TORRES v. CAMDEN COUNTY JAIL
OPINION. Signed by Judge Jerome B. Simandle on 6/8/2017. (tf, n.m.)
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
DISTRICT OF NEW JERSEY
HONORABLE JEROME B. SIMANDLE
No. 17-cv-01688 (JBS-AMD)
CAMDEN COUNTY JAIL,
Edward Torres, Plaintiff Pro Se
433 N. 7th Street, Apt 15 N.
Somerdale, NJ 08102
SIMANDLE, District Judge:
Plaintiff Edward Torres 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
dismiss the Complaint with prejudice in part and dismiss it
without prejudice in part. The Complaint: (a) is dismissed with
prejudice as to claims made against defendant CCJ; (b) is
dismissed without prejudice for failure to state a claim as to
conditions of confinement regarding overcrowding allegations, 28
U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(b)(ii); (c) is dismissed without prejudice
as to Plaintiff’s conditions of confinement claim regarding
denial of medical care and
(d) is dismissed without prejudice
as to Plaintiff’s jail conditions claim for provision of basic
hygiene products (“Jail Hygiene Conditions Claim”). Plaintiff
may file an amended complaint within 60 days after the date of
this Opinion that identifies by name the party(ies) who are
allegedly liable under the Jail Hygiene Conditions Claim. Any
such amended complaint shall be subject to screening under 28
U.S.C. § 1915. Upon Plaintiff’s failure to file an amended
complaint naming the party(ies) whom she alleges are liable
under the Jail Hygiene Conditions Claim, such claim shall be
subject to dismissal without further notice for failure to state
Standard of Review
To survive sua sponte screening for failure to state a
claim, the Complaint must allege “sufficient factual matter” to
show that the claim is facially plausible. Fowler v. UPMS
Shadyside, 578 F.3d 203, 210 (3d Cir. 2009) (citation omitted).
“A claim has facial plausibility when the plaintiff pleads
factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable
inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct
alleged.” Fair Wind Sailing, Inc. v. Dempster, 764 F.3d 303, 308
n.3 (3d Cir. 2014). “[A] pleading that offers ‘labels or
conclusions’ or ‘a formulaic recitation of the elements of a
cause of action will not do.’” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662,
678 (2009) (quoting Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S.
544, 555 (2007)). 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).
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
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.
right; and (2) the person who deprived him of that right acted
under color of state or territorial law.” Groman v. Twp. of
Manalapan, 47 F.3d 628, 633 (3d Cir. 1995) (citing Gomez v.
Toledo, 446 U.S. 635, 640 (1980)).
Generally, for purposes of actions under § 1983,
“[t]he term ‘persons’ includes local and state officers acting
under color of state law.” Carver v. Foerster, 102 F.3d 96, 99
(3d Cir. 1996) (citing Hafer v. Melo, 502 U.S. 21 (1991)).2 To
say that a person was “acting under color of state law” means
that the defendant in a § 1983 action “exercised power [that the
defendant] possessed by virtue of state law and made possible
only because the wrongdoer [was] clothed with the authority of
state law.” West v. Atkins, 487 U.S. 42, 49 (1988) (citation
omitted). Generally, then, “a public employee acts under color
of state law while acting in his official capacity or while
exercising his responsibilities pursuant to state law.” Id.
In the Complaint, Plaintiff seeks monetary damages
from CCJ for allegedly unconstitutional conditions of
confinement. The CCJ, however, is not a “person” within the
“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,
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 CCJ must be dismissed with
prejudice, the claims may not proceed and Plaintiff may not name
the CCJ as a defendant.
Conditions Of Confinement Claim - Overcrowding Allegation:
Dismissed Without Prejudice
As to Plaintiff’s allegations of overcrowding at CCJ
(e.g., Complaint § IV (alleging injuries “sleeping on the
floor”)), the Court will dismiss the Complaint without prejudice
for failure to state a claim, 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(b)(ii), for
the reasons set forth below.
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. Even accepting the statements in Plaintiff’s
Complaint as true for screening purposes only, there is not
enough factual support for the Court to infer a constitutional
violation has occurred.
With respect to alleged facts giving rise to his
claims, Plaintiff states: “For sleeping on the floor cause bad
back pain.” Complaint § III(C).
Plaintiff is seeking “compensation according to my
human right[s].” Id. § V.
Plaintiff’s claims as to conditions of confinement
arising from purported CCJ overcrowding must be dismissed
because the Complaint does not set forth enough factual support
for the Court to infer that a constitutional violation has
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
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 Opinion.3
Plaintiff is further advised that any amended
complaint must plead specific facts regarding the conditions of
confinement, including the dates. In the event Plaintiff files
an amended complaint, Plaintiff must plead sufficient facts to
support a reasonable inference that a constitutional violation
The amended complaint shall be subject to screening prior to
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
To the extent the Complaint seeks relief for conditions
Plaintiff encountered prior to March 13, 2015, those claims 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 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. In the event Plaintiff elects to file an amended
complaint, it shall be limited to confinements in which
Plaintiff was released after March 13, 2015.
complaint may not adopt or repeat claims that have been
dismissed with prejudice by the Court in this Opinion and Order.
Conditions of Confinement Claim- Allegations of Inadequate
Medical Care: Dismissed without Prejudice
Plaintiff contends that he suffered from “bad back and
neck pain no one never did anything I dropped medical slipes
[sic] letting medical staff aware of the situation and nothing
was done being overcrowded in a room” (referred to hereinafter
as “Medical Care Claim”). Complaint § IV.
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.” 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.
Here, Plaintiff’s non-specific assertions regarding
“bad back and neck pain” (Complaint § IV) are insufficient to
meet this pleading standard. Plaintiff offers no facts to
satisfy either of the two prongs required for his Medical Care
Claim. 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,
demonstrating that Plaintiff’s supposed “bad back” or “neck
pain” (Complaint § IV): “(1) has been diagnosed by a physician
as requiring treatment”; (2) “was so obvious that a lay person
would recognize the necessity for a doctor's attention”; or (3)
was a condition for which “the denial of treatment would result
in the unnecessary and wanton infliction of pain” or “a lifelong handicap or permanent loss.” Atkinson, 316 F.3d at 272-73.
The Complaint omits facts required to demonstrate “serious
condition,” such as: the nature, symptoms, and severity of
Plaintiff’s conditions as a result of allegedly denied medical
care. Accordingly, Plaintiff has not satisfied Estelle’s
“serious condition” element for a Fourteenth Amendment claim.
Second, Plaintiff has not alleged any facts suggesting
deliberate indifference by any defendant to satisfy Estelle’s
subjective prong, under which Plaintiff must demonstrate that
prison officials acted with “deliberate indifference to h[er]
serious medical need[s].” Holder, 2005 WL 1522130, at *4 (citing
Natale, 318 F.3d at 582). For example, Plaintiff here sets forth
no allegations as to whether any defendant deliberately ignored
his non-specific “bad back and neck pain” (Complaint at 5)
without justification or with the intent to punish Plaintiff.
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 with and deliberately
indifferent to Plaintiff’s purportedly serious medical needs.
Plaintiff’s bare allegation that he “dropped medical slipes
[sic] letting medical staff aware of the situation and nothing
was done” (Complaint § IV) is insufficient, without more, to
establish “deliberate indifference” for a Fourteenth Amendment
claim under Estelle. See Parkell v. Markell, 662 F. App’x 136,
142 (3d Cir. 2015) (plaintiff “had no constitutionally protected
liberty interest in receiving a particular result through the
prison grievance process”).
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. The amended complaint may not adopt
or repeat claims that have been dismissed with prejudice by the
Court in this Opinion and accompanying Order.
Conditions Of Confinement Claim – Allegations Regarding Jail
Conditions As To Provision Of Basic Hygiene Products And Clean
Clothes: Dismissed Without Prejudice
The Court dismisses without prejudice the Plaintiff’s
conditions of confinement claim regarding jail conditions for
provision of basic hygiene products (“Jail Hygiene Conditions
Plaintiff states that while incarcerated, he “ask[ed]
for sanitary paper the Cos would say they were out and they
wouldn’t do anything about it.” Id. § III(C).
“A conditions of confinement claim is a
constitutional attack on the general conditions, practices, and
restrictions of pretrial or other detainee confinement. A
constitutional violation exists if the court finds that the
conditions of confinement are not reasonably related to a
legitimate, non-punitive governmental objective.” Al-Shahin v.
U.S. Dep’t of Homeland Sec., No. 06-5261, 2007 WL 2985553, at *9
(D.N.J. Oct. 4, 2007) (citing Bell, 441 U.S. at 538-39).
“Analysis of whether a pre-trial detainee has been
deprived of liberty without due process is governed by the
standards set out by the Supreme Court.” Alexis v. U.S. Dep’t of
Homeland Sec., No. 05-1484, 2005 WL 1502068, at *10 (D.N.J. June
24, 2005) (citing Bell v. Wolfish, 441 U.S. 520 (1979) and
Fuentes v. Wagner, 206 F.3d 335, 341-42 (3d Cir. 2000)).
“[D]enial of the ‘minimal civilized measure of life's
necessities,’ Rhodes v. Chapman, 452 U.S. 337, 347 (1981), which
would include basic sanitary conditions, would be sufficient to
state an actionable constitutional deprivation. Further, unsafe,
unsanitary and inadequate conditions do not appear reasonably
related to a legitimate, non-punitive governmental objective.”
Al-Shahin, 2007 WL 2985553, at *10 (allowing plaintiff’s claims
of (a) denial of basic hygiene products and clothing (which were
mandated by the detention facility’s manual) and (b) severe
overcrowding (such as sleeping and eating in close proximity to
dirty toilets, vermin-infested cells, and poor ventilation) to
proceed as claim of unconstitutional conditions of confinement).
Accord Gonzalez-Cifuentes v. U.S. Dep’t of Homeland Sec., No.
04-4855, 2005 WL 1106562, at *12 (D.N.J. May 3, 2005).
While the Constitution “does not mandate comfortable
prisons” (Rhodes, 452 U.S. at 349), Plaintiff’s allegations of
not receiving “pads, toilet tissue, toothpaste and sometimes
soap[,] along with clean wash cloths” (Complaint § V) during two
months of incarceration. (id. §§ III(B)-(C)) encompass “basic
sanitary conditions.” Rhodes, 452 U.S. at 347.
Accordingly, Plaintiff’s Jail Hygiene Conditions Claim
is dismissed without prejudice. This Court grants Plaintiff
leave to file an amended complaint, and the Court notes for
Plaintiff that he bears the burden of supplying the facts of his
claim, including identification of the particular party(ies)
whom he alleges are liable under this claim. Mala, 704 F.3d at
245; Pliler, 542 U.S. at 231.
For the reasons stated above, Plaintiff’s Complaint
is: (a) is dismissed with prejudice as to claims made against
CCJ; (b) is dismissed without prejudice for failure to state a
claim as to conditions of confinement regarding overcrowding;
(c) is dismissed without prejudice for failure to state a claim
as to conditions of confinement regarding alleged inadequate
medical care; and (d) is dismissed without prejudice as to
Plaintiff’s Jail Hygiene Conditions Claim. Plaintiff may file an
amended complaint within 60 days after the date this Opinion and
Order are entered on the docket that identifies by name the
party(ies) whom Plaintiff alleges are liable under the Jail
Hygiene Conditions Claim. Any such amended complaint shall be
subject to screening under 28 U.S.C. § 1915. Upon Plaintiff’s
failure to file an amended complaint naming the party(ies) whom
he alleges are liable under the Jail Hygiene Conditions Claim,
such claim shall be subject to dismissal without further notice
for failure to state a claim.
An appropriate order follows.
June 8, 2017
s/ Jerome B. Simandle
JEROME B. SIMANDLE
U.S. District Judge
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