United States District Court, D. Massachusetts
ORDER AND MEMORANDUM ON DEFENDANTS' MOTIONS TO
DISMISS (DOCKET NOS. 82)
TIMOTHY S. HILLMAN DISTRICT JUDGE.
Bourassa (“Plaintiff”) filed this action against
David R. Tower (“Mr. Tower”), Ashlee Armey
(“Ms. Armey”), Kellen F. Joyce (“Ms.
Joyce”), and Jason Hayden (“Mr. Hayden”)
(collectively, “Defendants”), among others,
alleging cruel and unusual punishment in violation of the
Eighth Amendment, violations of M.G.L. c. 149 § 185,
intentional infliction of emotional distress, failure to
protect, and gross and criminal negligence. (Docket No. 1).
After screening Plaintiff's complaint, this Court allowed
Plaintiff to proceed on his cruel and unusual punishment,
intentional infliction of emotional distress, and failure to
protect claims against Defendants in their individual
capacities. (Docket No. 13). Defendants now move to dismiss
these claims. (Docket Nos. 82). For the following reasons,
the Court grants in part and
denies in part the motion.
is an incarcerated inmate who worked for MassCor Optical
Industries, Inc. (“MassCor”), a vocational and
employment program run by the Massachusetts Department of
Corrections. (Docket No. 1 at 8, 10). On February 19, 2018,
Plaintiff informed Ms. Armey, an instructor at MassCor, that
two inmates, Michael Hill (“Mr. Hill”) and
Timothy Zabek (“Mr. Zabek”), had stolen frames
out of the frame room. (Docket No. 1 at 10). Ms. Joyce, a
MassCor representative, was present during this conversation.
(Docket No. 1 at 10).
February 26, 2018, Mr. Tower, the main supervisor at MassCor,
fired Plaintiff. (Docket No. 1 at 11). That same day,
officers searched the cells of Mr. Hill and Mr. Zabek but did
not find any stolen frames. (Docket No. 1 at 11). Ms. Armey
told Mr. Hill and Mr. Zabek that “the person fired
today, ” i.e., Plaintiff, “was the one who
informed her that they were stealing.” (Docket No. 1 at
11). Mr. Hayden, an Inner Security Parameter Security
Officer, similarly informed Mr. Hill and Mr. Zabek that
Plaintiff “was the one who supplied the information
that caused them to be searched.” (Docket No. 1 at 11).
Mr. Hill and Mr. Zabek threatened Plaintiff for reporting
them and “caus[ed] [him] to live in fear.”
(Docket No. 1 at 11).
filed an informal complaint with the Department of
Corrections on March 6, 2018, alleging that that Ms. Armey
put his life in danger by informing Mr. Hill and Mr. Zabek
about his report. (Docket No. 1-2 at 5). Ms. Armey received a
copy of his complaint and allegedly shared it with Mr. Hill.
(Docket No. 1 at 11). Mr. Hill informed other inmates about
the complaint and stated that Plaintiff “was a rat and
needs to be dealt with.” (Docket No. 1 at 12). After
the Department of Corrections denied his informal complaint,
Plaintiff filed a formal grievance stating that he had
received threats as a result of Ms. Armey disclosing his
report and the contents of his informal complaint. (Docket
No. 1-2 at 5). Ms. Armey allegedly shared the formal
grievance with Mr. Hill, who disclosed its contents to the
general prison population, “causing [Plaintiff] to live
in fear.” (Docket No. 1 at 12).
Department of Corrections denied Plaintiff's formal
grievance in July 2018. (Docket No. 1 at 12). He appealed the
denial without success. (Docket No. 1 at 12). Plaintiff then
filed a complaint in this Court. (Docket No. 1). Defendants
moved to dismiss on November 6, 2019. (Docket No. 82).
evaluating a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss, the court must
accept all factual allegations in the complaint as true and
draw all reasonable inferences in the plaintiff's favor.
Langadinos v. American Airlines, Inc., 199 F.3d 68,
69 (1st Cir. 2000). To survive the motion, the complaint must
allege “a plausible entitlement to relief.”
Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 559
(2007). “[A] plaintiff's obligation to provide the
‘grounds' of his ‘entitle[ment] to
relief' requires more than labels and conclusions, and a
formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action
will not do.” Id. at 555. “The relevant
inquiry focuses on the reasonableness of the inference of
liability that the plaintiff is asking the court to draw from
the facts alleged in the complaint.”
Ocasio-Hernandez v. Fortuno-Burset, 640 F.3d 1, 13
(1st Cir. 2011). “[W]here the well-pleaded facts do not
permit the court to infer more than the mere possibility of
misconduct, the complaint has alleged-but it has not
‘show[n]'-that the pleader is entitled to
relief.” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 679
(2009) (quoting Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2)).
Plaintiff appears pro se, the Court construes his
pleadings more favorably than it would those drafted by an
attorney. See Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 94
(2007). Nevertheless, Plaintiff must comply with procedural
and substantive law. See Ahmed v. Rosenblatt, 118
F.3d 886, 890 (1st Cir. 1997).
makes three main allegations against Ms. Armey: (1) He told
Ms. Armey that Mr. Hill and Mr. Zabek were stealing frames
from MassCor's frame room (Docket No. 1 at 11); (2) Ms.
Armey informed Mr. Hill and Mr. Zabek that Plaintiff was the
one who had reported them after their rooms were searched
(Docket No. 1 at 11); and (3) Ms. Armey disclosed the
contents of Plaintiff's informal complaint and formal
grievance to Mr. Hill, who passed that information on to
other inmates, “causing [Plaintiff] to remain living in
fear” (Docket No. 1 at 12).
these allegations favorably, the Court finds that they
suffice to state a claim for cruel and unusual punishment,
intentional infliction of emotional distress, and failure to
protect. Plaintiff alleges that Ms. Armey's
actions-informing Mr. Hill and Mr. Zabek that Plaintiff had
reported them and sharing the details of Plaintiff's
informal complaint and formal grievance with Mr. Hill-caused
him to receive threats from other inmates. Plaintiff also
alleges facts allowing the Court to reasonably infer that Ms.
Armey knew the effect that at least some of her disclosures
would have on Plaintiff's safety when she made them. In
his informal complaint, for example, Plaintiff contends that
Ms. Armey put his life in danger by informing Mr. Hill and
Mr. Zabek about his report. (Docket No. 1-2 at 5). Ms. Armey
received a copy of this complaint, putting her on notice of
the danger to Plaintiff. She nonetheless proceeded to inform
Mr. Hill about its contents. (Docket No. 1 at 12). Similarly,
in his formal grievance, Plaintiff states that he received
threats as a result of Ms. Armey disclosing his report and
the contents of his informal complaint to Mr. Hill and/or Mr.