DAVIS v. PASSAIC COUNTY JAIL et al
OPINION. Signed by Judge Jose L. Linares on 2/16/16. (DD, )
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
DISTRICT OF NEW JERSEY
Civil Action No. 15-8154 (JLL)
PASSAIC COUNTY JAIL, et al.,
LINARES, District Judge:
Currently before this Court is the complaint of Plaintiff, Anthony Davis. (ECF No. 1).
As this Court has granted Plaintiff in forma pauperis status, this Court is required to screen the
complaint pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §§ 1915(e)(2)(B) and 1915A. Pursuant to these statutes, this
Court must dismiss Plaintiffs claims if they are frivolous, malicious, fail to state a claim for
relief, or seek damages from a defendant who is immune. For the reasons set forth below, this
Court will dismiss Plaintiffs complaint for failure to state a claim for which relief may be
Plaintiff, Anthony Davis, is a convicted state prisoner currently incarcerated at Northern
State Prison. Plaintiffs complaint attempts to raise various medical related claims against the
warden of and a doctor employed at the Passaic County Jail, where Plaintiff was previously
incarcerated. 1 (ECF No. 1). Plaintiff provides only the following factual support for his claims:
It is not clear if Plaintiff was in the jail as a convicted prisoner or as a pre-trial detainee prior to
the conviction that resulted in his imprisonment in Northern State Prison.
Dr. Hershowitz of Passaic County Jail misdiagnose[ d Plaintiff] from
2013-2014[, a] clean civil case of medical malpractice. Also Dr.
Hershowitz violated the Eight Amendment [through] cruel and
unusual punishment inflicted [on Plaintiff] which is [a violation of
Plaintiff's] constitution[al] rights. See American Law Institute
Model Penal Code 303, 4, 304, 5 (1962) Standard 2.6 (1973) Also
cite 50 L. Ed. 2d 251, 429 U.S. 97 Estelle v. Gamble (No. 75-929)[.]
Warden S. Myers violat[ed] the 3th Amendment on or about 20132015 while [Plaintiff was] in Passaic County Jail [by] den[ying]
housing area for a cancer patient and forc[ing Plaintiff] into a special
unit which was not a medical unit with medical care & aid
intentionally etc. [which] clearly violated [Plaintiff's] 8th
(Id. at 5). The only additional information Plaintiff provides is to state that he failed to exhaust
his claims because he is "namely to wit [on his] death bed! Etc." (Id.).
Per the Prison Litigation Reform Act, Pub. L. No. 104-134, §§ 801-810, 110 Stat. 132166 to 1321-77 (April 26, 1996) ("PLRA"), district courts must review complaints in those civil
actions in which a prisoner is proceeding informa pauperis, see 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B), or
seeks damages from a state employee, see 28 U.S.C. § 1915A. The PLRA directs district courts
to 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) and 1915A because Plaintiff has been granted informa pauperis status and is a
convicted prisoner bringing suit against governmental employees.
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 claim2, 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 prose
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).
Plaintiff attempts to raise claims pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 for a violation ofhis
constitutional rights. "To establish a claim under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, a plaintiff must demonstrate
a violation of a right protected by the Constitution or laws of the United States that was
committed by a person acting under the color of state law." Nicini v. Morra, 212 F.3d 798, 806
2000); see also Woodyard v. Cnty. ofEssex, 514 F. App'x 177, 180 (3d Cir. 2013)
(section 1983 provides "private citizens with a means to redress violations of federal law
committed by state [actors]"). "The first step in evaluating a section 1983 claim is to 'identify
"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)." Schreane v. Seana, 506 F. App'x 120, 122 (3d Cir. 2012) (citing
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)(l)); Courteau v. United States, 287 F. App'x
159, 162 (3d Cir. 2008) (discussing 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(b)).
the exact contours of the underlying right said to have been violated' and to determine 'whether
the plaintiff has alleged a deprivation of a constitutional right at all."' Nicini, 212 F.3d at 806
(quoting County ofSacramento v. Lewis, 523 U.S. 833, 841 n. 5 (1998)). Here, Petitioner
attempts to assert a claim under § 1983 for deliberate indifference to his medical needs by the
Warden and a doctor of Passaic County Jail as well as the jail itself, and a state law claim for
medical malpractice against the doctor.
1. The Passaic County Jail is not a proper defendant in a§ 1983 matter
Plaintiff attempts to raise his deliberate indifference claim against not only Dr.
Hershowitz and Warden Myers, but also against Passaic County Jail itself. As this Court has
A County jail ... is not a person amenable to suit under the statute.
See Kitchen v. Essex Cnty. Corr. Facility, No. 12-2199, 2012 WL
1994505, at *3 (D.N.J. May 31, 2012); Ingram v. Atl. Cnty. Justice
Facility, No. 10-1375, 2011WL65915, at *3 (D.N.J. Jan. 7, 2011);
see also Marsden v. Federal B.O.P., 856 F. Supp. 832, 836
(S.D.N.Y.1994);Powellv. CookCountyJail,814F.Supp. 757, 758
(N.D. Ill. 1993); McCoy v. Chesapeake Corr. Cntr., 788 F. Supp.
890, 893-894 (E.D. Va. 1992). The correct entity subject to suit
under § 1983 for claims against the jail would be the county which
operates the facility. See Kitchen, 2012 WL 1994505; Vance v.
Cnty. Of Santa Clara, 928 F. Supp. 993, 996 (N.D. Cal. 1996) (the
county "Department of Corrections is an agency of the County ...
[t]he County is a proper defendant in a§ 1983 claim, an agency of
the County is not").
Harris v. Hudson Cnty. Jail, No. 14-6284, 2015 WL 1607703, at *5 (D.N.J. April 8, 2015). The
Passaic County Jail is thus not a person under § 1983 and must therefore be dismissed with
prejudice as a Defendant.
2. Plaintiff Fails to State a Claim for Deliberate Indifference
As to the two remaining Defendants, Plaintiff attempts to state a claim for deliberate
indifference to his medical needs. Although Plaintiff argues that it was his Eighth Amendment
rights which were violated, it is not clear from the complaint whether Plaintiff was a pre-trial
detainee at the time of the events in question, and it is therefore not clear whether the Eighth
Amendment, which applies only to convicted prisoners, or the Fourteenth Amendment, which
applies to pre-trial detainees, applies to his claim. Even assuming, arguendo, that Plaintiffs claims
fall under the rubric of the Fourteenth Amendment, which is at least as if not more protective than
the Eighth Amendment standard, Plaintiff fails to state a claim for relief.
A prisoner's Eighth Amendment right to be free of cruel and unusual punishment is
violated where prison officials are deliberately indifferent to the plaintiffs serious medical needs.
King v. Cnty. of Gloucester, 302 F. App'x 92, 96 (3d Cir. 2008) (citing City of Revere v. Mass.
Gen. Hosp., 463 U.S. 239, 243-44 (1983)); see also Estelle v. Gamble, 429 U.S. 97, 104 (1976).
The Eighth Amendment's protections, however, apply only after a prisoner has been sentenced
and convicted. King, 302 F. App'x at 96; Hubbard v. Taylor, 399 F.3d 150, 164 (3d Cir. 2005).
Where a prisoner has not yet been convicted, the Fourteenth Amendment instead applies. King,
App'x at 96. Under the Fourteenth Amendment, jail officials housing pre-trial detainees
are required to provide medical care as a failure to do so would amount to "punishment without an
adjudication of guilt." Id. (citing Hubbard, 399 F.3d at 166). To determine whether a denial of
treatment amounts to punishment requires the court to determine whether the denial ''was imposed
for the purpose of punishment or whether it [was] but an incident of some other legitimate
governmental purpose." Id. (quoting Bell v. Wolfish, 441 U.S. 520, 538 (1979)).
In making that determination, however, the courts generally indirectly apply the Eighth
Amendment deliberate indifference test as "the Supreme Court has concluded that the Fourteenth
Amendment affords pretrial detainees protections at least as great as" those provided by the Eighth
Amendment. Id. (quoting Natale v. Camden Cnty. Corr. Facility, 318 F.3d 575, 581 (3d Cir.
2003). As the question of whether more protections are provided remains open, courts generally
evaluate pre-trial claims using the Estelle deliberate indifference test. Id. at 96-97. As such,
although Plaintiffs status at the time of the various events giving rise to his claims is not clear,
this Court will apply the Estelle test to determine whether Plaintiff has asserted a proper violation
of his Eighth or Fourteenth Amendment rights. Id.
Thus, Plaintiff must plead facts which, taken as true, would show that Defendants were
deliberately indifferent to his needs, and that those medical needs are serious. Id. at 97. In this
context, deliberate indifference equates to a reckless disregard of a substantial risk of harm. See
Farmer v. Brennan, 511 U.S. 825, 837-38 (1994); Everett v. Nort, 547 F. App'x 117, 121 (3d Cir.
2013). A prisoner's medical needs are serious where the need "has been diagnosed by a physician
as requiring treatment or one that is so obvious that a lay person would easily recognize the
necessity of a doctor's attention." Monmouth Cnty. Corr. Inst. Inmates v. Lanzaro, 834 F.2d 326,
347 (3d Cir. 1987), cert denied, 486 U.S. 1006 (1988). "'Where a prisoner has received some
medical attention and the dispute is over the adequacy of treatment, federal courts are generally
reluctant to second guess medical judgments and to constitutionalize claims which sound in state
tort law."' Everett, 547 F. App'x at 121 (quoting United States ex rel. Walker v. Fayette Cnty.,
599 F.2d 573, 575 n. 2 (3d Cir. 1979)). Neither a prisoner's subjective dissatisfaction with the
care provided nor his disagreement with medical staffs professional judgment is therefore
sufficient to establish deliberate indifference. See Hairston v. Director Bureau ofPrisons, 563 F.
App'x 893, 895 (3d Cir. 2014); White v. Napolean, 897 F.2d 103, 110 (3d Cir. 1990); Andrews v.
Camden Cnty., 95 F. Supp. 2d 217, 228 (D.N.J. 2000).
Here, Plaintiff fails to plead facts which would indicate that either of the Defendants acted
with reckless disregard of his medical needs. Indeed, Plaintiff provides little information at all to
indicate what actions either Defendant took, or why. Instead, he merely claims that he was
misdiagnosed, an action which suggests negligence rather than deliberate indifference, and that he
was not placed on a medical ward by Warden Myers. Plaintiff does not plead that Myers knew of
the apparent misdiagnosis, nor does he state that he had a specific diagnosed need to be under
constant medical supervision at the time that Myers apparently placed him in a special wing.
Likewise, although Plaintiff mentions that he is apparently a "cancer patient" he doesn't provide
any information which would specifically require that he be put on constant medical treatment,
nor facts suggesting Myers knew or should have known about such a requirement. Ultimately,
Plaintiff has pled insufficient facts to state a claim for deliberate indifference to Plaintiffs medical
needs by either Plaintiff. As such, this Court will dismiss that claim against both Dr. Hershowitz
and Warden Myers without prejudice. Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678; King, 302 F. App'x at 96-97.
Because all of Plaintiffs federal claims over which this Court has original jurisdiction are being
dismissed, this Court will in tum decline to exercise supplemental jurisdiction over Plaintiffs state
law medical malpractice claim. 28 U.S.C. § 1367(c)(3).
For the reasons stated above, this Court will dismiss Plaintiffs claims against Dr.
Hershowitz and Warden Myers without prejudice for failure to state a claim for which relief can
be granted; dismiss Plaintiffs claims against Passaic County Jail with prejudice, and will decline
to exercise supplemental jurisdiction over Plaintiffs state law medical malpractice claim. An
appropriate order follows.
ose L. Linares,
1ted States District Judge
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