BENNETT v. CAMDEN COUNTY JAIL
OPINION. Signed by Judge Jerome B. Simandle on 10/19/2017. (dmr)
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
DISTRICT OF NEW JERSEY
HONORABLE JEROME B. SIMANDLE
CAMDEN COUNTY JAIL,
No. 16-cv-08618 (JBS-AMD)
Jada Bennett, Plaintiff Pro Se
1321 Park Blvd.
Camden, NJ 08103
SIMANDLE, District Judge:
Plaintiff Jada Bennett seeks to bring a civil rights
complaint pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against the Camden County
Jail (“CCJ”) for allegedly unconstitutional conditions of
confinement. Complaint, Docket Entry 1.
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
CCJ; and (2) dismiss the Complaint without prejudice for failure
to state a claim. 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(b)(ii).
Claims Against CCJ: 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 CCJ for allegedly unconstitutional
conditions of confinement. The CCJ, 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 CCJ must be dismissed with
prejudice, the claims may not proceed and Plaintiff may not name
the CCJ 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 slept on the floor for about four
months of my incarceration I didn’t get my phone calls, and
shower time all the time the toilet would over flow why sleeping
on the floor and I also had mice poop in my food no one ever did
anything to help me.” Complaint § III(C).
Plaintiff states this occurred on October 14, 2015.
Id. § III(B)
Plaintiff further states, “I have a history of
dislocation of my shoulder my tissues in my arm are destroyed
from me sleeping on the floor and it keep dislocating, I never
received any x rays or anything for it while in the Camden
County Jail.” Id. § IV.
With respect to requested relief, Plaintiff “wants a
settlement of $5,500 due to my pain and suffering.” 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 CCJ 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.
Plaintiff’s remaining allegations also are
insufficient to set forth a prima facie case under § 1983.
Plaintiff offers vague and cursory allegations that while in the
CCJ she “didn’t get my phone calls” or “shower time all the
time” and that the “toilet would overflow.” These allegations
essentially complain “of an inconvenient and uncomfortable
situation”; however, “‘the Constitution does not mandate
comfortable prisons.’” Carson v. Mulvihill, 488 F. App'x 554,
560 (3d Cir. 2012) (citing Rhodes, 452 U.S. at 349); see also,
Marnin v. Pinto, 463 F.2d 583, 584 (3d Cir. 1972) (“blanket
statements alleging bad food and miserable living conditions in
the prison” were “naked statements [that do not] ordinarily
merit Federal court intervention”).
Plaintiff may amend her complaint to 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 “CCJ” as the defendant.
Conditions Of Confinement Claim - Allegations Of Inadequate
Medical Care: Dismissed Without Prejudice
Further, Plaintiff alleges she had an injury while in
the facility and “never received any x-rays or anything for it”
Complaint § IV. It is unclear if 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).
Therefore, Plaintiff has failed to state a cause of
action under the Fourteenth Amendment for inadequate medical
care of her injury while incarcerated at CCJ. 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, 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.3
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.
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 CCJ; and (b) dismissed
without prejudice for failure to state a claim.
An appropriate order follows.
October 19, 2017
s/ Jerome B. Simandle
JEROME B. SIMANDLE
U.S. District Judge
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