest and profit over the responsibility to others for
whom Armor was charged.”
(Pl.’s Opp. at 26-27.)
distinguishes the cases cited by the Armor Defendants and reasons
that cases involving conduct resulting in death are the appropriate
(Pl.’s Opp. at 27.)
As discussed, the undersigned does not believe that an
award of punitive damages is warranted in this case.
that the Court of Appeals disagrees with that conclusion, the Court
punitive damages award, a new trial is necessary.
The award “is
so high as to shock the judicial conscience and constitute a denial
DiSorbo v. Hoy, 343 F.3d 172, 186 (2d Cir. 2003)
(internal quotation marks and citation omitted).
Moreover, it is
clearly excessive under the criteria identified by the Supreme
Court in BMW of North America v. Gore, 517 U.S. 559, 574-75, 116
S. Ct. 1589, 134 L. Ed. 2d 809 (1996).
In Gore, the Supreme Court
discussed “three guideposts for determining whether a punitive
damages award is excessive: (1) the degree of reprehensibility;
(2) the disparity between the harm or potential harm and the
punitive damages award; and (3) the difference between the remedy
and the civil penalties authorized or imposed in comparable cases.”
DiSorbo, 343 F.3d at 186 (citing Gore, 517 U.S. at 574-75, 116 S.
Ct. 1589, 1598-99, 134 L. Ed. 2d 809) (internal quotation marks
omitted); see also Payne v. Jones, 711 F.3d 85, 101 (2d Cir. 2013).
As to the first factor, there is no evidence of the aggravating
circumstances that could support a substantial punitive damages
“presented a threat of violence,” that “defendant acted with malice
as opposed to mere negligence” or that “defendant . . . engaged in
repeated instances of misconduct.”
DiSorbo, 343 F.3d at 186.
Under the second factor, “[c]ourts often consider the ratio of the
punitive damages award to the compensatory award, and consider
whether that ratio is reasonable in the circumstances of the case.”
Payne, 711 F.3d at 102.
However, the Supreme Court and the Second
Circuit have declined to issue any “bright-line test, as the
propriety of the ratio can vary enormously with the particular
facts of the case.”
In light of the facts of this case, the
Court finds the disparity between the compensatory damages award
and the punitive damages award (based on the aggregate amount of
$890,000 in compensatory damages) to be concerning.
turning to the third factor, the punitive damages award exceeds
awards in cases involving intentional and violent conduct.
Mathie v. Fries, 121 F.3d 808, 817 (reducing $500,000 punitive
damages award to $200,000 in case involving a sexual assault of
inmate by sergeant); King v. Verdone, No. 97-CV-1487, 1999 WL
33432177, at *4-5 (D. Conn. Sept. 30, 1999) (reducing $2,000,000
punitive damages award to $300,000 in excessive force case in which
defendants acted violently and “with intentional malice”).
Court recognizes that the conduct at issue in Mathie and King
likely resulted in physical and psychological injuries, and not
death, but even cases where deliberate indifference led to the
death of an inmate have resulted in substantially lower punitive
See Morris v. Bland, 666 F. App’x 233, 237, 24041
41 (4th Cir. 2016) (declining to reduce $2,450,000 punitive damages
award in case where inmate was denied medical care and died).
Therefore, the punitive damages award is excessive, and assuming
that one was warranted on these facts, a new trial is necessary.
For the foregoing reasons, the Armor Defendants’ motion
for judgment as a matter of law, or in the alternative, for a new
trial (Docket Entry 115) is GRANTED.
The Court GRANTS the Armor
deliberate indifference claim and VACATES the jury’s compensatory
damages award of $520,000 and punitive damages award of $7,000,000
on that claim.
Additionally, the Court finds that a new trial is
required on the negligence claim and VACATES the jury’s award of
$370,000 in compensatory damages for negligence.
The parties will
be contacted regarding the scheduling of a new trial.
/s/ JOANNA SEYBERT______
Joanna Seybert, U.S.D.J.
10 , 2018
Central Islip, New York
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