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Huckaby v. Bradley

United States District Court, D. New Jersey

April 30, 2018

LANNY SCOTT HUCKABY, Plaintiff,
v.
PAUL E. BRADLEY, as an Individual and in his official capacity as Employee of Department of the Navy, DEXTER ISAIAH CHRONIS, as an Individual and in his official capacity as Employee of Department of the Airforce, ANTONIO CORTEZ DAVIS, as an Individual and in his official capacity as Employee of Department of the Airforce, KEVIN LAMAR EVANS, as an Individual and in his official capacity as Employee of Department of the Airforce, TERRANCE TYRONE JONES, as an Individual and in his official capacity as Employee of Department of the Airforce, CELSO MALDONADO, as an Individual and in his official capacity as Employee of Department of the Airforce, XAIMARA OTERO- ORTIZ, as an Individual and in her official capacity as Employee of Department of the Airforce, RANDALL JAMES PRILL, as an Individual and in his official capacity as Employee of Department of the Airforce, BRYAN G. REESER, as an Individual and in his official capacity as Employee of Department of the Airforce, KENNETH FRANCES ROTHWEIN, as an Individual and in his official capacity as Employee of Department of the Airforce, MICHAEL EDDIE RODRIGUEZ, as an Individual and in his official capacity as Employee of Department of the Army, and OFFICER BOVA, as an Individual and in his official capacity as Employee of Department of the Army or Department of the Navy or Department Of the Airforce, Defendants.

          DAVID P. SCHROTH On behalf of Plaintiff

          ROBERT E. SPITZER MAN NEILL O'NEILL & RIVELES LLC On behalf of Defendant Paul E. Bradley

          DAVID V. SIMUNOVICH OFFICE OF THE U.S. ATTORNEY DISTRICT OF NEW JERSEY On behalf of Defendants Dexter Isaiah Chronis, Antonio Cortez Davis, Kevin Lamar Evans, Terrance Tyrone Jones, Celso Maldonado, Xaimara Otero-Ortiz, Bryan G. Reeser, Michael Eddie Rodriguez, and Officer Bova

          DANIEL BIDDLE MCMEEN JAMES BRENDAN JOHNSTON GOLDEN ROTHSCHILD SPAGNOLA LUNDELL BOYLAN & GARUBO On behalf of Defendants Randall James Prill and Kenneth Frances Rothwein

          OPINION

          NOEL L. HILLMAN, U.S.D.J.

         This is a purported Bivens[1] action under the Fifth Amendment Due Process Clause concerning the medical treatment Plaintiff Lanny Scott Huckaby received by Defendants, various military personnel, at a New Jersey military base.[2] Before the Court are three related motions to dismiss: (1) by Defendants Randall James Prill and Kenneth Frances Rothwein, (2) by Defendants Dexter Isaiah Chronis, Antonio Cortez Davis, Kevin Lamar Evans, Terrence Tyrone Jones, Celso Maldonado, Xaimara Otero-Ortiz, Bryan G. Reeser, Michael Eddie Rodriguez, and Charles Bova, and (3) by Defendant Paul E. Bradley. For the reasons that follow, the Court finds Plaintiff cannot sustain a Bivens cause of action. The Court will grant all three motions to dismiss.

         I.

         The Court takes its facts from Plaintiff's September 18, 2017 Amended Complaint. On July 15, 2014, Plaintiff was making a delivery to the Joint Base McGuire-Fort Dix-Lakehurst military base in Burlington County, New Jersey. While at the military base, Plaintiff advised military personnel there were handguns in the trailer attached to his vehicle. Plaintiff was arrested around 4:00 PM by Defendants. As he was being taken into custody, Plaintiff was instructed to remove his footwear. Plaintiff was then placed in a holding cell with his feet clothed only in socks.

         At the time, Plaintiff had an open diabetic wound on the bottom of his right foot. Plaintiff advised Defendants of this wound and that he could not be without footwear or additional bandages to protect the wound from infection. He further explained that he was diabetic and that diabetic wounds often do not heal and are susceptible to infection. Plaintiff specifically asked Defendants to retrieve his shoes and bandages to protect the wound.

         Plaintiff alleges he was in the holding cell from approximately 4:00 PM to midnight. Over the course of this time, Plaintiff's wound was visibly bloody, and blood seeped through his sock, leaving marks on the floor. Defendants retrieved gauze and bandages, but they refused to provide them to Plaintiff to protect his wound. Defendants refused to give Plaintiff his shoes, and further refused to contact medical care providers to determine the proper care for Plaintiff's wound.

         Plaintiff's wound ultimately became infected. Plaintiff became visibly ill, and shortly after his release, Plaintiff sought medical care. Over the next weeks and months, the infection worsened. Plaintiff was consequently hospitalized from October 12, 2014 through November 7, 2014. Over the course of the next year, the infection eventually spread to Plaintiff's right leg bone. In November 2015, Plaintiff's lower right extremity was amputated just below the right knee. Plaintiff also suffered side effects, including septic shock and kidney damage. During his hospitalization, Plaintiff also went into cardiac arrest and is believed to have died before being resuscitated and revived by medical providers.

         Plaintiff's Amended Complaint brings one count against Defendants: a Bivens claim for violation of the Fifth Amendment right to due process. Plaintiff argues Defendants “completely rejected the Plaintiff's request for medical assistance; denied the Plaintiff access to medical care, which he specifically requested; and denied the Plaintiff's request for simple Band-Aids, gauze and lace-less Croc shoes to protect the diabetic seeping wound on his right foot.” The Amended Complaint alleges:

The Due Process Clause of the Fifth Amendment to the United States Constitution does not allow defendants to inflict punishment on pretrial detainees. The denial of medical care when the Defendants were fully informed of the Plaintiff's medical condition and the Defendants' abhorrent refusal to assist and protect the Plaintiff are tantamount to the infliction of punishment without due process.

         Plaintiff asks this Court for compensatory damages, punitive damages, and attorneys' fees and costs.

         Defendants filed their motions to dismiss on October 5, 2017 and October 6, 2017.[3]

         II.

         This Court has jurisdiction over this matter pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1331, as it is brought as a Bivens action and under the Fifth Amendment to the United States Constitution.[4]

         III.

         When considering a motion to dismiss a complaint for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6), a court must accept all well-pleaded allegations in the complaint as true and view them in the light most favorable to the plaintiff. Evancho v. Fisher, 423 F.3d 347, 351 (3d Cir. 2005). It is well settled that a pleading is sufficient if it contains “a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2).

         “While a complaint attacked by a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss does not need detailed factual allegations, a plaintiff's obligation to provide the ‘grounds' of his ‘entitle[ment] to relief' requires more than labels and conclusions, and a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action will not do . . . .” Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007) (alteration in original) (citations omitted) (first citing Conley v. Gibson, 355 U.S. 41, 47 (1957); Sanjuan v. Am. Bd. of Psychiatry & Neurology, Inc., 40 F.3d 247, 251 (7th Cir. 1994); and then citing Papasan v. Allain, 478 U.S. 265, 286 (1986)).

To determine the sufficiency of a complaint, a court must take three steps. First, the court must “tak[e] note of the elements a plaintiff must plead to state a claim.” Second, the court should identify allegations that, “because they are no more than conclusions, are not entitled to the assumption of truth.” Third, “whe[n] there are well-pleaded factual allegations, a court should assume their veracity and then determine whether they plausibly give rise to an entitlement for relief.”

Malleus v. George, 641 F.3d 560, 563 (3d Cir. 2011) (alterations in original) (citations omitted) (quoting Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 664, 675, 679 (2009)).

         A district court, in weighing a motion to dismiss, asks “not whether a plaintiff will ultimately prevail but whether the claimant is entitled to offer evidence to support the claim.” Twombly, 550 U.S. at 563 n.8 (quoting Scheuer v. Rhoades, 416 U.S. 232, 236 (1974)); see also Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 684 (“Our decision in Twombly expounded the pleading standard for ‘all civil actions' . . . .”); Fowler v. UPMC Shadyside, 578 F.3d 203, 210 (3d Cir. 2009) (“Iqbal . . . provides the final nail in the coffin for the ‘no set of facts' standard that applied to federal complaints before Twombly.”). “A motion to dismiss should be granted ...


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