ALPHEAUS v. CAMDEN COUNTY BOARD OF FREEHOLDERS et al
OPINION. Signed by Chief Judge Jerome B. Simandle on 5/31/17. (jbk, )
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE DISTRICT OF NEW JERSEY
May 31, 2017EROME B. SIMANDLE
s/ Jerome B. Simandle
CAMDEN COUNTY CORRECTIONAL
FACILITY, CAMDEN COUNTY BOARD
OF FREEHOLDERS, CAMDEN COUNTY
BOARD OF FREEHOLDERS DEPUTY
DIRECTOR EDWARD T. MCDONNELL,
SCOT N. MCCRAY, IAN K.
LEONARD, JEFFREY NASH, CARMEN
G. RODRIGUEZ, JOHNATHAN L.
YOUNG, SR., MICHELLE A.
GENTER-MAYER, SUSAN SHIN
ANGULO, CAMDEN COUNTY BOARD OF
FREEHOLDERS DIRECTOR LOUIS
CAPPELLI, JR., WILLIAM F.
MOEN, THOMAS MCNULTY, DONNA
WEBSTER, EARL O’CONNOR, SUANNY
RIVERA, TIMOTHY SINGLETON,
JACKIE WESCOLL, JOHN VILLEGAS,
PHILLIP RITZ, JOHN FURTADO,
TIFFANY DEANGELIS, THERON
SHARPER-COOPER, JOSUE ORTOLA,
REBECCA FRANCESCHINI, WAYNE
NORTON, JAMES BONNER, CAMDEN
COUNTY CORRECTIONAL FACILITY
CORRECTIONAL OFFICER M.
FOSCHINI, JOHN S. STINSMAN,
TAKIA JOHNSON, MICHCAL JACOB,
THOMAS CROSMICK, CHRIS KELLY,
JAMES FINLEY, KEVIN CROSSAN,
ALBERT DANIELS, DANIEL PURDY,
LANCE MCARTHY, JANET GIORDANO,
MICHAEL DOYLE, WARDEN OF
CAMDEN COUNTY CORRECTIONAL
FACILITY, DIRECTOR DAVID S.
OWENS, SR., WARDEN KARDEN
TAYLOR, and LAWRENCE TAYLOR,
Jannai Alpheaus, Plaintiff Pro Se
2642 Baird Boulevard, Apt. 3
Camden, NJ 08105
SIMANDLE, Chief District Judge:
Plaintiff Jannai Alpheaus seeks to bring a civil
rights Complaint pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against the
following defendants for allegedly unconstitutional conditions
of confinement (Complaint, Docket Entry 1):
a. The Camden County Correctional Facility (“CCCF”)
(Complaint, Docket Entry 1, at § I(B));
b. The Camden County Board of Freeholders (“the BOF”)
(Complaint, Docket Entry 1, at § I(B));
c. Ten individual members of the BOF “from 2014 –
Present” (Complaint Exhibit 1, Docket Entry 1,
Attachment 1 at 1): “Deputy Director Edward T.
McDonnell, Scot N. McCray, Ian K. Leonard (2014),
Jeffrey Nash (2014), Carmen G. Rodriguez (2014-2016),
Johnathan L. Young, Sr., Michelle A. Genter-Mayer
(Surrogate/Former Freeholder (2014)), Susan Shin
Angulo (2016-2018), Director Louis Cappelli, Jr.
(2015-2017) and William F. Moen (2016-2015) [sic]”
(id.) (the foregoing ten individual defendants
hereinafter collectively referred to as “BOF
d. Thirty-five CCCF correctional personnel (Complaint
Exhibit 1, Docket Entry 1, Attachment 1 at 2 – 3):
“C/O Thomas McNulty, C/O Donna Webster, C/O Earl
O’Connor (Lt.), C/O Suanny Rivera, C/O Timothy
Singleton, C/O Jackie Wescoll, C/O John Villegas, C/O
Muriel Mitchell-Davis, C/O Phillip Ritz, C/O John
Furtado, C/O Tiffany Deangelis, C/O Theron SharperCooper, Lt. Josue Ortola, Lt. Rebecca Franceschini,
Sgt. Wayne Norton, C/O James Bonner, C/O M. Martinez,
Sgt. Christopher Foschini, Sgt. John S. Stinsman, C/O
Takia Johnson, C/O Michcal Jacob, C/O Thomas Crosmick,
C/O Chris Kelly, C/O James Finley, Sgt. Kevin Crossan,
Sgt. Albert Daniels, C/O Daniel Purdy, C/O Lance
McArthy, C/O Janet Giordano, C/O Michael Doyle, Warden
[of Camden County Correctional Facility], Director
David S. Owens, Sr., Warden Karden Taylor [and] C/O
Lawrence Taylor” (id.) (the foregoing thirty-five
individual defendants hereinafter collectively
referred to as “CCCF Personnel”).
STANDARD OF REVIEW
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).
A. 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
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.
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.
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
“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, 436 U.S. at 690-91.
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
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 after the date this Opinion and Order
are entered on the docket.
B. Overcrowded Conditions Of Confinement Claim: Dismissed
Plaintiff alleges that “during the several times [I
was] incarcerated, I was housed in 2-man cell with 3-4 inmates
[and] made to sleep on floor by toilet” (hereinafter referred to
as Plaintiff’s “Overcrowding Claim”). Complaint § III(C).
As detailed below, the Court will dismiss the
Overcrowding Claim without prejudice for failure to state a
claim. 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(b)(ii). The present Complaint 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. The Court will accept as true
for screening purposes only the statements in Plaintiff’s
Complaint, but there is not enough factual support for the Court
to infer that an unconstitutional overcrowding violation has
To survive sua sponte screening for failure to state a
claim3, 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
“The legal standard for dismissing a complaint for failure to
state a claim pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B)(ii) is the
same as that for dismissing a complaint pursuant to Federal Rule
of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6).” Samuels v. Health Dep’t, No. 161289, 2017 WL 26884, slip op. at *2 (D.N.J. Jan. 3, 2017)
(citing Schreane v. Seana, 506 F. App’x 120, 122 (3d Cir.
2012)); Allah v. Seiverling, 229 F.3d 220, 223 (3d Cir. 2000));
Mitchell v. Beard, 492 F. App’x 230, 232 (3d Cir. 2012)
(discussing 28 U.S.C. § 1997e(c)(1)); Courteau v. United States,
287 F. App’x 159, 162 (3d Cir. 2008) (discussing 28 U.S.C. §
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)). Moreover, while pro se pleadings are liberally
construed, “pro se litigants 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) (citation
omitted) (emphasis added).
A 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.
However, with respect to the alleged facts giving rise
to Plaintiff’s claims, the present Complaint states: “During the
several times incarcerated . . . from 2014 – 2016 . . . I was
housed in 2-man cell with 3-4 inmates, made to sleep on floor by
toilet with constant infestation of mice, as well as being
served spoiled food . . . I was placed on floor, including a[n]
entire 364 day sentence[.] [A]lso later 2015 as well as 2016 [I]
was housed on floor with 3 other inmates in unhealthy living
conditions.” Complaint § III(C). The Complaint contends that
Plaintiff “was housed in overcrowded cell with 3 to 4 inmates
and slept on floor” on these dates: 03/18/2014 – 04/08/2014;
4/22/2014 – 06/12/2014; 07/11/2014 – 06/30/2015; 09/01/2015 –
09/15/2015; 10/04/2015 – 12/11/2015; 07/18/2016 – 07/21/2016;
07/22/2016 – 09/21/2016; and 10/15/2016 – 10/26/2016
(collectively referred to hereinafter as “Dates of
Confinement”). Complaint, Docket Entry 1, Attachment 2 at 4 - 5.4
The Complaint alleges that Plaintiff suffered “severe
and chronic neck and back pain due to sleeping on floor of cell
during long periods of incarceration” as a result of these
events. Id. § IV.
Plaintiff seeks “$500,000.00 – 1 million dollars” in
relief. 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 set forth sufficient factual
Plaintiff appended a Booking History report as Attachment 2 to
his Complaint, listing thirteen incarcerations at CCCF. Docket
Entry 1, Attachment 2 at 4 – 5. Plaintiff noted on Attachment 2:
“All times highlighted I was housed in overcrowded cell with 3
to 4 inmates and slept on floor.” Id. at 4. Plaintiff
highlighted the following eight booking numbers on the original
form of Attachment 2 that he filed with this Court: 4292430,
4290968, 4325672, 4323012, 4322876, 4313094, 4311978, and
4295935. This Court construes all claims asserted in the
Complaint to refer only to the incarceration dates encompassed
within these eight booking numbers. The phrase “Dates of
Confinement” as defined and used in this Opinion encompasses
only the dates associated with these highlighted booking numbers
on Attachment 2 to the Complaint.
support for the Court to infer that a constitutional violation
of overcrowding 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) (“Hubbard II”) (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”) (citing Union Cnty. Jail Inmates v. DiBuono, 713 F.2d
984, 992 (3d Cir. 1983) (quoting Bell, 441 U.S. at 542)). 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.
The Complaint contends that the BOF and BOF Members
are liable under the Overcrowding Claim (Complaint § III(C)
(“Refer to attachment #1 (pages 1 to 3)”)), but Plaintiff has
not pled sufficient facts to impose overcrowded conditions of
confinement liability on the BOF and BOF Members, as these
defendants are not separate legal entities from Camden County
and are therefore not independently subject to suit. See
Bermudez v. Essex Cnty. D.O.C., No. 12-6035, 2013 WL 1405263, at
*5 (D.N.J. Apr. 4, 2013) (citing cases). Plaintiff has not pled
sufficient facts to impose liability on Camden County. “There is
no respondeat superior theory of municipal liability. 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 Soc. Services of City of New York, 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
wrongdoer”). 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
well-settled custom.” Bielevicz v. Dubinon, 915 F.2d 845, 850
(3d Cir. 1990).5 In other words, Plaintiff must set forth facts
supporting an inference that Camden County itself was the
“moving force” behind the alleged constitutional violation of
overcrowding. Monell, 436 U.S. at 689. Given that Plaintiff has
not done so, the Overcrowding Claim must be dismissed without
prejudice as to the BOF and the BOF Members.
The Complaint also alleges that CCCF Personnel are
liable under the Overcrowding Claim. Complaint § III(C) (“Camden
Co. Correctional Officers (See attached)[.] It is common
procedure to place more than 2 inmates in a cell d[ue] to
overcrowding”). However, the Overcrowding Claim must be
dismissed without prejudice as to CCCF Personnel because the
Complaint does “[not] allege any personal involvement by
[these defendants] in any constitutional violation – a fatal
flaw, since ‘liability in a § 1983 suit cannot be predicated
solely on the operation of respondeat superior.’” Baker v.
Flagg, 439 F. App’x 82, 84 (3d Cir. 2011) (citing Rode v.
“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
to constitute law.” Kirkland v. DiLeo, 581 F. App'x 111, 118 (3d
Cir. 2014) (internal quotation marks and citations omitted)
(alteration in original).
Dellarciprete, 845 F.2d 1195, 1207 (3d Cir. 1988)).
“[Plaintiff’s] complaint contains no allegations regarding
[these individual defendants]. ‘Because vicarious liability is
inapplicable to § 1983 suits, a plaintiff must plead that each
Government-official defendant, through the official's own
individual actions, has violated the Constitution.’ Thus,
[plaintiff] failed to state a claim against [the individual
defendants].” Bob v. Kuo, 387 F. App’x 134, 136 (3d Cir. 2010)
(citing Ashcroft, 556 U.S. at 676). Given that the Complaint
does not, in the first instance, sufficiently allege a violation
of overcrowding, Plaintiff has not asserted a colorable
constitutional claim to which any CCCF Personnel’s individual
liability could attach. Accordingly, Plaintiff’s Overcrowding
Claim against the CCCF Personnel defendants must be dismissed
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 after the date this Opinion and Order are entered
on the docket.6
Plaintiff is further advised that any amended
complaint must plead specific facts regarding the overcrowded
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 §
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
complaint may not adopt or repeat claims that have been
dismissed with prejudice by the Court.
The amended complaint shall be subject to screening prior to
C. Failure To Protect Claim Against BOF, BOF Members, and
CCCF Personnel: Dismissed Without Prejudice
Plaintiff alleges that he sustained “physical injuries
due to assaults by violent inmate who attacked me when
correctional officer[s] left cell block for long periods of time
to smoke cigarettes or were asleep at posts” (hereinafter
referred to as “Failure to Protect Claim”). Complaint § IV.
Given that Plaintiff is a pro se litigant and the
Court is required to construe the Complaint liberally, the Court
will proceed to review the Failure to Protect Claim as against
defendants BOF, BOF Members, and CCCF Personnel.
First, as to BOF, Plaintiff fails to state a claim
pursuant to § 1983.
As explained above, a municipality cannot be held
liable in a § 1983 action on a theory of respondeat superior.
Monell, 436 U.S. at 694. Instead, liability may be imposed only
where it can be shown that the municipality had a policy,
regulation, custom, or practice that led to the alleged
constitutional violation. Mulholland v. Gov’t Cnty. of Berks,
706 F.3d 227, 237 (3d Cir. 2013). Plaintiff’s Complaint
describes only his personal experiences, which are insufficient
to state a claim against the BOF. Specifically, Plaintiff fails
to allege what official policy or custom of the BOF caused a
constitutional deprivation. Hildebrand v. Allegheny Cnty., 757
F.3d 99, 110-11 (3d Cir. 2014) (complaint must plead facts to
support Monell liability), cert. denied, 135 S.Ct. 1398 (2015);
McTernan v. City of York, PA, 564 F.3d 636, 658 (3d Cir. 2009)
(to satisfy pleading standard for a Monell claim, a complaint
“must identify a custom or policy, and specify what exactly that
custom or policy was”). As such, any claims against the BOF and
the BOF Members regarding the physical assaults that Plaintiff
supposedly endured will be dismissed without prejudice.
Second, as to CCCF Personnel, Plaintiff has not
offered any of the requisite facts from which this Court could
reasonably infer a constitutional violation.
In order to state a claim for failure to protect
(whether under the Fourteenth Amendment that applies to pretrial detainees (such as Plaintiff here) and convicted but-notyet sentenced inmates, or the Eighth Amendment that applies to
sentenced prisoners), a plaintiff must plead facts showing that:
“(1) he was incarcerated under conditions posing a substantial
risk of serious harm, (2) the [defendant] was deliberately
indifferent to that substantial risk to his health and safety,
and (3) the [defendant’s] deliberate indifference caused him
harm.” Bistrian v. Levi, 696 F.3d 352, 366-67 (3d Cir. 2012).
“‘Deliberate indifference’ in this context is a subjective
standard: the prison official-defendant must actually have known
or been aware of the excessive risk to inmate safety.” Id. at
367 (citing Beers-Capitol v. Whetzel, 256 F.3d 120, 125 (3d Cir.
2001)). “It is not sufficient that the official should have
known of the risk.” Bistrian, 696 F.3d at 367 (citing BeersCapitol, 256 F.3d at 133 (citing Farmer v. Brennan, 511 U.S.
825, 837-38 (1994)).
Plaintiff’s conclusory and unsupported use of the term
“violent inmate” (Complaint § IV) is insufficient to demonstrate
that “he was incarcerated under conditions posing a substantial
risk of serious harm.” Bistrian, 696 F.3d at 367.
Moreover, although Plaintiff alleges that the assault
occurred because un-named correctional officers were preoccupied
with cigarette and sleep breaks (Complaint § IV), such
allegations of negligence are insufficient to establish
deliberate indifference. Burton v. Kindle, 401 F. App’x 635, 637
(3d Cir. 2010) (“It is well established that merely negligent
misconduct will not give rise to a claim under § 1983; the
defendant must act with a higher degree of intent”) (citing
County of Sacramento v. Lewis, 523 U.S. 833, 834 (1998))
(“[L]iability for negligently inflicted harm is categorically
beneath the threshold of constitutional due process”)).
“[N]egligent conduct is never egregious enough to shock the
conscience.” A.M. ex rel. J.M.K. v. Luzerne Cnty. Juvenile
Detention Ctr., 372 F.3d 572, 579 (3d Cir. 2004). In other
words, mere negligence or inattention by a corrections officer
in failing to protect a pretrial detainee from violence at the
hands of another inmate is not enough to rise to the level of a
constitutional violation under the Fourteenth Amendment.
Defendants “must actually have been aware of the existence of
the excessive risk; it is not sufficient that [Defendants]
should have been aware.” Beers-Capitol, 256 F.3d at 133 (citing
Farmer, 511 U.S. at 837-38). Plaintiff here has offered no facts
whatsoever to even suggest that the unnamed correctional
officers were aware of any risk whatsoever to Plaintiff’s safety
in his CCCF cell (let alone that such risk was substantial) or
that the officers were deliberately indifferent to such.
Finally, the mere assertion that Plaintiff was
“assault[ed] by violent inmate who attacked me when correctional
officer[s] left cell blocks for long periods of time to smoke
cigarettes or were asleep at posts” (Complaint § IV) does not
lead to any inference of causation, such as facts demonstrating,
for example, that: particular correctional officers actively
ignored orders to keep Plaintiff apart from the alleged inmateattacker, the alleged inmate-attacker had a history of violent
conduct, or such officers had witnessed prior violent
interactions involving the inmate-attacker. (The foregoing
examples are merely illustrative but not exhaustive or
exclusive.) In short, Plaintiff does not connect any particular
correctional officers in any way to the facts of the alleged
incidents. In short, Plaintiff’s Complaint fails to state a
claim upon which relief can be granted as to CCCF Personnel.
Accordingly, the Failure to Protect Claim will be
dismissed without prejudice, with leave to amend the Complaint,
within 60 days after the date this Opinion and Order are entered
on the docket, to meet the pleading deficiencies noted above. If
he wishes to pursue the Failure to Protect Claim, Plaintiff
bears the burden of supplying the facts of the claim, as
discussed above, including: (a) sufficient factual detail for
the Court to infer that he was incarcerated under conditions
posing a substantial risk of serious harm, that a particular
defendant was deliberately indifferent to that substantial risk
to Plaintiff’s safety, and such defendant’s deliberate
indifference caused Plaintiff harm; (b) names of the specific
party(ies) whom Plaintiff claims are allegedly liable under the
claim; and (c) the date(s) on which such event(s) occurred.
Mala, 704 F.3d at 245; Pliler v. Ford, 542 U.S. 225, 231 (2004).
The amended complaint may not adopt or repeat claims that have
been dismissed with prejudice by the Court in this Opinion and
the accompanying Order.
D. Condition Of Confinement Claim – Inadequate Medical Care:
Dismissed Without Prejudice
Plaintiff contends that he was “given unprescribed
insulin as I am a diabetic and was overdosed insulin daily
against my family doctor[’]s orders . . . [and] spoiled . . .
fruit given to me by nursing staff to juggle my blood sugar
count after giving me the wrong insulin” (referred to
hereinafter as “Medical Care Claim”). Complaint § III(C), § V.
Given that such allegations are insufficient to plead
unconstitutional conditions of confinement as to the adequacy of
medical care, the Court will dismiss the Medical Care Claim
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.” Luzerne, 372 F.3d at
579 (citing Lewis, 523 U.S. at 846-47).
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 his 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, 511 U.S. at 836). “Furthermore, a
prisoner's subjective dissatisfaction with his medical care does
not in itself indicate deliberate indifference.” Holder, 2005 WL
1522130, at *4 (citing Andrews v. Camden Cnty., 95 F. Supp.2d
217, 228 (D.N.J. 2000)). 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.
Here, Plaintiff’s non-specific assertions such as “I
was overdosed insulin daily” (Complaint § III(C)) are
insufficient to meet the pleading standard in the absence of
additional facts. Plaintiff offers no facts to satisfy either of
the two prongs required for his Medical Care Claim: (a) the
“serious condition” prong; and (b) the “deliberate indifference”
prong. Estelle, 429 U.S. at 106; Natale, 318 F.3d at 582.
First, the Complaint is silent with respect to facts
relevant to establishing Estelle’s “serious condition” element,
such as, for example: the nature of Plaintiff’s diabetic
condition; the type(s) of medication purportedly administered to
him; the length, frequency and dosage amount of the alleged
insulin administration; and the severity of the reactions, if
any, that he suffered from the claimed overdosing of medication.
(The foregoing examples are merely illustrative but not
exhaustive or exclusive.) In short, Plaintiff has not alleged
that he has ever actually been diagnosed with a particular form
of diabetes, that his purported diabetic condition is so obvious
that a lay person would recognize the necessity for
administering a particular level of medication, or that any
particular defendant’s administration of a certain dosage of
medication resulted in the unnecessary and wanton infliction of
pain or a permanent loss to Plaintiff. The severity of
Plaintiff’s alleged diabetic condition, the potential for harm
to Plaintiff from such condition if insulin was not administered
in a particular dose, and whether any such harm actually
resulted from the alleged insulin overdose are also unclear from
Plaintiff’s allegations. Accordingly, Plaintiff has not
satisfied Estelle’s first element for his Medical Care Claim.
Second, Plaintiff has not alleged any facts suggesting
deliberate indifference by any defendant[s] to satisfy Estelle’s
subjective prong. For example, Plaintiff sets forth no
allegations as to whether any defendant[s] deliberately
administered an improperly-elevated dose of insulin without
justification or with the intent to punish Plaintiff. The
Complaint is silent as well with respect to whether Plaintiff
informed any defendant[s] of his need for a certain dosage and
timing of insulin. See, e.g., Mattern v. City of Sea Isle, 131
F. Supp.3d 305, 316 (D.N.J. 2015) (citing Nicini, 212 F.3d at
815 n.14) (“[T]he Third Circuit has 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”). Furthermore, the
Complaint does not set forth any contentions that are necessary
to describe how individual defendants were personally involved
and deliberately indifferent to Plaintiff’s purportedly serious
Furthermore, the Court observes that mere disagreement
with the kind of medical care administered does not in itself
state a viable claim for relief. Innis v. Wilson, 334 F. App’x
454, 456-57 (3d Cir. 2009). See also Spruill v. Gillis, 372 F.3d
218, 235 (3d Cir. 2004) (“mere disagreement as to the proper
medical treatment” is insufficient to state a constitutional
violation). A prisoner is not entitled to the medical treatment
of his choice. See Reed v. Cameron, 380 F. App’x 160, 162 (3d
Cir. 2010) (dissatisfaction with prison medical care is
insufficient to show deliberate indifference) (citing Monmouth
Cnty., 834 F.2d at 346). Thus, to the extent that Plaintiff’s
criticism of medical care received at CCCF arises merely from
his disagreement with that treatment, his Medical Care Claim
does not pass constitutional muster.
Therefore, the Court finds that Plaintiff’s Medical
Care Claim has failed to state a cause of action under the
Fourteenth Amendment. Such claim will be dismissed without
prejudice and with leave to amend the Complaint, within 60 days
after the date this Opinion and Order are entered on the docket,
to meet the pleading deficiencies noted above, if Plaintiff
elects to pursue this claim with respect to deliberate
indifference to a serious diabetic condition. The amended
complaint may not adopt or repeat claims that have been
dismissed with prejudice by the Court in this Opinion and
E. Conditions Of Confinement Claims – Jail Conditions:
Dismissed Without Prejudice
Plaintiff complains of several alleged jail conditions
during his Dates of Confinement: (a) “spoiled [and] substandard
food”, (b) “constant” mice infestation, (c) “no working toilet”
for “2 – 3 weeks in July 2016,” (d) “no running water” for “2 –
3 weeks in July 2016,” and (e) “no cold air” for “2 – 3 weeks in
July 2016” (the foregoing five conditions of confinement
collectively referred to hereinafter as “Jail Conditions”).
Complaint § III(C), § V. For the reasons set forth below, all
such claims shall be dismissed without prejudice for failure to
state a claim. 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B)(ii).
A failure of prison officials to provide minimally
civil conditions of confinement to pre-trial detainees violates
their right not to be punished without due process of law.
Reynolds v. Wagner, 128 F.3d 166, 173-74 (3d Cir. 1997);
Monmouth Cnty., 834 F.2d at 345-46, n. 31; Estelle, 429 U.S. at
104; Farmer, 511 U.S. at 835.7 Pursuant to the Fourteenth
Amendment’s Due Process Clause, prison officials must satisfy
“basic human needs -- e.g., food, clothing, shelter, medical
care, and reasonable safety.” Helling v. McKinney, 509 U.S. 25,
32 (1993). See also Mora v. Camden Cnty., No. 09-4183, 2010 WL
2560680, at *8 (D.N.J. June 21, 2010) (applying Helling to
pretrial detainee). However, “a detainee seeking to show
unconstitutional conditions of confinement must clear a ‘high
“[T]he Due Process rights of a pre-trial detainee are at least
as great as the Eighth Amendment protections available to a
convicted prisoner,” Reynolds, 128 F.3d at 173, and so the
Eighth Amendment sets the floor for the standard applicable to
pre-trial detainees’ claims. Bell, 441 U.S. at 544.
bar’ by demonstrating ‘extreme deprivations.’” Cartegena v.
Camden Cnty. Corr. Facility, No. 12-4409, 2012 WL 5199217, at *3
(D.N.J. Oct. 19, 2012) (citing Chandler v. Crosby, 379 F.3d
1278, 1298 (11th Cir. 2004)).
When a pretrial detainee complains about the
conditions of his confinement, courts are to consider, in
accordance with the Fourteenth Amendment, whether the conditions
“amount to punishment prior to an adjudication of guilt in
accordance with law.” Hubbard v. Taylor, 399 F.3d 150, 158 (3d
Cir. 2005) (“Hubbard I”). In making such a determination, courts
consider: (a) whether any legitimate purposes are served by the
conditions at issue, and (b) whether those conditions are
rationally related to those purposes. Hubbard II, 538 F.3d at
232 (quoting DiBuono, 713 F.2d at 992). Courts must inquire as
to whether the conditions “‘cause [detainees] 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.’” Hubbard I, 399 F.3d at 159-60
The objective component of unconstitutional punishment
analysis examines whether “the deprivation [was] sufficiently
serious” and the subjective component asks whether “the
officials act[ed] with a sufficiently culpable state of mind[.]”
Stevenson v. Carroll, 495 F.3d 62, 68 (3d Cir. 2007) (citing
Bell, 441 U.S. at 538-39, n.20), cert. denied, Phelps v.
Stevenson, 552 U.S. 1180 (2008).
Here, allegations about the Jail Conditions do not
surmount this constitutional analysis.
i. Food Claim: Dismissed Without Prejudice
Plaintiff alleges that he was “served spoiled [and]
substandard food . . . [such as] spoiled baloney sandwiches &
fruit” (referred to hereinafter as “Food Claim”) during the
Dates of Confinement. Complaint § III(C), § V.
The general allegations of Plaintiff’s Food Claim are
insufficient to satisfy either the objective or subjective
components to a Fourteenth Amendment Due Process cause of
The constitutionally adequate diet “must provide
adequate nutrition, but corrections officials may not be held
liable [as to claims of inadequate food] unless the inmate shows
both an objective component (that the deprivation was
sufficiently serious) and a subjective component (that the
officials acted with a sufficiently culpable state of mind).”
Duran v. Merline, 923 F. Supp.2d 702, 719-20 (D.N.J. 2013)
(citing Stevenson, 495 F.3d at 68 (quoting Wilson v. Seiter, 501
U.S. 294, 298 (1991) (“Unconstitutional punishment typically
includes both objective and subjective components”)).
Objectively, “[w]hether the deprivation of food falls
below this [constitutional] threshold depends on the amount and
duration of the deprivation.” Duran, 923 F. Supp.2d at 720
(citing Berry v. Brady, 192 F.3d 504, 507 (5th Cir. 1999)).
“Under the Eighth Amendment, which provides a floor for the
rights of pretrial detainees, see Natale, 318 F.3d at 581,
inmates must be served ‘nutritionally adequate food that is
prepared and served under conditions which do not present an
immediate danger’ to their health and well-being.” Duran, 923 F.
Supp.2d at 720 (citing Robles v. Coughlin, 725 F.2d 12, 15 (2d
Cir. 1983) (quoting Ramons v. Lamm, 639 F.2d 559, 571 (10th Cir.
1980)); Mora, 2010 WL 2560680, at *8).
Plaintiff has not satisfied this objective
requirement. “[I]solated instances of contaminated or spoiled
food, while certainly unpleasant, are not unconstitutional.”
Duran, 923 F. Supp.2d at 720 (“Being served cold meals . . . is
not ‘punishment’ under Bell. So long as the food is
nutritionally adequate, the mere fact that it is unvaried or
cold does not give rise to a constitutional violation . . .”)
(citing Nickles v. Taylor, Nos. 09-313, 09-557, 09-952, 2010 WL
1949447, at *5 (D.N.J. May 14, 2010) (“A single or occasional
incident involving spoiled food is insufficient to show that
Plaintiff has been denied life's necessities”). Here, the
Complaint does not contend that CCCF frequently served Plaintiff
“spoiled” food, that a significant portion of Plaintiff’s diet
consisted of such food, or that the supposed “substandard” fare
caused more than temporary discomfort. Complaint § III(C), § V.
Without any facts that are necessary to demonstrate substantial
nutritional deprivation, such as how frequently the alleged
“spoiled” food was served, a description of the manner in which
the food offered to Plaintiff was in fact “spoiled” and
“substandard,” what other meal options were offered, and for how
long during the Dates of Confinement Plaintiff was arguably
compelled to eat “substandard” food, this Court cannot find that
Plaintiff has stated a cognizable constitutional claim; that is,
without additional facts such as these, Plaintiff has not met
the objective prong of the constitutional analysis. Viewing the
alleged conditions of “being served spoiled [and] substandard
food” and “spoiled baloney sandwiches & fruit” (Complaint §
III(C), § V) together, they fall short of establishing a
constitutionally substantial deprivation. Occasional incidents
during incarceration involving spoiled food are insufficient to
show that Plaintiff has been denied life's necessities. Without
facts such as the degree of continuity of the alleged spoiled
food occurrences, or the injury (if any) Plaintiff sustained
from such food (beyond more than temporary discomfort or
dislike), the Food Claim constitutionally falls short.
Additionally, Plaintiff has not alleged that CCF
officials possessed the requisite culpability to satisfy the
subjective component of the Fourteenth Amendment analysis. As
noted above, Plaintiff must establish that CCCF officials acted
with “deliberate indifference” to his needs, meaning that they
were subjectively aware of the alleged conditions and failed to
reasonably respond to them. Duran, 923 F. Supp.2d at 721 (citing
Farmer, 511 U.S. at 829 and Mora, 2010 WL 2560680, at *9). The
test for deliberate indifference is “subjective recklessness” as
that concept is understood in criminal law. Duran, 923 F.
Supp.2d at 721 (citing Farmer, 511 U.S. at 839-40). Plaintiff
has not offered any facts from which this Court can reasonably
infer deliberate indifference by anyone at CCCF with respect to
Given that Plaintiff has failed to demonstrate facts
suggesting (a) that the food served to him at CCCF presented an
objectively serious risk of nutritional deficiency (regardless
of Plaintiff’s dislike of the food he was provided) and (b) that
prison officials responsible for such knew of that risk and were
deliberately indifferent to it, the Complaint fails to state a
claim for which relief may be granted. Accordingly, Plaintiff’s
Food Claim shall be dismissed without prejudice, with leave to
file an amended complaint addressing its deficiencies, within 60
days after the date this Opinion and Order are entered on the
docket, if Plaintiff elects to pursue this claim of deliberate
indifference to a serious nutritional deprivation.
ii. Rodent Infestation Claim: Dismissed Without
Plaintiff alleges that there were “substandard living
conditions wrought with infesta[t]ion” and “constant infestation
of mice” (hereinafter referred to as “Rodent Infestation Claim”)
during the Dates of Confinement. Complaint § III(C), § V.
These general allegations of Plaintiff’s Rodent
Infestation Claim are insufficient to satisfy either the
objective or subjective components of Fourteenth Amendment Due
As to the objective prong of the test, Plaintiff does
not offer any facts that are necessary to show that he was
subjected to genuine privation and hardship over an extended
period of time. While unsanitary living conditions may give rise
to a conditions of confinement claim, the Complaint here
expresses nothing but Plaintiff's displeasure with less than
perfect jail conditions (“constant infestation of mice” and
“conditions wrought with infestation” (Complaint § III(C), §
V)). Plaintiff does not offer any facts that are necessary to
demonstrate that the supposed rodent conditions potentially
jeopardized his health or in fact caused any injuries. The
Complaint fails to demonstrate that his housing conditions were
imposed as “punishment.”
Courts have, in fact, “routinely recognized that
‘[k]eeping vermin under control in jails, prisons and other
large institutions is a monumental task, and that failure to do
so, without any suggestion that it reflects deliberate and
reckless conduct in the criminal law sense, is not a
constitutional violation.” See, e.g., Holloway v. Cappelli, No.
13-3378, 2014 WL 2861210, at *5 (D.N.J. June 24, 2014) (citing
Chavis v. Fairman, 51 F.3d 275, *4 (7th Cir. 1995) (internal
As to the subjective prong, Plaintiff has failed to
allege facts showing, or from which this Court could infer, that
any defendants were aware of, and disregarded, a substantial
risk to Plaintiff’s health and safety from the purported rodent
situation. The Complaint is void of facts showing, by way of
example, that any defendants either ignored the alleged mice at
CCCF or denied Plaintiff medical treatment for any health
injuries arising from the supposed “constant infestation of
mice.” Complaint § III(C). As such, Plaintiff’s displeasure with
the purported rodent situation is not actionable; there are no
facts indicating any defendants acted with a culpable state of
Accordingly, Plaintiff’s Rodent Infestation Claim
will be dismissed without prejudice, with leave to amend the
complaint, within 60 days after the date this Opinion and Order
are entered on the docket, to meet its deficiencies as noted
herein, if Plaintiff elects to pursue this claim of deliberate
indifference to a substantial risk to Plaintiff’s health and
safety from the purported rodent situation.
iii. Toilet Claim: Dismissed Without Prejudice
Plaintiff complains of “unhealthy living conditions in
July 2016 [when I] spent 2 - 3 weeks with no working toilet”
(hereinafter referred to as “Toilet Claim”). Complaint § III(C).
Denial of the “minimal civilized measure of life's
necessities,” Rhodes, 452 U.S. at 347, which would include basic
sanitary conditions, can be sufficient to state an actionable
constitutional deprivation. However, the non-specific nature of
Plaintiff’s allegations as to his Toilet Claim does not provide
a reasonably sufficient basis for this Court to infer that
sanitary conditions are, in fact, the type of violation from
which his Toilet Claim arises.
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”).
Here, the Court cannot discern from Plaintiff’s non-
specific reference to “no working toilet” (Complaint § III(C))
the particular cause(s) of action Plaintiff intends to pursue
against any particular person as to this alleged condition of
confinement. For example, the Complaint is silent regarding:
whether the toilet at issue was the unit inside Plaintiff’s cell
at CCCF or was part of the public facility for the CCCF prison
population generally; whether alternate restroom facilities were
made available to Plaintiff to account for the non-operational
unit of which he complains; and the reason for the nonfunctioning nature of the toilet referred to in the Complaint
(e.g., plumbing maintenance schedule, plumbing malfunction,
etc.) (see Passmore v. Ianello, 528 F. App’x 144, 149 (3d Cir.
2013) (“[C]ourts will generally not interfere with prison
administrative matters and will afford significant deference to
judgments of prison officials regarding prison regulation and
administration. See, e.g., Jones v. N. Carolina Prisoners’ Labor
Union, Inc., 433 U.S. 119, 126 (1977) (‘Because the realities of
running a penal institution are complex and difficult, we have
also recognized the wide-ranging deference to be accorded the
decisions of prison administrators’)”).
Furthermore, construing the Complaint - without
deciding – to suggest that Plaintiff’s Toilet Claim relates in
some manner to sanitary conditions, such toilet condition “[may]
no doubt [have been] unpleasant, [but] it does not pose an
obvious health risk and consequently does not deprive
[Plaintiff] the minimal civilized measures of life’s
necessities.” Carson v. Main, No. 14-cv-7454, 2015 WL 18500193,
at *4 (D.N.J. Apr. 15, 2015) (dismissing plaintiff’s Fourteenth
Amendment due process claim where neighboring cells shared
plumbing pipes and required residents to flush their own toilet
to dispose of the neighboring cell’s waste). Accord Junne v.
Atlantic City Med. Ctr., No. 07-5262, 2008 WL 343557, at *10
(D.N.J. Feb. 4, 2008) (dismissing plaintiff’s conditions of
confinement claim where plaintiff alleged that the jail’s lack
of a private bathroom and his “need to use the toilet in the
presence of a total stranger caused substantial embarrassment,”
because “plaintiff’s embarrassment ensuing from having another
person in the cell while plaintiff uses the toilet cannot
qualify as a violation of plaintiff’s constitutional rights”).
“There is, of course, a de minimus level of imposition with
which the Constitution is not concerned.” Bell, 441 U.S. 539 n.
21. Plaintiff has failed to present facts demonstrating that the
toilet condition here passed this threshold. He does not contend
that the non-operational toilet was intended as punishment, or
that he suffered adversely from it. The Complaint has not
alleged that Plaintiff developed physical injuries as a result
of the condition.
Viewing the facts and the totality of the
circumstances in the light most favorable to Plaintiff, the
Complaint fails to set forth sufficient factual matter to show
that the Toilet Claim is facially plausible. Fowler, 578 F.3d at
210. Since Plaintiff’s claim asserting “no working toilet”
(Complaint § III(C)) does not offer facts that are necessary to
show that he was subjected to a genuine privation for an
extended period, such allegations fail to state a claim and will
be dismissed without prejudice, with leave to amend.
iv. Cold Air Claim: Dismissed Without Prejudice
Plaintiff complains of “unhealthy living conditions in
July 2016 [when I] spent 2 - 3 weeks with no cold air”
(hereinafter referred to as “Cold Air Claim”). Complaint §
The Eighth Amendment (which, as noted above, is a
floor for Due Process rights guaranteed to detainees under the
Fourteenth Amendment) affords a right to adequate ventilation
and to be free from extreme hot and cold temperatures. Wilson v.
Cook Cnty. Bd. of Comm’rs, 878 F. Supp. 1163, 1169 (N.D. Ill.
1995) (noting that “if inadequate ventilation can amount to
cruel and unusual punishment under the Eighth Amendment, it
would also amount to prohibited punishment under the Fourteenth
Amendment,” and citing Lewis v. Lane, 816 F.2d 1165, 1171 (7th
Cir. 1987) (internal citations omitted)).
However, the Constitution does not guarantee the right
to be free from all discomfort while incarcerated. Rhodes, 452
U.S. at 349.
Under the “objective component” to a Fourteenth
Amendment Due Process claim, a detainee must prove that the
condition of which he complains is sufficiently serious to
violate the Constitution. Hudson v. McMillian, 503 U.S. 1, 8
(1992). Severe discomfort is insufficient to establish the
objective component of a conditions of confinement claim. The
challenged condition must be “extreme.” Id. at 9. Given the
inherent subjectivity involved in temperature conditions, courts
have looked to objectively verifiable criteria to determine
whether the temperature in a particular case was severe.
Plaintiff here has offered no such facts to
demonstrate the temperature severity inside his cell for “2 – 3
weeks in July 2016” (Complaint § III(C)), such as, by way of
example: the outside air temperatures and humidity levels
experienced in CCCF’s geographic location in New Jersey in July
2016; the ambient temperature in Plaintiff’s CCCF cell that
month; whether Plaintiff experienced sleep difficulties on or
about that time period; whether he suffered heat-related health
complications from the temperatures in his cell; whether he made
grievances to CCCF staff regarding the summer conditions of
which he now complains; whether he requested or was provided
fans, ice water, or extra shower opportunities on or around that
time; whether there were windows in his cell that provided
cross-ventilation; whether he required or requested medications
to deal with any medical problems that interfered with his
body's ability to maintain a normal temperature; whether his
cell was exposed to direct sunlight; whether Plaintiff was
required to perform prison labor; and whether he had any limited
opportunity to gain relief in air-conditioned areas. (The
foregoing examples are merely illustrative but not exhaustive or
exclusive.) In short, Plaintiff has not offered the facts
necessary to demonstrate that the “no cold air” (Complaint §
III(C)) situation crossed the line that separates institutional
administration from punishment. While temperatures at CCCF may
have been unpleasant, Plaintiff has not offered facts from which
it can be inferred that they were constitutionally excessive.
Furthermore, Plaintiff alleges no facts suggesting
that any defendants actually knew of and disregarded any
excessive risk to Plaintiff’s safety from the July 2016
temperature situation in CCCF. As with the objective component,
Plaintiff therefore also has not satisfied the subjective prong
to Due Process for his Cold Air Claim.
Accordingly, Plaintiff’s Cold Air Claim shall be
dismissed without prejudice, with leave to amend.
v. Water Claim: Dismissed Without Prejudice
As to his final Jail Conditions Claim, Plaintiff
complains of “unhealthy living conditions in July 2016 [when I]
spent 2 - 3 weeks with no running water” (hereinafter referred
to as “Water Claim”). Complaint III(C).
“[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.” Wolfe v. Christie, No. 102083, 2013 WL 3223625, at *5 (D.N.J. June 25, 2013) (internal
citations omitted). However, as set forth above, Fed. R. Civ. P.
8 requires pleadings to contain, inter alia, “a short and plain
statement of . . . the claim showing that the pleader is
entitled to relief.” Fed. R. Civ. P. 8(a)(1)-(3). Even with pro
se status, litigants must still allege facts, taken as true, to
suggest the required elements of the claims asserted. Erickson,
551 U.S. at 94; Haines, 404 U.S. at 520; McNeil, 508 U.S. at
113; Phillips, 515 F.3d at 234-35.
Here, Plaintiff may have found “no running water”
(Complaint § III(C)) unsettling, upsetting or uncomfortable, but
the Court cannot discern from Plaintiff’s non-specific
contention the type of allegations Plaintiff intends to pursue
against any particular person as to this condition of
confinement. For example, the Complaint is silent as to: the
purpose for which Plaintiff intended to use the allegedly
inoperable “running water” (e.g., bathing; drinking; body
temperature cooling purposes; etc.); whether jail officials
rendered running water unavailable for punitive purposes;
whether alternate sources of water or other liquids were made
available to Plaintiff (e.g., bottled beverages for hydration;
public area restrooms; sinks for personal hygiene cleansing;
etc.) and, if so, how frequently; whether Plaintiff was provided
with fluids or skin cleansers for hand and face washing before
meals; or whether running water was rendered unavailable by
virtue of jail maintenance activities (see Passmore, 528 F.
App’x at 149 (“[C]ourts will generally not interfere with prison
administrative matters”); Jones, 433 U.S. at 126 (referring to
“the wide-ranging deference to be accorded the decisions of
Its Fed. R. Civ. P. 8 pleading deficiencies aside, the
temporary “2 – 3 week” (Complaint § III(C)) inconvenience of “no
running water” that Plaintiff may have found unsettling,
upsetting or uncomfortable does not satisfy either of the two
prongs of a Due Process claim for denial of the minimal
civilized measure of life's necessities: (a) the “sufficiently
serious” objective prong, under which the conditions cited by a
plaintiff must be objectively serious and must result in the
denial of the minimal civilized measure of life's necessities
when viewed within the context of contemporary standards of
decency (Farmer, 511 U.S. at 832); and (b) the “sufficiently
culpable state of mind” subjective prong, under which a
defendant must have demonstrated a deliberate indifference to
the well-being of a plaintiff. Estelle, 429 U.S. at 106; Natale,
318 F.3d at 582; Farmer, 511 U.S. at 834; Helling, 509 U.S. at
First, Plaintiff has not provided facts required to
demonstrate that he suffered any objectively verifiable injury
for the 2 – 3 week period of which he complains. Even viewing
the Complaint in a light most favorable to Plaintiff, within the
context of prison life, he has not established that he was
denied “the minimal civilized measure of life's necessities.”
Farmer, 511 U.S. at 834. Thus, Plaintiff has failed to satisfy
the objective standard of the Fourteenth Amendment test. For
example, even if proved, the mere fact that the water in a jail
cell was turned off for a period of time, without more, is not
sufficient to rise to the level of a constitutional violation.
See, e.g., Stewart v. Wright, No. 96-1486, 1996 WL 665978, at *1
(7th Cir. Nov. 14, 1996) (“Dry cell conditions such as not being
able to flush the toilet or brush teeth are mere inconveniences
... [I]t is well settled that conditions which are temporary and
do not result in physical harm are not [constitutionally]
Furthermore, Plaintiff has provided no requisite facts
suggesting that any defendants were deliberately indifferent and
motivated by ill will with respect to running water. Thus,
Plaintiff also has failed to satisfy the subjective standard of
the Fourteenth Amendment test. Plaintiff's temporary
dissatisfaction cannot provide a basis for a constitutional
claim and, therefore, his disappointment with “2 - 3 weeks with
no running water” (Complaint § III(C)) does not suggest a
deprivation of constitutional magnitude. See, e.g., Diaz v.
Cumberland Cnty. Jail, No. 10-3932, 2010 WL 3825704, at *4
(D.N.J. Sept. 23, 2010) (dismissing claims for lack of running
water while incarcerated, and citing Rivera v. Walker, 2008 U.S.
Dist. LEXIS 88787, at *14 (S.D. Ill. June 9, 2008) (applying
Eighth Amendment analysis to conclude that, since “the lack of
running water was a temporary condition [because] Plaintiff was
placed in [the cell without running water in] August ... and ...
transferred [out of that cell in] October ..., about six weeks
later, [this time line leads the court to conclude that,]
although the situation was not desirable, the lack of running
water in his cell for about six weeks ... did not violate
Accordingly, Plaintiff’s Water Claim will be dismissed
without prejudice, with leave to amend the complaint, within 60
days after the date this Opinion and Order are entered on the
docket, to meet its deficiencies as noted herein, if Plaintiff
elects to pursue this claim of deliberate indifference to
provision of running water that, under the totality of
circumstances, amounted to a serious deprivation.
In sum, Plaintiff’s Food Claim, Rodent Infestation
Claim, Toilet Claim, Cold Air Claim, and Water Claim will be
dismissed without prejudice, with leave to amend the complaint,
within 60 days after the date this Opinion and Order are entered
on the docket, to meet the claims’ deficiencies as noted herein,
including: (a) sufficient factual detail for the Court to infer
that Plaintiff was subjected to genuine privations and hardships
over an extended period of time, that a particular defendant was
deliberately indifferent to those substantial risks to
Plaintiff’s health and safety, and that such defendant’s
deliberate indifference caused Plaintiff harm; (b) names of the
specific party(ies) whom Plaintiff claims are allegedly liable
under each particular claim; and (c) the date(s) on which the
relevant events occurred. Mala, 704 F.3d at 245; Pliler, 542
U.S. at 231. The amended complaint may not adopt or repeat any
claims that have been dismissed with prejudice by the Court in
this Opinion and its accompanying Order.
In connection with the leave to amend granted by this
Court as to the Overcrowding Claim, Failure to Protect Claim,
Medical Care Claim, and Jail Conditions Claims, Plaintiff should
note that claims for relief as to conditions at CCCF that
Plaintiff encountered prior to January 10, 2015 are barred by
the statute of limitations. Claims brought under § 1983 are
governed by New Jersey's two-year limitations period for
personal injury. 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). The allegedly unconstitutional conditions of
confinement at CCCF would have been immediately apparent to
Plaintiff; therefore, the statute of limitations on some of
Plaintiff’s claims expired two years after release from
incarceration. Plaintiff filed his Complaint in this case on
January 10, 2017. Therefore, in the event Plaintiff elects to
file an amended complaint, it shall be limited to confinements
from which Plaintiff was released on or after January 10, 2015.
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.
An appropriate order follows.
May 31, 2017
s/ Jerome B. Simandle
JEROME B. SIMANDLE
Chief U.S. District Judge
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