United States District Court, D. New Jersey
MATTHEW D. PERKINS, Plaintiff,
BERGEN COUNTY JAIL, et al., Defendants.
John Michael Vazquez, United States District Judge
before the Court is the complaint (ECF No. 1) of Plaintiff
Matthew D. Perkins.Because Plaintiff has previously been
granted in forma pauperis status in this matter,
this Court is required to screen his complaint pursuant to 28
U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B). Pursuant to the statute, this
Court must dismiss Plaintiff's claims if they are
frivolous, malicious, fail to state a claim for relief, or
seek damages from a defendant who is immune. For the reasons
set forth below, this Court will dismiss Plaintiff's
complaint without prejudice.
alleges that due to some unknown issue, the Bergen County
Jail forced Plaintiff and thirty other inmates to spend a
portion of a single day - April 12th, 2018, from
9:00 a.m. to 11:05 p.m. - in the jail's gym. (ECF No. 1
at 3). According to Plaintiff, this occurred while the
external temperature was approximately “50
degrees.” (Id.). Plaintiff further alleges
that he was provided with “no blankets, coats, [and] no
toilet paper, ” and was forced to use a dirty, soiled
toilet during this time. Plaintiff states that the gym's
roof “would drop” dust upon his food, which he
was also forced to eat in the gym, and that this dust may
have contained “dirt and mold.” (Id.).
There were also apparently paint fumes present in the gym.
(Id.). It is not clear whether the painting of other
sections of the jail was responsible for Plaintiff's
temporary placement in the gym. Plaintiff contends that this
one day spent in the gym left him feeling sick and caused him
lasting back and hip pain. (Id.). Plaintiff
apparently told a Jane Doe staff member of this pain, but was
told he'd have to wait and see what happens before
receiving treatment. (Id. at 4).
Prison Litigation Reform Act, Pub. L. No. 104-134,
§§ 801-810, 110 Stat. 1321-66 to 1321-77 (April 26,
1996) (“PLRA”), district courts must review
complaints in those civil actions in which a prisoner is
proceeding in forma pauperis, see 28 U.S.C.
§ 1915(e)(2)(B), or seeks damages from a state employee,
see 28 U.S.C. § 1915A. 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. This action is
subject to sua sponte screening for dismissal under
28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B) because Plaintiff has been
granted in forma pauperis status.
to the Supreme Court's decision in Ashcroft v.
Iqbal, “a pleading that offers ‘labels or
conclusions' or ‘a formulaic recitation of the
elements of a cause of action will not do.'” 556
U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (quoting Bell Atlantic Corp. v.
Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007)). To survive sua
sponte screening for failure to state a
claim, the complaint must allege
“sufficient factual matter” to show that the
claim is facially plausible. Fowler v. UPMC
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). Moreover, while
pro se pleadings are liberally construed,
“pro se litigants still must allege sufficient
facts in their complaints to support a claim.” Mala
v. Crown Bay Marina, Inc., 704 F.3d 239, 245 (3d Cir.
2013) (citation omitted) (emphasis added).
seeks to bring a claims against the Bergen County Jail and
several employees of the jail based on alleged violations of
his constitutional rights, which are raised pursuant to 42
U.S.C. § 1983. “To establish a claim under 42
U.S.C. § 1983, a plaintiff must demonstrate a violation
of a right protected by the Constitution or laws of the
United States that was committed by a person acting under the
color of state law.” Nicini v. Morra, 212 F.3d
798, 806 (3d Cir. 2000); see also Woodyard v. Cnty. of
Essex, 514 Fed.Appx. 177, 180 (3d Cir. 2013) (section
1983 provides “private citizens with a means to redress
violations of federal law committed by state
[actors]”). “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, 212 F.3d at 806 (quoting County of
Sacramento v. Lewis, 523 U.S. 833, 841 n. 5 (1998)).
Here Plaintiff raises two claims - that the conditions of his
confinement on April 12, 2018, amounted to cruel and unusual
punishment in violation of his Eighth Amendment right to be
free of cruel and unusual punishment, and that one Jane Doe
Defendant denied him medical treatment in violation of the
first to Plaintiff's medical claim, Plaintiff alleges
that he was denied medical care in violation of the Eighth
Amendment when he was told that he would have to wait and see
what happens in relation to his claims of back pain and a
headache. In order to state a claim for relief as to a denial
of medical care under the Eighth Amendment, a plaintiff must
plead facts sufficient to show that jail officials acted with
“deliberate indifference to [his] serious medical
needs.” Estelle v. Gamble, 429 U.S. 97, 104
(1976); see also King v. Cnty. of Gloucester, 302
Fed.Appx. 92, 97 (3d Cir. 2008). There are two components to
such a claim -that the plaintiff suffered from a sufficiently
serious medical need, and that the Defendant acted with
deliberate indifference in regard to that need.
King, 302 Fed.Appx. at 97. Deliberate indifference
requires more than merely inadequate medical treatment or
negligence - instead it requires that the defendant
“knew of a substantial risk of serious harm - which may
be inferred if the risk was obvious - and failed to act
despite that knowledge.” Id.; see also
Farmer v. Brennan, 511 U.S. 825, 842 (1994). In his
complaint, Plaintiff presents very little information as to
his medical claim - he states only that he had back pain and
a headache, that he told an unspecified Jane Doe Defendant of
his pain, and was told he'd have to “wait and see
what happens” as the jail could not do anything
regarding his complaints. Even if this Court were to assume
that his vague allegations of ongoing back and hip pain
present a sufficiently serious medical need, Plaintiff has
failed to allege facts indicative of a deliberate
indifference on the part of the Jane Doe Defendant. Nothing
Plaintiff alleges indicates an obvious injury or that the
Jane Doe knew of, or could be inferred to have been aware of,
any serious risk of harm to Plaintiff. Plaintiff has thus not
pled fact sufficient to allow an inference of deliberate
indifference on the part of the only Defendant named in
regard to his medical claim - the Jane Doe Defendant - and
his deliberate indifference claim is therefore dismissed
without prejudice for failure to state a claim for which
relief may be granted.
final claim, Plaintiff alleges Defendants placed him in
conditions of confinement which amounted to cruel and unusual
punishment when he was forced to spend the better part of a
single day in the jail's gym with thirty other inmates
without blankets or warm clothing. The Constitution does not
mandate that convicted inmates must be housed in comfortable
prisons, and thus “only those deprivations denying
‘the minimal civilized measure of life's
necessities' are sufficiently grave to form the basis of
an Eighth Amendment violation.” Wilson v.
Seiter, 501 U.S. 294, 298 (1991) (internal citations
omitted, quoting Rhodes v. Chapman, 452 U.S 337
(1981)); see also Watson v. Secretary Penn. Dep't of
Corr., 567 Fed.Appx. 75, 79 (3d Cir. 2014). To plead a
viable Eighth Amendment conditions of confinement claim, a
plaintiff must plead both an objective element, that the
conditions under which he was housed denied him these minimal
measures of life's necessities, and a subjective
component, that the defendants acted with a deliberate
indifference to those conditions by acting with a reckless
disregard of a known risk of harm. Wilson, 501 U.S.
at 298-303; Farmer, 511 U.S. at 835;
Watson, 567 Fed.Appx. at 79; Stokes v.
Lanigan, No. 12-1478, 2012 WL 4662487, at *3 (D.N.J.
Oct. 2, 2012).
complaint, Plaintiff alleges that he was forced to spend less
than a single day in the gym of the Bergen County Jail with
thirty other inmates rather than in his cell. Plaintiff
alleges that this occurred between nine o'clock in the
morning until just after eleven o'clock at night - a
period of fourteen hours. During this time, Plaintiff was
given several meals and had access to a bathroom albeit an
allegedly dirty one. Given the brief nature of this event,
this Plaintiff has not alleged that the conditions in the gym
were so severe that they denied him the minimal civilized
measure of life's necessities under these circumstances,
and Plaintiff's claim is therefore insufficient to
support an Eighth Amendment conditions of confinement claim.
Plaintiff's claim is therefore dismissed without
prejudice for failure to state a claim for which relief may
be granted. Because both of Plaintiff's claims are to be
dismissed, Plaintiff's complaint shall be dismissed
without prejudice in its entirety.
the nature of Plaintiff's allegations, the Court is
concerned that any attempted amendment would be futile.
However, as Plaintiff has not had an opportunity to address
the deficiencies noted above, the Court will ...