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Farmer v. Hayman

January 11, 2008


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Simandle, District Judge

[relates to Docket Item 58]



Plaintiff Allen J. Farmer, pro se, brings this action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, alleging that Defendants violated his civil rights when he was confined at a halfway house called Talbot Hall. Presently before the Court is Defendants' motion to dismiss and/or for summary judgment [Docket Item 58]. This sad case raises issues regarding the forceful actions that may be taken by corrections officers against a prisoner who is attempting to kill himself. For the following reasons, the Court will grant Defendants' motion for summary judgment.


A. Facts

At the time that the events underlying Plaintiff's Complaint occurred, he was in the custody of the New Jersey Department of Corrections ("DOC") after having been convicted of multiple counts of illegal drug possession, unlawful weapon possession, and assault on a police officer. (Howells Decl. Ex. A.) From July 19, 2005 to October 14, 2005, Mr. Farmer was confined at Talbot Hall, a halfway house where inmates are assessed to determine where they might be placed after their release from prison. (Compl. 5.) Mr. Farmer, who claims to have a history of mental illness, alleges that while he was confined at Talbot Hall, he made a request to see a mental health professional, but "Talbot Hall staff" refused this request. (Farmer Aff. 2.) Mr. Farmer also claims that Talbot Hall staff "antagonize[d]" him and "coerc[ed]" him into committing suicide. (Id.)

On October 14, 2005, Mr. Farmer received a disciplinary charge for "refusing to work or to accept a program or housing unit assignment," and it was determined that he would be returned to Northern State Prison ("NSP"). (Randolph Decl. Ex. A 24.)

Mr. Farmer was kept in Talbot Hall's "Holding Room Area" to await the arrival of the NSP officers who were to transport him to the prison. (Id. at 1; Farmer Aff. 2.) At approximately 3:05 p.m., Dondi Jenkins, a Talbot Hall Supervisor, observed that Mr. Farmer was sitting in the holding room with the lights off. (Randolph Decl. Ex. A 1.) When Mr. Jenkins attempted to turn the lights on, he realized that Mr. Farmer had broken the light fixture and removed the broken glass from the fluorescent light bulb in the holding room; Mr. Jenkins further observed that Mr. Farmer had removed his shirt and collected the glass shards in it. (Id.; Farmer Aff. 2.) Mr. Farmer began to cut his wrists with the broken glass. (Farmer Aff. 3.) Mr. Jenkins contacted Keith Hooper, the Assistant Director of Talbot Hall, who arrived at the holding room to find Mr. Farmer holding a shard of glass in his hand, with the shirt containing more broken glass on the floor. (Randolph Decl. Ex. A 1.) Mr. Hooper ordered Mr. Farmer to drop the glass and permit the officers to search him, but Mr. Farmer refused, stating that he did not want to be searched or touched. (Id. at 2.) Mr. Farmer then removed more shards of glass from his pants pocket and placed them in his mouth, telling the officers that he would swallow the glass "[i]f anyone trie[d] to rush in on [him]" so that they would be responsible for his death. (Id.; Farmer Aff. 3.) Mr. Farmer continued to cut himself on his wrist as various members of the Talbot Hall staff urged him to stop. (Id.)

By this time, NSP Officers Richard Wasik and Frank Remisio had arrived at Talbot Hall to transport Mr. Farmer to NSP, and the officers were apprised of Mr. Farmer's actions. (Id.) Officer Wasik contacted NSP to request that backup units be sent to Talbot Hall, and contacted the Adult Diagnostic and Treatment Center Northern Regional Unit, located behind Talbot Hall, to request mace or pepper spray. (Randolph Decl. Ex. A 2.) Officer Wasik then entered the holding room and ordered Mr. Farmer to drop the glass in his hand, spit out the glass in his mouth, and, according to Mr. Farmer, threatened that he would shoot Mr. Farmer in the neck if he did not comply. (Farmer Aff. 3-4.) Mr. Farmer further alleges that Officer Wasik called him a "fucken nigger[,] . . . a snitch and a homo," and stated that the staff should let Mr. Farmer "continue slicing his body and eat all the glass he wants." (Am. Compl. 9.) Mr. Farmer ignored Officer Wasik's order, turned away, and continued to cut himself. (Id. at 4.) According to Mr. Farmer, by this time he had "managed to cut the main artery in his wrist enough to squirt blood." (Id.)

Shortly thereafter, Sergeant Haskins arrived with the mace that Officer Wasik had requested. (Randolph Decl. Ex. A 2.) For the fourth time, Mr. Farmer was ordered to drop the glass shards, and he again refused to comply, stating to the officers, "You motherfuckers are going to have to kill me." (Id.; Farmer Aff. 4.) Sergeant Haskins then used the mace spray on Mr. Farmer.

(Id.; Farmer Aff. 4.) Officers Wasik and Remisio then attempted to restrain Mr. Farmer, and a struggle ensued as Mr. Farmer resisted the officers' efforts to handcuff him. (Id.) During the struggle, which Mr. Farmer describes as an "assault," Mr. Farmer swung the piece of glass at the officers. (Id.) Ultimately, the officers managed to restrain Mr. Farmer and place him in handcuffs, and he was "dragged," at times by his hair, to the shower in order to rinse off the mace. (Id.) Mr. Farmer continued to struggle with the officers in the shower, where he attempted to bite Officer Wasik, and the officers restrained Mr. Farmer on the floor of the shower to prevent him from biting them.*fn1 (Id.)

After being rinsed off in the shower, Mr. Farmer was taken to the medical office at Talbot Hall, where he was treated for his self-inflicted injuries and the injuries he received during his struggle with the corrections officers. (Id.) He was then transported by ambulance to the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey Hospital in Newark, New Jersey for treatment and observation, where he remained overnight. (Randolph Decl. Ex. A 2; Farmer Aff. 5.) Officers Wasik and Remisio were treated at Talbot Hall for injuries they suffered during the struggle, which included a cut to Officer Wasik's arm and a bruise on Officer Remisio's leg. (Randolph Decl. Ex. A 2.) According to ...

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