MCDOWELL v. CAMDEN COUNTY CORRECTION FACILITY
OPINION. Signed by Judge Jerome B. Simandle on 10/19/17. (jbk, )
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
DISTRICT OF NEW JERSEY
ADAM TYREE MCDOWELL,
HONORABLE JEROME B. SIMANDLE
CAMDEN COUNTY CORRECTION
No. 16-cv-07624 (JBS-AMD)
Adam Tyree McDowell, Plaintiff Pro Se
720 Haddon Ave.
Camden, NJ 08103
SIMANDLE, District Judge:
Plaintiff Adam Tyree McDowell seeks to bring a civil
rights complaint pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against the Camden
County Correction Facility (“CCCF”) for allegedly
unconstitutional conditions of confinement. Complaint, Docket
28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2) requires courts to review
complaints prior to service in cases in which a plaintiff is
proceeding in forma pauperis. Courts 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: (1)
dismiss the Complaint with prejudice as to claims made against
CCCF; and (2) dismiss the Complaint without prejudice for
failure to state a claim. 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(b)(ii), except
that claims relating to conditions of confinement arising prior
to October 20, 2014, are dismissed with prejudice.
Claims Against CCCF: Dismissed With Prejudice
Plaintiff brings this action pursuant to 42 U.S.C.
§ 19831 for alleged violations of Plaintiff’s constitutional
rights. In order to set forth a prima facie case under § 1983, a
plaintiff must show: “(1) a person deprived him of a federal
right; and (2) the person who deprived him of that right acted
under color of state or territorial law.” Groman v. Twp. of
Manalapan, 47 F.3d 628, 633 (3d Cir. 1995) (citing Gomez v.
Toledo, 446 U.S. 635, 640 (1980)).
Generally, for purposes of actions under § 1983,
“[t]he term ‘persons’ includes local and state officers acting
under color of state law.” Carver v. Foerster, 102 F.3d 96, 99
Section 1983 provides: “Every person who, under color of any
statute, ordinance, regulation, custom, or usage, of any State .
. . 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 . . . .” 42 U.S.C. § 1983.
(3d Cir. 1996) (citing Hafer v. Melo, 502 U.S. 21 (1991)).2 To
say that a person was “acting under color of state law” means
that the defendant in a § 1983 action “exercised power [that the
defendant] possessed by virtue of state law and made possible
only because the wrongdoer [was] clothed with the authority of
state law.” West v. Atkins, 487 U.S. 42, 49 (1988) (citation
omitted). Generally, then, “a public employee acts under color
of state law while acting in his official capacity or while
exercising his responsibilities pursuant to state law.” Id.
Because the Complaint has not sufficiently alleged
that a “person” deprived Plaintiff of a federal right, the
Complaint does not meet the standards necessary to set forth a
prima facie case under § 1983. In the Complaint, Plaintiff seeks
monetary damages from CCCF for allegedly unconstitutional
conditions of confinement. The CCCF, however, is not a “person”
within the meaning of § 1983; therefore, the claims against it
must be dismissed with prejudice. 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.
“Person” is not strictly limited to individuals who are state
and local government employees, however. For example,
municipalities and other local government units, such as
counties, also are considered “persons” for purposes of § 1983.
See Monell v. N.Y.C. Dep't of Social Services, 436 U.S. 658,
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). Given
that the claims against the CCCF must be dismissed with
prejudice, the claims may not proceed and Plaintiff may not name
the CCCF as a defendant.
Plaintiff may be able to amend the Complaint to name a
person or persons who were personally involved in the alleged
unconstitutional conditions of confinement, however. To that
end, the Court shall grant Plaintiff leave to amend the
Complaint within 60 days of the date of this order.
Conditions Of Confinement Claims:
Dismissed Without Prejudice
Second, 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).
As to the conditions of confinement claims, the
present Complaint states: “I was incarcerated 11 times between
May 14, 2002 and July 6, 2015. Each instance there was an issue
with housing. In each instance I was assigned to a cell that
consisted of only 2 beds, but there were 3-4 inmates in each
cell. Each time I was subjected to sleeping on the floor for
more than 75% of the time. The only time I was able to have a
bunk was when a less dominating person would be in a cell with
me. There was no rotation. The sanitation conditions were
subpar. I was forced to sleep near toilets with urine splashing
on me at time. Bugs crawled on me. Rodents ran across me. I had
to fight due to space issues. Overcrowding in the summer made
inmates attitudes escalated and even more fighting ensued. From
6/4/05 to 7/6/15 I was in the medical ward with a broken arm
with staples and tubes in it and was on several meds that were
withheld from me for about a week. I was subjected to sleeping
on the floor at that time as well.” Complaint § III(C).
Plaintiff states this occurred on the following dates:
January 10 to August 18, 2003; December 9, 2006 to January 2,
2007; July 2, 2007 to January 1, 2008; April 15, 2010 to May 4,
2010; January 2 to January 12, 2013; May 15 to June 8, 2013;
July 17 to October 24, 2013; April 4 to June 24, 2014; July 15
to September 26, 2014; and June 4 to July 6, 2015. Id. § III(B)
Plaintiff states he that he did not suffer physical
injuries but suffered “ongoing back pain and mental distress at
times.” Id. § IV.
With respect to requested relief, Plaintiff states he
“wish[es] to receive compensation that is reasonable for what I
was subjected to.” Id. § V.
Even construing the Complaint as seeking to bring a
civil rights complaint pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 for alleged
prison overcrowding, any such purported claims must be dismissed
because the Complaint does not name specific individuals who are
responsible for these conditions. As discussed above, the CCCF
is a not a “person” who can be held responsible for these
claims. Plaintiff has to name individuals or the positions held
by individuals who are responsible for these claims.
It is important to note, that 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[s]
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 length of the confinement(s), whether
plaintiff was a pretrial detainee or convicted prisoner, any
specific individuals who were involved in creating or failing to
remedy the conditions of confinement, any other relevant facts
regarding the conditions of confinement, etc.
Moreover, to the extent the complaint seeks relief for
conditions Plaintiff encountered during periods of confinement
ending prior to October 20, 2014, those claims are barred by the
statute of limitations and must be dismissed with prejudice,
meaning that Plaintiff cannot recover for those claims because
they have been brought too late.3 Civil rights claims under
§ 1983 are governed by New Jersey's limitations period for
personal injury and must be brought within two years of the
claim’s accrual. 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).
Plaintiff alleges the events giving rise to his claims
occurred during numerous incarcerations between 2002 and 2015.
The allegedly unconstitutional conditions of confinement at
CCCF, namely the overcrowding, would have been immediately
Plaintiff filed this complaint on October 20, 2016.
apparent to Plaintiff at the time of his detention; therefore,
the statute of limitations for Plaintiff’s claims arising from
all but his June 4 to July 6, 2015 incarcerations expired before
this complaint was filed in 2016. Plaintiff therefore cannot
recover for any claims from the following detentions: January 10
to August 18, 2003; December 9, 2006 to January 2, 2007; July 2,
2007 to January 1, 2008; April 15, 2010 to May 4, 2010; January
2 to January 12, 2013; May 15 to June 8, 2013; July 17 to
October 24, 2013; and April 4 to June 24, 2014.4 Claims for any
violations occurring during the last listed period of
confinement, June 4 to July 6, 2015 would not be time-barred.
Therefore, Plaintiff may amend his complaint to
address any claims related to the June 4 to July 6, 2015
incarceration. As discussed above, Plaintiff must name any
specific individuals who were involved in creating or failing to
remedy the conditions of confinement and any other relevant
facts regarding the conditions of confinement, etc. It is not
enough to list “CCCF” as the defendant.
Although the Court may toll, or extend, the statute of
limitations in the interests of justice, certain circumstances
must be present before it can do so. Tolling is not warranted in
this case because the state has not “actively misled” Plaintiff
as to the existence of his cause of action, there are no
extraordinary circumstances that prevented Plaintiff from filing
his claim, and there is nothing to indicate Plaintiff filed his
claim on time but in the wrong forum. See Omar v. Blackman, 590
F. App’x 162, 166 (3d Cir. 2014).
Conditions Of Confinement Claim - Allegations Of Inadequate
Medical Care: Dismissed Without Prejudice
Further, as to Plaintiff’s June 4 to July 6, 2015
detention at CCCF, Plaintiff alleges that he “was in the medical
ward with a broken arm with staples and tubes in it and was on
several meds that were withheld from [him] for about a week.”
Complaint § III(C). It appears Plaintiff is attempting to raise
an inadequate medical care claim, however, Plaintiff does not
allege sufficient facts to support a reasonable inference that a
constitutional violation has occurred in order to survive this
Court’s review under § 1915.
Rule 8 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure (“Fed.
R. Civ. P.”) requires pleadings to contain “a short and plain
statement of the grounds for the court's jurisdiction . . .
short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader
is entitled to relief; and demand for the relief sought . . . .”
Fed. R. Civ. P. 8(a)(1)-(3). While pro se complaints are
construed liberally and are held to less stringent standards
than formal pleadings drafted by lawyers (Erickson v. Pardus,
551 U.S. 89, 94 (2007); Haines v. Kerner, 404 U.S. 519, 520
(1972)), pro se litigants nevertheless must still allege facts,
taken as true, to suggest the required elements of the claims
asserted. Phillips v. Cnty. of Allegheny, 515 F.3d 224, 234-35
(3d Cir. 2008); McNeil v. United States, 508 U.S. 106, 113
(1993)(“[W]e have never suggested that procedural rules in
ordinary civil litigation should be interpreted so as to excuse
mistakes by those who proceed without counsel”).
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.
While the Court will accept as true for screening
purposes that the injury Plaintiff states he suffered was of a
nature and extent that satisfies the “serious condition” prong
of a Fourteenth Amendment claim (Estelle v. Gamble, 429 U.S. 97,
106 (1976); Natale v. Camden Cnty. Corr. Facility, 318 F.3d 575,
582 (3d Cir. 2003)). However, Plaintiff’s Complaint sets forth
insufficient facts alleging that an individual at CCCF
demonstrated “deliberate indifference” to these injuries during
his incarceration (i.e., the second prong for a Fourteenth
Amendment inadequate medical care claim). Estelle, 429 U.S. at
106. This second Estelle element “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).” Natale, 318 F.3d at 582.
Therefore, Plaintiff has failed to state a cause of
action under the Fourteenth Amendment for inadequate medical
care of his injury while incarcerated at CCCF. These claims will
be dismissed without prejudice, with leave to amend the
Complaint to meet the pleading deficiencies noted above, if
Plaintiff elects to pursue this claim with respect to deliberate
Plaintiff is informed that should he elect to amend
the Complaint with respect to his June 4 to July 5, 2016
detention, some relevant factors he may consider amending in his
complaint include any specific individuals who were involved in
creating the conditions in which he was confined or any
individuals who exhibited indifference to his medical needs, any
information regarding any results or effects that the lack of
medical attention caused Plaintiff to sustain, what if any
actions were taken by Plaintiff in regards to informing staff as
to his condition, etc.
Plaintiff may be able to amend the Complaint to
particularly identify adverse conditions that were caused by
specific state actors, that caused Plaintiff to endure genuine
privations and hardship over an extended period of time, and
that were excessive in relation to their purposes. To that end,
the Court shall grant Plaintiff leave to amend the Complaint
within 60 days of the date of this order.5
Plaintiff is further advised that any amended
complaint must plead specific facts regarding the conditions of
confinement. In the event Plaintiff files an amended complaint,
Plaintiff must plead sufficient facts to support a reasonable
inference that a constitutional violation has occurred in order
to survive this Court’s review under § 1915. As discussed above,
if Plaintiff elects to file an amended complaint, it should be
The amended complaint shall be subject to screening prior to
limited to confinements in which Plaintiff was released after
October 20, 2014.
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 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, 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 may not adopt or repeat claims that have been
dismissed with prejudice by the Court.
For the reasons stated above, the Complaint is: (a)
dismissed with prejudice as to the CCCF; and (b) dismissed
without prejudice for failure to state a claim, except that
claims arising prior to October 20, 2014, are dismissed with
An appropriate order follows.
October 19, 2017
s/ Jerome B. Simandle
JEROME B. SIMANDLE
U.S. District Judge
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