JACKSON v. CAMDEN COUNTY CORRECTIONAL FACILITY
OPINION FILED. Signed by Chief Judge Jerome B. Simandle on 3/30/17. (js)
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
DISTRICT OF NEW JERSEY
HONORABLE JEROME B. SIMANDLE
No. 16-cv-07956 (JBS-AMD)
Elizabeth Jackson, Plaintiff Pro Se
105 Boyd Street
Camden, NJ 08105
SIMANDLE, Chief District Judge:
Plaintiff Elizabeth Jackson seeks to bring a civil
rights complaint pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against the Camden
County Correctional 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 regarding conditions of confinement, as
to both overcrowding allegations and inadequate medical care
allegations. 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(b)(ii).
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 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 regarding prison
overcrowding allegations. 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(b)(ii).
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 Complaint states: “Pneumonia resorted
[sic] from sleeping on floor 4 inmates to a cell; denied medical
attention.” Complaint § III(C).
Plaintiff states that these events occurred “June 15,
2015; Nov 2014; Sept 2014; July 2014; April 2014.” Id. § III(B).
The Complaint alleges that Plaintiff suffered
pneumonia, knee problems, and back problem as a result of these
events. Id. § IV, § V.
Plaintiff seeks to be “compensate[d] because health
got worse, [including] knees and back problems because of
getting up and down off of floor.” 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 in connection with Plaintiff “sleeping on
floor” (Complaint § III(C)), 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.
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
Allegations Of Inadequate Medical Care
Construing the Complaint to assert § 1983 claims in
relation Plaintiff’s purported “pneumonia [that was] denied
medical care” (Complaint § IV), her alleged “diabetic [condition
that was] not given special trays” (id.), and her purported
“asthmatic [condition] which [was] not given treatments properly
or timely” (id.), such contentions are insufficient to allege
constitutional violations as to conditions of confinement. The
Court will dismiss Plaintiff’s failure to provide adequate
medical care claims without prejudice.
In the context of detainees alleging claims related to
medical care, 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
The amended complaint shall be subject to screening prior to
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)).
Accord Bocchino v. City of Atlantic City, 179 F. Supp.3d 387,
403 (D.N.J. 2016); Jacobs v. Cumberland County Dep’t of Corr.,
No. 09-0133, 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)); 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)).
Thus, in order to set forth a cognizable claim for
violation of the right to adequate medical care, an inmate must
allege facts demonstrating two elements: (a) a serious medical
need; and (b) 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).
Here, the Complaint lacks facts satisfying these two
elements in order for the Court to infer Plaintiff was denied
adequate medical care.
As an initial matter, Plaintiff’s non-specific
assertion that she was “denied medical attention” (Complaint §
III(C)) is insufficient to meet the pleading standard in the
absence of any facts.
Then, with respect to Plaintiff’s purported
“pneumonia,” “diabetic [condition]” and “asthmatic [condition]”
(Complaint § IV), Plaintiff offers no facts to satisfy either
the “serious condition” or “deliberate indifference” prongs of a
Fourteenth Amendment claim. Estelle, 429 U.S. at 106; Natale,
318 F.3d at 582.
Regarding Estelle’s “serious condition” prong, the
Complaint offers no facts that any or all of Plaintiff’s alleged
“pneumonia,” “diabetic” or “asthmatic” conditions (Complaint §
IV): “(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
omitted). The Complaint is silent with respect to facts relevant
to demonstrating “serious condition,” such as: the nature and
severity of Plaintiff’s pneumonia, asthma and diabetes; whether,
when and to whom Plaintiff communicated knowledge of one or more
of these conditions to CCCF personnel; and Plaintiff’s medical
history as to frequency, duration and management of her
pneumonia, asthma and diabetes. (The foregoing examples of facts
demonstrating “serious condition” 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 pneumonia,
diabetes, or asthma, or that her supposed suffering from these
conditions was so obvious that a lay person would recognize the
necessity of medical care, dietary provisions or respiratory
treatments, respectively. Accordingly, Plaintiff has not
satisfied Estelle’s “serious condition” element for a Fourteenth
Regarding Estelle’s second prong, the Complaint sets
forth no facts establishing that prison officials acted with
“deliberate indifference to h[er] serious medical need[s].”
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 allegations that she was “not
given special trays” and “not given treatments properly or
timely” (Complaint § IV) are insufficient, without more, to
establish “deliberate indifference” for a Fourteenth Amendment
claim under Estelle.
For example, Plaintiff sets forth no allegations as
to: whether she informed CCCF personnel of her pneumonia and
they then purposely refused her treatment for it; whether she
informed CCCF personnel of her diabetes and they then
deliberately denied her diabetic meal trays that were available;
and whether she informed CCCF personnel of her asthma and they
then intentionally refused or delayed her particular types of
treatment for such. Also unclear from Plaintiff’s allegations
are the diagnosis dates and symptom severity of these three
conditions in her medical history, along with health
complications (if any) suffered by Plaintiff as a result of the
allegedly denied medical care. The Complaint is silent with
respect to whether CCCF personnel knew that Plaintiff claimed to
suffer from each of these three health issues or whether her
conditions were 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 each of her purported pneumonia, diabetes and
Therefore, Plaintiff has failed to state a cause of
action under the Fourteenth Amendment for inadequate medical
care as to her purported pneumonia, diabetes and asthma while
incarcerated at CCCF. 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 advised that, in the event she elects to
file an amended complaint to address the deficiencies noted
herein, she must plead specific facts regarding the conditions
of confinement to support a reasonable inference that a
constitutional violation has occurred in order to survive this
Court’s review under § 1915.
Furthermore, in the event Plaintiff elects to file a
second complaint to amend her original October 27, 2016
Complaint in this matter, it should be limited to confinements
from which Plaintiff was released after October 27, 2014 because
claims brought under § 1983 are governed by New Jersey's twoyear 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). Any
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.
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 as to conditions
An appropriate order follows.
March 30, 2017
s/ Jerome B. Simandle
JEROME B. SIMANDLE
Chief U.S. District Judge
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