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Reed v. United States

United States District Court, D. New Jersey

September 10, 2018

LEONARDO REED, Plaintiff,
v.
UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Defendant.

          LEONARDO REED, Plaintiff Pro Se

          CRAIG CARPENITO United States Attorney By: J. Andrew Ruymann Assistant U.S. Attorney U.S. ATTORNEY'S OFFICE Attorneys for Defendant United States of America

          OPINION

          HONORABLE JEROME B. SIMANDLE JUDGE.

         I. INTRODUCTION

         Before the Court is Defendant United States of America's motion for summary judgment on Plaintiff Leonardo Reed's Federal Tort Claims Act (“FTCA”) complaint. Motion, Docket Entry 44. Plaintiff Leonardo Reed has not opposed the motion. The motion is being decided on the papers pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 78. For the reasons set forth below, the motion is granted.

         Plaintiff's complaint stems from an injury he received at FCI Fort Dix, a federal correctional facility maintained by the Bureau of Prisons (“BOP”), when he cut himself on razor wire located alongside of an interior fence while retrieving a softball during recreation time. The principal issues to be decided are whether the Court lacks jurisdiction over the complaint because (1) Plaintiff failed to include in his FTCA notice of claim form an allegation that BOP staff negligently ordered or tasked him to retrieve the softball from within the wire, and (2) the decision to place razor wire alongside of the interior fence falls within the discretionary function exception to the FTCA's waiver of sovereign immunity.

         The Court finds that Plaintiff has not made an allegation that BOP staff negligently ordered or tasked him to retrieve the softball (either in his administrative tort claim or in this case), and that the discretionary function exception applies to his allegation that federal officials negligently placed the razor wire that caused his injury. The Court therefore lacks jurisdiction over the FTCA complaint, and the Court will grant the summary judgment motion for the reasons stated below.

         II. BACKGROUND

         A. Procedural History

         Plaintiff filed this complaint on July 1, 2016. The Court granted his in forma pauperis application on July 11, 2016. Docket Entry 2. On July 18, 2016, the Court conducted a preliminary screening based upon the allegations in the Complaint and permitted the FTCA claims to proceed against the United States. Docket Entry 3.

         The United States moved to dismiss the complaint under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6), Motion to Dismiss, Docket Entry 9, which the Court denied on June 26, 2017. Docket Entry 13.

         On February 15, 2018, the United States moved for summary judgment. Plaintiff did not file opposition to the motion.

         B. Statement of Facts

         1. Allegations in Pleadings

         Plaintiff alleges the BOP was negligent in placing razor wire in various locations throughout the facility in areas that are accessible to inmates, including but not limited to the recreation area on the “wrong side of the fences.” Complaint ¶¶ 12-13. Plaintiff alleges that several inmates have received injuries due to the placement of the wire, which “generally reaches to just above knee level with some areas reaching face level.” Id. ¶¶ 15-16.

         According to the complaint, Plaintiff was playing softball in the Fort Dix recreation yard on June 22, 2015 when a ball fell into an area “within the razor wire.” Id. ¶ 27. The complaint asserted that the softball commonly fell within the wires. Id. ¶ 24. Plaintiff further alleged that “[i]nmates are tasked with retrieving the balls from within the razor wire[, ]” and that “[s]everal inmates have previously been cut while retrieving the ball from within the razor wire.” Id. ¶¶ 25-26.

         Plaintiff alleges the razor wire cut into his left wrist when he retrieved a softball on June 22, 2015. Id. ¶¶ 28-29. The cut caused heavy blood loss, and “medical staff feared that an artery may have been cut.” Id. ¶¶ 29, 32. Plaintiff was left with a “½ inch keloid type scar.” Id. ¶ 33.

         Plaintiff alleges his injury was caused by the negligence of BOP staff in ...


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