RANSOM-CARNEY v. NO DEFENDANT LISTED
OPINION. Signed by Chief Judge Jerome B. Simandle on 3/27/17. (jbk, )
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
DISTRICT OF NEW JERSEY
HONORABLE JEROME B. SIMANDLE
No. 16-cv-07923 (JBS-AMD)
(NO DEFENDANT LISTED).
Renee Ransom-Carney, Plaintiff Pro Se
S. Carlton Street
Lindenwold, NJ 08021
SIMANDLE, Chief District Judge:
Plaintiff Renee Ransom-Carney seeks to bring a civil
rights complaint pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against the Camden
County Jail (“CCJ”) for allegedly unconstitutional conditions of
confinement. Complaint, Docket Entry 1. Although Plaintiff does
not name a defendant in the caption of her Complaint, this Court
will construe Plaintiff’s Complaint as asserting claims against
Camden County Jail (“CCJ”), based on Plaintiff’s allegations
against “Camden County Jail” in § III(A) of her Complaint
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
CCJ; and (2) dismiss the Complaint without prejudice for failure
to state a claim as to conditions of confinement. 28 U.S.C. §
Claims Against CCJ: 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
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.
under color of state law.” Carver v. Foerster, 102 F.3d 96, 99
(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 CCJ for allegedly unconstitutional
conditions of confinement. The CCJ, 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
“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,
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). Given
that the claims against the CCJ must be dismissed with
prejudice, the claims may not proceed and Plaintiff may not name
the CCJ 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 30 days of the date of this order.
Conditions Of Confinement Claims:
Dismissed Without Prejudice
For the reasons set forth below, the Court will
dismiss the Complaint without prejudice for failure to state a
claim as to conditions of confinement. 28 U.S.C. §
The present Complaint 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. Even accepting the statements in Plaintiff’s
Complaint as true for screening purposes only, there is not
enough factual support for the Court to infer a constitutional
violation has occurred.
To survive sua sponte screening for failure to state a
claim3, 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). “[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)). Moreover, while pro se pleadings are liberally
construed, “pro se litigants still must allege sufficient facts
in their complaints to support a claim.” Mala v. Crown Bay
“The legal standard for dismissing a complaint for failure to
state a claim pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B)(ii) is the
same as that for dismissing a complaint pursuant to Federal Rule
of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6).” Samuels v. Health Dep’t, No. 161289, 2017 WL 26884, slip op. at *2 (D.N.J. Jan. 3, 2017)
(citing Schreane v. Seana, 506 F. App’x 120, 122 (3d Cir.
2012)); Allah v. Seiverling, 229 F.3d 220, 223 (3d Cir. 2000));
Mitchell v. Beard, 492 F. App’x 230, 232 (3d Cir. 2012)
(discussing 28 U.S.C. § 1997e(c)(1)); Courteau v. United States,
287 F. App’x 159, 162 (3d Cir. 2008) (discussing 28 U.S.C. §
Marina, Inc., 704 F.3d 239, 245 (3d Cir. 2013) (citation
omitted) (emphasis added).
A complaint 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.
However, with respect to the alleged facts giving rise
to Plaintiff’s claims, the present Complaint states: “I was
placed and housed on the floor for several days (7) at least[.]
[T]he floor was moist, cold, damp and moldy! They put me on
floor [and] then top bunk[.] I have seizures!” Complaint §
Plaintiff contends that these events occurred:
“Several times during 2006 – 2009 – 2012 – 2014-2015 - 2013.”
Id. § III(B).
With respect to alleged injuries from these events,
Plaintiff states: “Back is sore. Infected agnoids [sic] from
mold & cold damp conditions. Fell off top bunk during a seizure
(should not have been housed there).” Id. § IV.
With respect to requested relief, Plaintiff “would
like for the State to pay all medical expenses that I incurred
following incarceration[.] Minimum monetary value $5,000 medical
expense, Therapy for post traumatic stress disorder medications
$1,200.” Id. § V.
Even construing the Complaint as seeking to bring a
civil rights complaint pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, any such
purported claims must be dismissed because the Complaint does
not set forth sufficient factual support for the Court to infer
that a constitutional violation has occurred.
(A) Conditions Of Confinement: Overcrowding Allegation
Construing the Complaint to assert § 1983 claims for
purported prison overcrowding in relation to Plaintiff being
“placed and housed on the floor” (Complaint § III(C)), such
contention is insufficient to allege a constitutional violation
as to conditions of confinement.
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
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 30 days of the date of this order.4
(B) Conditions Of Confinement: Allegations Of Deliberate
Indifference To Plaintiff’s Medical Condition
Construing the Complaint to assert § 1983 claims in
relation to Plaintiff “f[alling] off top bunk during a seizure”
The amended complaint shall be subject to screening prior to
(Complaint § IV), such contention is insufficient to allege a
constitutional violation as to conditions of confinement.
In the context of detainees alleging claims related to
medical conditions, the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth
Amendment incorporates the protections of the Eighth Amendment,
including the latter’s “deliberate indifference” standard, such
that “substantive due process rights are violated only when ‘the
behavior of the governmental officer is so egregious, so
outrageous, that it may fairly be said to shock the
conscience.’” Callaway v. New Jersey State Police Troop A, No.
12-5477, 2015 WL 1202533, at *4 (D.N.J. Mar, 17, 2015) (citing
Cnty. of Sacramento v. Lewis, 523 U.S. 833, 846–47, n.8 (1998)).
See also Jacobs v. Cumberland County Dep’t of Corr., No. 090133, 2010 WL 5141717, at *4 (D.N.J. Dec. 8, 2010) (“When
executive action is at issue, a violation of the Fourteenth
Amendment right to substantive due process may be shown by
conduct that ‘shocks the conscience’”) (citing A.M. ex rel.
J.M.K. v. Luzerne County Juvenile Detention Ctr., 372 F.3d 572,
579 (3d Cir. 2004)); Bocchino v. City of Atlantic City, 179 F.
Supp.3d 387, 403 (D.N.J. 2016); 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)).
Here, Plaintiff’s Complaint sets forth no facts
establishing that her purported “seizures” (Complaint § III(C))
satisfy 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)):
i.e., the Complaint offers no facts that Plaintiff’s alleged
seizures “(1) ha[ve] been diagnosed by a physician as requiring
treatment”; (2) “[were] so obvious that a lay person would
recognize the necessity for a doctor's attention”; or (3) were a
condition 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
The Complaint is silent with respect to facts relevant
to demonstrating “serious condition,” such as: the nature and
severity of Plaintiff’s seizures; whether, when and to whom
Plaintiff communicated her seizure-related condition to CCJ
personnel; and Plaintiff’s medical history of frequency,
duration and management of her seizures. (The foregoing examples
are merely illustrative but not exhaustive or exclusive.) See
Maldonado v. Terhune, 28 F. Supp.2d 284, 289 (D.N.J. 1998). In
short, Plaintiff does not allege that she has ever actually been
diagnosed with a seizure condition or that her purported seizure
predisposition was so obvious that a lay person would recognize
the necessity for particular sleeping arrangements. Accordingly,
Plaintiff has not satisfied Estelle’s “serious condition”
element for a Fourteenth Amendment claim.
Plaintiff’s Complaint also sets forth no facts
establishing that her purported “seizures” (Complaint § III(C))
satisfy the “deliberate indifference” prong of a Fourteenth
Amendment claim. Estelle, 429 U.S. at 106. This second Estelle
element “requires an inmate to show that prison officials acted
with deliberate indifference to h[er] 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.
Here, Plaintiff’s bare allegation that she “fell off
top bunk during a seizure (should not have been housed there)”
(Complaint § IV) is insufficient, without more, to establish
“deliberate indifference” for a Fourteenth Amendment claim under
For example, Plaintiff sets forth no allegations as to
whether she informed CCJ personnel of her seizure condition and
whether they then purposely assigned her to sleep in the top
bunk with the intent to punish Plaintiff. The severity of
Plaintiff’s alleged seizures and the potential for harm to
Plaintiff from such condition if she slept on a top bunk are
also unclear from Plaintiff’s allegations. The Complaint is
silent with respect to whether CCJ personnel knew that Plaintiff
claimed to suffer from seizures or whether her condition was
obvious. See, e.g., Mattern v. City of Sea Isle, 131 F. Supp.3d
305, 316 (D.N.J. 2015) (citing Nicini, 212 F.3d at 815 n.14)
(“[T]he Third Circuit has 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”). Furthermore, the Complaint
does not set forth any contentions that describe how individual
officers were personally involved and deliberately indifferent
to her purported seizures.
Therefore, Plaintiff has failed to state a cause of
action under the Fourteenth Amendment for deliberate
indifference to her purported seizures while incarcerated at
CCJ. These claims will be dismissed without prejudice, with
leave to amend the Complaint within 30 days of the date of this
order to meet the pleading deficiencies noted above, if
Plaintiff elects to pursue this claim.
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 § 1915.5
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
To the extent the Complaint seeks relief for conditions
Plaintiff encountered prior to October 27, 2014, 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 two years after release from
incarceration. In the event Plaintiff elects to file an amended
complaint, it should be limited to confinements in which
Plaintiff was released after October 27, 2014.
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 CCJ; and (b) dismissed
without prejudice for failure to state a claim as to conditions
An appropriate order follows.
March 27, 2017
s/ Jerome B. Simandle
JEROME B. SIMANDLE
Chief U.S. District Judge
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