United States District Court, D. New Jersey
Madeline Cox Arleo, U.S.D.J.
matter has been opened to the Court by Plaintiffs filing of a
civil rights complaint and an application to proceed in
forma pauperis ("IFP"). (ECF No. 1.) The Court
will grant the IFP application at this time. Federal law
requires this Court to screen Plaintiffs Complaint for
sua sponte dismissal prior to service, and to
dismiss any claim if that claim fails to state a claim upon
which relief may be granted under Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6)
and/or to dismiss any defendant who is immune from suit.
See 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B). For the reasons
explained in this Memorandum Opinion, the Court finds that
the Complaint fails to state a federal claim for relief and
will therefore dismiss the Complaint without prejudice as to
all Defendants and provide Plaintiff with leave to file an
Amended Complaint within thirty (30) days to the extent he
can cure the deficiencies in his claims.
who is a convicted prisoner at Northern State Prison, alleges
that he and other inmates have been provided cold showers at
Northern State Prison from October 2017 to January 2018. He
also states without elaboration that the plumbing at Northern
State Prison is "defective." (ECF No. 1, Complaint
at 3.) Plaintiff alleges that he has filed many grievances in
connection with the cold showers, and has been informed that
there is hot water. (Id.) He has sued the
Administrator at Northern State Prison, George Robinson,
Superintendent Ganji, Lt. Velez, and Sgt. Shakir for
compensatory and punitive damages. (Id. at 1, 4.)
Court construes Plaintiff to allege claims for relief under
42 U.S.C. § 1983 against Defendants in their personal
capacities. Construed liberally, he appears to contend
that providing cold showers during the relevant time period
violates the Eighth Amendment's prohibition on cruel and
unusual punishment. "The Eighth Amendment's
prohibition on 'cruel and unusual punishment' ...
imposes on [prison officials] a duty to provide 'humane
conditions of confinement.'" Belts v. New Castle
Youth Development, 621 F.3d 249, 256 (3d Cir. 2010)
(quoting Farmer v. Brennan, 511 U.S. 825, 832
(1994)). That is, "prison officials must ensure that
inmates receive adequate food, clothing, shelter, and medical
care, and must 'take reasonable measures to guarantee the
safety of the inmates.'" Id. (quoting
Hudson v. Palmer, 468 U.S. 517, 526-27 (1984)). For
an alleged deprivation to rise to the level of an Eighth
Amendment violation, it must "result in the denial of
'the minimal civilized measure of life's
necessities.'" Id. at 835 (quoting
Rhodes v. Chapman, 452 U.S. 337, 347 (1982)).
state a claim under the Eighth Amendment, an inmate must
allege both an objective and a subjective component.
Wilson v. Setter, 501 U.S. 294, 298 (1991);
Counterman v. Warren County Corr. Fac, 176 Fed.Appx.
234, 238 (3d Cir. 2006). The objective component mandates
that "only those deprivations denying 'the minimal
civilized measure of life's necessities' ... are
sufficiently grave to form the basis of an Eighth Amendment
violation." Helling v. McKinney, 509 U.S. at 32
(quoting Rhodes, 452 U.S. at 346). This component
requires that the deprivation sustained by a prisoner be
sufficiently serious, for only "extreme
deprivations" are sufficient to make out an Eighth
Amendment claim. Hudson v. McMillian, 503 U.S. 1, 9
(1992). The subjective component requires that the state
actor have acted with "deliberate indifference, " a
state of mind equivalent to a reckless disregard of a known
risk of harm. See Farmer, 511 U.S. at 835;
Wilson, 501 U.S. at 303.
plaintiff may satisfy the objective component of a conditions
of confinement claim if he can show that the conditions
alleged, either alone or in combination, deprive him of
"the minimal civilized measure of life's
necessities, " such as adequate food, clothing, shelter,
sanitation, medical care, and personal safety.
Rhodes, 452 U.S. at 347-48; Young v.
Quinlan, 960 F.2d 351, 364 (3d Cir. 1992). Although the
Eighth Amendment directs that convicted prisoners not be
subjected to cruel and unusual punishment, "the
Constitution does not mandate comfortable prisons."
Rhodes, 452 U.S. at 349. To the extent that certain
conditions are only "restrictive" or "harsh,
" they are merely part of the penalty that criminal
offenders pay for their offenses against society.
Id. at 347.
inmate may fulfill the subjective element of such a claim by
demonstrating that prison officials knew of such substandard
conditions and "acted or failed to act with deliberate
indifference to a substantial risk of harm to inmate health
or safety." Ingalls v. Florio, 968 F.Supp. 193,
198 (D.N.J. 1997); see also Robinson v. Ricci, No.
CIV.A. 08-2023 PGS, 2012 WL 1067909, at *13 (D.N.J. Mar. 29,
2012) (explaining same).
Plaintiff alleges that providing cold showers during the
winter violates the Eighth Amendment. Exposure to extreme
cold can under some circumstances and/or in conjunction with
other conditions state a claim for relief under § 1983.
"Some conditions of confinement may establish an Eighth
Amendment violation 'in combination' when each would
not do so alone, but only when they have a mutually enforcing
effect that produces the deprivation of a single,
identifiable human need such as food, warmth or exercise -
for example, a low cell temperature at night combined with a
failure to issue blankets." Blackiston v.
Vaughn, No. A. 95-3740, 1998 WL 665477, at *6 (E.D. Pa.
Sept. 24, 1998) (non-precedential) (motion to dismiss denied
where prisoner alleged there was no heat or hot water, that
he was denied a hat and gloves, and that he suffered from the
cold as a consequence), in a prisoner case, nonfunctioning
water heaters for inmate showers were found to be one of
various conditions at the prison that failed to meet
constitutional standards. Monmouth Cnty. Corr. Inst.
Inmates v. Lanzaro, 595 F.Supp. 1417, 1432 (D.N.J. 1984)
(finding inadequate hot water as one of numerous factors
contributing to unconstitutional conditions of confinement
for both inmates and pre-trial detainees). In contrast,
courts have denied claims based on inadequate hot water
because that condition was not combined with additional,
significant conditions. See Allen v. Passaic Cnty.
Jail, No. 09-0408, 2009 WL 4591206, at *10 (E.D. Pa.
2009) (citing Blackiston ); Watkins v.
Johnson, 375 F.Supp. 1005, 1011 (E.D. Pa. 1974)
(conditions of segregated confinement, including a cell with
no hot water, did not violate the Eighth Amendment); but
see Grohs v. Yatauro, 984 F.Supp.2d 273, 285-86 (D.N.J.
2013) (denying motion to dismiss Fourteenth Amendment
conditions of confinement claim where civilly committed
detainees alleged that the lack of hot water and leaking
pipes were causing health problems and created an unhealthy
environment and where prison officials were on notice of the
to state a conditions of confinement claim under the Eighth
Amendment, a Complaint must also allege that the condition at
issue posed a serious risk of harm and that each Defendant
was aware of the serious risk of harm. In Gibson v.
Paquin, 590 Fed.Appx. 635, 636-37 (7th Cir. 2015), for
example, the Seventh Circuit addressed a similar claim in
which an inmate was subjected to cold showers three time a
week from January to July. Id. The court found that
the Complaint was subject to dismissal, in part, because the
Plaintiff had not alleged that the water's temperature
threatened to harm him seriously and that the prison
officials knew of the harm. Id. (citing
Farmer, 511 U.S. at 833-43) (finding that Plaintiff
failed to allege that the cold showers "were so severe
or prolonged that they interfered with normal daytime
activities or sleep") (collecting circuit precedent);
see also Blocker v. N. State Prison, No. CIV.A.
10-2153 KSH, 2011 WL 735448, at *3 (D.N.J. Feb. 22, 2011)
(finding that Plaintiff failed to assert deliberate
indifference on the part of Defendants, in that they
recklessly disregarded potential risks associated with cold
showers and failed to allege injury in order to warrant
Plaintiff is a convicted prisoner, and the Eighth Amendment
standard governs his claims for relief. With respect to the
objective component, the Court finds that providing cold
showers during the winter months, standing alone and without
any additional adverse conditions, is not an extreme
deprivation, as required to make out an Eighth Amendment
violation. With respect to the subjective component,
Plaintiff fails to allege that any of the Defendants were on
notice of the lack of hot water for showering; although
Plaintiff alleges that he filed grievances, he does not
allege that any of the Defendants were the recipients of the
grievances. Finally, even if the Court could infer that one
or more of the Defendants were on notice of the lack of hot
water for showering, Plaintiff provides no facts to suggest
that cold showers "pos[ed] a substantial risk of serious
harm, " Farmer, 511 U.S. at 834, or that any of
the Defendants were aware of the risk of harm. For these
reasons, the Court will dismiss the Complaint without
prejudice. Because it is possible that Plaintiff may be able
to cure the deficiencies in his claims against one or more of
the Defendants, the Court will provide him with 30 days in
which to submit an Amended Complaint. An appropriate Order
 Pursuant to 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 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.
"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 Fed.Appx.
120, 122 (3d Cir. 2012) (citing Allah v. Seiverling,229 F.3d 220, 223 ...