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Nickles v. Taylor

May 14, 2010

KEVIN NICKLES, PLAINTIFF,
v.
WARDEN E. TAYLOR, DEFENDANT.



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

OPINION

This matter is presently before the Court on a motion for summary judgment submitted by Defendant E. Taylor, Warden at Camden County Correctional Facility ("CCCF") [Docket Item 31]. Defendant asks the Court to find that Plaintiff Kevin Nickels has failed to show that he was subjected to conditions that violated the Eighth Amendment while incarcerated at CCCF. Plaintiff opposes, but submits no admissible evidence in support of his opposition, and instead requests an evidentiary hearing to resolve his claims. For the reasons expressed below, the Court finds that Plaintiff has not offered evidence sufficient to show an Eighth Amendment violation and will grant summary judgment in favor of Defendant.

I. BACKGROUND

From January 23, 2009 through March 3, 2009, Plaintiff filed four separate lawsuits pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 alleging that Defendant had violated his rights under the Eighth Amendment while he was housed at CCCF.*fn1 Those complaints, which have since been consolidated before the undersigned, allege that his cell block did not have any heat and that he is taking pain medications due to his discomfort from sleeping on the floor, (Compl. 09-313), that the water had been off for a week due to a burst pipe and the toilet would not flush, (Compl. 09-557), and that four inmates sleep in one cell where waste backs up from the drains three feet from where the inmates sleep, (Compls. 09-679 & 09-952).

Plaintiff is no longer confined at CCCF, so injunctive relief is unavailable to him and his remaining claims are for monetary damages under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Federal law limits claims seeking monetary damages for personal injuries arising from conditions of confinement to only those cases where a physical injury has occurred, see 42 U.S.C. § 1997e(e). Accordingly, Mr. Nickels must show that he has suffered physical injury caused by the allegedly unconstitutional conditions of confinement at CCCF.

On December 15, 2009, Defendant submitted the instant motion for summary judgment, which included a copy of Plaintiff's answers to interrogatories and an affidavit from Lieutenant Karen Taylor [Docket Item 31]. Plaintiff opposed by way of a short letter, in which he states that there was black mold in the shower at CCCF and that he tested positive for Hepatitis C, but was not treated by CCCF staff [Docket Item 32]. Plaintiff did not submit any evidence with his opposition. Instead, several months after briefing on this summary judgment motion was complete, Plaintiff submitted a letter requesting an evidentiary hearing in which he would "prove the facts of this case" [Docket Item 33].

As discussed further below, Plaintiff, as the party opposing the Defendant's motion for summary judgment, must submit to the Court evidence by way of affidavits and discovery materials (such as documents that would be admissible in evidence) to support Plaintiff's showing that such facts are sufficient to enable a reasonable jury to find in his favor at trial. See Rules 56(c)(2) & 56(e)(2), Fed. R. Civ. P. Therefore, for the purposes of the present summary judgment motion, the Court must rely on Plaintiff's answers to Defendant's interrogatories, as well as a submission Plaintiff entitled "pre-trial memorandum," filed prior to this motion practice. Both documents are scattered with largely unelaborated claims regarding the conditions of Plaintiff's confinement at CCCF. For ease of analysis, the Court will categorize Plaintiff's complaints as follows: (1) conditions within the cell; (2) water; (3) shower; (4) food; (5) health care; (6) fire hazards and (7) inadequate rehabilitative programs.

With regards to his cell conditions, Plaintiff states in his response to interrogatories: "Defendants [] overlooked the fact that (inmates) and plaintiff was sleeping on the floor with no heat for more than two month[s];" and "I was placed in an unsafe unliveable envir[on]ment dirty water, four men in a 8x10 cell the shower is a meeting grounds for mdd, boils etc. . ." (Def. Exh. A ¶ 5(A).) With his pre-trial memorandum, Plaintiff submitted a letter from an inmate who reports that CCCF was housing four to five people in cells meant to house one person, and that the inmate was "sleeping on the cold dirty floor." (Pre-Trial Memorandum at 25.) With regards to the water, Plaintiff wrote: "We are being denied an adequate amount of clean drinking water on a daily bas[i]s." (Def. Exh. A ¶ 5(A).) He also refers generally to "dirty water." (Id.)

With regards to the shower, Plaintiff states in his response to Defendant's interrogatories that "There was black mold in the shower and it was hard to get in a dirty shower so I could get clean. Bleach was not getting it done." (Id. ¶ 1(A).) Plaintiff submitted letters from other inmates with his pre-trial memorandum that describe the shower as "nasty" and filled with mold. (Pre-Trial Memorandum at 22-23, 26.)

With regard to the food, Plaintiff states that "food was bad due to it not being kept at the right temperatures," so that it gave Plaintiff stomach pain, went to the bathroom "six or seven times a day," and caused blood in his stool. (Def. Exh. A ¶ 2(A).) Plaintiff's pre-trial memorandum includes several grievances to CCCF complaining about his need for Halal food and the fact that the kitchen served only eggs every day for breakfast. (Pre-Trial Memorandum at 6-10.) Plaintiff also included an newspaper article describing food at CCCF that was improperly covered and kept at an inappropriate temperature. (Id. at 16.)

With regard to health care, Plaintiff states that he tested positive for Hepatitis C while at CCCF, but the condition was left untreated. (Def. Exh. A ¶ 2(A).)

With regard to fire hazards, Plaintiff reports: "The Block that I was housed on was [a] fire trap and there [was] no way out of the block if a fire was to br[eak] out there[']s one way in and one way out no fire outlet. On the A Blocks of the jails you (inmates) can get to a door to a stair well C, B can get to A Block by door on th[eir] Blocks b[ut] not D Block. D Block is a fire trap." (Id. ¶ 5(A).)

Plaintiff also complains that "programs" (the Court assumes he is referring to treatment programs) have been shortened. (Id. ¶ 1(C).)

In addition to Plaintiff's answers to Defendant's interrogatories, and Plaintiff's pre-trial memorandum, the record includes the certification from CCCF Lieutenant Karen Taylor. (Def. Exh. B.) Lieutenant Taylor reports that to the extent Plaintiff was required to sleep on the floor rather than in a bunk, he was given a mattress, and further that "[a]t all times, there was drinking water, the inmates could take ...


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