NELSON v. OWENS et al
OPINION FILED. Signed by Chief Judge Jerome B. Simandle on 2/8/17. (js)
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
DISTRICT OF NEW JERSEY
HONORABLE JEROME B. SIMANDLE
No. 16-cv-06926 (JBS-AMD)
WARDEN JAMES OWENS,
WARDEN J. TAYLOR, and
CAMDEN COUNTY BOARD
Nahfee Nelson, Plaintiff Pro Se
1092 Niagara Road
Camden, NJ 08103
SIMANDLE, Chief District Judge:
Plaintiff Nahfee Nelson seeks to bring a civil rights
complaint against Camden County Correctional Facility (“CCCF”),
Warden James Owens (“Owens”), Warden J. Taylor (“Taylor”), and
Camden County Board of Freeholders (“BOF”) pursuant to 42 U.S.C.
§ 1983 for allegedly unconstitutional conditions of confinement.
Complaint, Docket Entry 1.
28 U.S.C. 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 Section 1915(e)(2)(B)
because Plaintiff is proceeding in forma pauperis.
For the reasons set forth below, the Court will dismiss the
Complaint with prejudice for failure to state a claim. 28 U.S.C.
Plaintiff’s Complaint states: “I was placed in a cell with
4 inmates[.] I was placed on the floor . . . with urine and
species [sic] on the floor.” Complaint § III(C).
Plaintiff states that the alleged events giving rise to
these claims occurred: “In around 2005, 2006, 2007[.]” Id. §
With respect to alleged injuries arising from these claims,
Plaintiff states: “No[,] just bumped my head on toilet seat and
the dark in the room.” Id. § IV.
Plaintiff is “asking the Court for $1.1 million for
violating my rights and mental stress, mental anguish and harsh
conditions at the jail.” Id. § V.
III. STANDARD OF REVIEW
To survive sua sponte screening under 28 U.S.C. §
1915(e)(2) for failure to state a claim, a 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). “[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 asserts claims against defendants for allegedly
unconstitutional conditions of confinement. The Court will
dismiss the Complaint with prejudice for failure to state a
First, the Complaint must be dismissed as CCCF is not a
“state actor” within the meaning of § 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, the claims against CCCF must be dismissed with
Second, the Complaint must be dismissed with prejudice as
to claims made against BOF because it is not a separate legal
entity from Camden County and is therefore not independently
subject to suit. See Bermudez v. Essex Cty. D.O.C., No. 12-6035,
2013 WL 1405263, at *5 (D.N.J. Apr. 4, 2013) (citing cases).
“There is no respondeat superior theory of municipal liability,
so a city may not be held vicariously liable under § 1983 for
the actions of its agents. Rather, a municipality may be held
liable only if its policy or custom is the ‘moving force’ behind
a constitutional violation.” Sanford v. Stiles, 456 F.3d 298,
314 (3d Cir. 2006) (citing Monell v. N.Y.C. Dep't of Social
Services, 436 U.S. 658, 691 (1978)). See also Collins v. City of
Harker Heights, 503 U.S. 115, 122 (1992) (“The city is not
vicariously liable under § 1983 for the constitutional torts of
its agents: It is only liable when it can be fairly said that
the city itself is the wrongdoer.”). A Complaint must plead
facts showing that the relevant Camden County policy-makers 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
“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).
set forth facts supporting an inference that Camden County
itself was the “moving force” behind the alleged constitutional
violation. Monell, 436 U.S. at 689.
Third, the Complaint must be dismissed with prejudice as to
claims made against Owens and Taylor because the Complaint does
“[not] allege any personal involvement by [the wardens] in any
constitutional violation – a fatal flaw, since ‘liability in a §
1983 suit cannot be predicated solely on the operation of
respondeat superior.’” Baker v. Flagg, 439 Fed. App’x 82, 84 (3d
Cir. 2011) (citing Rode v. Dellarciprete, 845 F.2d 1195, 1207
(3d Cir. 1988)). “[Plaintiff’s] complaint contains no
allegations regarding [the] Warden[s]. ‘Because vicarious
liability is inapplicable to § 1983 suits, a plaintiff must
plead that each Government-official defendant, through the
official's own individual actions, has violated the
Constitution.’ Thus, [plaintiff] failed to state a claim against
[the] Warden[s].” Bob v. Kuo, 387 Fed. App’x 134, 136 (3d Cir.
2010) (citing Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 676 (2009)).
Finally, Plaintiff’s Complaint is barred by the statute of
limitations. “[P]laintiffs who file complaints subject to
dismissal should receive leave to amend unless amendment would
be inequitable under [§ 1915] or futile.” Grayson v. Mayview
State Hosp., 293 F.3d 103, 114 (3d Cir. 2002). This Court denies
leave to amend at this time as Plaintiff’s Complaint is barred
by the statute of limitations, which is governed by New Jersey's
two-year limitations period for personal injury.2 See Wilson v.
Garcia, 471 U.S. 261, 276 (1985); Dique v. N.J. State Police,
603 F.3d 181, 185 (3d Cir. 2010). The accrual date of a § 1983
action is determined by federal law, however. Wallace v. Kato,
549 U.S. 384, 388 (2007); Montanez v. Sec'y Pa. Dep't of Corr.,
773 F.3d 472, 480 (3d Cir. 2014). “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, 773 F.3d
at 480 (internal quotation marks omitted).
Plaintiff states that the alleged events giving rise to
these claims occurred “in around 2005, 2006, 2007[.]” Complaint
§ III(B). The allegedly unconstitutional conditions of
confinement would have been immediately apparent to Plaintiff at
the time of detention. Accordingly, the statute of limitations
for Plaintiff’s claims expired in 2009. As there are no grounds
for equitable tolling of the statute of limitations,3 the
“Although the running of the statute of limitations is
ordinarily an affirmative defense, where that defense is obvious
from the face of the complaint and no development of the record
is necessary, a court may dismiss a time-barred complaint sua
sponte under § 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B)(ii) for failure to
state a claim.” Ostuni v. Wa Wa's Mart, 532 F. App’x 110, 111–12
(3d Cir. 2013) (per curiam).
3 Equitable tolling “is only appropriate ‘(1) where the defendant
has actively misled the plaintiff respecting the plaintiff's
cause of action; (2) where the plaintiff in some extraordinary
way has been prevented from asserting his or her rights; or (3)
where the plaintiff has timely asserted his or her rights
Complaint will be dismissed with prejudice. Ostuni v. Wa Wa's
Mart, 532 F. App’x 110, 112 (3d Cir. 2013) (per curiam)
(affirming dismissal with prejudice due to expiration of statute
For the reasons stated above, the Complaint is dismissed
with prejudice for failure to state a claim. An appropriate
February 8, 2017
s/ Jerome B. Simandle
JEROME B. SIMANDLE
Chief U.S. District Judge
mistakenly in the wrong forum.’” Omar v. Blackman, 590 F. App’x
162, 166 (3d Cir. 2014) (quoting Santos ex rel. Beato v. United
States, 559 F.3d 189, 197 (3d Cir. 2009)).
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