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Edwards v. Lanigan

United States District Court, D. New Jersey

April 27, 2018

RENE D. EDWARDS, Plaintiff,

          Katherine D. Hartman, Esq. Counsel for Plaintiff

          Christopher Porrino, Esq. Counsel for Defendants


          NOEL L. HILLMAN, U.S.D.J.

         This case concerns an assault that Plaintiff Rene D. Edwards, an inmate formerly incarcerated at South Woods State Prison, suffered at the hands of his cellmate. In the Second Amended Complaint, Plaintiff alleges that the correctional officer defendants on duty the evening of the assault were deliberately indifferent to Plaintiff's health and safety in failing to intervene in violation of the Eighth Amendment.[1] At issue is Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment, which is ripe for adjudication. The Court has subject-matter jurisdiction over this case pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1331, as this case concerns a federal question. For the reasons that follow, the Court will grant the Motion.

         I. Factual Background

         Plaintiff was an inmate formerly incarcerated in various New Jersey Department of Corrections (“NJDOC”) facilities throughout the state from 2010 through 2014. ECF No. 117-1, Defs' Statement of Facts (“SOF”), ¶ 1; ECF No. 122-1, Pl's Response to Statement of Facts (“RSOF”), ¶ 1. At all times relevant to the Second Amended Complaint, Plaintiff was incarcerated at South Woods State Prison in Bridgeton, New Jersey. SOF, ¶ 2; RSOF, ¶ 2.

         Plaintiff alleges that he complained to whom he believed to be Defendant Senior Corrections Officer Yvonne Williams that his cellmate touched his buttocks on or about December 14, 2011. SOF, ¶ 3; RSOF, ¶ 3. Approximately two weeks later, on or about December 27, 2011, Plaintiff's cellmate began acting aggressively. SOF, ¶ 4; RSOF, ¶ 4. Plaintiff complained to Defendants Sergeant Rodney Joynes and Lieutenant Joel Taylor about his cellmate's behavior, but his cellmate was returned to the cell that night. SOF, ¶ 5, RSOF, ¶ 5. In the early morning hours of December 28, 2011, Plaintiff was assaulted by his cellmate, during which his jaw was broken. SOF ¶ 6; RSOF ¶ 6. According to Plaintiff, Defendant Senior Corrections Officer Franchetta heard Plaintiff's cries for help and responded to his cell, but then left the cell to call for backup, during which time Plaintiff was sexually assaulted by his cellmate. SOF ¶¶ 7-8; RSOF ¶¶ 7-8.

         Both inmates were removed from the cell, and Plaintiff was taken to be examined medically. SOF ¶¶ 11-12; RSOF ¶¶ 11-12. The nurse on duty noted that Plaintiff presented with swelling of his face, limited jaw movement, active bleeding, and missing teeth, but that he denied suffering any other injuries. SOF ¶¶ 13-14; RSOF ¶¶ 13-14. Plaintiff was transported to South Jersey Regional Medical Center for further treatment for a fractured jaw; Plaintiff was not diagnosed with any other injuries. SOF ¶¶ 15-17; RSOF ¶¶ 15-17. After the incident, both Plaintiff and his cellmate refused protective custody. SOF ¶ 24; RSOF ¶ 24.

         In accordance with N.J.A.C. 10A:8-1.1 to -3.6, all NJDOC facilities in which Plaintiff was incarcerated from the time of the alleged assault on December 28, 2011, until he filed the Complaint on January 11, 2013, have adopted the Inmate Handbook outlining the Inmate Remedy System Procedure. SOF ¶ 25; RSOF ¶ 25. Inmates incarcerated in NJDOC prison facilities are provided a copy of the Inmate Handbook detailing the Inmate Remedy System Procedure during their orientation. SOF ¶ 26; RSOF ¶ 26.

         The Inmate Remedy System Procedure is a mechanism for inmates to lodge complaints, document problems, and offer suggestions to the correctional facility administration. SOF ¶ 27; RSOF ¶ 27. Inmates are required to utilize the multi-part Inmate Remedy System before applying to the courts for relief. SOF ¶ 29; RSOF ¶ 29. Inmate System Forms are available in the housing units of some NJDOC facilities, or inmates can request the forms from their housing unit officer, social worker, or the Inmate Law Library. SOF ¶ 30; RSOF ¶ 30. Once an inmate completes a Remedy Form, he or she must place the form in the appropriate Drop Box located in each housing unit. SOF ¶ 31; RSOF ¶ 31. If an inmate is unable to access a Drop Box to submit his or her form because the inmate is in closed custody housing or has a limiting medical condition, the unit social worker or housing officer will deposit the form in the Drop Box. SOF ¶ 32; RSOF ¶ 32.

         Plaintiff admits that he was familiar with the Inmate Remedy System. SOF ¶ 39; RSOF ¶ 39. In fact, Plaintiff has utilized the Inmate Remedy System approximately thirty-eight (38) times before. SOF ¶ 41; RSOF ¶ 41. Plaintiff, however, admits that he did not file an Inmate Remedy Form at any time about his assault on December 28, 2011. SOF ¶ 39; RSOF ¶ 39. Although Plaintiff submitted thirty-eight (38) Remedy Forms across three different prisons between the date of his alleged assault on December 28, 2011, and the date on which he filed his Complaint, none of the grievances allege that NJDOC, any of its facilities, or any of its employees failed to protect Plaintiff from the alleged assault at issue in this litigation. SOF ¶ 41; RSOF ¶ 41.

         II. Standard of Review

         Summary judgment should be granted when the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, admissions on file, and affidavits show that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and that the moving party is entitled to a judgment as a matter of law. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c). A disputed fact is material when it could affect the outcome of the suit under the governing substantive law. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986). A dispute is genuine if the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party. Id. at 250. The Court should view the facts in the light most favorable to the non-moving party and make all reasonable inferences in that party's favor. Hugh v. Butler County Family YMCA, 418 F.3d 265, 267 (3d Cir. 2005).

         Initially, the moving party must show the absence of a genuine issue concerning any material fact. See Celotex Corp. v. Carrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323 (1986). Once the moving party has satisfied its burden, the non-moving party, “must present affirmative evidence in order to defeat a properly supported motion for summary judgment.” Anderson, 477 U.S. at 257. “While the evidence that the non-moving party presents may be either direct or circumstantial, and need not be as great ...

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