JOHNSON v. CAMDEN COUNTY CORRECTIONAL FACILITY et al
OPINION. Signed by Judge Jerome B. Simandle on 10/19/2017. (tf, n.m.)
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE DISTRICT OF NEW JERSEY
HONORABLE JEROME B. SIMANDLE
CAMDEN COUNTY CORRECTIONAL
FACILITY; WARDEN D. OWENS,
Kassime Johnson, Plaintiff Pro Se
1254 Everett Street
Camden, NJ 08104
SIMANDLE, District Judge:
Plaintiff Kassime Johnson seeks to bring a civil rights
complaint pursuant to the 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against Camden County
Correctional Facility (“CCCF”) and Warden D. Owens (“Warden”)
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 CCCF as he was confined in an overcrowded,
unsanitary facility. Complaint § III. His complaint states: “The
Plaintiff Kassime Johnson is a victim of gun violence and has
sustained serious injuries from being shot and on or about
9/2002 and April 2016, the Plaintiff was arrested by Camden City
Police and was transported to the CCCF. While being housed in
the CCCF the plaintiff was given a thin mattress, (2) sheets and
blanket and was forced to sleep on the floor of a two man cell,
housed with (4) inmates in overcrowded cell. The injuries of the
plaintiff made sleeping on the floor, on the thin mattress very
painful and plaintiff should have been housed on medical tier
but due to overcrowding this was impossible and plaintiff had to
sleep on the floor and was denied medical attention. Plaintiff
brings constitutional challenges to the conditions of the Jail/
confinement at CCCF. The plaintiff alleges numerous
constitutional violations due to inadequate jail conditions that
violate plaintiff’s eighth and fourteenth amendment rights which
are listed as follows: a) due to overcrowding plaintiff who
should have been on medical unit due to injuries causing severe
pain was forced to sleep on fifthly floor of overcrowded cell
and slept near toilet; b) plaintiff witnessed numerous fights
due to inmates (including plaintiff) was denied of basic
essentials such as toilet paper, cleaning supplies to clean
overcrowded jail cell and when an inmate is urinated on from
sleeping on floor near toilet fights ensued; and c) plaintiff
had to take meals on dirty trays; d) plaintiff was forced to eat
spoiled food on several occasions; e) plaintiff broke out with
rashes from having to shower using dirty showers with fungus in
them which were rarely cleaned properly due to lack of proper
supplies needed to clean showers; f) plaintiff was denied of the
right to send the blankets to the laundry service to be cleaned
in under to keep up hygenes [sic]; g) plaintiff was denied of
medical attention and was in a lot of pain due to gunshot
injuries which were not treated as plaintiff slept on the floor.
The Defendants CCCF and Warden Owens did not do anything to
prevent these conditions of overcrowding, medical attention,
cleaning supplies and the conditions of the kitchen where food
was stored and prepared. There is an ongoing rodent problems as
well as insect problems.” Id.
Plaintiff states this occurred in approximately September
2002 and April 2016. Id.
With respect to the requested relief,
Plaintiff seeks 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 CCCF.
A. Conditions of Pretrial Confinement
Plaintiff alleges he experienced unconstitutional
conditions of confinement at CCCF 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 CCCF 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 Warden. Specifically, he alleges that the overcrowded
conditions led to unsanitary conditions in the cells, lack of
cleaning supplies and laundry services, rodent infestation and
unsanitary food preparation. Further, the conditions of
confinement may not have been appropriate for an individual with
Plaintiff’s alleged medical needs. Considering the totality of
the circumstances alleged by Plaintiff, the Court finds that he
has sufficiently pled that he experienced unconstitutional
conditions at CCCF. The claim shall therefore be permitted to
proceed against the Warden.
As Plaintiff stated this occurred in approximately
September 2002 and April 2016, Plaintiff may only seek relief
for the conditions Plaintiff encountered during periods of
confinement for the April 2016 incarceration. Any claims related
to the September 2002 incarceration 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.1 Civil rights claims under § 1983 are governed
by New Jersey's limitations period for personal injury and must
Plaintiff filed this complaint on September 30, 2016.
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).
The allegedly unconstitutional conditions of confinement at
CCJ, namely the overcrowding, would have been immediately
apparent to Plaintiff at the time of his detention; therefore,
the statute of limitations for Plaintiff’s claims arising from
his incarcerations of approximately September 2002 expired in
2004, before this complaint was filed in 2016. Plaintiff
therefore cannot recover for these claims and they will be
dismissed with prejudice.
Plaintiff’s claims regarding the April 2016 incarceration
have been sufficiently pled to be permitted to proceed against
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 CCCF, he was denied medical care for a
gunshot wound and sustained pain 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 Warden. Estelle, 429 U.S. at 106; Natale,
318 F.3d at 582. As discussed above, this claim will only be
allowed to proceed as to the April 2016 detention.
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 CCCF and shall proceed on the
due process claims and medical care claims against the Warden.
An appropriate order follows.
October 19, 2017
s/ Jerome B. Simandle
JEROME B. SIMANDLE
U.S. District Judge
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