BATTIE v. THE COUNTY
OPINION. Signed by Chief Judge Jerome B. Simandle on 5/31/17. (jbk, )
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
DISTRICT OF NEW JERSEY
HONORABLE JEROME B. SIMANDLE
No. 16-cv-08409 (JBS-AMD)
Derrick Battie, Plaintiff Pro Se
1070 Morton Street
Camden, NJ 08104
SIMANDLE, Chief District Judge:
Plaintiff Derrick Battie seeks to bring a civil rights
complaint pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against Camden County.
Complaint, Docket Entry 1.
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
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).
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). “[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)).
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
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.
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
(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.
Though the complaint lacks some specificity, the Court
construes Plaintiff’s complaint as alleging that Plaintiff
“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,
experienced unconstitutional conditions of confinement during
his detention at the Camden County Correctional Facility. The
fact section of the complaint states: “Sleeping on floor
Unsanitary conditions 4 to a cell people ur[i]nating on floor
all around me [and] other – people detoxing through up and
people are clean and subject to there [sic] addiction. Warden
[and] other officers knowing and knot caring about other inmates
and theirselves being affected by others. Nurses not giving
medications when suppose to talking about they don’t get high
just being disrespectful and none caring.” Complaint § III. Even
accepting these statements as true for screening purposes only,
there is not enough factual support for the Court to infer 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 dates and length of
the confinement(s), whether Plaintiff was a pretrial detainee or
convicted prisoner, etc.
In addition, to the extent that Plaintiff seeks to
allege a claim based on a violation of his right to adequate
medical care, there are not enough facts to support an inference
that Plaintiff’s rights were violated in this regard. In order
to set forth a cognizable claim for a violation of his right to
adequate medical care, an inmate must allege: (1) a serious
medical need; and (2) behavior on the part of prison officials
that constitutes deliberate indifference to that need. See
Estelle v. Gamble, 429 U.S. 97, 106 (1976); Natale v. Camden
Cnty. Corr. Facility, 318 F.3d 575, 582 (3d Cir. 2003).
Plaintiff’s allegation stating “nurses not giving medications
when suppose to . . . just being disrespectful and none caring”
is insufficient to meet the pleading standard in the absence of
additional facts. If he wishes to pursue this claim, Plaintiff
should provide additional facts supporting both of the
requirements in his amended complaint.
Moreover, Plaintiff has not pled sufficient facts to
impose liability on Camden County. “There is no respondeat
superior theory of municipal liability, so a city may not be
held vicariously liable under § 1983 for the actions of its
agents. Rather, a municipality may be held liable only if its
policy or custom is the ‘moving force’ behind a constitutional
violation.” Sanford v. Stiles, 456 F.3d 298, 314 (3d Cir. 2006)
(citing Monell v. N.Y.C. Dep't of Social Services, 436 U.S. 658,
691 (1978)). See also Collins v. City of Harker Heights, 503
U.S. 115, 122 (1992) (“The city is not vicariously liable under
§ 1983 for the constitutional torts of its agents: It is only
liable when it can be fairly said that the city itself is the
Plaintiff must plead facts showing that the relevant
Camden County policy-makers are “responsible for either the
affirmative proclamation of a policy or acquiescence in a wellsettled custom.” Bielevicz v. Dubinon, 915 F.2d 845, 850 (3d
Cir. 1990).3 In other words, Plaintiff must set forth facts
“Policy is made when a decisionmaker possess[ing] final
authority to establish municipal policy with respect to the
action issues an official proclamation, policy, or edict.
Government custom can be demonstrated by showing that a given
course of conduct, although not specifically endorsed or
authorized by law, is so well-settled and permanent as virtually
supporting an inference that Camden County itself was the
“moving force” behind the alleged constitutional violation.
Monell, 436 U.S. at 689. Plaintiff has not alleged any such
As Plaintiff may be able to amend his complaint to
address the deficiencies noted by the Court, the Court shall
grant Plaintiff leave to amend the complaint within 30 days of
the date of this order.
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.4 Id.
to constitute law.” Kirkland v. DiLeo, 581 F. App'x 111, 118 (3d
Cir. 2014) (internal quotation marks and citations omitted)
(alteration in original).
4 The amended complaint shall be subject to screening prior to
For the reasons stated above, the complaint is
dismissed without prejudice for failure to state a claim. The
Court will reopen the matter in the event Plaintiff files an
amended complaint within the time allotted by the Court.
An appropriate order follows.
May 31, 2017
s/ Jerome B. Simandle
JEROME B. SIMANDLE
Chief U.S. District Judge
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