ORTIZ v. ATLANTIC COUNTY JUSTICE FACILITY et al
OPINION. Signed by Judge Noel L. Hillman on 9/23/2014. (nz, )N.M.
NOT FOR PUBLICATION
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
DISTRICT OF NEW JERSEY
SEAN MANUEL ORTIZ,
ATLANTIC COUNTY JUSTICE
FACILITY, et al.,
Civil Action No. 14-5801(NLH)
Sean Manuel Ortiz
Atlantic County Justice Facility
5060 Atlantic Avenue
Mays Landing, NJ 08330
Plaintiff pro se
HILLMAN, District Judge
Plaintiff Sean Manuel Ortiz, a prisoner confined at
Atlantic County Justice Facility in Mays Landing, New Jersey,
seeks to bring this action in forma pauperis pursuant to 42
U.S.C. § 1983, alleging violations of his constitutional rights. 1
Based on his affidavit of indigence and the absence of three
qualifying dismissals within 28 U.S.C. § 1915(g), the Court will
grant Plaintiff’s application to proceed in forma pauperis
pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915(a) and will order the Clerk of the
Court to file the Complaint.
At this time, the Court must review the Complaint 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.
See 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2) (in
forma pauperis actions); 28 U.S.C. § 1915A (actions in which
prisoner seeks redress from a governmental defendant); 42 U.S.C.
§ 1997e (prisoner actions brought with respect to prison
The following factual allegations are taken from
Plaintiff’s Complaint, dated August 31, 2014, and are accepted
as true only for purposes of this review.
Plaintiff asserts that on August 25, 2014, Correctional
Officer Pharo and Sgt. Linn knew that maintenance was being
performed on plumbing pipes, but failed to forewarn him.
Accordingly, when he took a shower that evening, he ingested
water containing rust and residue.
He alleges that he became
immediately ill, vomiting, and was taken to the medical
department where his vital signs were taken and he was released
to his unit.
He alleges that he was still feeling ill the next
day and returned to the medical unit where he remained for a day
for observation, provided a stool sample, and then was returned
to his unit.
He alleges that has remained ill, suffering from
stomach pains, diarrhea, and blood in his stool, but has not
received a thorough examination or appropriate treatment from
More specifically, he asserts that he should
have been given antibiotics.
In the caption to the Complaint, Plaintiff names as
defendants the Atlantic County Justice Facility and Sgt. Linn.
In the body of the Complaint, he also names Correctional Officer
Pharo as a defendant.
Plaintiff seeks compensatory and punitive
STANDARDS FOR A SUA SPONTE DISMISSAL
Every complaint must comply with the pleading requirements
of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure
Rule 8(a)(2) requires that a complaint contain “a short and
plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is
entitled to relief.”
“Specific facts are not necessary; the
statement need only ‘give the defendant fair notice of what the
... claim is and the grounds upon which it rests.’”
Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 93 (2007) (citations omitted).
While a complaint ... does not need detailed factual
allegations, 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 ... . Factual allegations must be enough to
raise a right to relief above the speculative level
Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007)
That is, a complaint must assert “enough facts to state a
claim to relief that is plausible on its face.”
Id. at 570.
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) (citing Twombly, 550
U.S. at 556).
The determination of whether the factual
allegations plausibly give rise to an entitlement to relief is
“‘a context-specific task that requires the reviewing court to
draw on its judicial experience and common sense.’”
Levi, 696 F.3d 352, 365 (3d Cir. 2012) (citations omitted).
In determining the sufficiency of a pro se complaint, the
Court must be mindful to accept its factual allegations as true,
see James v. City of Wilkes-Barre, 700 F.3d 675, 679 (3d Cir.
2012), and to construe it liberally in favor of the plaintiff,
see Haines v. Kerner, 404 U.S. 519, 520-21 (1972); United States
v. Day, 969 F.2d 39, 42 (3d Cir. 1992).
Where a complaint can be remedies by an amendment, a
district court may not dismiss the complaint with prejudice, but
must permit the amendment.
Denton v. Hernandez, 504 U.S. 25, 34
(1992); Grayson v. Mayview State Hospital, 293 F.3d 103, 108 (3d
Cir. 2002) (dismissal pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)), cited
in Thomaston v. Meyer, 519 F. App’x 118, 120 n.2 (3d Cir. 2013);
Shane v. Fauver, 213 F.3d 113, 116-17 (3d Cir. 2000) (dismissal
pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1997e(c)(1)); Urrutia v. Harrisburg
County Police Dept., 91 F.3d 451, 453 (3d Cir. 1996).
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 the United States or other person
within the 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.
West v. Atkins, 487 U.S. 42, 48
(1988); Malleus v. George, 641 F.3d 560, 563 (3d Cir. 2011).
Claims Against Atlantic County Justice Facility
Plaintiff has named the Atlantic County Justice Facility as
a defendant in his Complaint.
A jail, however, is not a
“person” amenable to suit under § 1983.
See, e.g., Parrish v.
Aramark Foods, Inc., Civil No. 11-5556, 2012 WL 1118672, *3
(D.N.J. April 2, 2012) (collecting cases).
Court will dismiss with prejudice all claims asserted against
Atlantic County Justice Facility.
Claims Against Sgt. Linn and C.O. Pharo
Plaintiff contends that Sgt. Linn and C.O. Pharo should
have advised him that maintenance was being performed on the
Plaintiff does not state whether he was a pre-
trial detainee, protected by the Fourteenth Amendment Due
Process Clause, or a convicted and sentenced prisoner protected
by the Eighth Amendment proscription against cruel and unusual
punishment, at the time of the events complained of.
forth below, under either standard the result is the same.
Criminal pretrial detainees retain liberty interests firmly
grounded in the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.
See Hubbard v. Taylor, 399 F.3d 150 (3d Cir. 2005); Fuentes v.
Wagner, 206 F.3d 335, 341 (3d Cir. 2000).
Analysis of whether
such a detainee has been deprived of liberty without due process
is governed by the standards set out by the Supreme Court in
Bell v. Wolfish, 441 U.S. 520 (1979).
Hubbard, 399 F.3d at 157-
60, 164-67; Fuentes, 206 F.3d at 341-42.
In evaluating the constitutionality of conditions or
restrictions of pretrial detention that implicate only
the protection against deprivation of liberty without
due process of law, we think that the proper inquiry
is whether those conditions amount to punishment of
the detainee. ...
Not every disability imposed during pretrial detention
amounts to punishment in the constitutional sense,
A court must decide whether the disability is imposed
for the purpose of punishment or whether it is but an
incident of some other legitimate governmental
purpose. Absent a showing of an expressed intent to
punish on the part of detention facility officials,
that determination generally will turn on whether an
alternative purpose to which [the restriction] may
rationally be connected is assignable for it, and
whether it appears excessive in relation to the
alternative purpose assigned [to it]. Thus, if a
particular condition or restriction of pretrial
detention is reasonably related to a legitimate
governmental objective, it does not, without more,
amount to punishment. Conversely, if a restriction or
condition is not reasonably related to a legitimate
goal--if it is arbitrary or purposeless--a court
permissibly may infer that the purpose of the
governmental action is punishment that may not
constitutionally be inflicted upon detainees qua
441 U.S. at 535-39 (citations omitted).
The Eighth Amendment to the United States Constitution,
applicable to the individual states through the Fourteenth
Amendment, prohibits the states from inflicting cruel and
unusual punishments on those convicted of crimes.
Chapman, 452 U.S. 337, 344-46 (1981).
This proscription against
cruel and unusual punishments is violated by the “unnecessary
and wanton infliction of pain contrary to contemporary standards
Helling v. McKinney, 509 U.S. 25, 32 (1993).
is well settled that “the treatment a prisoner receives in
prison and the conditions under which he is confined are subject
to scrutiny under the Eighth Amendment.”
Id. at 31.
To state a claim under the Eighth Amendment, an inmate must
allege both an objective and a subjective component.
Seiter, 501 U.S. 294, 298 (1991).
The objective component
mandates that “only those deprivations denying ‘the minimal
civilized measure of life’s necessities’ ... are sufficiently
grave to form the basis of an Eighth Amendment violation.”
Helling v. McKinney, 509 U.S. at 32 (quoting Rhodes, 452 U.S. at
This component requires that the deprivation sustained by
a prisoner be sufficiently serious, for only “extreme
deprivations” are sufficient to make out an Eighth Amendment
Hudson v. McMillian, 503 U.S. 1, 9 (1992).
subjective component requires that the state actor have acted
with “deliberate indifference,” a state of mind equivalent to a
reckless disregard of a known risk of harm.
See Farmer v.
Brennan, 511 U.S. 825, 835 (1994); Wilson, 501 U.S. at 303.
A plaintiff may satisfy the objective component of a
conditions-of-confinement claim if he can show that the
conditions alleged, either alone or in combination, deprive him
of “the minimal civilized measure of life’s necessities,” such
as adequate food, clothing, shelter, sanitation, medical care,
and personal safety.
Rhodes, 452 U.S. at 347-48; Young v.
Quinlan, 960 F.2d 351, 364 (3d Cir. 1992).
While the Eighth
Amendment directs that convicted prisoners not be subjected to
cruel and unusual punishment, however, “the Constitution does
not mandate comfortable prisons.”
Rhodes, 452 U.S. at 349.
the extent that certain conditions are only “restrictive” or
“harsh,” they are merely part of the penalty that criminal
offenders pay for their offenses against society.
Id. at 347.
An inmate may fulfill the subjective element of such a claim by
demonstrating that prison officials knew of such substandard
conditions and “acted or failed to act with deliberate
indifference to a substantial risk of harm to inmate health or
Ingalls v. Florio, 968 F.Supp. 193, 198 (D.N.J. 1997).
Here, Plaintiff has alleged that, on a single occasion, he
was exposed to rusty, residue-laden water in the shower because
he had not been forewarned that maintenance was being performed
on the pipes.
Nothing about these facts suggests either that he
was deprived of “the minimal civilized measure of life’s
necessities,” or that Sgt. Linn or Correctional Officer Pharo
was deliberately indifferent to a substantial risk of harm in
violation of the Eighth Amendment.
Similarly, nothing about
these facts suggests that these defendants had any intent to
punish Plaintiff in violation of the Fourteenth Amendment.
the contrary, these facts suggest, at most, simple negligence,
not actionable under § 1983.
See Caldwell v. Beard, 324 F.App’x
186, 188 (3d Cir. 2009).
For the foregoing reasons, the claims against Sgt. Linn and
Correctional Office Pharo will be dismissed without prejudice.
Claims of Inadequate Medical Care
Plaintiff’s Complaint could be construed as asserting,
also, that he has been deprived of adequate medical care for the
gastrointestinal problems allegedly caused by the exposure to
Again, the allegations of the Complaint fail to
state a claim.
The due process rights of a pretrial detainee, to medical
care, are “at least as great as the Eighth Amendment protections
available to a convicted prisoner.”
City of Revere v.
Massachusetts General Hosp., 463 U.S. 239, 244-45 (1983)
(citing, inter alia, Bell v. Wolfish, 441 U.S. 520 (1979)).
Eighth Amendment proscription against cruel and unusual
punishment is violated when prison officials are deliberately
indifferent 2 to a prisoner’s serious medical needs. 3
“Deliberate indifference” is more than mere malpractice or
negligence; it is a state of mind equivalent to reckless
disregard of a known risk of harm. Farmer v. Brennan, 511 U.S.
825, 837-38 (1994).
Serious medical needs include those that have been diagnosed by
a physician as requiring treatment or that are so obvious that a
lay person would recognize the necessity for a doctor’s
attention, and those conditions which, if untreated, would
result in lifelong handicap or permanent loss. Monmouth County
Correctional Institutional Inmates v. Lanzaro, 834 F.2d 326, 347
(3d Cir. 1987), cert. denied, 486 U.S. 1006 (1988).
Gamble, 429 U.S. 97, 103-04 (1976).
“Where prison authorities
deny reasonable requests for medical treatment, ... and such
denial exposes the inmate to undue suffering or the threat of
tangible residual injury, deliberate indifference is manifest.
Similarly, where ‘knowledge of the need for medical care [is
accompanied by the] ... intentional refusal to provide that
care,’ the deliberate indifference standard has been met.”
Monmouth County Corr. Inst. Inmates v. Lanzaro, 834 F.2d 326,
346-47 (3d Cir. 1987), cert. denied, 486 U.S. 1006 (1988)
A prisoner’s subjective dissatisfaction with his medical
care, however, does not in itself indicate deliberate
Andrews v. Camden County, 95 F.Supp.2d 217, 228
(D.N.J. 2000); Peterson v. Davis, 551 F.Supp. 137, 145 (D. Md.
1982), aff’d, 729 F.2d 1453 (4th Cir. 1984).
disagreements over medical judgment do not state Eighth
White v. Napoleon, 897 F.2d 103, 110 (3d Cir.
Beyond these parameters, the Court of Appeals for the Third
Circuit has not delineated the standard applicable to claims
that denial or inadequacy of medical care violates a detainee’s
right to due process.
See, e.g., Carson v. Mulvihill, 488
F.App’x 554, 561 (3d Cir. 2012) (“We need not resolve today
which standard [Bell or Estelle] applies.”); King v. County of
Gloucester, 302 F.App’x 92, 95 (3d Cir. 2008) (“In assessing the
denial of medical care to a pretrial detainee, … [the] inquiry
involves an indirect application of the Eighth Amendment
deliberate indifference standard.”).
Here, under either standard, Plaintiff has utterly failed
to allege facts demonstrating an unconstitutional denial of
Assuming, without deciding, that a
gastrointestinal upset lasting six days constitutes a “serious
medical need,” this Court finds that Plaintiff has failed to
allege any facts suggesting “deliberate indifference” or “intent
to punish” on the part of any medical providers or correctional
To the contrary, Plaintiff was seen by medical staff
immediately; he was seen again the next day and held for
observation; and he provided a stool sample, at a doctor’s
request, for testing.
Plaintiff does not assert that he has
advised medical staff of his continuing discomfort or that they
have refused to see him.
Plaintiff’s suggestion that he should
have been prescribed an antibiotic, and his characterization of
his examinations as insufficiently thorough, amount to nothing
more than simple disagreement with the medical care provided,
which does not demonstrate a constitutional violation.
In addition, Plaintiff has failed to name as a defendant
anybody involved in the provision or denial of medical care.
That is, he has failed to identify any state actor who deprived
him of a constitutional right.
For all of these reasons, Plaintiff has failed to state a
claim for violation of his constitutional right to adequate
For the reasons set forth above, all claims will be
dismissed, pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §§ 1915(e)(2)(B)(ii) and
1915A(b)(1) and 42 U.S.C. § 1997e(c), for failure to state a
However, because it is conceivable that Plaintiff may be
able to supplement his pleading with facts sufficient to state a
claim against Sgt. Linn or Correctional Officer Pharo, the Court
will grant Plaintiff leave to file an application to re-open
accompanied by a proposed amended complaint. 4
At Camden, New Jersey
s/ Noel L. Hillman
Noel L. Hillman
United States District Judge
September 23, 2014
Plaintiff should note that when an amended complaint is filed,
it supersedes the original and renders it of no legal effect,
unless the amended complaint specifically refers to or adopts the
earlier pleading. See West Run Student Housing Associates, LLC v.
Huntington National Bank, 712 F.3d 165, 171 (3d Cir. 2013)
(collecting cases). See also 6 Charles Alan Wright & Arthur R.
Miller, Federal Practice and Procedure § 1476 (3d ed. 2008). To
avoid confusion, the safer practice is to submit an amended
complaint that is complete in itself. Id.
Disclaimer: Justia Dockets & Filings provides public litigation records from the federal appellate and district courts. These filings and docket sheets should not be considered findings of fact or liability, nor do they necessarily reflect the view of Justia.
Why Is My Information Online?