NORMAN 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; CAPTAIN CARLA
TAYLOR; WARDEN DAVID OWENS,
Kevin Norman, Plaintiff Pro Se
50 Fenwick Street, Building 1
Newark, NJ 07114
SIMANDLE, District Judge:
Plaintiff Kevin Norman seeks to bring a civil rights
complaint pursuant to the 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against Camden County
Correctional Facility (“CCCF”), Captain Carla Taylor
(“Captain”), and Warden David 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 when he was detained from January 3, 2014
through January 2016. Complaint § III(C).
that during this time period, he was subjected to drinking
“dirty brown water” and that “consuming the visibly contaminated
water caused me to become ill and dehydrated.” Id. Plaintiff
states he notified Captain Taylor and Warden Owens of the
drinking conditions, yet they “failed to correct the problem or
find an alternative remedy so that clean water could be supplied
to the population.” Id. Plaintiff alleges this occurred in
housing unit 3 North-D. Complaint § IV.
Plaintiff further alleges that due to overcrowding, he was
made to sleep on a thin mat on the floor near the toilet where
inmates urine would backsplash onto him while sleeping.
Complaint § III(C). He further alleges that “because of the poor
air quality there was dust and dirt build up in the cell which
turned into bacteria” which resulted in his scalp “getting
infected from sleeping on the floor and had to seek medical
treatment for a rash and experienced headaches.” Id.
He seeks relief in the form of monetary compensation as
well as seeks for the Court to order testing of the water and
air to prevent others from getting sick as well as have the
court order the county to hire a full time population Control
Manager to prevent overcrowding. Complaint § V.
III. STANDARD OF REVIEW
A. Standards for a Sua Sponte Dismissal
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.
According to the Supreme Court’s decision in Ashcroft v.
Iqbal, “a pleading that offers ‘labels or conclusions’ or ‘a
formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action will
not do.’” 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (quoting Bell Atlantic Corp.
v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007)). 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). Moreover, while pro se
pleadings are liberally construed, they “still must allege
sufficient facts in their complaints to support a claim.” Mala
v. Crown Bay Marina, Inc., 704 F.3d 239, 245 (3d Cir. 2013)
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 during his detention at CCCF.
First, with respect to the claims against the CCCF,
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)).1 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.
“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,
at 50. 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)).
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
CCCF Captain Taylor and Warden Owens.
“[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).
Further, the Fourteenth Amendment which incorporates the
protections of the Eighth Amendment, imposes duties on prison
officials to provide prisoners with the basic necessities of
life, such as food, clothing, shelter, sanitation, medical care
and personal safety. See Farmer v. Brennan, 511 U.S. 825, 832,
114 S.Ct. 1970, 128 L.Ed.2d 811 (1994); Helling v. McKinney, 509
U.S. 25, 31, 113 S.Ct. 2475, 125 L.Ed.2d 22 (1993). Included in
the basic necessities of life, water that is suitable for
drinking and bathing must be supplied to inmates. See Wolfe v.
Christie, No. 10-2083, 2013 WL 3223625, at *5 (D.N.J. June 25,
2013)(“[T]here is no doubt that potable water constitutes a
basic human need and that water that is suitable for drinking
and bathing be supplied to inmates.”)
Under Farmer, an inmate must surmount the high hurdle of
showing that a prison official actually knew or was aware of a
substantial risk to inmate safety and deliberately disregarded
that risk. Beers–Capitol v. Whetzel, 256 F.3d 120, 125 (3d
Cir.2001). This requirement of actual knowledge means that “the
official must both be aware of facts from which the inference
could be drawn that a substantial risk of serious harm exists,
and he must also draw the inference.” Farmer, 511 U.S. at 837.
In addition, the inmate must show that the prison official
responsible for the conditions of confinement acted with “a
sufficiently culpable state of mind.” Id. at 298. A prison
official violates the Eighth Amendment when he acts with
deliberate indifference to a known objectively serious risk to a
prisoner's health or safety. See Farmer, 511 U.S. at 837.
Critical factors which must be considered are the duration of
the complainant's exposure to the alleged unconstitutional
conditions and the totality of the circumstances.
Construing the complaint liberally and giving Plaintiff the
benefit of all reasonable inferences, Plaintiff has met his
burden at this stage. Specifically, he alleges that the
overcrowded conditions led to him sleeping on the floor near the
toilet with exposure to inmate urine, poor air quality and
exposure to bacteria, as well as lack of access to potable
water. With regards to the water, Plaintiff alleged that he was
subjected to drinking dirty water which caused him to become ill
and dehydrated. Plaintiff states he notified Captain Taylor and
Warden Owens of the drinking conditions, yet they “failed to
correct the problem or find an alternative remedy so that clean
water could be supplied to the population.” Complaint §III. In
viewing the Complaint in a light most favorable to Plaintiff,
within the context of prison life, he has sufficiently pled that
he was denied “the minimal civilized measure of life's
necessities.” Farmer, 511 U.S. at 834. Therefore, Plaintiff
sufficiently pled the subjective standard that the Warden and
Captain were deliberately indifferent with respect to requests
for drinkable water.
Considering the totality of the circumstances alleged by
Plaintiff, the Court finds that he has sufficiently pled that he
experienced unconstitutionally punitive conditions at CCCF. The
claim shall therefore be permitted to proceed against the
Captain and Warden in their individual capacities.
For the reasons stated above, the complaint shall proceed
on the due process claims against Captain Carla Taylor and
Warden David Owens. The remainder of the claims are dismissed
without prejudice. An appropriate order follows.
October 19, 2017
s/ Jerome B. Simandle
JEROME B. SIMANDLE
U.S. District Judge
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