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Szemple v. Corr. Med. Serv. Inc.

United States District Court, Third Circuit

January 27, 2014

CRAIG FRANCIS SZEMPLE, Plaintiff,
v.
CORR. MED. SER
v.
INC., et al., Defendants.

CRAIG FRANCIS SZEMPLE, PRISON 263906, Northern State Prison, Newark, N.J., Plaintiff pro se.

MEMORANDUM

PETER G. SHERIDAN, District Judge.

Plaintiff Craig Francis Szemple ("Plaintiff"), a prisoner currently confined at Northern State Prison in Newark, New Jersey, has filed the instant civil rights action. At this time, the Court must review the complaint pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 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.

I. BACKGROUND

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.

Plaintiff names the following parties as defendants: Correctional Medical Services ("CMS"); University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey, University Correctional Health Care ("UMDNJ/UCHC"); Dr. Abu Ashan; Dr. Wu; Dr. Hochberg; Dr. Talbot; Dr. Acherbe; Dr. Herbert Smyczek; Dr. Herschkowitz; Gary Lanigan; Dr. Richard Cevasco; Thomas Farrell; Michelle Ricci; Eric Stokes; Bruce Hauck; Donald Mee; Cynthis Sweeney; Loillard Inc.; R.J. Reynolds, Inc.; Phillip Morris, Inc.; Brown and Williamson Inc.; American Tobacco Co.; and John and Jane Does 1-10.

Plaintiff alleges that he was placed in the custody and care of the New Jersey Department of Corrections in or around 1994. (Compl. ¶ 27.) At that time, Plaintiff was placed in New Jersey State Prison, where he was consistently exposed to second and third hand smoke. ( Id. ) Plaintiff alleges that the exposure caused him to suffer from Severe Coronary Artery Disease, which required open heart surgery. ( Id. ) Plaintiff states that in 2001, "after almost dying as a result of being exposed, " Plaintiff was asked by the defendants whether he smoked or had ever smoked. ( Id. ) Plaintiff alleges that "the defendants could of [sic], but refused to place plaintiff in a single man cell away from smokers." ( Id. ) According to the complaint, Plaintiff's diagnosis of an irregular heartbeat should have been a "prime indicator for any doctor worth his salt" and the failure to schedule Plaintiff for an appointment with a cardiologist was due to deliberate indifference. ( Id. )

In May 2010, Plaintiff re-entered New Jersey State Prison after spending approximately two years in East Jersey State Prison and approximately eighteen months at Northern State Prison. ( Id. at ¶ 29.) During the time Plaintiff spent at East Jersey and Northern State prisons, he was placed in cells with other men who smoked non-stop. ( Id. ) When Plaintiff was housed at New Jersey State Prison in 2009 and 2010, he was also forced to be confined in a wing where he was "doubled locked" with six consecutive smokers, despite Plaintiff's written and verbal complaints. ( Id. ) Plaintiff alleges that even though the Department of Corrections had a rule forbidding smoking inside the buildings, that rule was rarely, if ever, enforced. ( Id. ) Plaintiff alleges that due to the exposure and lack of medical care, he has "lost cardiac function, is plagued with loss of weight and muscle, and was forced to undergo open heart surgery, and multiple subsequent angiograms." ( Id. ) Plaintiff is seeking compensatory and punitive damages and injunctive relief.

II. DISCUSSION

A. Legal Standard

1. Standards for a Sua Sponte Dismissal

Per the Prison Litigation Reform Act, Pub. L. No. 104-134, §§ 801-810, 110 Stat. 1321-66 to 1321-77 (April 26, 1996) ("PLRA"), district courts must review complaints in those civil actions in which a prisoner is proceeding in forma pauperis, see 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B), seeks redress against a governmental employee or entity, see 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(b), or brings a claim with respect to prison conditions, see 28 U.S.C. § 1997e. The PLRA directs district courts to sua sponte dismiss any claim that is frivolous, is 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. This action is subject to sua sponte screening for dismissal under 28 U.S.C. § 1915A because Plaintiff is a prisoner.

According to the Supreme Court's decision in Ashcroft v. Iqbal, "a pleading that offers labels or conclusions' or a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action will not do.'" 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (quoting Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007)). To survive sua sponte screening for failure to state a claim[1], the complaint must allege "sufficient factual matter" to show that the claim is facially plausible. Fowler v. UPMS Shadyside, 578 F.3d 203, 210 (3d Cir. 2009) (citation omitted). "A claim has facial plausibility when the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged." Belmont v. MB Inv. Partners, Inc., 708 F.3d 470, 483 n.17 (3d Cir. 2012) (quoting Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678). Moreover, while pro se pleadings ...


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