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Williams v. District of Columbia

January 3, 2008


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Rosemary M. Collyer United States District Judge


Plaintiff Maurice Williams filed this action under the Eighth Amendment, pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, seeking damages related to his alleged exposure to second-hand smoke while he was confined at the District of Columbia Department of Corrections Central Detention Facility ("D.C. Jail").*fn1 Defendants moved for summary judgment, Mr. Williams opposed, and the Court held a hearing on December 3, 2007. After careful consideration, the Court finds that Mr. Williams lacks standing to bring this action. Therefore, the Court will dismiss for lack of jurisdiction.


In his Amended Complaint, Mr. Williams alleges that between 2001 and 2003, during a twelve and one-half month period while he was incarcerated at the D.C. Jail,*fn2 he was assigned to Southwest Unit 2. Am. Compl. ¶ 3. He asserts that smoking was permitted in every cellblock to which he was assigned and that every cell mate he had was a chain smoker. Pl.'s Opp., Ex. 3 at 78, 83-84, & 86-87. According to Mr. Williams, a significant number of the prisoners at the D.C. Jail smoked tobacco, as did members of the Jail staff. Id. at 86-86; Pl.'s Opp., Ex. 10 at 63. The Jail had a poor ventilation system with very little or any air movement in the cells, and in Mr. Williams's unit there were no windows or doors that could be opened to remove the tobacco smoke. Am. Compl. ¶ 5; Pl.'s Opp., Ex. 7 at 11-12; Pl.'s Opp., Ex. 8 at 13-15. In addition, his cellmate for some period smoked five packs of cigarettes a day and kept a homemade toilet paper wick burning at all times for the purpose of lighting cigarettes. Am. Compl. ¶ 5. Due to the constant exposure to tobacco smoke, Mr. Williams experienced nausea and nosebleeds. Id. Mr. Williams alleges that his health is at great risk due to the environmental tobacco smoke ("ETS"). While the D.C. Department of Corrections ("DOC") had adopted a non-smoking policy at the Jail in May 1992, see Defs.' Mem., Ex. 1, Mr. Williams contends that it was not enforced.

Mr. Williams alleges that he filed a number of grievances about the smoking problem with Jail personnel, but they made no effort to provide a nonsmoking environment, establish a designated smoking area, or otherwise resolve the issue. Pl.'s Opp., Ex. 3 at 121-32. Jail officials denied Mr. Williams's request to be transferred to a non-smoking block. Id. at 123-30. The DOC's records indicate that Mr. Williams never filed a grievance complaining of second-hand smoke. Defs.' Mem., Ex. 6; Pl.'s Opp., Ex. 3 at 130-135. Mr. Williams alleges that there are no records of his smoking grievances because they were destroyed by staff at the Jail. Pl.'s Opp., Ex. 3 at 130.

Mr. Williams contends that his health is at great risk due to ETS. In support of his claim, he relies on an analysis of the D.C. Jail's conditions by James L. Repace, a biophysicist and secondhand smoke consultant specializing in issues of indoor air pollution from ETS. Pl.'s Opp, Ex. 6. Mr. Repace previously has been qualified as an expert in a number of cases related to ETS. Id.

Mr. Repace calculated the "uniformly diluted respirable particle air pollution concentration from secondhand smoke (SHS- RSP)" present in the D.C. Jail during the time of Mr. Williams's incarceration, using a four-month period from May 2, 2002 to August 2, 2002 as a "representative sample of conditions in the prison throughout the period of plaintiffs' incarceration." Pl.'s Opp., Ex. 5 at 3, 6. Mr. Repace's analysis has two main types of measurement, an air exchange rate and smoker density. Mr. Repace based the air exchange rate on the fact that smoking was permitted in 16 blocks of the Jail, that the Jail lacked documentation that the air-conditioning system was monitored, and that some cells had low or no air flow. Id. at 4-5. Mr. Repace calculated the smoker density using the dimensions of the Jail, the number of inmates, the number of cigarettes and cigars sold by the Jail canteen in 2002, the rate of ventilation, and an estimate of the number of smokers among the inmate population, extrapolated from other jail studies. Id. He concluded that the level of ETS to which Mr. Williams was exposed was in the "Very Hazardous" range of the Federal Air Quality Index. Id. at 7 & 18. Furthermore, Mr. Repace opines that Mr. Williams's exposure to second-hand smoke has increased his risk of developing heart disease, lung cancer, asthma, and nasal sinus cancer:

6. The calculated dose of SHS [second-hand smoke] to which the plaintiffs'*fn3 were exposed in the DC Jail was 38 times higher than for adult males in U.S. Population as recently as 2002. The plaintiffs' calculated dose exceeds the 95th percentile of adult male SHS exposure in 2001-2002.

7. The plaintiffs' calculated serum cotinine level reflects a SHS exposure which has increased their risk of developing heart disease by a calculated 55% as a result of their exposure to SHS in the DC Jail for a 1 year period.

8. The SHS exposure of the plaintiffs is 38 times the lung cancer risk based on the SHS exposure level for the average adult U.S. male for 1 year's exposure. This increase in risk will decline very slowly, taking 40 years to return to normal.

9. The plaintiffs have been put at risk for both nasal sinus cancer and asthma induction, although the amount is difficult to quantify.

10. These conclusions are reached to [sic] within a reasonable degree of scientific certainty.

Id. at 18. Mr. Williams claims that Defendants' conduct constituted deliberate indifference to the risk to his health. Am. Compl. ¶ 7.

Mr. Williams brought this suit against the District of Columbia and against the following former employees of the DOC, in their individual capacities: Odie Washington, Director of the DOC; James Anthony, Assistant Director of the DOC; Marvin L. Brown, Deputy Director for Operations at the D.C. Jail; and Judy Lyons, Deputy Warden for Support Services at the D.C. Jail. Mr. Williams seeks compensatory and punitive damages, claiming that his Eighth Amendment rights were violated when Defendants, with deliberate indifference, exposed him to levels of ETS that posed an unreasonable risk of serious damage to his future health.*fn4 Defendants have filed a motion for summary judgment and Mr. Williams opposes. The Court held a hearing on this matter on ...

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