REDDICK v. POMERANTZ et al
OPINION FILED. Signed by Chief Judge Jerome B. Simandle on 7/9/15. (js)
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE DISTRICT OF NEW JERSEY
HONORABLE JEROME B. SIMANDLE
No. 13-7875 (JBS-JS)
DR. JEFFREY POMERANTZ et al.,
Corlie Reddick, Plaintiff Pro Se
Southern State Correctional Facility
4295 Route 47
P.O. Box 150
Delmont, NJ 08314
SIMANDLE, Chief Judge:
Before the Court is Plaintiff Corlie Reddick’s
(“Plaintiff”), submission of a civil rights complaint pursuant
to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Plaintiff is a convicted and sentenced
state prisoner currently confined at Southern State Correctional
Facility (“SSCF”), Delmont, New Jersey.
By Order dated May 4,
2015, this Court granted Plaintiff's application to proceed in
forma pauperis pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915(a) and ordered the
Clerk to file the Complaint. (Docket Entry 2). At this time, the
Court must review the complaint, pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §§
1915(e)(2) and 1915A to determine whether it should be dismissed
as frivolous or malicious, for failure to state a claim upon
which relief may be granted, or because it seeks monetary relief
from a defendant who is immune from such relief.
reasons set forth below, the Court concludes that the complaint
will be dismissed for failure to state a claim upon which relief
may be granted. 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B)(ii).
Plaintiff brings this civil rights action against
Defendants Administrator C. Ray Hughes, Dr. Jeffrey Pomerantz,
The following factual allegations are taken from the
complaint and are accepted for purposes of this screening only.
The Court has made no findings as to the veracity of Plaintiff’s
Plaintiff states that on September 2, 2013, he fell in the
SSCF shower. (Docket Entry 1 at 5). Two days later, he told Dr.
Pomerantz that his back and neck hurt and requested a backbrace. (Docket Entry 1 at 5). Dr. Pomerantz replied that he did
not “believe in ‘back braces’” and gave Plaintiff Motrin for his
pain. (Docket Entry 1 at 5-6). Plaintiff also informed Doctor
Pomerantz that his mattress was ripped, and was told to contact
housekeeping. (Docket Entry 1 at 6). Instead of contacting
housekeeping, however, Plaintiff contacted medical staff and the
Department of Corrections’ Ombudsman. Each department indicated
that a new mattress was not a medical issue and denied
Plaintiff’s request. (Docket Entry 1 at 6).
Plaintiff thereafter wrote to Defendant Hughes regarding
his request for a new mattress, who responded that Plaintiff had
to go through medical. (Docket Entry 1 at 6). Plaintiff appealed
that determination. Defendant Hughes indicated in his response
that he had consulted with Dr. Pomerantz, and that Dr. Pomerantz
said there was no medical reason for Plaintiff to have a new
mattress. (Docket Entry 1 at 6).
Plaintiff saw Dr. Pomerantz again in November 2013. (Docket
Entry 1 at 6). Dr. Pomerantz informed Plaintiff that he could
not order a new mattress for Plaintiff and that he would stop
Plaintiff’s Motrin and give him something else. (Docket Entry 1
at 6). It is unclear whether the Motrin was ultimately stopped,
however Plaintiff indicates he did not receive any new
medication. (Docket Entry 1 at 6).
Plaintiff asserts SSCF, Dr. Pomerantz, and Defendant Hughes
have violated the Eighth Amendment’s prohibition on cruel and
unusual punishment by failing to give him the right treatment,
namely an x-ray, MRI, and new mattress for his back and neck
pain. (Docket Entry 1 ¶ 7). He asks this Court to order
Defendants to take an updated MRI of his back and neck. (Docket
Entry 1 ¶ 7).
A. Standards for a Sua Sponte Dismissal
Per the Prison Litigation Reform Act, Pub. L. No. 104-134,
§§ 801-810, 110 Stat. 1321-66 to 1321-77 (April 26, 1996)
(“PLRA”), district courts must review complaints in those civil
actions in which a prisoner is proceeding in forma pauperis, see
28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B), seeks redress against a governmental
employee or entity, see 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(b), or brings a claim
with respect to prison conditions, see 42 U.S.C. § 1997e.
PLRA directs district courts to sua sponte dismiss any claim
that is frivolous, is malicious, fails to state a claim upon
which relief may be granted, or seeks monetary relief from a
defendant who is immune from such relief.
This action is
subject to sua sponte screening for dismissal under 28 U.S.C. §§
1915(e)(2)(b) and 1915A because Plaintiff is a prisoner
proceeding in forma pauperis and is seeking redress from a
In determining the sufficiency of a pro se complaint, the
Court must be mindful to construe it liberally in favor of the
plaintiff. See Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 93–94 (2007)
(following Estelle v. Gamble, 429 U.S. 97, 106 (1976)); see also
United States v. Day, 969 F.2d 39, 42 (3d Cir. 1992).
According to the Supreme Court’s decision in Ashcroft v.
Iqbal, “a pleading that offers ‘labels or conclusions’ or ‘a
formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action will
not do.’” 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (quoting Bell Atlantic Corp.
v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007)). To survive sua sponte
screening for failure to state a claim, the complaint must
allege “sufficient factual matter” to show that the claim is
facially plausible. Fowler v. UPMS Shadyside, 578 F.3d 203, 210
(3d Cir. 2009) (citation omitted). “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.” Fair Wind
Sailing, Inc. v. Dempster, 764 F.3d 303, 308 n.3 (3d Cir. 2014)
(quoting Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678). Moreover, while pro se
pleadings are liberally construed, “pro se litigants still must
allege sufficient facts in their complaints to support a claim.”
Mala v. Crown Bay Marina, Inc., 704 F.3d 239, 245 (3d Cir. 2013)
(citation omitted) (emphasis added).
B. Section 1983 Actions
A plaintiff may have a cause of action under 42 U.S.C. §
1983 for certain violations of his constitutional rights.
Section 1983 provides in relevant part:
Every person who, under color of any statute, ordinance,
regulation, custom, or usage, of any State or Territory
... subjects, or causes to be subjected, any citizen of
jurisdiction thereof to the deprivation of any rights,
privileges, or immunities secured by the Constitution
and laws, shall be liable to the party injured in an
action at law, suit in equity, or other proper proceeding
for redress ....
Thus, to state a claim for relief under § 1983, a plaintiff must
allege, first, the violation of a right secured by the
Constitution or laws of the United States and, second, that the
alleged deprivation was committed or caused by a person acting
under color of state law. See West v. Atkins, 487 U.S. 42, 48
(1988); Malleus v. George, 641 F.3d 560, 563 (3d Cir. 2011);
Piecknick v. Pennsylvania, 36 F.3d 1250, 1255-56 (3d Cir. 1994).
Plaintiff names the SSCF as a defendant. The SSCF, however,
must be dismissed from this action because a jail is not a
“person” amenable to suit under § 1983. See, e.g., Grabow v.
Southern State Corr. Facility, 726 F. Supp. 537, 538-39 (D.N.J.
1989) (correctional facility is not a “person” under § 1983).
Accordingly, this Court will dismiss with prejudice all claims
asserted against SSCF.
Denial of Adequate Medical Care
Plaintiff’s complaint alleges Dr. Pomerantz provided
Plaintiff with inadequate medical care, thereby violating the
Eighth Amendment. The Eighth Amendment proscription against
cruel and unusual punishment requires that prison officials
provide inmates with adequate medical care for serious medical
needs. Estelle v. Gamble, 429 U.S. 97, 103–04 (1976). In order
to set forth a cognizable claim for a violation of his right to
adequate medical care, an inmate must allege: (1) a serious
medical need; and (2) behavior on the part of prison officials
that constitutes deliberate indifference to that need. Id. at
To satisfy the first prong of the Estelle inquiry, the
inmate must demonstrate that his medical needs are serious.
“Because society does not expect that prisoners will have
unqualified access to health care, deliberate indifference to
medical needs amounts to an Eighth Amendment violation only if
those needs are ‘serious.’” Hudson v. McMillian, 503 U.S. 1, 9
The second element of the Estelle test requires an inmate
show that prison officials acted with deliberate indifference to
his serious medical need. “The hallmark of an Eighth Amendment
violation arises when such medical treatment, or the withholding
of medical treatment, is accompanied by knowing indifference to
the pain or risk of serious injury this will cause, such as by
‘persistent conduct in the face of resultant pain and risk of
permanent injury.’” Andrews v. Camden Cnty., 95 F. Supp. 2d 217,
228 (D.N.J. 2000) (quoting White v. Napoleon, 897 F.2d 103, 109
(3d Cir. 1990)).
Deliberate indifference may be found where the prison
official (1) knows of a prisoner's need for medical treatment
but intentionally refuses to provide it; (2) intentionally
delays necessary medical treatment based on a non-medical
reason; or (3) deliberately prevents a prisoner from receiving
needed medical treatment. See Pierce v. Pitkins, 520 F. App'x
64, 66 (3d Cir. 2013) (citing Rouse v. Plantier, 182 F.3d 192,
197 (3d Cir. 1999)). “However, ‘[w]here a prisoner has received
some medical attention and the dispute is over the adequacy of
the treatment, federal courts are generally reluctant to second
guess medical judgments and to constitutionalize claims which
sound in state tort law.’” DeJesus v. Corr. Med. Servs., Inc.,
574 F. App’x 66, 68-69 (3d Cir. 2014) (alterations in original)
(quoting United States ex rel. Walker v. Fayette Cnty., 599 F.2d
573, 575 n.2 (3d Cir. 1979)) “[A] prisoner's subjective
dissatisfaction with his medical care does not in itself
indicate deliberate indifference.” Andrews, 95 F. Supp. 2d at
228 (citing Peterson v. Davis, 551 F. Supp. 137, 145 (D. Md.
1982), aff'd, 729 F.2d 1453 (4th Cir. 1984)). Similarly, “mere
disagreements over medical judgment do not state Eighth
Amendment claims.” White, 897 F.2d at 110.
At its core, Plaintiff’s complaint amounts to a
disagreement with Dr. Pomerantz’s decisions. Plaintiff asserts
he was in need of a back brace, an x-ray, MRI, a new mattress,
and pain medication other than Motrin but provides no indication
that a back brace, MRI, or x-ray were medically necessary in
order to treat his injury. Plaintiff was provided pain
medication, and although the complaint indicates Dr. Pomerantz
was considering changing the medication, the complaint is silent
as to whether the Motrin was actually stopped or if Plaintiff
continued to receive it. Plaintiff may have a negligence claim.
A claim for medical negligence does not rise to the level of an
Eighth Amendment deprivation of the right to be free from cruel
and unusual punishment. The Supreme Court has clearly stated:
“Deliberate indifference describes a state of mind more
blameworthy than negligence.” Farmer v. Brennan, 511 U.S. 825,
835 (1978); see also White, 897 F.2d at 110; Andrews, 95 F.
Supp. 2d at 228; Peterson, 551 F. Supp. at 145.1
As Plaintiff has failed to plead sufficient facts
warranting an inference of deliberate indifference, the Eighth
Amendment claim must be dismissed. Plaintiff may, however, be
able to set forth facts that would permit this claim to go
forward. He shall therefore have an opportunity to submit a
motion seeing leave to amend his complaint, within Thirty (30)
To the extent the complaint attempts to raise state law claims
of negligence and medical malpractice, the Court declines to
exercise supplemental jurisdiction over them as the federal
claims must be dismissed. 28 U.S.C. § 1327(c)(3).
Plaintiff states Warden Hughes is liable for failing to
provide Plaintiff with a new mattress. (Docket Entry 1 ¶ 4(b)).
“Government officials may not be held liable for the
unconstitutional conduct of their subordinates under a theory of
respondeat superior.” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 676
(2009). State actors are liable only for their own
unconstitutional conduct. Bistrian v. Levi, 696 F.3d 352, 366
(3d Cir. 2012). The Third Circuit has identified two general
ways in which a supervisor-defendant may be liable for
unconstitutional acts undertaken by subordinates: (1) “liability
may attach if they, with deliberate indifference to the
consequences, established and maintained a policy, practice or
custom which directly caused [the] constitutional harm”; or (2)
“a supervisor may be personally liable under § 1983 if he or she
participated in violating the plaintiffs rights, directed others
to violate them, or, as the person in charge, had knowledge of
and acquiesced in the subordinate's unconstitutional conduct.”
Barkes v. First Corr. Med., Inc., 766 F.3d 307, 316 (3d Cir.
2014) (internal citations omitted), rev’d on other grounds sub
nom Taylor v. Barkes, 135 S. Ct. 2042 (2015). “[U]nder Iqbal,
the level of intent necessary to establish supervisory liability
will vary with the underlying constitutional tort alleged.” Id.
at 319. Therefore to show denial of medical care, Plaintiff must
set forth facts alleging Defendant Hughes himself was
deliberately indifferent to Plaintiff’s medical needs. Barkes,
766 F.3d at 319.
As with Dr. Pomerantz, Plaintiff has not shown that
Defendant Hughes was deliberately indifferent to any medical
need of Plaintiff. Although there does seem to have been some
“run around” regarding the proper channels for requesting a new
mattress, Plaintiff’s complaint indicates Defendant Hughes
ultimately rejected his request after consulting with Dr.
Pomerantz. (Docket Entry 1 at 6). Having been informed by a
medical professional that there was no medical necessity for a
new mattress, Defendant Hughes cannot have been deliberately
indifferent for not providing one to Plaintiff. “Correctional
defendant-administrators who are not themselves physicians
cannot ‘be considered deliberately indifferent simply because
they failed to respond directly to the medical complaints of a
prisoner who was already being treated by the prison doctor.’”
Davis v. Norwood, 2015 WL 3875785 at *3 (3d Cir. June 24, 2015)
(quoting Durmer v. O'Carroll, 991 F.2d 64, 69 (3d Cir. 1993)).
Furthermore, “[i]f the non-medical prison official has no actual
knowledge that prison doctors are mistreating a prisoner, he or
she ‘will not be chargeable with the Eighth Amendment scienter
requirement of deliberate indifference.’” Ibid. (quoting Spruill
v. Gillis, 372 F.3d 218, 236 (3d Cir. 2004)). This claim must be
To the extent Plaintiff attempts to raise a due process
allegation against Defendant Hughes for his handling of
Plaintiff’s grievance, there is once again an insufficient basis
of liability. See Glenn v. DelBalso, 599 F. App'x 457, 459 (3d
Cir. 2015); Rode v. Dellarciprete, 845 F.2d 1195, 1207-08 (3d
Cir. 1988); Stringer v. Bureau of Prisons, Federal Agency, 145
F. App’x 751, 753 (3d Cir. 2005) (alleged failure to process or
respond to inmate’s grievances did not violate his rights to due
process and is not actionable); Hoover v. Watson, 886 F. Supp.
410, 418 (D. Del.) aff'd, 74 F.3d 1226 (3d Cir. 1995) (holding
that if a state elects to provide a grievance mechanism,
violations of its procedures do not give rise to a § 1983
In this case, however, because it is possible that
Plaintiff may be able to supplement his denial of medical
adequate care claim with facts sufficient to overcome the
deficiencies noted herein, this dismissal will be without
prejudice. Plaintiff may attempt to amend his claims against
Defendant Hughes as to that claim.2 See Grayson v. Mayview State
Plaintiff should note that when an amended complaint is filed,
the original complaint no longer performs any function in the case
and cannot be utilized to cure defects in the amended complaint,
unless the relevant portion is specifically incorporated in the
Hosp., 293 F.3d 103, 114 (3d Cir. 2002). Plaintiff’s motion to
amend his complaint must be pled within thirty (30) days of the
entry of this Opinion and Order, and his motion must attach a
copy of his proposed Amended Complaint curing these
For the reasons stated above, Plaintiff’s complaint is
dismissed for failure to state a claim upon which relief may be
granted. 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B)(ii). An appropriate order
July 9, 2015
s/ Jerome B. Simandle
JEROME B. SIMANDLE
Chief U.S. District Judge
new complaint. 6 Wright, Miller & Kane, Federal Practice and
Procedure 1476 (2d ed. 1990) (footnotes omitted).
complaint may adopt some or all of the allegations in the original
complaint, but the identification of the particular allegations to
be adopted must be clear and explicit. Id. To avoid confusion,
the safer course is to file an amended complaint that is complete
in itself. Id. Plaintiff is further advised that he may not replead claims that have been dismissed with prejudice.
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