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Salaam v. Merlin

July 22, 2009


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Jerome B. Simandle United States District Judge


SIMANDLE, District Judge

This matter is before the Court upon the motion [Docket Item 16] of Defendant CFG Health Systems, LLC ("CFG") to dismiss Plaintiff's Complaint pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(1) (lack of subject-matter jurisdiction); 12(b)(4) (insufficient process); 12(b)(5) (insufficient service of process); and 12(b)(6) (failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted). Plaintiff Nasir Salaam, proceeding pro se, filed this action against Warden Gary Merlin ("Merlin"), unidentified corrections officers, and an entity identified as "Medical Provider", alleging, inter alia, that Salaam, while incarcerated at the Atlantic County Justice Facility, was beaten by prison security officers who were attempting to contain a riot at the facility. Plaintiff asserts that he was beaten without provocation while lying face-down on the floor. He further asserts that Medical Provider refused to treat him for back pain resulting from the beating. The principal issues to be decided concern (1) the subject-matter jurisdiction of the Court to hear this claim; (2) the content and service of process on Medical Provider; and (3) the particularity of pleading required to set forth cognizable claims under the Eighth Amendment-protected right to medical care while incarcerated. For the reasons set forth below, the Court will deny Defendant's motion to dismiss and issue such orders as are stated in this decision.


A. Facts

The few facts that may be derived from Plaintiff's Complaint are presumed true and are as follows. Plaintiff Salaam is a juvenile prisoner incarcerated at the Atlantic County Justice Facility. (Compl., Stmt. of Claim, ¶¶ 1, 6.) On September 9, 2007, prison security officers quelled a riot in the facility.

(Id. ¶ 1.) Plaintiff alleges that he was present at, but not involved in, the riot. (Id. ¶ 1.) During the riot, Plaintiff was given, and followed, an order to lie face-down on the floor, following which he was beaten without provocation by the prison security officers. (Id. ¶ 1.) As a result of this beating, he suffered back pain which Defendant Medical Provider allegedly refused to treat. (Id. ¶¶ 2, 3.) Plaintiff complained via the prison grievance system and was interviewed by officers who work in internal affairs. (Id. ¶ 5.) The grievance system resolved none of the issues and Plaintiff continued to be denied access to medical care. (Id. ¶¶ 2, 5.) Sometime shortly after the riot, Plaintiff alleges, the prison "Public Safety Department Head" instructed the prison Warden to make sure that everyone involved received the appropriate medical attention. Plaintiff alleges that Warden Merlin did not heed this advice. (Id. ¶ 3.)

B. Procedural History

Plaintiff filed an initial Complaint on March 7, 2008 [Docket Item 1]. The Complaint was administratively terminated for failure to pay the filing fee and an in forma pauperis application denied [Docket Item 2]. The case was reopened and permitted to proceed in forma pauperis on August 27, 2008 [Docket Items 3, 5]. Plaintiff alleges that Defendant Medical Provider wrongfully denied him necessary treatment for medical injuries in violation of an established Eighth Amendment protected right to adequate medical care for prison inmates. Service of Process was executed by United States Marshals to Medical Provider on October 31, 2008 [Docket Items 6, 9]. Defendant subsequently filed the motion to dismiss presently under consideration [Docket Item 16], to the merits of which the Court now turns.


A. Sufficiency of Process

1. Standard of Review

Under Rules 12(b)(4) and 12(b)(5), a defendant may move to dismiss on the grounds that process was insufficient or that service of process was insufficient. Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(4) and 12(b)(5). Insufficiency of process is the inadequacy of the actual contents of documents served. 5B Wright & Miller, Federal Practice & Procedure (2004) § 1353 at 334. In this case, the name and address listed for Medical Provider are generic in nature, indicating that the Medical Provider is unidentified by the Plaintiff. (Compl., Parties, § C; Compl. Stmt. of Claim, ¶ 1.) Insufficiency of service of process relates to the adequacy of the method and timing of delivery of the documents served. In this case, Defendant alleges that the Complaint was served upon a person not authorized to receive service for the company.

Rule 4(m) provides that service of process should be accomplished within 120 days of commencement of a civil action, but it also provides the District ...

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