COLEMAN v. OWENS et al
OPINION. Signed by Chief Judge Jerome B. Simandle on 11/18/2016. (tf, n.m.)
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
DISTRICT OF NEW JERSEY
WARDEN C. JOHNSON; CAMDEN COUNTY
BOARD OF FREEHOLDERS; CHIEF J.
HONORABLE JEROME B. SIMANDLE
No. 16-cv-06023 (JBS-AMD)
Gordon Coleman, Plaintiff Pro Se
1339 Thurman St.
Camden, NJ 08104
SIMANDLE, Chief District Judge:
Plaintiff Gordon Coleman seeks to bring a civil rights
complaint pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against the Camden County
Freeholders (“Freeholders”), Warden James Owens, Deputy Warden
C. Johnson, and Metro Police Chief Thompson for allegedly
unconstitutional conditions of confinement in Camden County
Correctional Facility (“CCCF”). Complaint, Docket Entry 1.
Section 1915(e)(2) requires a court to review
complaints prior to service in cases in which a plaintiff is
proceeding in forma pauperis. The Court must 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) because Plaintiff is proceeding in forma pauperis.
For the reasons set forth below, the Court will
dismiss the complaint without prejudice for failure to state a
claim. 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(b)(ii).
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). “[A]
pleading that offers ‘labels or conclusions’ or ‘a formulaic
recitation of the elements of a cause of action will not do.’”
Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (quoting Bell
Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007)).
Plaintiff alleges he experienced unconstitutional
conditions of confinement during his detention at the CCCF.
Complaint § III. He states: “I was placed in a cell with 4
inmates in each room on numerous occasion when place in the
[CCCF]. Sleeping on the floors due to overcrowding numerous
times I went to the [CCCF].” Id. § III. Even accepting the
statement as true for screening purposes only, there is not
enough factual support for the Court to infer a constitutional
violation has occurred.
The mere fact that an individual is lodged temporarily
in a cell with more persons than its intended design does not
rise to the level of a constitutional violation. See Rhodes v.
Chapman, 452 U.S. 337, 348–50 (1981) (holding double-celling by
itself did not violate Eighth Amendment); Carson v. Mulvihill,
488 F. App'x 554, 560 (3d Cir. 2012) (“[M]ere double-bunking
does not constitute punishment, because there is no ‘one man,
one cell principle lurking in the Due Process Clause of the
Fifth Amendment.’” (quoting Bell v. Wolfish, 441 U.S. 520, 542
(1979))). More is needed to demonstrate that such crowded
conditions, for a pretrial detainee, shocks the conscience and
thus violates due process rights. See Hubbard v. Taylor, 538
F.3d 229, 233 (3d Cir. 2008) (noting due process analysis
requires courts to consider whether the totality of the
conditions “cause inmates to endure such genuine privations and
hardship over an extended period of time, that the adverse
conditions become excessive in relation to the purposes assigned
to them.”). Some relevant factors are the dates and length of
her confinement(s), whether he was a pretrial detainee or
convicted prisoner, etc.
Moreover, Plaintiff has not pled sufficient facts
regarding the personal liability of the Freeholders. As the
governing body of Camden County, the Freeholders cannot be held
liable under § 1983 solely on a theory of respondeat superior.
Monell v. N.Y.C. Dep't of Social Services, 436 U.S. 658, 690–91
(1978). Plaintiff must instead plead facts showing that the
Freeholders are “responsible for either the affirmative
proclamation of a policy or acquiescence in a well-settled
custom.” Bielevicz v. Dubinon, 915 F.2d 845, 850 (3d Cir. 1990).1
In other words, Plaintiff must set forth facts supporting an
inference that the Freeholders were the “moving force” behind
the alleged constitutional violation. Monell, 436 U.S. at 689.
Likewise, Plaintiff has not pled sufficient facts to
support an inference that Warden Owens, Deputy Warden Johnson,
and Chief Thompson were each personally involved in either the
creation of, or failure to address, the conditions of his
confinement. State actors are liable only for their own
unconstitutional conduct and may not be held liable for the
“Policy is made when a decisionmaker possess[ing] final
authority to establish municipal policy with respect to the
action issues an official proclamation, policy, or edict.
Government custom can be demonstrated by showing that a given
course of conduct, although not specifically endorsed or
authorized by law, is so well-settled and permanent as virtually
to constitute law.” Kirkland v. DiLeo, 581 F. App'x 111, 118 (3d
Cir. 2014) (internal quotation marks and citations omitted)
(alteration in original).
unconstitutional conduct of their subordinates under a theory of
respondeat superior. Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 676
(2009); Bistrian v. Levi, 696 F.3d 352, 366 (3d Cir. 2012).
Plaintiff further alleges he was denied medical care
after he injured his head. Complaint § IV. In order to set forth
a cognizable claim for a violation of the 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. See Estelle v.
Gamble, 429 U.S. 97, 106 (1976); Natale v. Camden Cnty. Corr.
Facility, 318 F.3d 575, 582 (3d Cir. 2003). Plaintiff states he
was only given Advil after he hit his head on a table; 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 . . . tort law.’”
DeJesus v. Corr. Med. Servs., Inc., 574 F. App'x 66, 68-69 (3d
Cir. 2014) (quoting United States ex rel. Walker v. Fayette
Cnty., 599 F.2d 573, 575 n. 2 (3d Cir. 1979)) (alteration in
original). Plaintiff therefore has not stated a claim for denial
of adequate medical care.
Plaintiff may be able to amend his complaint to
address the deficiencies noted by the Court, however. To that
end, the Court shall grant Plaintiff leave to amend the
complaint within 30 days of the date of this order.
Plaintiff should note that when an amended complaint
is filed,2 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 new complaint. 6 Wright, Miller & Kane,
Federal Practice and Procedure 1476 (2d ed. 1990) (footnotes
omitted). An amended complaint may adopt some or all of the
allegations in the original complaint,3 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.
The amended complaint shall be subject to screening prior to
3 To the extent the complaint seeks relief for conditions
Plaintiff encountered on May 27, 2012 and May 10, 2010, those
claims are barred by the statute of limitations. Claims brought
under § 1983 are governed by New Jersey's two-year limitations
period for personal injury. See Wilson v. Garcia, 471 U.S. 261,
276 (1985); Dique v. N.J. State Police, 603 F.3d 181, 185 (3d
Cir. 2010). “Under federal law, a cause of action accrues when
the plaintiff knew or should have known of the injury upon which
the action is based.” Montanez v. Sec'y Pa. Dep't of Corr., 773
F.3d 472, 480 (3d Cir. 2014). The allegedly unconstitutional
conditions of confinement would have been immediately apparent
to Plaintiff; therefore, the statute of limitations on some of
Plaintiff’s claims expired in May 2014 at the latest. In the
event Plaintiff elects to file an amended complaint, he should
limit his complaint to his October 15, 2014 and July 17, 2016
For the reasons stated above, the complaint is
dismissed without prejudice for failure to state a claim. The
Court will reopen the matter in the event Plaintiff files an
amended complaint within the time allotted by the Court.
An appropriate order follows.
November 18, 2016
s/ Jerome B. Simandle
JEROME B. SIMANDLE
Chief U.S. District Judge
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