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McFadden v. Passaic County

United States District Court, D. New Jersey

March 1, 2019

KENDELL SHAREEK MCFADDEN, Plaintiff,
v.
PASSAIC COUNTY, et al., Defendants.

          OPINION

          KATHARINE S. HAYDEN, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         I. INTRODUCTION

         This matter comes before the Court upon separate motions to dismiss filed by: (i) Defendants Corizon Health of New Jersey, Corizon Health, and CHI Company (collectively, “Corizon”) (at ECF No. 31); and (ii) Defendant Joseph Girone (“Girone”) (at ECF No. 56). In their respective motions, Corizon and Girone each move, pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6), to dismiss Counts III and IV of Plaintiff Kendell Shareek McFadden's (“McFadden's”) Fourth Amended Complaint (at ECF No. 30). For the reasons detailed below, both motions as to Count III only; that is the lone federal claim asserted in McFadden's Fourth Amended Complaint and dismissal of that claim is with prejudice. The Court will not exercise supplemental jurisdiction over McFadden's additional state law claims, including Count IV, and will instead remand this matter to state court.

         II. BACKGROUND

         On June 8, 2015, McFadden, then a Passaic County Jail (“PCJ”) inmate, sustained significant burns after a pot of boiling water accidentally fell on him while he was working in PCJ's kitchen. (See, e.g., Corizon's Br. in Supp. of Mot. to Dismiss, ECF No. 31-5 at PageID: 1031). By way of this lawsuit, McFadden seeks monetary compensation for, inter alia, the purported lack of appropriate medical treatment he subsequently received from PCJ-affiliated medical personnel, including Corizon and Girone. (See, generally, ECF No. 30). The Honorable Cathy L. Waldor, U.S.M.J., succinctly summarized the less-than-straightforward procedural history culminating in McFadden's filing of his current complaint as follows:

[McFadden initiated this lawsuit via the filing of his original complaint] in New Jersey Superior Court on February 24, 2017, alleging state and federal claims . . . . On April 6, 2017, [Corizon] removed that action to federal court. [(See Civil Action No. 17-2332 at ECF No. 1).] The case was remanded to state court because all Defendants did not unanimously consent to the removal, and [that earlier, related] federal action was terminated. [(See Civil Action No. 17-2332 at ECF No. 8).] Subsequently, [Defendants Passaic County, Anthony J. De Nova III, Passaic County Sheriff Richard H. Berdnick, Michael Tolerico, Richard A. Ashley, Joshua S. Rojas, Joseph Greco, and Gregory DeFranco (the “Passaic County Defendants”)] filed a Motion to Dismiss [in state court], which was partially granted without prejudice, with leave to amend the complaint. (ECF No. 20-20). [McFadden] filed an Amended Complaint in state court on November 13, 2017. (ECF No. 20-1 at p. 3). On November 15, 2017, [McFadden] filed a Second Amended Complaint in the state court action, which [purportedly] clarified that certain counts applied only to [Corizon]. (ECF No. 20-1 at p. 4).
On November 16, 2017, the Passaic County Defendants, with the consent of all Defendants, removed the Amended Complaint to this Court. (ECF No. 1). On November 29, 2017, [Corizon], with the consent of all Defendants, removed [McFadden's] Second Amended Complaint to this Court. (ECF No. 3). [McFadden responded by filing a motion to remand this matter to state court on December 11, 2017. (ECF No. 4). In addition, subsequent] to the removal of the action to this Court, [McFadden] filed a Third Amended Complaint in state court. (ECF No. 20-1 at p. 6). This Third Amended Complaint [was never] filed in the instant federal action. [McFadden] then filed a Motion for Leave to File a Fourth Amended Complaint in this action on February 5, 2018. (ECF No. 13). On February 21, 2018, [Judge Waldor] terminated [McFadden's] Motion[s for Leave to File a Fourth Amended Complaint and to remand this matter to state court] and directed [McFadden] to refile [those] Motion[s] consistent with this Court's local rules and protocols.

(ECF No. 29). Thereafter, on April 11 and 12, 2018, respectively, McFadden filed renewed motions: (i) for leave to file the Fourth Amended Complaint (at ECF No. 20); and (ii) to remand this matter to state court (at ECF No. 21). Corizon opposed both motions (at ECF Nos. 23 and 24). Judge Waldor granted McFadden's motion to file his amended pleading on June 20, 2018 (at ECF No. 29), and thereafter denied McFadden's remand motion (at ECF No. 38).

         On June 22, 2018, McFadden filed his four-count, Fourth Amended Complaint (at ECF No. 30). Count I (negligence by public entities), Count II (willful, wanton, and reckless conduct by public entities), and Count IV (denial of medical care in violation of N.J. Const. art. 1, ¶ 12), all seek relief under state law; Count III (denial of medical care in violation of U.S. Const. amend. VIII) is the only count which asserts a cause of action under federal law. (Id. at p. 17). Count III is asserted against Corizon and Girone only. (Id.; see also ECF No. 60).

         McFadden's pleading contains the following pertinent factual allegations: Corizon is a for-profit private entity that provides medical services to jails and prisons, including PCJ. (ECF No. 30 at ¶¶ 22-23). Girone is an agent, servant and/or employee of Corizon who provides medical care to PCJ inmates.[1] (Id. at ¶¶ 24-26). On June 8, 2015, Plaintiff was an inmate confined at PCJ. (Id. at ¶ 31). At an unspecified time on that day, a large pot of boiling water tipped over and severely burned McFadden while he was working in PCJ's kitchen. (Id. at ¶¶ 33, 45). In response, McFadden “ran to the jail infirmary” for medical treatment. (Id. at ¶ 48). Girone and another Corizon-affiliated nurse, identified in McFadden's pleading as Tom Roe, were present in the infirmary at that time. (Id. at ¶¶ 50-51). Neither Girone nor Nurse Roe examined McFadden, notwithstanding that they were “aware that [McFadden] had been burned [on] much of his body including his legs, hands and forearms.” (Id. at ¶¶ 53-54). Girone and Roe instead “advised [McFadden] to put ice packs [stet] and/or ice on his burns.” (Id. at ¶ 56). “Neither [Corizon nor Girone further] acted to secure medical treatment [for McFadden.]” (Id. at ¶ 59). At the “sole direction and/or instigation [of Roe or another individual named Enid Mitchell], an ambulance was called” and McFadden “was taken via ambulance to [to the emergency center] at St. Joseph's Regional Medical Center in Paterson[, New Jersey].” (Id. at ¶¶ 58-61). McFadden “remained approximately thirty minutes at St. Joseph's” for medical treatment. (Id. at ¶ 66). While there, McFadden's “burns were only partially dressed and or bandaged” and he “was supplied only with painkillers[.]” (Id. at ¶¶ 64-65).

         Upon arriving back to PCJ from Saint Joseph's on June 8th, Girone and Roe were advised “of blistering and other evidence of burns on [McFadden's] legs, forearms and hands” and McFadden himself told Girone and Roe about the “severe pain” he was then experiencing. (Id. at ¶¶ 69-70). At that time, an individual in the infirmary - possibly Girone - took McFadden's pulse. (Id. at ¶ 72). McFadden was not otherwise “examined upon his return to [PCJ on June 8th]” and “was not treated in accordance with his discharge instructions [from Saint Joseph's.]” (Id. at ¶¶ 71-72). Girone and Roe left PCJ on June 8th without giving pain medication to McFadden and without changing McFadden's dressings. (Id. at ¶¶ 73-75).

         On the following day, June 9, 2015, McFadden “observed blisters on the uncovered portions of his arms, hands and legs.” (Id. at ¶ 78). McFadden notified an unnamed corrections officer of that condition at “roughly nine in the morning.” (Id. at ¶ 80). “[A] nurse employed by [Corizon] saw” McFadden “at noon.” (Id. at ¶ 82). That nurse “removed [McFadden's] bandages and/or dressings and commenced the first examination of [McFadden's] burns [by a Corizon-affiliated individual].” (Id. at ¶ 88). McFadden's injuries were subsequently examined by a “female doctor . . . employed by [Corizon].” (Id. at ¶ 89). Thereafter, at an unspecified time on that same day, McFadden was taken “to the burn center at Saint Barnabas [in Livingston, New Jersey, ] where he remained from June 9, 2015 until June 22, 2015.” (Id. at ¶ 96). McFadden claims that Corizon “had a pecuniary motive to avoid sending [McFadden] to St. Barnabas” because that hospital “does not have a contract to supply care to inmates at [PCJ.]” (Id. at ¶ 97). McFadden avers that this is the reason he was initially sent to Saint Joseph's, notwithstanding that “St. Joseph's Regional Medical Center lacks even a self-designated burn unit, while Saint Barnabas has a burn unit verified by the American Burn Association and the American College of Surgeons.” (Id. at ¶ 94).

         After his release from Saint Barnabas on June 22, 2015, McFadden “was admitted to the infirmary at [PCJ], where he stayed for two months.” (Id. at ¶ 103). During that time, McFadden “was not treated in accordance with his discharge instructions from Saint Barnabas.” (Id. at ¶ 99). Corizon and Girone, among others, “prevented [McFadden] from having any [of his scheduled] follow up visits at Saint Barnabas.” (Id. at ¶ 101). In addition, “[t]he medication Saint Barnabas gave to [McFadden] was confiscated upon his return to [PCJ].” (Id. at ¶ 108). Corizon and Girone, among others, “only supplied [McFadden] with an oral pain medication a week after his return to [PCJ]” and “waited a month to provide [McFadden] with any topical medication[.]” (Id. at ¶¶ 112, 114). In his first week in PCJ's infirmary, McFadden was “denied any pain medication at all” notwithstanding that he “described his immense pain to[, inter alia, Corizon, Girone, and Roe].” (Id. at ¶¶ 110-11).

         McFadden claims that the foregoing alleged failures of Corizon and Girone “to provide medical care constituted deliberate indifference to [his] serious medical needs in violation of U.S. Const. amend. VIII.” (Id. at ¶ 150). McFadden asserts that “[a]s a direct and proximate result of the denial of medical care, [he] suffered injuries causing permanent disability, permanent significant disfigurement, [and] permanent loss of bodily function.” (Id. at ¶ 163). He further claims that he has been harmed by Corizon and Girone's general policy and custom “[to deny] medical care[, ]” and by those defendants' simultaneous failure to properly train and supervise other Corizon personnel. (Id. at ¶¶ 157-62).

         On July 16, 2018, Corizon filed its current Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss Counts III and IV of McFadden's Fourth Amended Complaint. (See ECF No. 31). Corizon asserts that vague and conclusory allegations in that pleading “are insufficient to state a civil rights claim for failure to provide medical care.” (Id. at PageID: 1037). McFadden filed opposition to Corizon's motion on September 14, 2018. (ECF No. 41). On January 17, 2019, Girone - after obtaining leave from the Court to do so - filed a separate Rule 12(b)(6) motion; Girone's motion advances the same legal arguments that Corizon did in its earlier-filed motion to dismiss. (ECF No. 56). McFadden filed opposition to Girone's motion on February 25, 2019; McFadden's February 25th opposition brief reiterates substantially the same arguments that he previously advanced in his September 14, 2018 brief opposing Corizon's earlier-filed motion to dismiss. (ECF No. 63.)

         III. STANDARD OF REVIEW

         Pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, a party may move for dismissal of a “claim for relief in any pleading” that “fail[s] to state a claim upon which relief can be granted.” When ruling on such a motion, a district court is “required to accept as true all factual allegations in the complaint and draw all inferences in the facts alleged in the light most favorable to the plaintiff.” Phillips v. County of Alleghany, 515 F.3d 224, 233 (3d Cir. 2008). “[A] complaint attacked by a . . . motion to dismiss does not need detailed factual allegations.” Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007). However, the 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.” Id. (citing Papasan v. Allain, 478 U.S. 265, 286 (1986)). Instead, ...


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