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Hubbard v. Lanigan

United States District Court, D. New Jersey

April 23, 2018

FRANK HUBBARD, Plaintiff,
v.
GARY LANIGAN, et al., Defendants.

          Frank Hubbard, Plaintiff Pro Se

          OPINION

          HONORABLE ANNE E. THOMPSON JUDGE

         I. INTRODUCTION

         Before the Court is Frank Hubbard's ("Plaintiff") civil rights complaint pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Complaint, Docket Entry 1. At this time, the Court must review the complaint, pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §§ 1915(e) (2) 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 such relief. For the reasons set forth below, the Court concludes that the complaint will proceed in part.

         II. BACKGROUND

         Plaintiff brings this civil rights action against New Jersey Department of Corrections ("NJDOC") Commissioner Gary Lanigan, New Jersey State Prison ("NJSP") Administrator Steven Johnson, Administrative Director Mary Lang, and Dr. Ralph Woodward. The following factual allegations are taken from the complaint and are accepted for purposes of this screening only. The Court has made no findings as to the truth of Plaintiff's allegations.

         Plaintiff, a convicted and sentenced prisoner at NJSP, has Hepatitis C and has been recommended for treatment with Harvoni by a specialist in 2015. Complaint ¶ 8. However, he was told during a chronic care appointment in January 2017 that he was not on NJSP's treatment list. Id. ¶ 9. In September 2017, Dr. Hussein entered into Plaintiff's record "you are a candidate for harvoni, waiting for administrative approval." Id. ¶ 10. He was confirmed to be on the treatment list on September 26, 2017. Id. ¶ 11.

         On December 2, 2011, Plaintiff requested treatment in accordance with the contract between NJDOC and its treatment provider. Id. ¶ 12. He filed a grievance after being told to discuss his concerns with the provider. Id. ¶ 13; Exhibit B. Plaintiff spoke with a nurse practitioner and was informed that it was policy not to treat patients until a particular number reached 1.6 "which means [the patient's] liver is effectively destroyed. That [he] should be treated but the administration is working with a budget." Id. ¶ 14.

         Plaintiff alleges violations of the Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments. He also raises violations of state law and the contract between NJDOC and its medical provider.

         III. STANDARD OF REVIEW

         A. Standards for a Sua Sponte Dismissal

         Per 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. § l9l5A(b), or brings a claim with respect to prison conditions, see 42 U.S.C. § l997e. 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. This action is subject to sua sponte screening for dismissal under 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(b) because Plaintiff is proceeding in forma pauperis.

         According to the Supreme Court's decision in Ashcroft v. Iqbal, "a pleading that offers 'labels or conclusions' or 'a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action will not do.'" 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (quoting Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007)). To survive sua sponte screening for failure to state a claim, [1] the complaint must allege "sufficient factual matter" to show that the claim is facially plausible. Fowler v. UPMS 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).

         In determining the sufficiency of a pro se complaint, the Court must be mindful to construe it liberally in favor of the plaintiff. See Erickson v. Pardus,551 U.S. 89, 93-94 (2007) (following Estelle v. Gamble, 429 U.S. 97, 106 (1976)); see also United States v. Day, 969 F.2d 39, 42 (3d Cir. 1992). Although pro se pleadings are liberally construed, plaintiffs "still must allege sufficient facts in their complaints ...


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