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Cofer v. Lanigan

United States District Court, D. New Jersey

April 19, 2019

BRIAN COFER, Plaintiff,
v.
GARY M. LANIGAN, et al., Defendants.

          OPINION

          ROBERT B. KUGLER UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         I. INTRODUCTION

         Plaintiff, Brian Cofer, is a state prisoner. He is proceeding pro se with a civil rights complaint. Plaintiff was incarcerated at the South Woods State Prison (“SWSP”) at the time of the events giving rise to his complaint. Plaintiff was previously granted in forma pauperis status.

         This Court must screen the complaint pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §§ 1915(e)(2)(B) and 1915A to determine whether the complaint is frivolous or malicious, fails to state a claim upon which relief may be granted, or whether it seeks monetary relief from a defendant who is immune from suit. For the following reasons, the complaint will be permitted to proceed in part.

         II. BACKGROUND

         The allegations of the complaint will be construed as true for purposes of this screening opinion. Plaintiff names the following as defendants in his complaint: (1) Gary M. Lanigan - Commissioner; (2) Willie Bonds - Administrator; (3) Sergeant John Doe; (4) Lieutenant Ware; (5) Officer Vargas; (6) SID Investigator Petit; (7) SID Investigator John Doe; (8) Officers John Doe 1-100; (9) Officers Jane Doe 1-100; (10) Inmate Walter Sosa; (11) Manual Mattias; and (12) the Master Lock Company.

         Plaintiff asserts that he was incarcerated at SWSP in March, 2018. Vargas, a correctional officer at SWSP, entered plaintiff's dormitory to conduct a head count. After completing his count, Sammy Cedano, an inmate, began to strike plaintiff on the head, face and body with a combination lock attached to a cloth string, commonly known as a “lock in a sock.” Vargas observed the attack and activated his emergency button while Cedano was striking plaintiff. As Cedano continued his attack, Vargas exited the dormitory.

         While Vargas was absent, Cedano broke the combination lock after having struck plaintiff approximately twenty times. However, Cedano assembled another “lock in a sock.” Thereafter, Cedano began to strike plaintiff again approximately a dozen more times.

         In the midst of this second attack by Cedano, Vargas returned with additional officers and ordered Cedano to stop hitting plaintiff. Cedano complied with the officers' orders.

         Cedano and plaintiff were then both handcuffed. Plaintiff was then taken to the nurses' office for treatment.

         Sergeant John Doe questioned plaintiff about the attack. Plaintiff recounted the events to him. Vargas also gave an account that was similar to plaintiff's version. Ware also questioned plaintiff. Furthermore, plaintiff was later questioned by Investigators Petit and John Doe.

         Plaintiff was not charged with any infraction. Evidence was gathered from the scene which included one broken combination lock and one intact combination lock along with the cloth sling.

         According to plaintiff, the two locks used in the attack were from inmates Sosa and Mattias. Sosa and Mattias were given sanctions because their locks were not properly secured and were used in the attack on plaintiff.

         Following the investigation, plaintiff returned to the same dormitory. Thereafter, Sergeant John Doe asked plaintiff aloud in his dormitory whether he wished to file charges against his attacker as well as whether he wished to be placed in protective custody. Plaintiff declined both offers.

         Plaintiff asserts that a prison gang was behind the attack on him and that they intended to attack plaintiff again. Plaintiff states that Cedano had attacked another inmate previously using a “lock in a sock” at the Southern State Correctional Facility before he attacked plaintiff at SWSP. Plaintiff claims that this attack was known to SWSP personnel.

         Plaintiff alleges that he experienced debilitating effects for several days after the attack as well as nightmares and anxiety.

         Plaintiff states that Lanigan is liable because he failed to ensure that Bonds carry out a policy to curb violent acts of inmates with a documented history of violence.

         Bonds is purportedly liable because he failed to ensure that his subordinates took precautions to prevent the classification of an inmate with a known history of violence to be placed in a minimum security dormitory.

         Ware, Sergeant John Doe as well as Investigators Petit and John Doe are liable according to plaintiff because they failed to place ...


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