RODRIGUEZ v. CAMDEN COUNTY CORRECTIONAL FACILITY
OPINION. Signed by Chief Judge Jerome B. Simandle on 4/21/2017. (dmr)
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
DISTRICT OF NEW JERSEY
DAVID C. RODRIGUEZ,
HONORABLE JEROME B. SIMANDLE
CAMDEN COUNTY CORRECTIONAL
No. 16-cv-08417 (JBS-AMD)
David C. Rodriguez, Plaintiff Pro Se
2935 N. Congress Rd.
Camden, NJ 08104
SIMANDLE, Chief District Judge:
Plaintiff David C. Rodriguez seeks to bring a civil
rights complaint pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against the Camden
County Correctional Facility (“CCCF”). Complaint, Docket
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
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
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
(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.
injured in an action at law, suit in equity, or other proper
proceeding for redress . . . .” 42 U.S.C. § 1983.
2 “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,
Because Plaintiff has not sufficiently alleged that a
“person” deprived him of a federal right, the complaint does not
meet the standards necessary to set forth a prima facie case
under § 1983. Plaintiff presumably seeks monetary damages3 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. Cahill, 474 F.2d 991, 992
(3d Cir. 1973)). Because 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.
Plaintiff is advised that the amended 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. Plaintiff alleges he experienced
Plaintiff has not stated any requested relief in the complaint.
unconstitutional conditions of confinement during seventeen
separate incarcerations between September 4, 1996 and July 20,
2016. Complaint § III. The fact section of the complaint states:
“As a result of sleeping on a very filt[h]y floor, most times by
the toilet, I’ve contracted a skin disorder, (boils). I have
endless back pains which I take ibuprofen or asprin [sic] for
whenever it’s available.” Id. Plaintiff further states: “For the
boils, the medical staff provided an orange/reddish colored
ointment. For the aches [and] pains in my back they provided
nothing. The pain is endless and the boils “never” stop
recurring and are extremely painful!! Conditions were so poor
and depressing that I ended up having a mental breakdown and was
placed on 2SA, which is a [illegible] medical unit with no
clothes, just a smock, as they also once again had to treat me
for boils again.” Id. § IV. 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
Plaintiff alleges that he slept on the floor,
presumably because no open beds were available. 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,
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 alleges that he did receive treatment for his boils.
Complaint § IV. In addition, Plaintiff’s allegation that “they
provided nothing” for the aches and pains in his back 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, to the extent the complaint seeks relief for
conditions Plaintiff encountered during periods of confinement
ending prior to November 10, 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.4 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
Plaintiff filed this complaint on November 10, 2016.
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 seventeen different incarcerations between 1996
and 2016. Complaint § III; Complaint at 6-7. However, all but
three of these incarcerations occurred more than two years prior
to the filing of Plaintiff’s complaint.5 The allegedly
unconstitutional conditions of confinement at CCCF, 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 between September 4, 1996 and March 19, 2014,
expired before this complaint was filed November 10, 2016.
Plaintiff therefore cannot recover for these claims.6
As Plaintiff may be able to amend his complaint to
address the deficiencies noted by the Court, the Court shall
The three incarcerations that occurred within the two-year
statute of limitations were from February 2, 2015, to February
13, 2015, August 25, 2015, to August 30, 2015, and July 17, 2016
to July 20, 2016.
6 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).
grant Plaintiff leave to amend the complaint within 30 days of
the date of this order. However, in the event Plaintiff does
elect to file an amended complaint, he should focus only on the
facts of his confinements in 2015 and 2016. Because Plaintiff’s
earlier claims are barred by the statute of limitations and must
be dismissed with prejudice, Plaintiff may not assert those
claims in an amended complaint.
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.7 Id.
For the reasons stated above, the claims arising from
each of Plaintiff’s confinements from September 4, 1996, through
March 19, 2014, are barred by the statute of limitations and
therefore are dismissed with prejudice. The claims arising from
The amended complaint shall be subject to screening prior to
Plaintiff’s 2015 and 2016 confinements are 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.
April 21, 2017
s/ Jerome B. Simandle
JEROME B. SIMANDLE
Chief U.S. District Judge
Disclaimer: Justia Dockets & Filings provides public litigation records from the federal appellate and district courts. These filings and docket sheets should not be considered findings of fact or liability, nor do they necessarily reflect the view of Justia.
Why Is My Information Online?