RODRIGUEZ v. CAMDEN COUNTY CORRECTIONAL FACILITY, No. 1:2016cv08417 - Document 3 (D.N.J. 2017)
Court Description: OPINION. Signed by Chief Judge Jerome B. Simandle on 4/21/2017. (dmr)
RODRIGUEZ v. CAMDEN COUNTY CORRECTIONAL FACILITY Doc. 3 UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT DISTRICT OF NEW JERSEY DAVID C. RODRIGUEZ, HONORABLE JEROME B. SIMANDLE Plaintiff, v. CAMDEN COUNTY CORRECTIONAL FACILITY, Civil Action No. 16-cv-08417 (JBS-AMD) OPINION Defendant. APPEARANCES: David C. Rodriguez, Plaintiff Pro Se 2935 N. Congress Rd. Camden, NJ 08104 SIMANDLE, Chief District Judge: 1. Plaintiff David C. Rodriguez seeks to bring a civil rights complaint pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against the Camden County Correctional Facility (“CCCF”). Complaint, Docket Entry 1. 2. Section 1915(e)(2) requires a court to review complaints prior to service in cases in which a plaintiff is proceeding in forma pauperis. The Court 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. Dockets.Justia.com § 1915(e)(2)(B) because Plaintiff is proceeding in forma pauperis. 3. 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). 4. 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)). 5. Plaintiff brings this action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 19831 for alleged violations of Plaintiff’s constitutional 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 2 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)). 6. 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. at 50. 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. See Monell v. N.Y.C. Dep't of Social Services, 436 U.S. 658, 690-91 (1978). 3 7. Because Plaintiff has not sufficiently alleged that a “person” deprived him of a federal right, the complaint does not meet the standards necessary to set forth a prima facie case under § 1983. Plaintiff presumably seeks monetary damages3 from CCCF for allegedly unconstitutional conditions of confinement. The CCCF, 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)). Because the claims against the CCCF must be dismissed with prejudice, the claims may not proceed and Plaintiff may not name the CCCF as a defendant. 8. 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. 9. Plaintiff is advised that the amended 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. Plaintiff alleges he experienced 3 Plaintiff has not stated any requested relief in the complaint. 4 unconstitutional conditions of confinement during seventeen separate incarcerations between September 4, 1996 and July 20, 2016. Complaint § III. The fact section of the complaint states: “As a result of sleeping on a very filt[h]y floor, most times by the toilet, I’ve contracted a skin disorder, (boils). I have endless back pains which I take ibuprofen or asprin [sic] for whenever it’s available.” Id. Plaintiff further states: “For the boils, the medical staff provided an orange/reddish colored ointment. For the aches [and] pains in my back they provided nothing. The pain is endless and the boils “never” stop recurring and are extremely painful!! Conditions were so poor and depressing that I ended up having a mental breakdown and was placed on 2SA, which is a [illegible] medical unit with no clothes, just a smock, as they also once again had to treat me for boils again.” Id. § IV. Even accepting these statements as true for screening purposes only, there is not enough factual support for the Court to infer a constitutional violation has occurred. 10. Plaintiff alleges that he slept on the floor, presumably because no open beds were available. 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 5 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 dates and length of the confinement(s), whether Plaintiff was a pretrial detainee or convicted prisoner, etc. 11. In addition, to the extent that Plaintiff seeks to allege a claim based on a violation of his right to adequate medical care, there are not enough facts to support an inference that Plaintiff’s rights were violated in this regard. In order to set forth a cognizable claim for a violation of his 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 6 Estelle v. Gamble, 429 U.S. 97, 106 (1976); Natale v. Camden Cnty. Corr. Facility, 318 F.3d 575, 582 (3d Cir. 2003). Plaintiff alleges that he did receive treatment for his boils. Complaint § IV. In addition, Plaintiff’s allegation that “they provided nothing” for the aches and pains in his back is insufficient to meet the pleading standard in the absence of additional facts. If he wishes to pursue this claim, Plaintiff should provide additional facts supporting both of the requirements in his amended complaint. 12. Moreover, to the extent the complaint seeks relief for conditions Plaintiff encountered during periods of confinement ending prior to November 10, 2014, those claims are barred by the statute of limitations and must be dismissed with prejudice, meaning that Plaintiff cannot recover for those claims because they have been brought too late.4 Civil rights claims under § 1983 are governed by New Jersey's limitations period for personal injury and must be brought within two years of the claim’s accrual. 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 4 Plaintiff filed this complaint on November 10, 2016. 7 based.” Montanez v. Sec'y Pa. Dep't of Corr., 773 F.3d 472, 480 (3d Cir. 2014). 13. Plaintiff alleges the events giving rise to his claims occurred during seventeen different incarcerations between 1996 and 2016. Complaint § III; Complaint at 6-7. However, all but three of these incarcerations occurred more than two years prior to the filing of Plaintiff’s complaint.5 The allegedly unconstitutional conditions of confinement at CCCF, namely the overcrowding, would have been immediately apparent to Plaintiff at the time of his detention; therefore, the statute of limitations for Plaintiff’s claims arising from his incarcerations between September 4, 1996 and March 19, 2014, expired before this complaint was filed November 10, 2016. Plaintiff therefore cannot recover for these claims.6 14. As Plaintiff may be able to amend his complaint to address the deficiencies noted by the Court, the Court shall 5 The three incarcerations that occurred within the two-year statute of limitations were from February 2, 2015, to February 13, 2015, August 25, 2015, to August 30, 2015, and July 17, 2016 to July 20, 2016. 6 Although the Court may toll, or extend, the statute of limitations in the interests of justice, certain circumstances must be present before it can do so. Tolling is not warranted in this case because the state has not “actively misled” Plaintiff as to the existence of his cause of action, there are no extraordinary circumstances that prevented Plaintiff from filing his claim, and there is nothing to indicate Plaintiff filed his claim on time but in the wrong forum. See Omar v. Blackman, 590 F. App’x 162, 166 (3d Cir. 2014). 8 grant Plaintiff leave to amend the complaint within 30 days of the date of this order. However, in the event Plaintiff does elect to file an amended complaint, he should focus only on the facts of his confinements in 2015 and 2016. Because Plaintiff’s earlier claims are barred by the statute of limitations and must be dismissed with prejudice, Plaintiff may not assert those claims in an amended complaint. 15. 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.7 Id. 16. For the reasons stated above, the claims arising from each of Plaintiff’s confinements from September 4, 1996, through March 19, 2014, are barred by the statute of limitations and therefore are dismissed with prejudice. The claims arising from 7 The amended complaint shall be subject to screening prior to service. 9 Plaintiff’s 2015 and 2016 confinements are dismissed without prejudice for failure to state a claim. The Court will reopen the matter in the event Plaintiff files an amended complaint within the time allotted by the Court. 17. An appropriate order follows. April 21, 2017 Date s/ Jerome B. Simandle JEROME B. SIMANDLE Chief U.S. District Judge 10
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