WALKER v. CAMDEN COUNTY JAIL
OPINION. Signed by Judge Jerome B. Simandle on 10/19/17. (jbk, )
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE DISTRICT OF NEW JERSEY
HONORABLE JEROME B. SIMANDLE
CAMDEN COUNTY JAIL,
Joshua Walker, Plaintiff Pro Se
1340 Everett Street
Camden, NJ 08104
SIMANDLE, District Judge:
Plaintiff Joshua Walker seeks to bring a civil rights
complaint pursuant to the 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against Camden County
Jail (“CCJ”) for allegedly unconstitutional conditions of
confinement. Complaint, Docket Entry 1. 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.
For the reasons set forth below, the Court concludes that the
complaint will proceed in part.
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 truth of Plaintiff’s
Plaintiff alleges he endured unconstitutional conditions of
confinement in CCJ was he was confined in the facility in June
2015, August 2015, and September 2015 to February 2016.
Complaint § III. His complaint states: “When I was in jail I was
given a mat with no bunk that laid me to sleep on the floor with
no wash cloth. They put me in 7 day lock down not send me to
medical when I was shot in my left thigh and barely could walk
and put me on the top tier so I had to walk up an[d] down the
steps in so much pain. The nurse and correctional officer seen
it and did nothing. I was in danger of getting an infection and
experienced pain an[d] suffering.” Id. He alleges “the guards in
the jail do and say whatever they want to you and treat you as
if you aren’t even an individual or a human.” Id.
relief in the form of monetary compensation. Id. § V.
III. STANDARD OF REVIEW
A. Standards for a Sua Sponte Dismissal
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.
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)).
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 ....
28 U.S.C. § 1983. 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
Plaintiff alleges he experienced unconstitutional
conditions of confinement and was denied medical care during his
detention at CCJ.
A. Conditions of Pretrial Confinement
Plaintiff alleges he experienced unconstitutional
conditions of confinement at CCJ due to overcrowding. “[U]nder
the Due Process Clause, a detainee may not be punished prior to
an adjudication of guilt in accordance with due process of law.”
Bell v. Wolfish, 441 U.S. 520, 535 (1979). 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 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, 441 U.S. at 542). Overcrowding
leading to conditions that “cause inmates to endure such genuine
privations and hardship over an extended period of time” and
that “become excessive in relation to the purposes assigned to
them” does constitute unconstitutional punishment, however.
Hubbard v. Taylor, 538 F.3d 229, 233 (3d Cir. 2008) (internal
citations and quotation marks omitted).
The claims against CCJ must be dismissed with prejudice
because it is not a “state actor” within the meaning of § 1983.
See Crawford v. McMillian, 660 F. App'x 113, 116 (3d Cir. 2016)
(“[T]he prison is not an entity subject to suit under 42 U.S.C.
§ 1983.”) (citing Fischer v. Cahill, 474 F.2d 991, 992 (3d Cir.
1973)); Grabow v. Southern State Corr. Facility, 726 F. Supp.
537, 538–39 (D.N.J. 1989) (correctional facility is not a
“person” under § 1983). Construing the complaint liberally and
giving Plaintiff the benefit of all reasonable inferences, he
has sufficiently stated a claim for unconstitutional conditions
of confinement against the unnamed “nurse and correctional
officer” as they allegedly observed Plaintiff’s suffering from
the gunshot wound that caused him difficulty walking.
Specifically, he alleges that the overcrowded conditions led to
unsanitary conditions that placed him in risk of “getting an
infection and experienced pain an[d] suffering.”
the totality of the circumstances alleged by Plaintiff, the
Court finds that he has sufficiently pled that he experienced
unconstitutional conditions at CCJ. The claim shall therefore be
permitted to proceed against the John Doe Nurse and Correctional
Officer at CCJ.
B. Denial of Medical Care Claim
The complaint should also be reasonably construed as
raising a denial of Medical Care Claim. Plaintiff alleges that
while detained at the CCJ, he was denied medical care for a
gunshot wound and sustained injuries due to the lack of medical
treatment. Complaint § IV.
The Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment applies
to pretrial detainees’ claims of inadequate medical care.
Bocchino v. City of Atlantic City, 179 F. Supp.3d 387, 403
(D.N.J. 2016). “[T]he Fourteenth Amendment in this context
incorporates the protections of the Eighth Amendment” (Holder v.
Merline, No. 05-1024, 2005 WL 1522130, at *3 (D.N.J. June 27,
2005) (citing Simmons v. City of Philadelphia, 947 F.2d 1042,
1067 (3d Cir. 1991), cert. denied, 503 U.S. 985 (1992)), and
most cases have stated that, at a minimum, the Eighth
Amendment’s “deliberate indifference” standard will suffice. In
other words, substantive due process rights are violated only
when the behavior of the government official is so egregious and
outrageous that it “shocks the conscience.” A.M. ex rel. J.M.K.
v. Luzerne Cnty. Juvenile Detention Ctr., 372 F.3d 572, 579 (3d
Cir. 2004) (citing County of Sacramento v. Lewis, 523 U.S. 833,
Applying this principle in the context of a claim for
violation of the right to adequate medical care, a pretrial
detainee must allege the following two elements to set forth a
cognizable cause of action: (1) a serious medical need; and (2)
behavior on the part of prison officials that constitutes
deliberate indifference to that need. Estelle v. Gamble, 429
U.S. 97, 106 (1976); Natale v. Camden Cnty. Corr. Facility, 318
F.3d 575, 582 (3d Cir. 2003).
To satisfy the first prong of the Estelle inquiry, an
inmate must demonstrate that his medical needs are serious. The
Third Circuit has defined a serious medical need as: (1) “one
that has been diagnosed by a physician as requiring treatment”;
(2) “one that is so obvious that a lay person would recognize
the necessity for a doctor's attention”; or (3) one for which
“the denial of treatment would result in the unnecessary and
wanton infliction of pain” or “a life-long handicap or permanent
loss.” Atkinson v. Taylor, 316 F.3d 257, 272-73 (3d Cir. 2003)
(internal quotations and citations omitted). When evaluating
this first element under Estelle, courts consider factors such
as “the severity of the medical problems, the potential for harm
if the medical care is denied or delayed and whether any such
harm actually resulted from the lack of medical attention.”
Maldonado v. Terhune, 28 F. Supp.2d 284, 289 (D.N.J. 1998).
The second element of the Estelle test is subjective and
“requires an inmate to show that prison officials acted with
deliberate indifference to his serious medical need.” Holder,
2005 WL 1522130, at *4 (citing Natale, 318 F.3d at 582) (finding
deliberate indifference requires proof that the official knew of
and disregarded an excessive risk to inmate health or safety).
Conduct that constitutes negligence does not rise to the level
of deliberate indifference; rather, deliberate indifference is a
“reckless disregard of a known risk of harm.” Holder, 2005 WL
1522130, at *4 (citing Farmer v. Brennan, 511 U.S. 825, 836
(1994)). Courts have found deliberate indifference “in
situations where there was ‘objective evidence that [a]
plaintiff had serious need for medical care,’ and prison
officials ignored that evidence[,] Nicini v. Morra, 212 F.3d
798, 815 n. 14 (3d Cir. 2000) [and] in situations where
‘necessary medical treatment is delayed for non-medical
reasons.’ Monmouth Cnty. Corr. Inst. Inmates v. Lanzaro, 834
F.2d 326, 347 (3d Cir. 1987)[,] [cert. denied, 486 U.S. 1006
(1988)].” Natale, 318 F.3d at 582.
Here, Plaintiff’s claim of lack of medical treatment for a
gunshot wound could satisfy these two prongs required for his
Medical Care Claim and the Court will allow this claim to
proceed against the John Doe Nurse and Correctional Officer at
CCJ. Estelle, 429 U.S. at 106; Natale, 318 F.3d at 582.
For the reasons stated above, Plaintiff’s Complaint is
dismissed in part and shall proceed in part. The complaint is
dismissed with prejudice at to the CCJ and shall proceed on the
due process claims and medical care claims against the John Doe
Nurse and Correctional Officer at CCJ. It will be Plaintiff’s
obligation to supply the identities of the individual state
actors whom he seeks to hold accountable for these claims.
An appropriate order follows.
October 19, 2017
s/ Jerome B. Simandle
JEROME B. SIMANDLE
U.S. District Judge
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