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Bryon Alfred Bennett v. State of New Jersey

December 13, 2010

BRYON ALFRED BENNETT, PLAINTIFF,
v.
STATE OF NEW JERSEY, ET AL., DEFENDANTS.



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

NOT FOR PUBLICATION

OPINION

Plaintiff, a prisoner formerly confined at Northern State Prison in Newark, New Jersey, seeks to bring this action in forma pauperis pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, alleging violations of his constitutional rights. Based on his affidavit of indigence and the absence of three qualifying dismissals within 28 U.S.C. §1915(g), the Court will grant Plaintiff's application to proceed in forma pauperis pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915(a) and order the Clerk of the Court to file the Complaint.

The Court must review the Complaint to determine whether it should be dismissed as frivolous or malicious, for failure to state a claim upon which relief may be granted, or because it seeks monetary relief from a defendant who is immune from such relief.

I. BACKGROUND

The following factual allegations are taken from Plaintiff's allegations and accepted as true for purposes of this review. Plaintiff alleges that at 6 a.m. on June 29, 2009, he went to the Officers' Station on his unit at Somerset County Jail and complained of severe, stabbing pain on his left side. The officers told him to wait till 8 a.m. when the first shift nurses and doctors came in to work. At 7:30, Plaintiff fell from the pain, and the officer called to the nurses station, then told Plaintiff he would have to walk to the nurses station, despite his pain. At 8:30 a.m., Plaintiff saw the doctor, who told Plaintiff, without examining him, that he was suffering from gas bubbles from pain medication for a dental problem. The doctor gave Plaintiff a pill and sent him away. An hour later, he returned to the Officers' Station, still in severe pain, and he was taken back to the nurses' office. He was then told by a nurse that he would have to wait until the doctor returned the next day. Plaintiff told the nurse that he could not eat or go to the bathroom. The nurse refused Plaintiff's request to go to a hospital. He was placed in a cell in the nurses' station overnight.

On June 30, 2009, after a sleepness night, Plaintiff again saw a doctor, who listened to Plaintiff's description of his symptoms and pain, and who again advised Plaintiff that the pain was from another medication and sent him back to his unit. Later that morning, still in severe pain, the unit officer returned Plaintiff to the nurses' station. The nurse stated that nothing was wrong with Plaintiff, told him he would have to wait to the next morning to see a doctor, and put him again in a cell in the nurses' station to watch him. At around 5:30 p.m. that day, a nurse on the next shift arranged for Plaintiff to be transported to a hospital, where he was diagnosed with a ruptured spleen and was rushed into emergency surgery.

The named defendants in the caption of the Complaint do not conform to the descriptions of the defendants in the text of the Complaint. Consistent with the Court's duty to construe the Complaint liberally, the defendants include: the State of New Jersey, Somerset County, Somerset Count Jail, the Somerset County Jail Medical Clinic, Dr. Baylor, Dr. John Doe, and John Doe nurses at the Somerset County Jail Medical Clinic. Plaintiff seeks all appropriate relief.

II. STANDARDS FOR SUA SPONTE DISMISSAL

This Court must dismiss, at the earliest practicable time, in forma pauperis and prisoner actions that are frivolous, malicious, fail to state a claim, or seek monetary relief from a defendant who is immune from such relief. See 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2) (in forma pauperis actions); 28 U.S.C. § 1915A (action in which prisoner seeks redress from governmental defendant); 42 U.S.C. § 1997e (prisoner action brought as to prison conditions).

In determining the sufficiency of a pro se complaint, the Court must be mindful to construe it liberally in favor of the plaintiff. Haines v. Kerner, 404 U.S. 519, 520-21 (1972); United States v. Day, 969 F.2d 39, 42 (3d Cir. 1992). The Court must "accept as true all of the allegations in the complaint and all reasonable inferences that can be drawn therefrom, and view them in the light most favorable to the plaintiff." Morse v. Lower Merion Sch. Dist., 132 F.3d 902, 906 (3d Cir. 1997).

A complaint is frivolous if it "lacks an arguable basis either in law or in fact." Neitzke v. Williams, 490 U.S. 319, 325 (1989) (interpreting the predecessor of § 1915(e)(2), the former § 1915(d)). The standard for evaluating whether a complaint is "frivolous" is an objective one. Deutsch v. United States, 67 F.3d 1080, 1086-87 (3d Cir. 1995).

Any complaint must comply with the pleading requirements of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. Rule 8(a)(2) requires that a complaint contain "a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief." A complaint must plead facts sufficient at least to "suggest" a basis for liability. Spruill v. Gillis, 372 F.3d 218, 236 n.12 (3d Cir. 2004). "Specific facts are not necessary; the statement need only 'give the defendant fair notice of what the ... claim is and the grounds upon which it rests.'" Erickson v. Pardus, 127 S.Ct. 2197, 2200 (2007) (citations omitted).

While a complaint ... does not need detailed factual allegations, a plaintiff's obligation to provide the "grounds" of his "entitle[ment] to relief" requires more than labels and conclusions, and a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action will not do, see Papasan v. Allain, 478 U.S. 265, 286, 106 S.Ct. 2932, 92 L.Ed.2d 209 (1986) (on a motion to dismiss, courts "are not bound to accept as true a legal conclusion couched as a factual allegation"). Factual allegations must be enough to raise a right to relief above the speculative level ... .

Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 127 S.Ct. 1955, 1964-65 (2007) (citations omitted).

The Supreme Court has demonstrated the application of these general standards to a Sherman Act conspiracy claim.

In applying these general standards to a § 1 [conspiracy] claim, we hold that stating such a claim requires a complaint with enough factual matter (taken as true) to suggest that an agreement was made. Asking for plausible grounds to infer an agreement does not impose a probability requirement at the pleading stage; it simply calls for enough fact to raise a reasonable expectation that discovery will reveal evidence of illegal agreement. And, of course, a well-pleaded complaint may proceed even if it strikes a savvy judge that actual proof of those facts is improbable, and "that a recovery is very remote and unlikely." ... It makes sense to say, therefore, that an allegation of parallel conduct and a bare assertion of conspiracy will not suffice. Without more, parallel conduct does not suggest conspiracy, and a conclusory allegation of agreement at some unidentified point does not supply facts adequate to show illegality. Hence, when allegations of parallel conduct are set out in order to make a § 1 claim, they must be placed in a context that raises a suggestion of a preceding agreement, not merely parallel conduct that could just as well be independent action.

The need at the pleading stage for allegations plausibly suggesting (not merely consistent with) agreement reflects the threshold requirement of Rule 8(a)(2) that the "plain statement" possess enough heft to "sho[w] that the pleader is entitled to relief." A statement of parallel conduct, even conduct consciously undertaken, needs some setting suggesting the agreement necessary to make out a § 1 claim; without that further circumstance pointing toward a meeting of the minds, an account of a defendant's commercial efforts stays in neutral territory. ...

Twombly, 127 S.Ct. at 1965-66 (citations and footnotes omitted).

The Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit has held, in the context of a § 1983 civil rights action, that the Twombly pleading standard applies outside the § 1 antitrust context in which it was decided. See Phillips v. County of Allegheny, 515 F.3d 224, 234 (3d Cir. 2008) ("we decline at this point to read ...


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