PILIRO v. CAMDEN COUNTY JAIL, No. 1:2016cv06799 - Document 3 (D.N.J. 2017)

Court Description: OPINION. Signed by Chief Judge Jerome B. Simandle on 5/1/2017. (TH, )
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PILIRO v. CAMDEN COUNTY JAIL Doc. 3 UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT DISTRICT OF NEW JERSEY HONORABLE JEROME B. SIMANDLE ROCCO J. PILIRO, Plaintiff, Civil Action No. 16-cv-06799(JBS-AMD) v. CAMDEN COUNTY JAIL, OPINION Defendant. APPEARANCES Rocco J. Piliro, Plaintiff Pro Se 308 Wiltshire Drive Collings Lakes, NJ 08094 SIMANDLE, Chief District Judge: 1. Plaintiff Rocco J. Piliro 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. 2. 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. 1 Dockets.Justia.com 3. For the reasons set forth below, the Court will: (1) dismiss the Complaint with prejudice as to claims made against CCJ; and (2) dismiss the Complaint without prejudice for failure to state a claim. 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(b)(ii). Claims Against CCJ: Dismissed With Prejudice 4. 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 Manalapan, 47 F.3d 628, 633 (3d Cir. 1995) (citing Gomez v. Toledo, 446 U.S. 635, 640 (1980)). 5. 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 1 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. 2 “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. 2 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. at 50. 6. 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 CCJ for allegedly unconstitutional conditions of confinement. The CCJ, 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 See Monell v. N.Y.C. Dep't of Social Services, 436 U.S. 658, 690-91 (1978). 3 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. 7. 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 30 days of the date of this order. Conditions Of Confinement Claims: Dismissed Without Prejudice 8. For the reasons set forth below, the Court will dismiss the Complaint without prejudice for failure to state a claim. 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(b)(ii). 9. 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. 10. To survive sua sponte screening for failure to state a claim3, the Complaint must allege “sufficient factual matter” to 3 “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 4 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). 11. 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. 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. § 1915A(b)). 5 12. However, with respect to the alleged facts giving rise to his claims, Plaintiff’s Complaint here states: “I know every time I was in there I had to sleep on the floor cause [sic] bottom bunks was [sic] taken and I was detoxing from alcohole [sic][.] [I] was a drunk and popped xanies4 [sic] like skittles[.] [T]he[y] never gave me nothing [sic] when I came in[.] I had to wait until I wash [sic] shaking & throwing up blood. The nurse stuck me in a holding cell with 8-10 guys until the c/o’s processed us and she didn’t give us any meds.” Complaint § III(C). 13. With respect to dates and times of the purported events giving rise to his claims, Plaintiff states that he is “unsure of dates due to car accident[.] [M]y long term memory is off.” Id. § III(B) 14. With respect to alleged injuries from the events giving rise to his claims, Plaintiff contends that he “went threw [sic] trembers [sic] from drinking [and] seizure from xanies. Nothing was done [un]til 3 days later when they let us out of the cell & I collapsed. [T]hen they took us to the medical unit. I should of [sic] been medicated for the drinking and the pills from the door but the nurse didn’t want to here [sic] nothing I said.” Id. § IV. 4 This Court construes Plaintiff’s use of the term “xanies” to refer to the medication Xanax. 6 15. With respect to requested relief, Plaintiff seeks monetary compensation: “I should be [compensated] [because] I was hurt[.] [W]hen I fell I hit my head and it took to[o] long to be medicated.” Complaint § V. 16. This Court construes Plaintiff’s damages claim to also include a request for injunctive relief: “There has been [sic] a few warden[s] since I been there thru [sic] the yrs [sic] but they are the same[.] [T]he[y] never come out [of] the cushy office. They need someone who will actually make sure his jail is not treating you like cage animals and treat us like humans. We made [a] mistake but don’t treat us like animals[.] [T]reat us as we are husmans [sic]. People in P/C getting treated better why cause they are rats.” Id. § V. However, Plaintiff’s claim for prospective injunctive relief must be dismissed as moot. Plaintiff is no longer incarcerated at the CCJ. Plaintiff therefore lacks standing to seek injunctive relief because he is no longer subject to the allegedly unconstitutional conditions he seeks to challenge. Abdul-Akbar v. Watson, 4 F.3d 195, 206-07 (3d Cir. 1993); Weaver v. Wilcox, 650 F.2d 22, 27 (3d Cir. 1981).5 5 Given that Plaintiff seeks a court injunction rather than money damages, the Court further advises Plaintiff that he is one of thousands of members of a certified class in a case on this Court's docket captioned Dittimus-Bey, et al. v. Taylor, et al., Civil Action No. 1:05-cv-0063-JBS, United States District Court for the District of New Jersey. The class plaintiffs are all 7 17. Even construing the Complaint to assert claims against “c/o’s in holding / the nurse / doctor / the c/o’s in 7 day and the social worker, administrator and the warden” (Complaint § I(C)), Plaintiff’s claims must be dismissed because the Complaint does not set forth enough factual support for the Court to infer that a constitutional violation has occurred. 18. The mere fact that an individual is lodged temporarily in a cell with more persons than its intended design does not persons confined at the Camden County Correctional Facility (“CCCF”), as either pretrial detainees or convicted prisoners, at any time from January 6, 2005 until the present time. The Dittimus-Bey class of plaintiffs seeks injunctive and declaratory relief concerning allegedly unconstitutional conditions of confinement at the CCCF involving overcrowding. The Dittimus-Bey class action does not involve money damages for individuals. There is a proposed final settlement of DittimusBey, which this Court preliminarily approved on February 22, 2017. That February 22 preliminary approval describes the proposed settlement in detail. Various measures undertaken pursuant to the Court-approved Second and Third Consent Decrees have reduced the CCCF jail population to fewer prisoners than the intended design capacity for the jail, thereby greatly reducing or eliminating triple and quadruple bunking in twoperson cells; these details are further explained in the proposed Sixth and Final Consent Decree, which would continue those requirements under Court supervision for two more years. According to the Notice Of Class Action Settlement approved in the Dittimus-Bey case on February 22, 2017, any class member can object to the proposed settlement by filing an objection in the Dittimus-Bey case before April 24, 2017. A final hearing is set for May 23, 2017, at which time the Court will consider any objections to the settlement. If the Dittimus-Bey settlement is finally approved after the May 23, 2017 hearing, Plaintiff and other class members will be barred from seeking injunctive or declaratory relief for the period of time from January 6, 2005 until the date of final approval, but the settlement does not bar any individual class member from seeking money damages in an individual case. 8 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 confinement, etc. 19. There are also not enough facts in Plaintiff’s Complaint for the Court to infer that he was denied adequate medical care. In order to set forth a cognizable claim for 9 violation of the right to adequate medical care, an inmate must allege: (1) a serious medical need; and (2) behavior on the part of prison officials that constitutes deliberate indifference to that need. See Estelle v. Gamble, 429 U.S. 97, 106 (1976); Natale v. Camden Cnty. Corr. Facility, 318 F.3d 575, 582 (3d Cir. 2003). Mere assertions such as those that Plaintiff “was hurt when I fell[,] should of [sic] been medicated for the drinking and the pills[,] [and] the[y] never gave me nothing when I . . . wash [sic] shaking and throwing up blood [when I] came in” (Complaint §§ III(C), IV, V) are insufficient to meet the pleading standard. 20. Furthermore, Plaintiff may have disagreed with the treatment that CCJ provided (“[W]hen I came in [. . .] I [had] popped xanies like Skittles [and] . . . [t]he nurse didn’t give me any meds” (Complaint § III(C)); “I should of [sic] been medicated for the drinking and the pills” (id. § IV); “It took to[o] long to be medicated” (id. § V), but he does not contend that he was denied treatment. Rather, Plaintiff’s Complaint suggests that he disagreed with the medicinal treatment afforded him by CCJ. However, disagreement with the kind of medical care received does not 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 10 to state a constitutional violation). A prisoner is not entitled to the medical treatment of her choice. See Reed v. Cameron, 380 F. App’x 160, 162 (3d Cir. 2010) (citing Monmouth County Corr. Inst. Inmates v. Lanzaro, 834 F.2d 326, 346 (3d Cir. 1987)) (dissatisfaction with prison medical care is insufficient to show the requisite “deliberate indifference” by prison officials needed to assert a cognizable Fourteenth Amendment claim for violation of the right to adequate medical care). 21. If Plaintiff wishes to pursue a claim for denial of adequate medical care, he should provide in an amended complaint sufficient facts supporting both of the requirements of a claim of inadequate medical care. Estelle, 429 U.S. at 106 (setting forth elements of a claim for inadequate medical care: (1) a serious medical need; and (2) behavior on the part of prison officials that constitutes deliberate indifference to that need); Natale, 318 F.3d at 582. 22. With respect to his overcrowded conditions of confinement claim, 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, 11 the Court shall grant Plaintiff leave to amend the Complaint within 30 days of the date of this order.6 23. Plaintiff is further advised that any amended complaint must plead specific facts regarding the 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 § 1915. 24. 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. 6 The amended complaint shall be subject to screening prior to service. 12 25. For the reasons stated above, the Complaint is: (a) dismissed with prejudice as to the CCJ; and (b) dismissed without prejudice for failure to state a claim. 26. An appropriate order follows. May 1, 2017 Date s/ Jerome B. Simandle JEROME B. SIMANDLE Chief U.S. District Judge 13