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Acosta v. Schultz

United States District Court, D. New Jersey

March 6, 2014

GABRIEL ACOSTA, Plaintiff,
v.
WARDEN SCHULTZ, et al., Defendants.

Gabriel Acosta, F.C.I. Fort Dix, Fort Dix, NJ, Plaintiff pro se.

OPINION

NOEL L. HILLMAN, District Judge.

Plaintiff Gabriel Acosta, a prisoner confined at the Federal Correctional Institution at Fort Dix, New Jersey, seeks to bring this action pursuant to pursuant to Bivens v. Six Unknown Fed. Narcotics Agents , 403 U.S. 388 (1971), and the Federal Tort Claims Act ("FTCA"), 28 U.S.C. §§ 1346(b), 2671 et seq., asserting claims arising out of an alleged attack by another prisoner and the subsequent actions of prison officials.

Plaintiff has filed a Motion [3] for leave to amend the Complaint, attaching to such Motion a proposed Amended Complaint. This Court will grant the Motion to amend and direct the Clerk of the Court to file the Amended Complaint.

At this time, the Court must review the Amended 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. See 28 U.S.C. § 1915A (actions in which prisoner seeks redress from a governmental defendant); 42 U.S.C. § 1997e (prisoner actions brought with respect to prison conditions).

I. BACKGROUND

The following factual allegations are taken from Plaintiff's Amended Complaint and are accepted as true for purposes of this review. Plaintiff alleges that on the evening of October 19, 2010, while he was incarcerated at the Federal Correctional Institution at Fairton, New Jersey, he was physically attacked for approximately six to seven minutes by another inmate, Salvador Garcia-Paredes.[1] According to Plaintiff, the Defendant Unidentified Correctional Officer assigned to the area was away from his duty station, as was the Defendant Unidentified Correctional Officer assigned to monitor the security system. Plaintiff believes that, had these officers been present at their duty stations, they could have stopped the attack, or alerted other officers to stop the attack. Eventually, Plaintiff was able to defend himself and escape his attacker, going into the prison's gym, where he collapsed and prison staff became aware of the attack.

Plaintiff asserts that he was taken to the infirmary, where the duty nurse noted that Plaintiff stated that he had lost consciousness, and that his injuries included numerous bruises, lumps, abrasions, a puncture wound, and an eye swollen shut. The duty nurse further noted that Plaintiff was very confused, nauseated, and unable to ambulate unassisted.

Plaintiff asserts that, before he was transported to the local hospital for examination and treatment, Defendant Special Investigative Service ("SIS") Officer Davenport insisted on interviewing him about the attack. Plaintiff does not state how long this interview lasted, but states that the attack occurred at approximately 6:40 p.m. and that he was admitted to the South Jersey Regional Medical Center at nearly 9:00 p.m.

At the Emergency Room of the South Jersey Regional Medical Center, Plaintiff underwent CT scans and X-rays. The tests revealed that he had suffered, among other injuries, a concussion and a nasal bone fracture with periorbital soft tissue swelling. Plaintiff's discharge papers included instructions for concussion observation, including an instruction that somebody stay with Plaintiff for the next 24 hours and wake him every two hours.

Plaintiff contends that, contrary to the concussion instructions, upon his return to the prison he was placed in a Special Housing Unit cell by himself, where he was allowed to go to sleep and was not awakened for several hours. In addition, Plaintiff describes his cell has having only extremely hot running water, so he felt compelled to clean his wounds with toilet water to avoid burning himself.

The following day, Plaintiff was taken to the prison infirmary for further treatment. However, medical personnel were required to leave the treatment room so that Defendant SIS Lieutenant D. McCabe and SIS Officer P. Davenport could once again question him. When Plaintiff refused to answer questions, Defendant Lt. McCabe stated that he would withhold medical treatment until Plaintiff answered his questions. Plaintiff alleges that this resulted in a delay of his treatment and pain medication for more than an hour, until a nurse entered the room and insisted on treating Plaintiff. Thereafter, Plaintiff was examined by Defendant Dr. Morales, who concurred that Plaintiff had sustained a concussion, with loss of consciousness, and a nose fracture. Dr. Morales advised Plaintiff that his facial deformity would likely prove permanent, which it did.

Plaintiff asserts that Defendant Dr. Morales refused to authorize any ophthalmologic evaluation, as recommended by the South Jersey Regional Medical Center doctors and that, as a result of this failure, Plaintiff has suffered permanent damage. Plaintiff does not describe the nature of the permanent damage he has suffered. Plaintiff also contends that Dr. Morales failed to authorize timely release of Plaintiff's medical records to the Ear-Nose-Throat specialist, who consequently was unable to treat Plaintiff, and that Dr. Morales refused to authorize a second appointment. Finally, Plaintiff contends that Dr. Morales failed to diagnose and treat a hernia that arose as a result of the assault. Plaintiff notes that he was the subject of a disciplinary proceeding as a result of the incident with Garcia-Paredes; however, he is not challenging that proceeding here.

Plaintiff names as Defendants Warden Schultz, Assistant Warden Belefante, Captain Williams, Sergeant Woods, Unidentified Supervisory Officers, Dr. Ruben Morales, SIS Lt. D. McCabe, SIS Officer P. Davenport, the Unidentified Compound Officer, the Unidentified Correctional Officer assigned to the security camera, and the United States of America. He seeks damages in the amount of $2, 500, 000.

II. STANDARDS FOR A SUA SPONTE DISMISSAL

Rule 8(a)(2) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure requires that a complaint contain "a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief." "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 , 551 U.S. 89, 93 (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.... Factual allegations must be enough to raise a right to relief above the speculative level....

Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly , 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007) (citations omitted). That is, a complaint must assert "enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face." Id. at 570.

"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." Ashcroft v. Iqbal , 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (citing Twombly , 550 U.S. at 556). Thus, a court is "not bound to accept as true a legal conclusion couched as a factual allegation, " and "[t]hreadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action, supported by mere conclusory statements, do not suffice." Ashcroft v. Iqbal , 556 U.S. at 678 (citations omitted).

To determine whether a complaint meets the pleading standard, our analysis unfolds in three steps. First, we outline the elements a plaintiff must plead to state a claim for relief. Next, we peel away those allegations that are no more than conclusions and thus not entitled to the assumption of truth. Finally, we look for well-pled factual allegations, assume their veracity, and then "determine whether they plausibly give rise to an entitlement to relief." This last ...

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