The opinion of the court was delivered by: Hon. Jerome B. Simandle
This matter is before the Court on the motion of Defendants Karen Balicki, Jester, Fawcett, Abbott and Saul (collectively "Defendants") for summary judgment. [Docket Item 87.] Plaintiff Kaseem Ali-X opposes this motion.*fn1 For the reasons discussed below, the court will grant Defendants' motion for summary judgment.
Plaintiff Kaseem Ali-X ("Plaintiff") is a prisoner incarcerated in the New Jersey Department of Corrections ("NJDOC") at the South Woods State Prison ("SWSP"). Plaintiff filed his original complaint on September 13, 2010, and has since filed two amended complaints. In his Second Amended Complaint, the Plaintiff alleges the Defendants violated his Eighth Amendment rights by failing to protect him from second-hand smoke.*fn2 Specifically, the Plaintiff alleges that he was frequently housed with cell mates who, in violation of the NJDOC's smoking policy, smoked inside the cell. Plaintiff alleges that he complained about the smoking in his cell to Defendants Jester, Fawcett, Abbott and Saul and these Defendants took no action to remedy the situation. [Docket Item 54.]
Plaintiff further contends that he suffers from medical conditions which were exacerbated by his exposure to second-hand smoke. Plaintiff claims the Defendants were deliberately indifferent to both the present injury and the future injury caused by exposing him to second-hand smoke in violation of the Eighth Amendment. In addition, Plaintiff brings a common law negligence claim against Defendant Karen Balicki, the Administrator of SWSP, because Balicki allegedly permitted smoking in SWSP and disregarded Plaintiff's argument that tobacco should be considered "contraband" and not allowed in the prison at all.*fn3 [Docket Item 54.]
The Plaintiff brought suit against the Defendants in their individual capacities and seeks compensatory and punitive damages. The Plaintiff does not seek prospective or injunctive relief. [Docket Item 54.]
The Defendants filed the instant motion for summary judgment seeking to dismiss Plaintiff's claims with prejudice. The Defendants argue they are entitled to summary judgment with regard to Plaintiff's constitutional claims because the Plaintiff failed to exhaust his administrative remedies prior to filing this lawsuit. Alternatively, the Defendants argue the Plaintiff has failed to present sufficient evidence to establish his Eighth Amendment claims and they should be dismissed on the merits. In addition, Defendant Balicki argues she is entitled to immunity under the New Jersey Tort Claim Act, N.J.S.A 59:1-1, et al. ("NJTCA"), and therefore, summary judgment should be granted as to Plaintiff's negligence claim against her.
In opposition, Plaintiff argues that he was blocked from exhausting his administrative remedies because the prison administrators failed to process his grievances. In addition, Plaintiff maintains that genuine issues of material fact prevent summary judgment on his Eighth Amendment claims. Finally, Plaintiff maintains Defendant Balicki was grossly negligent by failing to protect him from the hazards of second hand smoke. [Docket Items 98 and 103.]
Summary judgment is appropriate "if the movant shows that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(a). A dispute is "genuine" if "the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the non-moving party." See Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986). A fact is "material" only if it might affect the outcome of the suit under the applicable rule of law. Id. Disputes over irrelevant or unnecessary facts will not preclude a grant of summary judgment. Id. The Court will view any evidence in favor of the nonmoving party and extend any reasonable favorable inferences to be drawn from that evidence to that party. Hunt v. Cromartie, 526 U.S. 541, 552 (1999). See ...