United States District Court, D. New Jersey
Hannah, No. 777077/863299D South Woods State Prison Plaintiff
Kathryn Margaret Hansen, Esq. Office of the Attorney General
Counsel for Moving Defendant Craig LaFontaine
L. HILLMAN, U.S.D.J.
Karon Hannah filed a Complaint pursuant to 42 U.S.C. §
1983 against, inter alia, Moving Defendant SCO Craig
LaFontaine for alleged excessive force used against him while
he resided at the A.C. Wagner Youth Correctional Facility in
Chesterfield, New Jersey. ECF No. 1. Presently before the
Court is Moving Defendant's Motion to Dismiss, which is
ripe for adjudication. ECF No. 18. Plaintiff has filed no
opposition to the Motion. For the reasons that follow, the
Court will deny the Motion.
October 4, 2017, pro se plaintiff Karon Hannah filed
a Complaint pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against
Defendants Sergeant Mark Goodman, SCO Matthew Smith, SCO
Craig LaFontaine, SCO Gregory McLaughlin, Sergeant Marisol
Velazquez, SCO Ruggerio, SCO Joseph Guicheteau, and APRN
Carol Gallagher, as well as John Doe defendants, alleging
claims of cruel and unusual punishment under the Eighth
Amendment. ECF No. 1. Plaintiff is an inmate currently
incarcerated at the South Woods State Prison in Bridgeton,
New Jersey. Id. at 2.
Complaint, Plaintiff describes an alleged incident that
occurred at the Albert C. Wagner Youth Correctional Facility
on November 28, 2016. See ECF No. 1 at 6-8.
Plaintiff alleges that on this date, he was being escorted
while in handcuffs from the yard by Defendant McLaughlin,
when, on the stairs, Defendant Corrections Officer Ruggerio
stated, “Why is this n ----- so close to me?”
Id. at 6. Plaintiff alleges that he told Defendant
Ruggerio to “watch his mouth, ” and tried to end
the confrontation, but Defendant Ruggerio continued to
antagonize him, and then grabbed him aggressively and slammed
him face first into the steel fence with force. Id.
Plaintiff states that Moving Defendant Corrections Officer
LaFontaine observed the confrontation and use of force, and
called a “Code 33.” Id.
next alleges that while Defendant LaFontaine called a Code
33, Defendant Ruggerio struck him with a closed fist, and
then several other officers began to attack him. Id.
Plaintiff alleges that these other officers include
Defendants McLaughlin, Guicheteau, and Goodman, as well as
John Doe officers. Id. Plaintiff further alleges
that Defendant Velazquez witnessed the other officers'
actions and failed to take corrective action, thereby
“encouraging the continuation of the misconduct.”
Id. Plaintiff alleges that after this incident
occurred, Defendants Guicheteau and Smith continued to shove
him forcefully as they escorted him to the infirmary to
receive medical attention. Id. Plaintiff also
alleges that he was found innocent of the assault on the
officers because the incident was captured on video.
Id. II. Standard of Review In a motion to
dismiss pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6),
the defendant bears the burden of showing that no claim has
been presented. Rule 8 of the Federal Rules of Civil
Procedure provides that a pleading must set forth a claim for
relief which contains a short and plain statement of the
claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief; the
complaint must provide the defendant with fair notice of the
claim. See Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544,
555 (2007). When considering a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to
dismiss, the court must accept as true all factual
allegations. See Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 94
(per curiam). The issue in a motion to dismiss is whether the
plaintiff should be entitled to offer evidence to support the
claim, not whether the plaintiff will ultimately prevail.
See Phillips v. County of Allegheny, 515 F.3d 224,
232 (3d Cir. 2008) (the Rule 8 pleading standard
“‘simply calls for enough facts to raise a
reasonable expectation that discovery will reveal evidence
of' the necessary element.”); Nami v.
Fauver, 82 F.3d 63, 65 (3d Cir. 1996).
onus is on the plaintiff to provide a well-drafted complaint
that alleges factual support for its claims. “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.” Twombly, 550
U.S. at 555 (alteration in original and internal citations
omitted). The court need not accept unsupported inferences,
Cal. Pub. Employees Ret. Sys. v. The Chubb Corp.,
394 F.3d 126, 143 (3d Cir. 2004), nor legal conclusions cast
as factual allegations, Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556.
Legal conclusions without factual support are not entitled to
the assumption of truth. See Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556
U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (“Threadbare recitals of elements
of a cause of action, supported by mere conclusory
statements, do not” satisfy the requirements of Rule
the court winnows the conclusory allegations from those
allegations supported by fact, which it accepts as true, the
court must engage in a common sense review of the claim to
determine whether it is plausible. This is a context-specific
task, for which the court should be guided by its judicial
experience. The court must dismiss the complaint if it fails
to allege enough facts “to state a claim for relief
that is plausible on its face.” Iqbal, 556
U.S. at 678 (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 570). A
“claim has facial plausibility when the plaintiff
pleads factual content that allows the court to draw a
reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the
misconduct alleged.” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678.
The complaint that shows that the pleader is entitled to
relief--or put another way, facially plausible--will survive
a Rule 12(b)(6) motion. See Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2);
Mayer v. Belichick, 605 F.3d 223, 229 (3d Cir.
1983 provides “private citizens with a means to redress
violations of federal law committed by state
individuals.” Woodyard v. Cty. of Essex, 514
Fed.Appx. 177, 180 (3d Cir. 2013). In order to state a claim
for relief under § 1983, a plaintiff must show two
elements: (1) that a person deprived the plaintiff of a right
secured by the Constitution or laws of the United States, and
(2) that the deprivation was done by a person acting under
color of state law. West v. Atkins, 487 U.S. 42, 48
(1988). “The first step in evaluating a section 1983
claim is to ‘identify the exact contours of the
underlying right said to have been violated' and to
determine ‘whether the plaintiff has alleged a
deprivation of a constitutional right at all.'”
Nicini v. Morra, 212 F.3d 798, 806 (3d Cir. 2000)
(quoting County of Sacramento v. Lewis, 523 U.S.
833, 841 n.5 (1998)).
Eighth Amendment prohibits prison officials from
unnecessarily and wantonly inflicting pain in a manner that
offends contemporary standards of decency. See Hudson v.
McMillian, 503 U.S. 1, 8 (1992). When reviewing Eighth
Amendment excessive force claims, the court must determine
whether the “force was applied in a good-faith effort
to maintain or restore discipline, or maliciously and
sadistically to cause harm.” Id. at 7. Whether
the force applied was excessive requires the examination of
several factors including:
(1) the need for the application of force; (2) the
relationship between the need and the amount of force that
was used; (3) the extent of injury inflicted; (4) the extent
of the threat to the safety of staff and inmates, as
reasonably perceived by responsible officials on the basis of
the facts known to ...