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Turner v. United States

United States District Court, D. New Jersey

March 28, 2017

TIMOTHY A. TURNER, Plaintiff,
v.
UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Defendant.

          OPINION

          ROBERT B. KUGLER United States District Judge

         I. INTRODUCTION

         Plaintiff, Timothy A. Turner, is a federal prisoner currently incarcerated at F.C.I. Fairton in Fairton, New Jersey. He is proceeding pro se with a complaint filed pursuant to the Federal Tort Claims Act (“FTCA”). Previously, this matter was administratively terminated as Mr. Turner had not paid the filing fee nor had he submitted an application to proceed in forma pauperis. Subsequently, Mr. Turner submitted a complete application to proceed in forma pauperis. Accordingly, the Clerk will be ordered to reopen this case. Mr. Turner's application to proceed in forma pauperis will be granted and the Clerk will be ordered to file the complaint.

         At this time, this Court must screen the complaint pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §§ 1915(e)(2)(B) 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 suit. For the following reasons, the complaint will be dismissed without prejudice for failure to state a claim upon which relief may be granted.

         II. BACKGROUND

         The allegations of the complaint will be construed as true for purposes of this screening opinion. The complaint names one defendant, the United States. Mr. Turner alleges that on September 23, 2014, he was unlawfully removed from his assigned work detail at F.C.I. Fairton in violation of the Inmate Program Statement. He states that he has suffered discrimination on the basis of his race as well as discrimination on the basis of his health in light of this removal.

         Mr. Turner explains that he filed an administrative claim related to this removal with the Federal Bureau of Prisons (“BOP”) on December 27, 2016. On January 9, 2017, the BOP denied his claim.

         Mr. Turner seeks monetary relief in the amount of $5 million.

         III. LEGAL STANDARDS

         Under the Prison Litigation Reform Act, Pub.L. 104-134, §§ 801-810, 110 Stat. 1321-66 to 1321-77 (Apr. 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 42 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. see 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B).

         “The legal standard for dismissing a complaint for failure to state a claim pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B)(ii) is the same as that for dismissing a complaint pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6).” Schreane v. Seana, 506 F. App'x 120, 122 (3d Cir. 2012) (citing Allah v. Seiverling, 229 F.3d 220, 223 (3d Cir. 2000)); Mitchell v. Beard, 492 F. App'x 230, 232 (3d Cir. 2012) (discussing 42 U.S.C. § 1997e(c)(1)); Courteau v. United States, 287 F. App'x 159, 162 (3d Cir. 2008) (discussing 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(b)). That standard is set forth in Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662 (2009) and Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544 (2007), as explicated by the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit. To survive the court's screening for failure to state a claim, the complaint must allege ‘sufficient factual matter' to show that the claim is facially plausible. See Fowler v. UPMC 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.” Fair Wind Sailing, Inc. v. Dempster, 764 F.3d 303, 308 n.3 (3d Cir. 2014) (quoting Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678). “[A] pleading that offers ‘labels or conclusions' or ‘a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action will not do.'” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678 (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555).

         Pro se pleadings, as always, will be liberally construed. See Haines v. Kerner, 404 U.S. 519 (1972). Nevertheless, “pro se litigants still must allege sufficient facts in their complaints to support a claim.” Mala v. Crown Bay Marina, Inc., 704 F.3d 239, 245 (3d Cir. 2013) (citation omitted).

         IV. DISCUSSION

         Mr. Turner is explicit in his complaint that he is suing the United States pursuant to the FTCA. (See Dkt. No. 1 at p.1 (“Plaintiff brings this action against, the United States of America, pursuant to the Federal Tort Claims Act. So that this Court has jurisdiction of the subject matter of this action to U.S.C. § 1346(b). Therefore, this Court will only construe the complaint as attempting to raise a claim under the FTCA.[1] “The FTCA operates as a limited waiver of the United States's sovereign immunity.” White-Squire v. U.S. Postal Serv., 592 F.3d 453, 456 (3d Cir. 2010) (citation omitted). Under the FTCA, the United States is liable “in the same manner and to the same extent as a private individual under like circumstances.” 28 U.S.C. § 2674. An incarcerated FTCA plaintiff may sue only the United States, may seek only monetary damages, and may not recover for mental or emotional damages in the absence of physical injury. See 28 U.S.C. § 1346(b)(1)-(2) (providing jurisdiction for “civil actions on claims against the United States, for money damages” and providing that ...


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