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Summary Judgment Denied in Part in New York Prisoner Extortion/Beating Suit

On October 28, 2009, a New York federal court denied in part New York City jail officials' motion for summary judgment in a lawsuit brought by a Rikers Island pretrial detainee after guards allegedly ignored his request for help when other prisoners tried to extort commissary items from him and failed to intervene in a fight that resulted in serious injuries.

Jesse Rosen, a pretrial detainee at New York City's Rikers Island jail, informed guards that prisoner Joseph Campbell had stolen commissary food items from him and physically threatened him if he did not provide additional food items on the next commissary day. The guards ignored Rosen's request to be moved to another housing area. Campbell then confronted Rosen and threatened to kill him. Rosen punched Campbell in the face.

According to Rosen, Campbell and several other gang members then beat and kicked him for about five minutes causing him serious injury. He alleges that guard Dennis Hlatky watched the fight and failed to intervene except for calling out "break it up" one time. In federal district court, Rosen filed a civil rights action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 that included several state law claims, alleging that the failure to intervene and inadequate medical care violated his constitutional rights and state law.

Defendants claimed the fight was between only Rosen and Campbell and that Rosen did not see the Hlatky watching the fight until the fight was almost over. They filed a motion for summary judgment claiming qualified immunity, good faith immunity and governmental immunity. Rosen withdrew the § 1983 claims against the city, the constitutional medical indifference claims and all claims against defendants Ballard and Horn. The court held that the dispute issues of material fact precluded the granting of summary judgment on any of the claims except those withdrawn by Rosen. Therefore, the court granted summary judgment on the constitutional medical indifference claims, all claims against Ballard and Horn, and the constitutional municipal liability claims against the City. The court denied summary judgment on negligence claims against the City and Hlatky, and denied defendants' claims of qualified immunity and state law immunity. A trial preparation conference was ordered.

See: Rosen v. City of New York, U.S.D.C-S.D. NY, No. 1:07-cv-06018-VM-THK.

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Related legal case

Rosen v. City of New York