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Sherwin v. Camden City

United States District Court, D. New Jersey

May 24, 2018

STEPHANIE C. SHERWIN, Plaintiff,
v.
CAMDEN CITY; LUMINOSITY, INC.; KAREN TAYLOR; and DAVID OWENS, JR., Defendants.

          Stephanie C. Sherwin, Plaintiff Pro Se

          OPINION

          JEROME B. SIMANDLE United States District Judge

         1. Plaintiff Stephanie C. Sherwin seeks to bring a civil rights complaint pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against defendants Camden City (“the City”), Camden County (“the County”), Luminosity, Inc. (“Luminosity”), Karen Taylor (“Taylor”), and David Owens, Jr. (“Owens”) for allegedly unconstitutional conditions of confinement. Complaint (ECF No. 1) at 1, 2.

         2. 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2) requires courts to review complaints prior to service in cases in which a plaintiff is proceeding in forma pauperis. Courts must 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.

         3. For the reasons set forth below, the Court will: (a) dismiss with prejudice Plaintiff's allegations of overcrowded conditions of confinement during the period September 13, 2010 -July 26, 2014; (b) dismiss without prejudice Plaintiff's allegations of overcrowded conditions of confinement during the period September 8-9, 2015; (c) dismiss without prejudice Plaintiff's allegations of unsanitary conditions of confinement; (d) dismiss with prejudice Plaintiff's allegations of inadequate medical care; (e) dismiss with prejudice Plaintiff's allegations of excessive force. 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(b)(ii).

         Standard of Review

         4. To survive sua sponte screening for failure to state a claim, 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). “[A] pleading that offers ‘labels or conclusions' or ‘a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action will not do.'” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (quoting Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007)). Moreover, while pro se pleadings are liberally construed, “pro se litigants still must allege sufficient facts in their complaints to support a claim.” Mala v. Crown Bay Marina, Inc., 704 F.3d 239, 245 (3d Cir. 2013) (citation omitted) (emphasis added).

         Conditions Of Confinement Claim - Overcrowding: Dismissed With Prejudice As To 2010-2014 Incarcerations and Dismissed Without Prejudice As To 2015 Incarceration

         5. Plaintiff alleges that she experienced overcrowding on the following dates while she was detained at Camden County Correctional Facility (“CCCF”): “09/08/2015 - 09/09/2015 (all day), 07/01/14 - 7/26/2014 (all day), 06/17/2013 - 07/17/13 (all day), 11/12/2010 - 11/13/2010 (all day), 09/13/2010 - 09/17/10 (all day).” (ECF No. 1 at § III(B).) The period September 13, 2010 - July 26, 2014 as it relates to claims in the Complaint is referred to in this Opinion as the “2010-2014 Incarcerations.” The period September 8-9, 2015 as it relates to claims in the Complaint is referred to as the “2015 Incarceration.”

         6. The Complaint alleges: “Due to overcrowding, I had to sleep on the floor under the toilet . . . I was told to sleep on the floor with 3 other women in the cells.” Id. § III(C) (referred to as Plaintiff's “Overcrowding Claim”).

         7. The Complaint alleges injuries of “depression[, ] post tra[u]matic stress disorder, [and] anxiety” sustained by Plaintiff in connection with these events. Id. § IV.

         8. With respect to requested relief, Plaintiff seeks $5, 000 in “financial compensation for pain and suffering and violation of civil rights.” Id. § V.

         9. As to the 2010-2014 Incarcerations, allegedly unconstitutional conditions of confinement would have been immediately apparent to Plaintiff at the time of detention; Plaintiff's incarceration ended and the two-year period to file this suit began, at the latest, on July 26, 2014. The two-year statute of limitations[1] for Plaintiff's claims expired in July of 2016 at the latest, well before this Complaint was filed on November 21, 2016. (ECF No. 1.) Although the Court may toll, or extend, the statute of limitations in the interests of justice, tolling is not warranted in this case because the state has not “actively misled” Plaintiff as to the existence of her cause of action, there are no extraordinary circumstances that prevented her from filing the claim, and there is nothing to indicate she filed the claim on time but in the wrong forum. Omar v. Blackman, 590 Fed.Appx. 162, 166 (3d Cir. 2014). As more than two years have passed since Plaintiff's claims accrued, the Overcrowding Claim is barred and shall be dismissed with prejudice as to the 2010-2014 Incarcerations, meaning Plaintiff may not file an amended complaint concerning her incarcerations during the pre-July 2014 period. Ostuni v. Wa Wa's Mart, 532 Fed.Appx. 110, 112 (3d Cir. 2013) (per curiam) (affirming dismissal with prejudice due to expiration of statute of limitations).

         10. As to the 2015 Incarceration, Plaintiff's Complaint was not untimely but the Overcrowding Claim must be dismissed without prejudice because the Complaint does not set forth sufficient factual support for the Court to infer that a constitutional violation has occurred. 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(b)(ii). The mere fact that an individual is lodged temporarily in a cell with more persons than its intended design does not rise to the level of a constitutional violation. See Rhodes v. Chapman, 452 U.S. 337, 348-50 (1981) (holding double-celling by itself did not violate Eighth Amendment); Carson v. Mulvihill, 488 Fed.Appx. 554, 560 (3d Cir. 2012) (“[M]ere double-bunking does not constitute punishment, because there is no ‘one man, one cell principle lurking in the Due Process Clause of the Fifth Amendment.'” (quoting Bell v. Wolfish, 441 U.S. 520, 542 (1979))). More is needed to demonstrate that such crowded conditions, for a pretrial detainee, shocks the conscience and thus violates due process rights. See Hubbard v. Taylor, 538 F.3d 229, 233 (3d Cir. 2008) (noting due process analysis requires courts to consider whether the totality of the conditions “cause[s] inmates to endure such genuine privations and hardship over an extended period of time, that the adverse conditions become excessive in relation to the purposes assigned to them.”). Some relevant factors are the length of the confinement(s), whether plaintiff was a pretrial detainee or convicted prisoner, any specific individuals who were involved in creating or failing to remedy the conditions of confinement, any other relevant facts regarding the conditions of confinement, etc. The Complaint has not alleged facts to support a reasonable inference that a constitutional violation of overcrowding has occurred with respect to the 2015 Incarceration in order to survive review under § 1915.

         11. Furthermore, as to Overcrowding Claim against the City and the County with respect to the 2015 Incarceration, Plaintiff has not pled sufficient facts to impose liability on these defendants individually. “[A] municipality may be held liable [under § 1983] only if its policy or custom is the ‘moving force' behind a constitutional violation.” Sanford v. Stiles, 456 F.3d 298, 314 (3d Cir. 2006) (citing Monell v. N.Y.C. Dep't of Social Services, 436 U.S. 658, 691 (1978)). See also Collins v. City of Harker Heights, 503 U.S. 115, 122 (1992) (“The city is not vicariously liable under § 1983 for the constitutional torts of its agents: It is only liable when it can be fairly said that the city itself is the wrongdoer.”). Therefore, Plaintiff must plead facts showing that the relevant County and City policy-makers are “responsible for either the affirmative proclamation of a policy or acquiescence in a well-settled custom.” Bielevicz v. Dubinon, 915 F.2d 845, 850 (3d Cir. 1990).[2]In other words, Plaintiff must set forth facts supporting an inference that the City and the County were each the “moving force” behind an alleged constitutional violation. Monell, 436 U.S. at 689. The Complaint has alleged no such facts here.

         12. Similarly, as to Overcrowding Claim against Taylor and Owens with respect to the 2015 Incarceration, such claim must be dismissed without prejudice because the Complaint does “[not] allege[] any personal involvement by [these individual defendants] in any constitutional violation - a fatal flaw, since ‘liability in a § 1983 suit cannot be predicated solely on the operation of respondeat superior.'” Baker v. Flagg, 439 Fed.Appx. 82, 84 (3d Cir. 2011) (citing Rode v. Dellarciprete, 845 F.2d 1195, 1207 (3d Cir. 1988)). “[Plaintiff's] complaint contains no allegations regarding [the] [W]arden. ‘Because vicarious liability is inapplicable to § 1983 suits, a plaintiff must plead that each Government-official defendant, through the official's own individual actions, has violated the Constitution.' Thus, [plaintiff] failed to state a claim against [the] [W]arden.” Bob v. Kuo, 387 Fed.Appx. 134, 136 (3d Cir. 2010) (citing Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 676 (2009)).

         13. Finally, as to Overcrowding Claim against Luminosity with respect to the 2015 Incarceration, such claim must be dismissed because the Complaint does not allege any facts whatsoever with respect to Luminosity's role, if any, in ...


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