United States District Court, D. New Jersey
Madeline Cox Arleo, District Judge.
is a pretrial detainee incarcerated at Passaic County Jail.
He has sued the Passaic County Jail, Gourmet Dining, LLC,
Lieutenant J. Aturl, Officer M. Biokua, and Officer G.
Francis for violations of his civil rights arising from
alleged inadequate nutrition and the repetitive nature of his
meal options at the jail. At this time, the Court will grant
Plaintiffs IFP application and screen the Complaint for
dismissal. For the reasons explained below, the Court will
dismiss Plaintiffs claims for relief, as described in this
Memorandum Opinion, as to all Defendants pursuant to 28
U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B). Unless otherwise stated, the
dismissal is without prejudice. and Plaintiff may
file an amended complaint within 30 days to the extent he can
cure the deficiencies in his claims.
Complaint contains few facts. Plaintiff has been incarcerated
at Passaic County Jail since August 2017, and alleges that he
is "consistently receiving non-nutritious meal options
that are repetitive and not heat to its [sic] proper
temperature." (ECF No. 1, Complaint at 5.) Plaintiff
further alleges that Gourmet Dining, LLC claims a dietician
approves of the meals and that the officers constantly lie
about [Plaintiffs] complaints. (Id.) Plaintiff
contends that he arrived in prison "100% healthy and
ha[s] been a vegan for 10 years." (Id.) For the
past 6-7 months, he has had low blood pressure.
(Id.) Elsewhere in the Complaint, Plaintiff also
states that he has filed grievances regarding a lack of
nourishment and drinking water, but provides no additional
facts about the lack of drinking water. (Id. at 6.)
Plaintiff also states that he has filed grievances regarding
defamatory comments, but has not provided additional facts
about the nature of the defamatory comments.
has attached inmate grievances submitted in connection with
his dissatisfaction with the meals at Passaic County Jail;
the photocopies are of poor quality, and the majority the
grievances are illegible. (See ECF No. 1-1, at
2-22.) The grievances that are legible complain that
Plaintiff has received repetitive meals, such as a three-bean
salad. (See e.g., ECF No. 1-1, at 8.) Plaintiff has
also attached what appears to be a copy of the Vegan/No Soy
diet menu for the period from September 23, 2017 - September
2017. The menu lists options such as spinach with carrots,
beans, noodles, applesauce, and bread. (Id. at 23.)
respect to his grievances, Plaintiff alleges that the kitchen
staff and the "Lt." often deem his complaints
"false" and make no changes to the menu. Plaintiff
also states that he appeals his grievances, and has asked to
speak to the Warden about this issue. (Id. at 7.)
Finally, Plaintiff alleges that Officers M. Biokua, and
Officer G. Francis produced a "false menu that was never
followed." (ECF No. 1-1, at 1.)
the PLRA, district courts must review complaints in those
civil actions in which a person is proceeding in for ma
pauperis, See 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B). The PLRA
directs district courts to 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. Id.
"The legal standard for dismissing a complaint for
failure to state a claim pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §
l9l5(e)(2)(B)(ii) is the same as that for dismissing a
complaint pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure
12(b)(6)." Schreane v. Seana, 506 Fed.Appx.
120, 122 (3d Cir. 2012) (citing Allah v. Seiverling,
229 F.3d 220, 223 (3d Cir. 2000)); Mitchell v.
Beard, 492 Fed.Appx. 230, 232 (3d Cir. 2012) (discussing
28 U.S.C. § l997e(c)(1)); Courteau v. United
States, 287 Fed.Appx. 159, 162 (3d Cir. 2008)
(discussing 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(b)).
Plaintiffs Complaint is subject to screening under 28 U.S.C.
§ 1915(e)(2)(B). When reviewing a motion to dismiss
under Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6), courts first separate the
factual and legal elements of the claims, and accept all of
the well-pleaded facts as true. See Fowler v. UPMC
Shadyside, 578 F.3d 203, 210-11 (3d Cir. 2009). All
reasonable inferences must be made in the plaintiffs favor.
See In re Ins. Brokerage Antitrust Litig., 618 F.3d
300, 314 (3d Cir. 2010). The Complaint must also allege
"sufficient factual matter" to show that the claim
is facially plausible. Fowler v. UP MS 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) (quoting Iqbal,
556 U.S. at 678).
are required to liberally construe pleadings drafted by
pro se parties. Tucker v. Hewlett Packard,
Inc., No. 14-4699 (RBK/KMW), 2015 WL 6560645, at *2
(D.N.J. Oct. 29, 2015) (citing Haines v. Kerner, 404
U.S. 519, 520 (1972)). Such pleadings are "held to less
strict standards than formal pleadings drafted by
lawyers." Id. Nevertheless, pro se litigants
must still allege facts, which if taken as true, will suggest
the required elements of any claim that is asserted.
Id. (citing Mala v. Crown Bay Marina, Inc.,
704 F.3d 239, 245 (3d Cir. 2013)). To do so, [a plaintiff]
must plead enough facts, accepted as true, to plausibly
suggest entitlement to relief." Gibney v.
Fitzgibbon, 547 Fed.Appx. 111, 113 (3d Cir. 2013)
(citing Bistrian v. Levi, 696 F.3d 352, 365 (3d Cir.
2012)). Furthermore, "[l]iberal construction does not,
however, require the Court to credit a pro se plaintiffs
'bald assertions' or 'legal conclusions.'
Id. (citing Morse v. Lower Merion Sck
Dist., 132 F.3d 902, 906 (3d Cir. 1997)). That is,
"[e]ven a pro se complaint may be dismissed for
failure to state a claim if the allegations set forth by the
plaintiff cannot be construed as supplying facts to support a
claim entitling the plaintiff to relief. Id. (citing
Milhouse v. Carlson, 652 F.2d 371, 373 (3d Cir.
Court construes Plaintiff to allege claims for relief under
Section 1983, which provides in relevant part:
Every person who, under color of any statute, ordinance,
regulation, custom, or usage, of any State or Territory ...
subjects, or causes to be subjected, any citizen of the
United States or other person within the jurisdiction thereof
to the deprivation of any rights, privileges, or immunities
secured by the Constitution and laws, shall be liable to the
party injured in an action at law, suit in equity, or other
proper proceeding for redress....
to state a claim for relief under § 1983, a plaintiff
must allege, first, the violation of a right secured by the
Constitution or laws of the United States and, second, that
the alleged deprivation was committed or caused by a person
acting under color of state law. West v. Atkins, 487
U.S. 42, 48 (1988); Piecknick v. Pennsylvania, 36
F.3d 1250, 1255-56 (3d Cir. 1994).
the outset, the Court will dismiss the claims against the
Passaic County Jail. Although a county may be liable under
§ 1983 for creating policies or customs that violate the
Constitution, see Monell v. Dept. of Social Services of
City of New York, 436 U.S. 658 (1978), a county jail is
not a proper defendant under § 1983. See Barrett v.
Essex Cty. Corr. Facility, No. CIV.A. 15-595 SDW, 2015
WL 1808523, at *3 (D.N.J. Apr. 16, 2OI5)("A county jail,
such as the Essex County facility, is not a person subject to
suit under § 1983."); Ingram v. Atl. Cnty.
Justice Fac, Civ. No. 10-1375, 2011 WL 65915, *3 (D.N.J.
Jan. 7, 2011) (citations omitted) (county jail is not a
person under section 1983). As such, the Court will dismiss
the claims against the Passaic County Jail with
conditions of confinement claims against the remaining
defendants regarding the inadequacy of the food at Passaic
County Jail also fail to state a claim for relief. As a
pretrial detainee, the Fourteenth Amendment's Due Process
Clause applies with respect to Plaintiffs conditions of
confinement claim. See Bell v. Wolfish, 441 U.S.
520, 535 (1979); Hubbard v. Taylor, 399 F.3d 150,
166 (3d Cir. 2005). [U]nder the Due Process Clause, a
detainee may not be punished prior to an adjudication of
guilt in accordance with due process of law."
Id. at 535. The Constitution requires that inmates
be provided with basic human needs, including food, and that
an inmate's diet must provide them with "adequate
nutrition." Duran v. Merline, 923 F.Supp.2d
702, 719-20 (D.N.J. 2013). A prison diet violates the
Constitution where it "immediate danger to the health
and wellbeing of the inmates who consume it," or there
is a "substantial deprivation of food" to the
inmate. Alpheaus v. Camden Cty. Corr. Facility, No.
17-0180, 2017 WL 2363001 (D.N.J. May 31, 2017) (quoting
Duran, 923 F.Supp.2d at 720). "Objectively,
'[w]hether the deprivation of food falls below this
[constitutional] threshold depends on the amount and duration
of the deprivation.'" Duran, 932 F.Supp.2d
at 720 (quoting Berry v, Brady, 192 F.3d
504, 507 (5th Cir. 1999)). "[I]solated instances of
contaminated or spoiled food, while certainly unpleasant, are
not unconstitutional." Duran, 923 F.Supp.2d at
720. Cold meals and meals lacking in variety are similarly
not considered a constitutional violation. See Nickles v.
Taylor, No. 09-557, 2010 WL 1949447, at *5 (D.N.J. May
Plaintiff has not provided facts showing that prison
officials at the Passaic County Jail provided him with food
that was so inadequate or insufficient that it amounted to
"punishment" in violation of the Fourteenth
Amendment's Due Process Clause. See Bell, 441
U.S. at 535. Plaintiff asserts in a conclusory manner that
his diet is non-nutritious, repetitive, and not heated to
temperature. But food that is cold and/or lacking in variety
does not violate the Constitution. Plaintiff's bald
assertions alone regarding non-nutritious food and a lack of
nourishment and are also insufficient to state a claim for
relief. Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 8(a)(2) requires that
plaintiffs set forth "a short and plain statement of the
claim showing that a pleader is entitled to relief."
While this standard does not require detailed factual
allegations, it does require more than "an unadorned,
Ashcroft v. Iqbal,556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009). At the
very least, the complaint must "give the defendants fair
notice of what the ... claim is and the grounds upon which it
rests." Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S.
544, 545 (2007) (internal citation omitted). ...