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Hargis v. Atlantic County Justice Facility

United States District Court, D. New Jersey

April 28, 2014

MARLON D. HARGIS, JR., Plaintiff,

Salvatore J. Siciliano, Esq., SICILIANO & ASSOCIATES, LLC, Haddonfield, NJ, Attorney for Plaintiff Marlon D. Hargis, Jr.

James T. Dugan, Esq., ATLANTIC COUNTY DEPARTMENT OF LAW, Atlantic City, NJ, Attorney for Defendants Dennis Levinson (improperly pleaded as Dennis Levison) and the Atlantic County Board of Chosen Freeholders.


JEROME B. SIMANDLE, Chief District Judge.


Plaintiff Marlon D. Hargis, Jr., was a pretrial detainee who was admitted to the Atlantic County Justice Facility ("ACJF") in 2009 with a gunshot wound. He alleges that his constitutional rights under the Fourteenth Amendment were violated as the result of being forced to live in overcrowded and unsanitary conditions at ACJF, including sleeping on the floor of his cell next to the toilet and being diagnosed with a MRSA infection.

This matter comes before the Court on Defendants Dennis Levinson and the Atlantic County Board of Chosen Freeholders' second motion for summary judgment [Docket Item 94], which the Court allowed following decision on certain pretrial motions filed by Defendants. The Court previously issued an opinion and order on Defendants first motion for summary judgment, which the Court now vacates in part.

For the reasons discussed below, the Court will grant in part and defer in part Defendants' motion for summary judgment.


A. Factual Background

The facts of this case are recounted in detail in the Court's July 10, 2013 opinion addressing Defendants' first motion for summary judgment. See Hargis v. Aramark Corr. Serv., LLC, Civ. 10-1006 (JBS/JS), 2013 WL 3465189 (D.N.J. July 10, 2013). The following facts are those necessary to provide context for the instant motion.

Plaintiff was arrested on August 12, 2009 and at the time of his arrest was suffering from a gunshot wound to his right hip. Plaintiff was taken to AtlantiCare Regional Medical Center where he was treated for the gunshot wound. Shortly thereafter, Plaintiff was released into police custody and transported on the same day to ACJF with his gunshot wound bandaged.

When Plaintiff arrived at ACJF, he was examined by medical staff who provided specific instructions to sleep on a lower level/lower bunk, not a "boat." A boat is a plastic bed frame with a mattress, sheets and blanket that sits on the floor and is used as a third bunk in cells during periods of overcrowding. Warden Geraldine Cohen and Lieutenant Steven Iuliucci were aware of the policy of triple-celling.

Plaintiff was housed in the medical wing of the jail from August 12, 2009 until August 16, 2009 due to his gunshot wound. On August 16, 2009, Plaintiff was released into the general population with no medical restrictions and assigned to a cell with two other men already confined. As the newest man assigned to the cell, Plaintiff was ordered to sleep in a boat in close proximity to the cell toilet.

On September 4, 2009, after approximately three weeks of sleeping on a boat, Plaintiff developed two boils which were cultured and tested positive for methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus ("MRSA").[1] Prior to this, Plaintiff never tested positive for MRSA nor experienced any MRSA related symptoms. Plaintiff testified that he slept in a boat for approximately ten to eleven months.

In light of Defendants' second motion for summary judgment, the parties have supplemented the record with the following regarding Atlantic County's form of government. Atlantic County adopted the "County Executive Plan" form of government pursuant to the Atlantic County Charter in 1974. (Pl. Ex. H [Docket Item 95-3.]) Under this form of government, all administrative or executive functions are to be exercised by an elected county executive and all legislative and investigative functions are to be exercised by a board of elected freeholders. (Id.)

The Atlantic County Charter provides that the county executive shall prepare and submit to the board an annual operating budget and a capital budget and establish procedures "to be followed by all county departments, offices and agencies in connection therewith." (Id.) The County executive is obligated to "[s]upervise the care and custody of all county property, institutions and agencies, " as well as to "[r]eview... trends of county services... and programs of all boards, commissions, agencies and other ...

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