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Jones v. Paloni

United States District Court, D. New Jersey

December 27, 2017

RUBEN JONES, Plaintiff,
v.
STEVEN PALONI et al., Defendants.

          OPINION

          THE HONORABLE FREDA L. WOLFSON UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         I. INTRODUCTION

         The plaintiff, Ruben Jones, is a state prisoner who is incarcerated at Northern State Prison, in Newark, New Jersey. He is proceeding pro se with a civil rights complaint asserting claims pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Because this Court previously granted Mr. Jones leave to proceed in forma pauperis, the complaint must now be reviewed under 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e), 28 U.S.C. § 1915A, and 42 U.S.C. § 1997e 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 is dismissed without prejudice.

         II. BACKGROUND

         The factual allegations of the complaint will be taken as true for the purposes of this opinion. The complaint names as defendants St. Francis Medical Center (“St. Francis”), a hospital in Trenton, New Jersey, and three individual doctors, Steven Paloni, M.D., Helmi Saud Do, M.D., and Scott D. Miller, M.D. (Compl., ECF No. 1.)

         In November 2006, Mr. Jones underwent knee surgery at St. Francis, with the involvement of Dr. Miller and Dr. Paloni. (Id. ¶¶ 12-17.) Mr. Jones asserts that Dr. Paloni, apparently an anesthesiologist, told Mr. Jones “that he would be injecting a needle into the right foot between the fourth & fifth metatarsals to numb his leg before undergoing surgery.” (Id. ¶ 16.) Following the surgery, Mr. Jones alleges that he continued to suffer “excruciating pain and swelling in his knee and ankle.” (Id. ¶ 20.)

         Mr. Jones returned to St. Francis in December 2006 due to continued swelling of his ankle. (Id. ¶ 21.) He asserts that he “made a vehement effort to explain to the defendant Helmi Saud Do, that the swelling and excruciating pain in his right foot was independent of the surgically repaired knee” and explained “that the pain he was experiencing was in the exact same location where the anesthesiologist had injected the plaintiff with a needle to numb his leg prior to surgery.” (Id. ¶ 22.) Mr. Jones alleges that while Dr. Saud Do ordered an ultrasound scan of Mr. Jones's right leg and foot, the doctor otherwise disregarded his complaints. (Id. ¶¶ 21-22.)

         Mr. Jones states that he continued to suffer excruciating pain for the following eight years. (Id. ¶¶ 23-24.) Mr. Jones went to a podiatry clinic in February 2014, where an x-ray revealed a metallic object between the fourth and fifth metatarsals of his right foot. (Id. ¶ 25.) He was again admitted to St. Francis on June 6, 2014, and the metallic object was surgically removed. (Id. ¶ 26.) Mr. Jones reports that his “postoperative course was uneventful.” (Id.)

         Mr. Jones notes that he filed a late notice of tort claim in December 2014, “which was granted by the court on/or about February of 2015.” (Id. ¶ 27.)

         The complaint alleges that each of the defendant doctors “was deliberately indifferent to plaintiff's serious medical condition and deprived plaintiff of life, liberty or property without due process of law, in violation of the Eight [sic] and Fourteenth Amendments.” (Id. ¶¶ 30, 34, 37.)

         Mr. Jones alleges that Dr. Miller and Dr. Paloni were responsible for leaving a metallic object in his foot during the November 2006 surgery. (Id. ¶¶ 33-39.) He asserts that Dr. Saud Do failed to provide proper medical treatment that would have revealed the metallic object in his foot in December 2006. (Id. ¶¶ 29-32.) The complaint seeks compensatory and punitive damages. (Id. ¶¶ 32, 36, 39.)

         III. STANDARD OF REVIEW

         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 prisoner complaints when the prisoner (1) is proceeding in forma pauperis, see 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B), (2) seeks redress against a governmental employee or entity, see 28 U.S.C. § 1915A, or (3) asserts a claim concerning prison conditions, see 42 U.S.C. § 1997e(c). The PLRA directs district courts to sua sponte dismiss claims that are frivolous or malicious, that fail to state a claim upon which relief may be granted, or that seek monetary relief from a defendant who is immune from such relief. See 28 U.S.C. §§ 1915(e)(2)(B), 1915A(b); 42 U.S.C. § 1997e(c).

         “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) (per curiam); see also Mitchell v. Beard, 492 F. App'x 230, 232 (3d Cir. 2012) (per curiam) (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). 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.” Fowler v. UPMC Shadyside, 578 F.3d 203, 210 (3d Cir. 2009) (internal quotation marks 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.” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678; see ...


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