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Williams v. Finnegan

United States District Court, D. New Jersey

April 26, 2018

DR. FINNEGAN, et al., Defendants.



         Plaintiff Micheal Wayne Williams, a pretrial detainee formerly confined in Camden County Correctional Facility (“CCCF”), [1]in Camden, New Jersey, brings this civil rights complaint alleging violation of his federal and state constitutional rights by medical and correctional staff at CCCF, and prosecutors of the Camden County Prosecutor's Office. (Compl., ECF No. 1.) Plaintiff has filed an application to proceed in forma pauperis (“IFP”), which establishes that he cannot afford to prepay the filing fee for this action. (IFP App., ECF No. 1-2.) Therefore, his IFP application is granted pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915(a)(1).

         When a plaintiff who is a prisoner is permitted to proceed without pre-payment of the filing fee, 28 U.S.C. §§ 1915(e)(2)(B) and 1915A)(b) require courts to review a complaint in a civil action and sua sponte dismiss any claims that are (1) frivolous or malicious; (2) fail to state a claim on which relief may be granted; or (3) seek monetary relief against a defendant who is immune from such relief. For the reasons discussed below, Plaintiff's complaint is dismissed.

         I. Sua Sponte Dismissal

         Courts must liberally construe pleadings that are filed pro se. Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 94 (2007) (quoting Estelle v. Gamble, 429 U.S. 97, 106 (1976)). Thus, “a pro se complaint, however inartfully pleaded, must be held to ‘less stringent standards than formal pleadings drafted by lawyers.'” Id. (internal quotation marks omitted). “Court personnel reviewing pro se pleadings are charged with the responsibility of deciphering why the submission was filed, what the litigant is seeking, and what claims she may be making.” See Higgs v. Atty. Gen. of the U.S., 655 F.3d 333, 339-40 (3d Cir. 2011) (quoting Jonathan D. Rosenbloom, Exploring Methods to Improve Management and Fairness in Pro Se Cases: A Study of the Pro Se Docket in the Southern District of New York, 30 Fordham Urb. L.J. 305, 308 (2002)).

         A pleading must contain a “short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2). “To survive a motion to dismiss, a complaint must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to ‘state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.'” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (quoting Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007)). “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.” Id. (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556.) “[A] court must accept as true all of the allegations contained in a complaint[.]” Id. Legal conclusions, together with threadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action, do not suffice to state a claim. Id. Thus, “a court considering a motion to dismiss can choose to begin by identifying pleadings that, because they are no more than conclusions, are not entitled to the assumption of truth.” Id. at 679. “While legal conclusions can provide the framework of a complaint, they must be supported by factual allegations.” Id. If a complaint can be remedied by an amendment, a district court may not dismiss the complaint with prejudice, but must permit the amendment. Grayson v. Mayview State Hospital, 293 F.3d 103, 108 (3d Cir. 2002).


         A. The Complaint

         Plaintiff alleged the following facts in his complaint, which, if plausible, are accepted as true for purposes of this screening. On August 26, 2016 at CCCF, Plaintiff was infected with MRSA “after maliciously being given a dirty razor” by Correctional Officer John Doe #1, who said “that's a Rapist razor.” (Compl., ECF No. 1, ¶¶3, 11, 15.) Plaintiff alleged that “flesh eating bacteria was deliberately placed on the blades of a disposable razor, that was then handed to this Plaintiff for use.” (Compl., ECF No. 1 at 24.) Plaintiff did not immediately remember John Doe #1's statement about the “rapist razor” due to his pain and suffering. (Id., ¶18.) John Doe #1's actions were based on “the highly scandalous criminal charge, wrongfully leveled against Plaintiff by Camden County Prosecutor Mary Eva Colallio.” (Id., ¶¶12-14.)

         Plaintiff developed a bacterial infection that he believes was misdiagnosed as orbital cellulitis by Dr. Finnegan, an emergency room doctor, but was actually necrotizing cellulitis that did not originate in the eye. (Id., ¶¶4-5, 25) Plaintiff suffered physical and mental trauma from disfiguration of his face caused by this bacterial infection, which required a surgical procedure to remove 25% of Plaintiff's forehead. (Id., ¶¶9-11, 19-21.)

         Plaintiff also alleged Nurse Lauren Morris, who works at CCCF, prescribed the wrong antibiotic, and would not allow Plaintiff to be seen by a medical doctor. (Id., ¶¶22-23.) Plaintiff's infection spread out of control to both eye sockets and nearly killed him. (Id., ¶24.) Nurse Morris accepted responsibility and apologized. (Id., ¶25.) Nurse Dancy also took part in the decision to prescribe Plaintiff the wrong antibiotic. (Id., ¶45.) Staff in the emergency room told Plaintiff his infection was only hours away from destroying his brain tissue. (Id., ¶27.)

         Plaintiff contends the Camden County Prosecutor's Office failed to investigate this matter, and acted to cover up the attempted murder of Plaintiff after receiving information that Plaintiff was nearly killed by John Doe #1. (Id., ¶¶28-29.) Prosecutor Patricia Manteiga saw Plaintiff's condition and was fully informed of “relevant facts” by Plaintiff's Federal Defender, but she failed to charge John Doe #1 with a crime. (Id., ¶ 31.) Mary Eva Colallio, as head of the Camden County Prosecutor's Office also failed to charge John Doe #1 with a crime. (Id., ¶32.)

         Plaintiff was prescribed Percocet (oxycodone) for his pain, without having been fully informed of its addictive properties. (Id., ¶¶35-36.) Plaintiff makes allegations against drug manufacturers for negligent failure to disclose the addictive properties of Percocet and other opiate drugs, but he does not name any drug manufacturer as a defendant. (Id., ¶¶39-40.)

         Plaintiff developed a chemical dependency to Percocet and suffered withdrawals. (Id., ¶41.) Plaintiff described his medical ordeal to Christine Martinelli, a top ranking employee of the medical contracting company, CFG, at CCCF. (Id., ¶¶42-43.) Martinelli apologized on behalf of her medical staff. (Id.)

         Plaintiff seeks declaratory judgment that the defendants' actions violated his civil rights under the U.S. and New Jersey Constitutions. (Compl., ECF No. 1 at Page 27.) He seeks injunctive relief to abate his scarring. (Id. at 29.) He also seeks costs and monetary damages. (Id. ...

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