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ALFORD v. OWEN

August 23, 2005.

MICHAEL ALFORD Plaintiff
v.
DAVID OWEN, et al. Defendant.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: FREDA WOLFSON, Magistrate Judge

[EDITOR'S NOTE: This case is unpublished as indicated by the issuing court.] OPINION

This matter comes before the Court on Defendant David Owen's Motion for Summary Judgment pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 56. Plaintiff Michael Alford alleges violations of his Fourteenth Amendment rights pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 for inadequate medical care at Camden County Correctional Facility ("CCCF") and Defendants' failure to protect him from other inmates. This Court has jurisdiction pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1331. For the reasons discussed herein, the Court grants Defendant's Motion in its entirety, and will grant summary judgment sua sponte to Officers Joe Doe (1-10).*fn1 I. BACKGROUND

Plaintiff was a pretrial detainee at the Camden County Correctional Facility ("CCCF") in Camden, N.J., on April 21, 2001, the date of the incident that is the subject of Plaintiff's Complaint. Deposition of Michael Alford, Exhibit 4 to Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment ("Def. Exh.") at 6:16-24. Plaintiff shared a cell in the 5 South "E" block with two other inmates, Roger Thornton and Miguel Figueroa. Certification of Sergeant Kenneth Cunningham, Def. Exh. 5, at ¶ 4. The cell contained a bunk bed, which was occupied by Thornton and Figueroa; Plaintiff slept on a mattress on the floor. Id. at 19:3-13. At the time of the incident, Plaintiff had lived in this cell for approximately a month. Id. at 18:4-16. Plaintiff got along well with Thornton and Figueroa, and was teaching Thornton how to read. Id. at 19:23-20:5; 21:1-18.

  On the morning of April 2, 2001, Thornton awoke early to watch television in the day room adjacent to the cell. Id. at 21:21-22:6. Plaintiff claims that Thornton often woke up early, but that he and Figueroa slept until around lunch time. Id. at 22:1-2. Plaintiff alleges that on that morning he was having trouble sleeping because of the noise of the television. Id. at 22:6-12. Plaintiff claims that he asked Thornton to turn the volume on the television down, but that Thornton became very defensive and refused to lower the volume. Id. at 22:9-23:17. Plaintiff tried to fall back asleep, but a few minutes later got up from bed, went into the day room, lowered the volume, and returned to bed. Id. at 23:19-22. A few minutes later Thornton raised the volume again and then argued with Plaintiff about the television. Id. at 23:22-24. At no time during these events did Plaintiff attempt to complain to any of the prison guards or staff. Id. at 88:2-14; 90:2-24.

  Once the volume was turned up, Plaintiff decided to get up because he was unable to sleep. Id. at 25:17-19. Plaintiff washed up, got dressed, and then sat down in a chair in the day room to watch television with Thornton. Id. at 23:19-25; 24:1-16; 25:19-26:8. Plaintiff alleges that Thornton then left the day room and went back into the cell, without speaking to Plaintiff. Id. at 27:16-19. A few minutes after Thornton left, Plaintiff lowered the volume on the television and continued to watch it. Id.

  Thornton returned to the room where Plaintiff was watching television, walked directly up to him, and began punching Plaintiff repeatedly. Id. at 28:1-30:23. Plaintiff wrapped his arms around Thornton and pushed him into the wall under the television. Id. at 31:1-20. With his head in Thornton's chest, still fighting, Plaintiff heard a gritting sound and felt Thornton bite down on his ear. Id. at 31:21-34:21.

  Plaintiff cried out in pain, causing the other inmates to watch what was happening. Id. at 38:15-25. Inmates banged on the doors to get a correctional officer to come break up the fight. Id. at 39:5-9. Approximately two to three minutes later, Officer Manuel Rolon came to the cell and separated Plaintiff and Thornton. Id. at 39:12-23. As Rolon approached the cell, other inmates told Plaintiff that Thornton had bitten his ear off. Id. at 40:17-41:3. Plaintiff felt his ear, saw he was bleeding, and discovered that Thornton had bitten part of his ear off. Id. at 41:4-6; 41:24-42:2.

  Plaintiff began looking down to search for the piece of his ear that was missing. Id. at 41:7-11. Officer Rolon grabbed Plaintiff by the arm and told him that he needed to be taken to medical department. Id. at 42:18-43:3. Plaintiff pushed away from Rolon, saying that he needed to search for his ear. Id. at 43:15-18. Rolon grabbed Plaintiff again, this time not letting him go, and insisted that Plaintiff go to the medical department. Id. at 44:14-45:1. After continuing to look down for his ear for a minute or two, Plaintiff went with Officer Rolon to the medical department. Id. at 46:1-6.

  After being examined by a doctor in the medical department, Plaintiff was taken to Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital in Camden. Id. at 51:20-53:2. At the hospital, the remaining part of his ear was stitched up. Id. at 53:7-12. The doctor who treated Plaintiff at the hospital recommended that he see Dr. Scott Busch the next day for his injuries. Id. at 55:21-22; 56:8-12. The officer accompanying Plaintiff informed the doctor that there is a required procedure to be followed before making an appointment. Id. at 56:13-15. Plaintiff was taken back to CCCF that day and housed in the medical block. Id. at 57:8-14. Plaintiff was given a disciplinary report as a result of the incident. Id. at 57:15-17. He attended a disciplinary hearing a few days later, where he was found guilty of having an "altercation." Id. at 57:20-58:13.

  Sergeant Kenneth Cunningham was on duty the day of the incident and was informed by Officer Rolon that he was taking Plaintiff to the medical department. Def. Exh. 5 at ¶ 2. After another sergeant who was on duty told him the details of the incident, Cunningham went to the block where the incident took place and found Figueroa outside his cell searching for the ear. Id. at ¶ 3, ¶ 4. Figueroa told Cunningham that Thornton had "bit off Michael's ear and ate it." Id. at ¶ 5. Cunningham asked Thornton about it and searched his mouth for signs of the ear. Id. at ¶¶ 5-6. He then searched the cell area, the day room, and the area between the security grates and the windows in the day room with Rolon and two investigators from the Internal Affairs department. Id. at ¶ 8-13. None of them found any sign of Plaintiff's ear. Id. Several days later, Plaintiff was taken to Dr. Busch. Def. Exh. 4 at 64:15-19. Dr. Busch said that cartilage would be taken from Plaintiff's ribs and used to construct a new ear, but that the ear needed to heal for a month before any reconstructive surgery could be done. Id. at 64:21-65:10. Busch told Plaintiff that the reconstruction process would take up to a year. Id. at 65:10-11. Plaintiff went back to Dr. Busch to have the stitches in his ear removed approximately nine or ten days later. Id. at 66:20-67:4. Plaintiff was told by Dr. Busch that the work that would be done depended on how much county insurance would cover. Id. at 67:16-19.

  Plaintiff had his first surgery at Cooper Hospital approximately a year after the incident in 2002. Id. at 69:13-14; 69:14-18. A second surgery was performed the same year, and a third surgery was performed around a year after the first. Id. at 71:1-72:10. Following the surgeries, Plaintiff has undergone daily treatments where the ear is flushed with peroxide and saline to prevent infection. Id. at 76:6-18. Plaintiff has had infections in his ear since the surgeries. Id. at 72:25-73:8. Because infected sections of the ear continuously have to be removed, there is a possibility that future surgeries will be required. Id. at 73:9-11.

  Prior to his surgeries, Plaintiff had intense pain in his ear, but no problem hearing out of the ear. Id. at 75:8; 81:18-82:4. Following the surgeries, Plaintiff's pain has not been as intense. Id. However, Plaintiff claims that the daily treatment is painful. Id. at 75:21-24. Additionally, he gets occasional, intense headaches that feel like a throbbing in his ear. Id. at 76:24-77:7. He cannot sleep on his side without pain from the ear. Id. at 75:14-18; 78:4-9. Plaintiff also complains of a constant ringing sound from the affected ear. Id. at 74:8-75:8. Plaintiff also claims that he suffered emotional injuries prior to his surgery because of the embarrassment of having only one ear and ridicule from the other inmates. Id. at 82:9-83:14. II. PROCEDURAL HISTORY

  Plaintiff filed the instant Complaint on February 24, 2003, naming as Defendants Joe Doe (1-10), Officers at CCCF; and David S. Owen, Jr., Warden of CCCF.*fn2 On March 12, 2003, the Court granted Plaintiff's application for in forma pauperis status. Defendants initially filed their Motion for Summary Judgment on July 30, 2004. On January 19, 2005, the Court denied without Prejudice Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment because Defendants had failed to provide ...


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