United States District Court, D. Rhode Island
PAUL R. HALLAM II, Plaintiff,
Ashbel T. WALL, Director of Rhode Island Department of Corrections; JUSTIN AMARAL, Lieutenant at Rhode Island Department of Corrections; and JEFFERY ACETO, Warden at Rhode Island Department of Corrections, Defendants.
WILLIAM E. SMITH CHIEF JUDGE.
the Court is Defendants' Motion to Dismiss Amended
Complaint (ECF No. 19) ("Defendants' Motion"),
to which Plaintiff filed an objection (ECF No. 34). For the
following reasons, Defendants' Motion is denied.
case arises out of a disciplinary incident which occurred
while Plaintiff was incarcerated at the Adult Correctional
Institution ("ACI"). According to Plaintiff, on
April 5, 2017, Defendant Amaral, a corrections officer,
acting without provocation or justification, doused Plaintiff
with an entire can of industrial-grade pepper spray and then
placed him into solitary confinement, without giving
Plaintiff an opportunity to decontaminate. (Am. Compl.
¶¶ 13-16, ECF No. 16.) To justify this abusive
behavior, Defendant Amaral then "booked" Plaintiff
for two infractions, both of which were subsequently
dismissed as unfounded. (Id. ¶¶ 17-18.)
According to Plaintiff, Defendant Amaral had no legitimate
basis for using pepper spray against him and his decision to
"empty the entire canister and drench [Plaintiff] in
caustic chemicals was purely sadistic." (Id.
¶ 19.) Plaintiff also claims that he complained
repeatedly to Rhode Island Department of Corrections
("RIDOC") staff about his need to receive medical
attention for the deleterious effects of the pepper spray,
but that his "medical needs were decidedly ignored by
medical staff at the facility." (Id. ¶
20.) Plaintiff alleges that RIDOCs willful ignorance of his
condition caused him to be rushed to Rhode Island Hospital,
where he received emergency surgery and an extended stay in
the Intensive Care Unit. (Id. ¶¶ 21-22.)
Complaint includes three counts. Count I is brought under 42
U.S.C. § 1983 and alleges that Defendant Amaral used
excessive force in violation of Plaintiff s Eighth Amendment
rights when he doused Plaintiff in pepper spray.
(Id. ¶¶ 23-24.) Count II is also brought
under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and claims that Plaintiff's
detention in solitary confinement violated his due process
rights under the Fourteenth Amendment. (Id. ¶
25.) Count III alleges that Defendant Amaral's actions
amounted to assault and battery causing severe and lasting
physical injuries and mental anguish. (Id.
have moved to dismiss Count II of the Complaint, alleging that
Plaintiff's placement in solitary confinement does not
constitute an "atypical and significant hardship"
and, therefore, does not amount to a violation of his due
process rights. (Defs.' Mot. 7 (citing Sandin v.
Conner, 515 U.S. 472, 484 (1995)).) In response,
Plaintiff argues that "for the inmate to be framed and
thrown into solitary confinement on a false pretextual basis
with no meaningful opportunity to decontaminate following the
excessive and unwarranted dousing in caustic chemicals"
must clearly constitute an "atypical hardship" in
that it is a "dramatic departure from ordinary prison
life, as required under Sandin." (Pl.'s
Mem. in Supp. of Obj. 2-3, ECF No. 34.)
ruling on a motion to dismiss, the Court must "accept
the well-pleaded facts as true, viewing factual allegations
in the light most favorable to the plaintiff."
Rederford v. U.S. Airways, Inc., 589 F.3d 30, 35
(1st Cir. 2009) . "To survive a motion to dismiss, a
complaint must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as
true, to 'state a claim to relief that is plausible on
its face.' ... A claim has facial plausibility when the
plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to
draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable
for the misconduct alleged." Ashcroft v. Iqbal,
556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (quoting Bell Atlantic Corp. v.
Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 556, 570 (2007)).
context of inmates' rights, the Due Process Clause will
not be implicated unless a Complaint plausibly alleges the
loss of a liberty interest based on the "imposition of]
[an] atypical and significant hardship on the inmate in
relation to the ordinary incidents of prison life."
Sandin, 515 U.S. at 484.
Supreme Court has held that placement in disciplinary
segregation, without more, is not sufficient to implicate a
liberty interest. See Id. at 485; see also Pona
v. Weeden, C.A. No. 16-612S, 2017 WL 3279012, at *1
(D.R.I. June 29, 2017), Report and Recommendation adopted,
C.A. No. 16-612 S, 2017 WL 3278874 (D.R.I. Aug. 1, 2017).
This is so because "[d]iscipline by prison officials in
response to a wide range of misconduct falls within the
expected perimeters of the sentence imposed by a court of
law." Sandin, 515 U.S. at 485. As such,
disciplinary segregation only implicates a liberty interest
if placement lasts for an extremely long time, see
Arauz v. Bell, 307 Fed.Appx. 923, 930 (6th Cir.
2009) (inmate placed in segregation for 693 days), or if the
conditions of segregated confinement present a "dramatic
departure from the basic conditions of [the inmate's]
sentence," see Wilkinson v. Austin, 545 U.S.
209, 222 (2005) (quoting Sandin, 515 U.S. at 485);
see also Harden-Bey v. Rutter, 524 F.3d 789, 792
(6th Cir. 2008) ("In deciding whether changes to an
inmate's conditions of confinement implicate a cognizable
liberty interest, both Sandin and
[Wilkinson] considered the nature of the
more-restrictive confinement and its duration in
relation to prison norms and to the terms of the
individual's sentence."); Perkins v. Kansas
Dept. of Corr., 165 F.3d 803, 809 (10th Cir. 1999)
(reversing a district court's dismissal of a
plaintiff's due process claim, despite the lack of
evidence regarding the duration of plaintiff's detention
in segregation, because the plaintiff alleged sufficient
facts that the conditions of his confinement were extreme and
unusual as compared with other inmates). Additionally, the
shorter the inmate's detention in solitary confinement,
the more relevant the conditions of confinement become.
See Iqbal v. Hasty, 490 F.3d 143, 161 (2d Cir. 2007)
("Segregation of longer than 305 days ... is
sufficiently atypical to require procedural due process
protection . . . [but] [w]hen confinement is of an
intermediate duration . . . 'development of a detailed
record' of the conditions of the confinement relative to
ordinary prison conditions is required.") (quoting
Colon v. Howard, 215 F.3d 227, 232 (2d Cir. 2000) .
example, in Wilkinson, the Court held that placement
at a supermax facility violated the plaintiffs' due
process rights because the conditions of confinement were so
far afield from the inmates standard conditions that they
implicated the inmates due process rights. 545 U.S. at 224.
The conditions of confinement at issue included: the
indefinite duration of placement in a supermax facility, the
prohibition on virtually all human contact, the complete
absence of outdoor recreational time and extremely limited
indoor recreational time, and the fact that placement in
supermax disqualified an otherwise eligible inmate from
parole consideration. Id. The court observed that
"any of these conditions standing alone might not be
sufficient to create a liberty interest, taken together they
impose an atypical and significant hardship within the
correctional context." Id. Assessing all of
these factors together, the court concluded that placement in
supermax constituted a dramatic departure from the
inmates' regular sentences and, therefore, the inmates
"ha[d] a liberty interest in avoiding assignment to
Plaintiff has not provided specific facts indicating how long
his detention in solitary confinement lasted, the Complaint
plausibly alleges that the conditions of Plaintiff's
detention were a "dramatic departure" from ordinary
prison life. Id. at 223; Sandin, 515 U.S.
at 484. First, Plaintiff alleges that he was not permitted to
decontaminate after being placed in solitary confinement,
that he was barred from seeing a doctor for his pepper
spray-related injuries, and that this ultimately forced him
to undergo an emergency surgery and stay for an extended
period of time in the intensive care unit at an off-site
hospital. (Am. Compl. ¶¶ 20-22.) It strains
credulity to imagine that the "ordinary incidents of
prison life" should be understood to include emergency
medical procedures and prolonged in-patient care due to the
disciplinary actions of correctional officers.
Wilkinson, 545 U.S. at 223. Second, Plaintiff
alleges that, prior to his detention in solitary confinement,
he was doused with an excessive amount of pepper spray based
on trumped-up (and ultimately disproved) charges of
misconduct. Because the Supreme Court has noted that all of
the conditions of confinement must be "taken
together" when assessing whether an inmate's due
process rights have been violated, Id. at 224, the
events leading up to Plaintiff's placement in solitary
confinement are necessarily relevant to ...