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Jacquar Stokes v. Gary M. Lanigan

June 20, 2011

JACQUAR STOKES, PLAINTIFF,
v.
GARY M. LANIGAN, ET AL., DEFENDANTS.



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

NOT FOR PUBLICATION

OPINION

Plaintiff, Jacquar Stokes, a convicted prisoner currently confined at South Woods State Prison in Bridgeton, New Jersey, seeks to bring this action in forma pauperis. 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 ("IFP") 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 reasons set forth below, the Court concludes that the complaint should be dismissed without prejudice and Plaintiff will be granted leave to file a proposed amended complaint.

I. BACKGROUND

Plaintiff, Jacquar Stokes ("Plaintiff"), brings this civil action, pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, against Gary M. Lanigan, Commissioner of the New Jersey Department of Corrections; State Corrections Officer ("SCO") Sheppard, SCO John Doe and SCO Jane Doe. The following factual allegations are taken from the complaint, and are accepted for purposes of this screening only. The Court has made no findings as to the veracity of Plaintiff's allegations.

In his complaint, Plaintiff alleges that on July 30, 2010, he was returning to prison from a scheduled court appearance at the Burlington County Courthouse in a bus operated by the New Jersey Department of Corrections ("D.O.C."). (Compl. at 10.) Due to negligent, reckless, and high-speed driving by the Central Transportation Unit, of which Defendants Shepard and Does are members, he was thrown from his seat during transport and began to experience excruciating pain in his right shoulder. (Id.) Plaintiff "attempted to notify the officers who operated the vehicle that [he] had been injured but to no avail." (Id.) At approximately 11:00 p.m. that night, Plaintiff returned to South Woods State Prison and notified the nurse about his shoulder pain. (Id. at 11.) At approximately 2:34 a.m., Plaintiff was sent to St. Francis Medical Center in Trenton, New Jersey for x-rays. (Id.) X-rays revealed that his shoulder was dislocated and he was sedated so his shoulder could be put back into place. (Id.)

Plaintiff alleges that the Defendants are responsible for his injuries "due to the fact that they force prisoners to board unsafe vehicles while handcuffed and shackled...They are personally responsible in any case that may result in a violation of the state or local traffic laws...Each vehicle occupant shall be restrained in an automotive safety belt. Therefore, the New Jersey Department of Corrections were deliberately indifferent to my safety. These vehicles (Blue Bird bus) have no safety belts and the drivers operate them at high speeds for excessive periods of time in order to secure overtime." (Id.) Plaintiff further alleges that the D.O.C. is responsible "due to the fact that the occurrence was reasonably foreseeable and a direct result of the department's failure to take appropriate steps that could have prevented the situation from happening." (Id.)

With regard to Defendant Lanigan, Plaintiff alleges that as the Commissioner of the New Jersey Department of Corrections, he is liable under the doctrine of respondeat superior and the doctrine of res ipsa loquitur for the following reasons:

1. As N.J.D.O.C. Commissioner defendant is the overseer of all operations within and throughout the Department of Corrections and has a duty to act in order to prevent egregious constitutional violations, which could and most likely would result in 'injury.'

2. Defendant should have been more careful in choosing employees in order to avoid liability.

3. Defendant should have been more careful in supervising the procedures and employees conduct in order to avoid liability.

4. Defendant is a benefiting [sic] recipient of his ...


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