SMITH v. CAMDEN COUNTY CORRECTIONAL FACILITY
OPINION. Signed by Judge Jerome B. Simandle on 10/19/17. (jbk, )
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
DISTRICT OF NEW JERSEY
HONORABLE JEROME B. SIMANDLE
CAMDEN COUNTY CORRECTIONAL
No. 16-cv-08464 (JBS-AMD)
Chantille Smith, Plaintiff Pro Se
515 Washington Ave.
Deptford, NJ 08096
SIMANDLE, District Judge:
Plaintiff Chantille Smith 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. 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
(3d Cir. 1996) (citing Hafer v. Melo, 502 U.S. 21 (1991)).2 To
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.
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.
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.
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
See Monell v. N.Y.C. Dep't of Social Services, 436 U.S. 658,
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 60 days of the date of this order.
Conditions Of Confinement Claims:
Dismissed Without Prejudice
Second, 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).
As to the conditions of confinement claims, the
present Complaint states: “I was admitted to the Camden County
Correctional Facility in August 2008 until May 2009. At that
time I became extremely sick from the institutions food and was
housed on the floor for most of the time mentioned. I was
transferred from regular population to the medical housing for
my last month of my stay and was then transferred to EMCF. In
2012, I brought in on a minor violation. At which time, I was
housed on the floor for a few days and then I was released. In
January 2015, I was sentenced and brought in while I was
pregnant. I was housed on the medical unit and on the floor for
my whole stay until I was transferred to Edna Mahan in April
2015. Since there incidents, I have suffered severe back
problems, and the 1st incident caused me to be diagnosed with
Hepatitis A.” Complaint § III(C).
Plaintiff states this occurred between August 2008 and
May 2009, a few days in 2012 and January to April 2015. Id. §
Plaintiff states that these events caused her to
sustain “lower back injuries, respiratory complications
(sarcoidosis), Hepatitis A, herniated disc.” Id. § IV.
With respect to requested relief, Plaintiff states, “I
would like to the courts in impose a sanction against housing
inmates on the floor in the Camden County Correctional
facilities. I would like monetary compensation for the pain and
suffering I must endure.” 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, any such purported claims must be dismissed
because the Complaint does not name specific individuals who are
responsible for these conditions. As discussed above, the CCCF
is a not a “person” who can be held responsible for these
claims. Plaintiff has to name individuals or the positions held
by individuals who are responsible for these claims.
It is important to note, that 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 confinement, etc.
Moreover, to the extent the complaint seeks relief for
conditions Plaintiff encountered during periods of confinement
ending prior to November 14, 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.3 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
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 her claims
occurred during three incarcerations: August 2008 and May 2009,
a few days in 2012 and January to April 2015. The allegedly
unconstitutional conditions of confinement at CCCF, namely the
overcrowding, would have been immediately apparent to Plaintiff
at the time of her detention; therefore, the statute of
limitations for Plaintiff’s claims arising from all but her
January to April 2015 incarceration expired before this
Plaintiff filed this complaint on November 14, 2016.
complaint was filed in 2016. Plaintiff therefore cannot recover
for any claims from the August 2008 to May 2009 incarceration or
the 2012 incarceration. Claims for any violations occurring
during the last listed period of confinement, January to April
2015 would not be time-barred.
Therefore, Plaintiff may amend her complaint to
address any claims related to the January to April 2015
incarceration. As discussed above, Plaintiff must name any
specific individuals who were involved in creating or failing to
remedy the conditions of confinement and any other relevant
facts regarding the conditions of confinement, etc. It is not
enough to list “CCCF” as the defendant.
Conditions Of Confinement Claim - Allegations Of Inadequate
Medical Care: Dismissed Without Prejudice
Further, as to Plaintiff’s January to April 2015
detention at CCCF, Plaintiff alleges that she “was housed on the
medical unit on the floor” while pregnant. Complaint § III(C).
It appears Plaintiff is attempting to raise an inadequate
medical care claim, however, Plaintiff 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.
Rule 8 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure (“Fed.
R. Civ. P.”) requires pleadings to contain “a short and plain
statement of the grounds for the court's jurisdiction . . .
short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader
is entitled to relief; and demand for the relief sought . . . .”
Fed. R. Civ. P. 8(a)(1)-(3). While pro se complaints are
construed liberally and are held to less stringent standards
than formal pleadings drafted by lawyers (Erickson v. Pardus,
551 U.S. 89, 94 (2007); Haines v. Kerner, 404 U.S. 519, 520
(1972)), pro se litigants nevertheless must still allege facts,
taken as true, to suggest the required elements of the claims
asserted. Phillips v. Cnty. of Allegheny, 515 F.3d 224, 234-35
(3d Cir. 2008); McNeil v. United States, 508 U.S. 106, 113
(1993)(“[W]e have never suggested that procedural rules in
ordinary civil litigation should be interpreted so as to excuse
mistakes by those who proceed without counsel”).
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 her 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.
While the Court will accept as true for screening
purposes that the injury Plaintiff states she suffered was of a
nature and extent that satisfies 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)). However, Plaintiff’s Complaint sets forth
insufficient facts alleging that an individual at CCCF
demonstrated “deliberate indifference” to these injuries during
her incarceration (i.e., the second prong for a Fourteenth
Amendment inadequate medical care claim). Estelle, 429 U.S. at
106. This second Estelle element “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).” Natale, 318 F.3d at 582.
Therefore, Plaintiff has failed to state a cause of
action under the Fourteenth Amendment for inadequate medical
care of her injury while incarcerated at CCCF. These claims will
be dismissed without prejudice, with leave to amend the
Complaint to meet the pleading deficiencies noted above, if
Plaintiff elects to pursue this claim with respect to deliberate
Plaintiff is informed that should she elect to amend
the Complaint with respect to her January to April 2015
detention, some relevant factors she may consider amending in
her complaint include any specific individuals who were involved
in creating the conditions in which she was confined or any
individuals who exhibited indifference to her medical needs, any
information regarding any results or effects that the lack of
medical attention caused Plaintiff to sustain, what if any
actions were taken by Plaintiff in regards to informing staff as
to her condition, etc.
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 60 days of the date of this order.4
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. As discussed above,
if Plaintiff elects to file an amended complaint, it should be
limited to confinements in which Plaintiff was released after
November 14, 2014.
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
The amended complaint shall be subject to screening prior to
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, except that
claims arising prior to November 14, 2014, are dismissed with
An appropriate order follows.
October 19, 2017
s/ Jerome B. Simandle
JEROME B. SIMANDLE
U.S. District Judge
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