CAMPBELL v. NELSON et al
OPINION. Signed by Judge Esther Salas on 3/6/2018. (ld, )
Not For Publication
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
DISTRICT OF NEW JERSEY
NELSON, et al.,
Civil Action No. 17-4183 (ES)
SALAS, DISTRICT JUDGE
IT APPEARING THAT:
Plaintiff Curtis Campbell (“Plaintiff”), a convicted and sentenced state prisoner
confined at South Woods State Prison in Bridgeton, New Jersey, at the time of filing, brings this
civil rights action in forma pauperis. Based on his affidavit of indigence, the Court previously
granted Plaintiff’s application to proceed in forma pauperis pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915(a) and
ordered the Clerk of the Court to file the Complaint. (D.E. No. 3).
2. At this time, the Court must review the Complaint (D.E. No. 1, Complaint (“Compl.”)),
pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §§ 1915(e)(2) and 1915A, to determine whether it should be dismissed as
frivolous or malicious, for failure to state a claim upon which relief may be granted, or because it
seeks monetary relief from a defendant who is immune from such relief.
3. Plaintiff names two Defendants in his Complaint: Administrator Nelson and the New
Jersey Department of Corrections.1 Against both, he alleges that they “neglected and refused to
The Court will dismiss the Department of Corrections with prejudice because it is not a person under § 1983.
See Foye v. Wexford Health Sources Inc., 675 F. App’x 210, 215 (3d Cir. 2017) (citing Will v. Michigan Dep’t of State
provide ADA compliant access to my bunk as [he] is legally blind. Further denied [him] medical
treatment when [he] injured [his] foot accessing [his] bunk.”2 (Compl. ¶ 4).
4. He further alleges that:
On May 4, 2016, the State of N.J., after completing an eye exam, it was
determined that I was legally blind. On March 4, 2016[,] I had injured by
right foot while attempting to access my bunk. I had on several occasions
had asked for a lower bunk but was denied and met with verbal abuse. My
foot was injured to the point it was bleeding profuslly [sic] and I could not
stop it. After 2 days, I was finally granted medical treatment (after being
denied for 2 days).
(Id. ¶ 6). Plaintiff does not provide any further information. He is seeking $1.5 million
in damages. (Id. ¶ 7).
5. 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 in forma pauperis, see 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B), seeks
redress against a governmental employee or entity, see 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(b), or brings a claim
with respect to prison conditions, see 42 U.S.C. § 1997e. The PLRA directs district courts to sua
sponte dismiss any claim that is frivolous, 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 is a prisoner proceeding as indigent.
6. 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
Police, 491 U.S. 58, 71 (1989)); Grabow v. S. State Corr. Facility, 726 F. Supp. 537, 538-39 (D.N.J. 1989) (holding
that the New Jersey Department of Corrections is not a person under § 1983).
The factual allegations are taken from the Complaint and are accepted for purposes of this screening only.
The Court has made no findings as to the veracity of Plaintiff’s allegations.
not do.’” 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (quoting Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555
(2007)). To survive sua sponte screening for failure to state a claim,3 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.” Belmont v. MB Inv. Partners, Inc., 708 F.3d
470, 483 n.17 (3d Cir. 2012) (quoting Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678). 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).
7. A plaintiff may have a cause of action under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 for certain violations of
his constitutional rights. Section 1983 provides in relevant part:
Every person who, under color of any statute, ordinance, regulation,
custom, or usage, of any State or Territory . . . subjects, or causes to be
subjected, any citizen of 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 . . . .
Thus, to state a claim for relief under § 1983, a plaintiff must allege (i) the violation of a right
secured by the Constitution or laws of the United States; and (ii) that the alleged deprivation was
committed or caused by a person acting under color of state law. See West v. Atkins, 487 U.S. 42,
48 (1988); Malleus v. George, 641 F.3d 560, 563 (3d Cir. 2011).
“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 42 U.S.C. § 1997e(c)(1)); Courteau v. United
States, 287 F. App’x 159, 162 (3d Cir. 2008) (discussing 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(b)).
8. It appears that Plaintiff is raising an Eighth Amendment denial-of-medical-care claim
against Defendant Nelson for failing to provide him with a lower bunk due to his medical condition
and for failure to properly treat his foot injury.4
9. The Eighth Amendment “requires prison officials to provide basic medical treatment
to those whom it has incarcerated.” Rouse v. Plantier, 182 F.3d 192, 197 (3d Cir. 1999) (citing
Estelle v. Gamble, 429 U.S. 97 (1976)). To state an Eighth Amendment medical claim, an inmate
must allege acts or omissions by prison officials sufficiently harmful to evidence deliberate
indifference to a serious medical need. See Spruill v. Gillis, 372 F.3d 218, 235-36 (3d Cir. 2004);
Natale v. Camden Cty. Corr. Facility, 318 F.3d 575, 582 (3d Cir. 2003).
“To act with deliberate indifference to serious medical needs is to recklessly disregard a
substantial risk of serious harm.” Giles v. Kearney, 571 F.3d 318, 330 (3d Cir. 2009). Deliberate
indifference requires proof that the official “knows of and disregards an excessive risk to inmate
health or safety.” Natale, 318 F.3d at 582 (quoting Farmer v. Brennan, 511 U.S. 825, 837
(1994)). For instance, a plaintiff may make this showing by establishing that the defendants
“intentionally den[ied] or delay[ed] medical care.” Giles, 571 F.3d at 330. The Third Circuit
has found deliberate indifference where a prison official: “(1) knows of a prisoner’s need for
medical treatment but intentionally refuses to provide it; (2) delays necessary medical treatment
based on a nonmedical reason; or (3) prevents a prisoner from receiving needed or recommended
treatment.” Rouse, 182 F.3d at 197. Notably, however, allegations of negligent treatment or
medical malpractice do not trigger constitutional protections. Pierce v. Pitkins, 520 F. App’x 64,
66 (3d Cir. 2013) (per curiam) (citing Estelle, 429 U.S. at 105-06); Singletary v. Pa. Dep’t of Corr.,
To the extent the Court has misconstrued or misunderstood Plaintiff’s intended claims, Plaintiff is advised to
specifically state such in any amended complaint.
266 F.3d 186, 192 n.2 (3d Cir. 2001). Such allegations rise only to the level of potential medical
malpractice, which are insufficient to state a cognizable deliberate indifference to a serious medical
need claim under § 1983. See Spruill, 372 F.3d at 235 (“Allegations of medical malpractice are
not sufficient to establish a Constitutional violation.”) (citations omitted); see also Bramson v.
Sulayman, 251 F. App’x 84, 86 (3d Cir. 2007) (per curiam) (“[Plaintiff’s] complaint makes clear
that the defendants treated him on many occasions. He claims those treatments proved ineffective
and that defendants negligently failed to diagnose his heart condition, but those allegations do not
state an Eighth Amendment claim.”) (citing Estelle, 429 U.S. at 107-08 & n.16).
Here, Plaintiff has not provided sufficient facts under Iqbal to state an Eighth
Amendment claim. With regard to his denial of a lower bunk, he does not allege from whom he
requested a lower bunk; when he requested a lower bunk; the basis for his request; whether the
individual was aware of a medical need for the bunk when he or she received the request; how
Plaintiff requested the bunk, etc. In sum, Plaintiff does not provide enough information to state a
claim at this time.
11. Plaintiff’s claim regarding his foot injury suffers from similar deficiencies. Plaintiff
does not provide details about the injury to allow the Court to determine if it was a serious medical
need, nor does he state from whom he requested medical attention or when he made his requests.
Without such information, this claim cannot currently proceed.
12. For the reasons stated above, Plaintiff’s claims against the New Jersey Department of
Corrections are dismissed with prejudice. All other claims are dismissed without prejudice
pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §§ 1915(e)(2)(B) and 1915A for failure to state a claim upon which relief
may be granted.
Because it is conceivable that Plaintiff may be able to supplement his pleading
with facts sufficient to overcome the deficiencies noted herein, the Court will grant Plaintiff leave
to move to re-open this case and to file an amended complaint.5
An appropriate Order follows
this Memorandum Opinion.
Esther Salas, U.S.D.J.
Plaintiff should note that when an amended complaint is filed, it supersedes the original and renders it of no
legal effect, unless the amended complaint specifically refers to or adopts the earlier pleading. See West Run Student
Housing Assocs., LLC v. Huntington Nat’l Bank, 712 F.3d 165, 171 (3d Cir. 2013) (collecting cases). To avoid
confusion, the safer practice is to submit an amended complaint that is complete in itself. Id.
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