PITTMAN v. SAINT FRANCIS HOSPITAL et al
OPINION filed. Signed by Judge Michael A. Shipp on 11/4/2015. (kas, )
*NOT FOR PUBLICATION*
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
DISTRICT OF NEW JERSEY
ELIJAH MATHEWS PITTMAN,
Civil Action No. 15-3371 (MAS)
SAINT FRANCIS HOSPITAL, et al.,
SHIPP, District Judge:
Pro se Plaintiff Elijah Mathews Pittman ("Plaintiff') brings this action in forma pauperis
pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, alleging violations of his constitutional rights. At this time, the
Court must review the Complaint to determine whether it should be dismissed as frivolous or
malicious, for failure to state a claim upon which relief may be granted, or because it seeks
monetary relief from a defendant who is immune from such relief. See 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2) (in
forma pauperis actions). For the reasons stated below, the Court dismisses the Complaint for
failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted.
STANDARD OF REVIEW
Every complaint must comply with the pleading requirements of the Federal Rules of Civil
Procedure. Rule 8(a)(2) requires that a complaint contain "a short and plain statement of the claim
showing that the pleader is entitled to relief." "Specific facts are not necessary; the statement need
only 'give the defendant fair notice of what the ... claim is and the grounds upon which it rests.'"
Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 93 (2007) (citations omitted).
While a complaint ... does not need detailed factual allegations, a plaintiffs
obligation to provide the "grounds" of his "entitle[ment] to relief' requires more
than labels and conclusions, and a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause
of action will not do .... Factual allegations must be enough to raise a right to
relief above the speculative level ....
Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007) (citations omitted).
In determining the sufficiency of a pro se complaint, the Court must be mindful to accept
its factual allegations as true, see James v. City of Wilkes-Barre, 700 F.3d 675, 679 (3d Cir. 2012),
and to construe it liberally in favor of the plaintiff. See Haines v. Kerner, 404 U.S. 519, 520-21
(1972); United States v. Day, 969 F.2d 39, 42 (3d Cir.
In general, where a complaint subject
to statutory screening can be remedied by amendment, a district court should not dismiss the
complaint with prejudice, but should permit the amendment. Denton v. Hernandez, 504 U.S. 25,
34 (1992); Grayson v. Mayview State Hosp., 293 F.3d 103, 108 (3d Cir. 2002) (noting that leave
to amend should be granted "in the absence of undue delay, bad faith, dilatory motive, unfair
prejudice, or futility of amendment").
A plaintiff can pursue a cause of action under § 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 ....
42 U.S.C. § 1983. Thus, to state a claim for reliefunder § 1983, a plaintiff must establish, first,
the violation of a right secured by the Constitution or laws of the United States and, second, that
the alleged deprivation was committed or caused by a person acting under color of state law. Am.
Mfrs. Mut. Ins. Co. v. Sullivan, 526 U.S. 40, 50-1 (1999); Morrow v. Balaski, 719 F.3d 160, 1667 (3d Cir:2013f
In the Complaint, all of Plaintiff's claims arise out of a single act by Defendant "Jan Dow,"
a nurse employed by Defendant Saint Francis Hospital, for "covering [Plaintiff's] entire body up
with a white sheet face and feet" while transporting Plaintiff inside of the hospital. Compl. 4, 8,
ECF No. 1. Plaintiff asserts that this was done maliciously because of his race, his braided hair,
and his status as a prisoner. Id. at 9. Plaintiff claims that this was discriminatory and inhumane,
and that it made him feel "like [he] was a dead corpse." Id. All claims against all other Defendants
relate to Plaintiff's sweeping assertions that they failed to supervise or otherwise prevent Jan Dow
from committing this alleged violation of Plaintiff's rights.
To begin, "[n]o Federal civil action may be brought by a prisoner confined in a jail, prison,
or other correctional facility, for mental or emotional injury suffered while in custody without a
prior showing ofphysical injury[.]" 42 U.S.C. § 1997e(e); see also Jackson v. Taylor, No. 05823, 2008 WL 4471439, at *4 (D. Del. Sept. 26, 2008) ("Actual injury is a prerequisite to any
claim under§ 1983"). In enacting§ 1997e(e), Congress intended "to curtail frivolous and abusive
prison litigation," and noted that "unlike physical injuries, emotional injuries are inherently
difficult to verify and therefore tend to be concocted for frivolous suits." Mitchell v. Horn, 318
F.3d 523, 535 (3d Cir. 2003) (citation and quotation omitted). Here, there is simply no allegation
that Plaintiff suffered any physical injury, so on that basis alone, Plaintiff fails to state a claim
upon which relief may be granted.
Furthermore, Plaintiff fails to establish any violation of a right secured by the Constitution
or federal laws. Although the Court is cognizant of the embarrassment, disrespect, and humiliation
that Plaintiff must have felt as a result of Jan Dow's actions, Plaintiff has not alleged that any of
his federally-protected rights had been violated, nor can the Court infer any such violation based
Plaintiff's factual allegations. "[W]here liberty interests are asserted as a basis for liability
pursuant to § 1983, courts have consistently undertaken a threshold inquiry at the onset of
litigation: First, courts must address . . . whether the plaintiff has alleged the deprivation of an
actual constitutional right at all." McCurdy v. Dodd, 352 F.3d 820, 825-26 (3d Cir. 2003) (citations
and quotations omitted). There is no independent constitutional right to be free of embarrassment,
disrespect, and/or humiliation. See Paul v. Davis, 424 U.S. 693, 712 (1976) ("interest in reputation
... is neither 'liberty' nor 'property' guaranteed against state deprivation without due process of
law"); Cooley v. Barber, No. 07-3327, 2007 WL 2900550, at *1 (3d Cir. Oct. 4, 2007) (finding
that plaintiff's allegations of embarrassment and damage to his reputation are insufficient to state
a claim under§ 1983); Dawson v. NJ. State Trooper Barracks, No. 11-2779, 2011WL3653671,
at *5 (D.N.J. Aug. 19, 2011) ("[A]ll [the plaintiff] alleged was his embarrassment, shyness,
hypothetical concern with suffering a social stigma and other forms of his emotional displeasure.
However, the United States Constitution and its Due Process Clause do not provide Plaintiff with
the right to pleasantries."); Word v. Proctor, No. 00-205, 2003 WL 1844952, at *2 (D. Del. Mar.
31, 2003) (finding that allegations of harassment, embarrassment and defamation are not
co'gnizable under§ 1983); see also Hill v. Borough ofKutztown, 455 F.3d 225, 236 (3d Cir. 2006)
("Rather, to make out a due process claim for deprivation of a liberty interest in reputation, a
plaintiff must show a stigma to his reputation plus deprivation of some additional right or
interest.") (emphasis in the original).
Finally, the Court dismisses the Complaint without giving Plaintiff an opportunity to
amend. Dismissal with prejudice without amendment is appropriate when granting leave to amend
would be futile. Grayson, 293 F .3d at 111. This is so even when the dismissal is effected through
§ 1915(e)(2) screening. Id. Indeed, although prose plaintiffs are allowed to amend inadequately
· pled complaints;·see Denton, 504 U.S. at 34, the futility exception still applies since it has a long
history of being used to dismiss frivolous claims without granting leave to amend, see Grayson,
293 F.3d at 112-13. Here, based on the trivial nature of Jan Dow's alleged actions, and the lack
of allegations suggesting physical injuries, the Court finds that no amendment would cure the fatal
flaws in the Complaint. As such, the Complaint is dismissed with prejudice.
For the reasons set forth above, the Complaint is DISMISSED WITH PREJUDICE for
failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted.
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