UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT DISTRICT OF NEW JERSEY
March 31, 2011
KAREEM ABDUL BLOCKER, PLAINTIFF,
NSP CMS MEDICAL STAFF, ET AL., DEFENDANTS.
The opinion of the court was delivered by: Hayden, District Judge
NOT FOR PUBLICATION
Plaintiff, Kareem Abdul Blocker, currently confined at the Northern State Prison, Newark, New Jersey, seeks to bring this action alleging violations of his constitutional rights in forma pauperis, without prepayment of fees pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915. Based on plaintiff's affidavit of indigence the Court will grant his 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.
At this time, the Court must review the complaint pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §§ 1915(e)(2) and 1915A 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. For the following reasons, plaintiff's claims will be dismissed, without prejudice.
Plaintiff states that on February 19, 2010, he was transported from Southwoods State Prison to the Northern State Prison. He states that despite his medical records, the medical staff at the Northern State Prison refuse to honor his request for a special medical diet. Plaintiff claims that he is allergic to eggs, soybeans, onions, and tomatoes. He asserts that his constitutional rights are being violated because he is "not being served [his] proper meals and it's a life threatening situation."
Plaintiff asks for monetary relief and other relief.
A. STANDARDS FOR A SUA SPONTE DISMISSAL
A district court is required to review a complaint in a civil action where the litigant is proceeding in forma pauperis. Specifically, the court is required to identify cognizable claims and to sua sponte dismiss any claim that is frivolous, malicious, fails to state a claim upon which relief may be granted, or seeks monetary relief from a defendant who is immune from such relief, pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B). Accordingly, because plaintiff is proceeding in forma pauperis in this matter, this action is subject to sua sponte screening for dismissal under 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B).
In determining the sufficiency of a pro se complaint, the Court must be mindful to construe it liberally in favor of the plaintiff. See Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 93-94 (2007) (following Estelle v. Gamble, 429 U.S. 97, 106 (1976) and Haines v. Kerner, 404 U.S. 519, 520-21 (1972)). See also United States v. Day, 969 F.2d 39, 42 (3d Cir. 1992). 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. See Deutsch v. United States, 67 F.3d 1080, 1086-87 (3d Cir. 1995).
Recently, the Supreme Court revised the standard for summary dismissal of a complaint that fails to state a claim in Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 129 S. Ct. 1937 (2009). The issue before the Supreme Court was whether Iqbal's civil rights complaint adequately alleged defendants' personal involvement in discriminatory decisions regarding Iqbal's treatment during detention at the Metropolitan Detention Center which, if true, violated his constitutional rights. See id. The Court examined Rule 8(a)(2) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure which provides that a complaint must contain "a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief." Fed. R. Civ. P. 8(a)(2).*fn1 Citing its recent opinion in Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544 (2007), for the proposition that "[a] pleading that offers 'labels and conclusions' or 'a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action will not do,'" Iqbal, 129 S. Ct. at 1949 (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555), the Supreme Court identified two working principles underlying the failure to state a claim standard:
First, the tenet that a court must accept as true all of the allegations contained in a complaint is inapplicable to legal conclusions. Threadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action, supported by mere conclusory statements, do not suffice .... Rule 8 ... does not unlock the doors of discovery for a plaintiff armed with nothing more than conclusions. Second, only a complaint that states a plausible claim for relief survives a motion to dismiss. Determining whether a complaint states a plausible claim for relief will ... be a context-specific task that requires the reviewing court to draw on its judicial experience and common sense. But where the well-pleaded facts do not permit the court to infer more than the mere possibility of misconduct, the complaint has alleged-but it has not "show[n]"-"that the pleader is entitled to relief."
Fed. Rule Civ. Proc. 8(a)(2).
Iqbal, 129 S. Ct. at 1949-1950 (citations omitted).
The Court further explained that: a court considering a motion to dismiss can choose to begin by identifying pleadings that, because they are no more than conclusions, are not entitled to the assumption of truth. While legal conclusions can provide the framework of a complaint, they must be supported by factual allegations. When there are well-pleaded factual allegations, a court should assume their veracity and then determine whether they plausibly give rise to an entitlement to relief.
Iqbal, 129 S. Ct. at 1950.
Thus, to prevent a summary dismissal, civil complaints must now allege "sufficient factual matter" to show that a claim is facially plausible. This then "allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged." Id. at 1948. The Supreme Court's ruling in Iqbal emphasizes that a plaintiff must demonstrate that the allegations of his complaint are plausible. See id. at 1949-50; see also Twombly, 505 U.S. at 555, & n.3; Fowler v. UPMC Shadyside, 578 F.3d 203, 210 (3d Cir. 2009).
Consequently, the Third Circuit observed that Iqbal provides the
"final nail-in-the-coffin for the 'no set of facts' standard" set
forth in Conley v. Gibson, 355 U.S. 41, 45-46 (1957),*fn2
that applied to federal complaints before Twombly. See
F.3d at 210. The Third Circuit now requires that a district court
must conduct the two-part analysis set forth in Iqbal when presented
with a motion to dismiss:
First, the factual and legal elements of a claim should be separated. The District Court must accept all of the complaint's well-pleaded facts as true, but may disregard any legal conclusions. [Iqbal, 129 S. Ct. at 1949-50]. Second, a District Court must then determine whether the facts alleged in the complaint are sufficient to show that the plaintiff has a "plausible claim for relief." [Id.] In other words, a complaint must do more than allege the plaintiff's entitlement to relief. A complaint has to "show" such an entitlement with its facts. See Phillips, 515 F.3d at 234-35. As the Supreme Court instructed in Iqbal, "[w]here the well-pleaded facts do not permit the court to infer more than the mere possibility of misconduct, the complaint has alleged-but it has not 'show[n]'-'that the pleader is entitled to relief.'" Iqbal, [129 S. Ct. at 1949-50]. This "plausibility" determination will be "a context-specific task that requires the reviewing court to draw on its judicial experience and common sense." Id.
Fowler, 578 F.3d at 210-211.
This Court is mindful, however, that the sufficiency of this pro se pleading must be construed liberally in favor of plaintiff, even after Iqbal. See Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89 (2007). Moreover, a court should not dismiss a complaint with prejudice for failure to state a claim without granting leave to amend, unless it finds bad faith, undue delay, prejudice or futility. See Grayson v. Mayview State Hosp., 293 F.3d 103, 110-111 (3d Cir. 2002); Shane v. Fauver, 213 F.3d 113, 117 (3d Cir. 2000).
B. SECTION 1983 ACTIONS
A plaintiff may have a cause of action under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 for certain violations of his constitutional rights. Section 1983 provides in relevant part:
Every person who, under color of any statute, ordinance, regulation, custom, or usage, of any State or Territory ... subjects, or causes to be subjected, any citizen of the United States or other person within the jurisdiction thereof to the deprivation of any rights, privileges, or immunities secured by the Constitution and laws, shall be liable to the party injured in an action at law, suit in equity, or other proper proceeding for redress....
Thus, to state a claim for relief under § 1983, a plaintiff must allege, first, the violation of a right secured by the Constitution or laws of the United States and, second, that the alleged deprivation was committed or caused by a person acting under color of state law. See West v. Atkins, 487 U.S. 42, 48 (1988); Piecknick v. Pennsylvania, 36 F.3d 1250, 1255-56 (3d Cir. 1994).
C. PETITIONER'S CLAIMS
The Eighth Amendment proscription against cruel and unusual punishment requires that prison officials provide inmates with adequate medical care. See Estelle v. Gamble, 429 U.S. 97, 103-04 (1976). In order to set forth a cognizable claim for a violation of his right to adequate medical care, an inmate must allege: (1) a serious medical need; and (2) behavior on the part of prison officials that constitutes deliberate indifference to that need. See id. at 106.
Additionally, the Eighth Amendment protects prisoners from inadequate conditions of confinement. To state a conditions claim under the Eighth Amendment, an inmate must also allege both an objective and a subjective component. See Wilson v. Seiter, 501 U.S. 294, 298 (1991). A plaintiff may satisfy the objective component of a conditions of confinement claim if he can show that the conditions alleged, either alone or in combination, deprive him of "the minimal civilized measure of life's necessities," such as adequate food, clothing, shelter, sanitation, medical care, and personal safety. See Rhodes v. Chapman, 452 U.S. 337, 347-48 (1981); Young v. Quinlan, 960 F.2d 351, 364 (3d Cir. 1992). This component requires that the deprivation sustained by a prisoner be sufficiently serious, for only "extreme deprivations" are sufficient to make out an Eighth Amendment claim. See Hudson v. McMillian, 503 U.S. 1, 9 (1992). The subjective component requires that the state actor have acted with "deliberate indifference," a state of mind equivalent to a reckless disregard of a known risk of harm. See Farmer v. Brennan, 511 U.S. 825, 835 (1994)
In this case, plaintiff has not alleged sufficient facts under Iqbal and Fowler to proceed past sua sponte screening. First, as a medical care claim, plaintiff has not alleged sufficient facts to show his condition is "serious." See McKenny v. Moore, 2009 WL 152652 at *2 (D.S.C. 2009)(examining plaintiff's food allergy claim under § 1915 and finding: "Plaintiff provides no factual information to indicate that his food allergies constitute a serious medical condition. Thus, as an initial matter, Plaintiff fails to establish a serious medical need, which is required to state a cognizable claim of deliberate indifference."). Although plaintiff makes the conclusory claim that his situation is "life threatening," he does not allege facts suggesting that he is in danger, or is unable to eat any food provided by the facility.
Additionally, plaintiff has not alleged sufficient facts to show that his conditions of confinement were unconstitutional. Plaintiff does not claim that he is denied food that does not contain the items he is allergic to. "[P]risons are not required to serve a special diet if inmates can voluntarily refrain from eating offensive foods and maintain an adequate diet"(citation omitted). Id.
Finally, plaintiff has not alleged facts indicating deliberate indifference on the part of the defendants with regard to either a medical claim or a conditions claim. Plaintiff notes that the defendants claimed to be checking into his situation shortly after he arrived at the prison after the transfer.
Therefore, as pled, plaintiff has not alleged sufficient facts to proceed past sua sponte screening, and his complaint must be dismissed for failure to state a claim upon which relief may be granted.
For the reasons set forth above, the complaint must be dismissed, without prejudice, pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §§ 1915(e)(2)(B)(ii) and 1915A(b)(1), for failure to state a claim.
An appropriate order with directions should plaintiff seek to file an amended complaint fully complying with the pleading requirements set forth above accompanies this opinion.
KATHARINE S. HAYDEN United States District Judge