United States District Court, D. New Jersey
JERMAINE L. BRYANT, Plaintiff,
CALVIN SPIRES, Defendant.
Susan D. Wigenton, United States District Judge
or about August 6, 2019, Plaintiff, Jermaine L. Bryant, a
convicted state prisoner confined in East Jersey State
Prison, filed a civil complaint in which he seeks to raise
claims against the administrator of the prison, Calvin
Spires, based on alleged violations of his constitutional
rights pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. (ECF No. 1).
Plaintiff also filed an application to proceed in forma
pauperis. (Document 1 attached to ECF No. 1).
Plaintiff has shown that he is entitled to in forma
pauperis status, Plaintiff's application (Document 1
attached to ECF No. 1) shall be granted. See 28
U.S.C. § 1915(a).
Because Plaintiff will be granted in forma pauperis
status, and because Plaintiff is a state prisoner, this Court
is required to screen his complaint pursuant to 28 U.S.C.
§§ 1915(e)(2)(B) and 1915A. Pursuant to these
statutes, this Court must sua sponte dismiss any
claim that is frivolous, 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. §
1915(e)(2)(B)(ii) [or § 1915A] 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)).
deciding a motion to dismiss pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P.
12(b)(6), 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. Cnty. of
Allegheny, 515 F.3d 224, 228 (3d Cir. 2008). “[A]
complaint attacked by a . . . motion to dismiss does not need
detailed factual allegations.” Bell Atlantic 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)). A court is “not
bound to accept as true a legal conclusion couched as a
factual allegation.” Papasan, 478 U.S. at 286.
Instead, assuming the factual allegations in the complaint
are true, those “[f]actual allegations must be enough
to raise a right to relief above the speculative
level.” Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555.
“To survive a motion to dismiss, a complaint must
contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to
‘state a claim for relief that is plausible on its
face.'” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662,
678 (2009) (citing Twombly, 550 U.S. at 570).
“A claim has facial plausibility when the pleaded
factual content allows the court to draw the reasonable
inference that the defendant is liable for misconduct
alleged.” Id. “Determining whether the
allegations in a complaint are plausible is a
context-specific task that requires the reviewing court to
draw on its judicial experience and common sense.”
Id. at 679. “[W]here the well-pleaded facts do
not permit the court to infer more than the mere possibility
of misconduct, the complaint has alleged-but it has not
‘show[n]'-‘that the pleader is entitled to
relief.'” Id. (citing Fed.R.Civ.P.
8(a)(2)). 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
his complaint, Plaintiff alleges that he has been assigned to
the top bunk of a double occupancy cell and has not been
provided a ladder or device to aid in his entering or exiting
the bunk. (ECF No. 1 at 5). As a result of this situation,
Plaintiff began using the window of his cell to aid in his
descent, and he on one occasion injured his back and had to
receive x-rays. (Id. at 5). Plaintiff thereafter
complained and requested to be reassigned to a bottom bunk or
to a single occupancy cell, but those requests were denied.
(Id. at 4-5). Apparently, an unnamed administrative
lieutenant told him to stop filing such requests.
(Id. at 5). According to Plaintiff, after his fall
and unspecified back injury, “[i]t became negligence to
place me on the top bunk” without a ladder or other
device to help Plaintiff in and out of his cell. (ECF No.
his complaint, Plaintiff alleges that his being assigned a
top bunk in light of his back problems amounts to negligence
and therefore a violation of his Eighth Amendment rights in
violation of 42 U.S.C. § 1983. “To plead an Eighth
Amendment claim based on conditions-of-confinement, [the
plaintiff] must show that he was subjected to a sufficiently
serious deprivation that resulted in the denial of ‘the
minimal civilized measure of life's necessities,' and
that officials [at the prison] were ‘deliberately
indifferent' to [the plaintiff's] safety.”
Jones v. County Jail C.F.C.F., 610 Fed.Appx. 167,
168 (3d Cir. 2015) (quoting Farmer v. Brennan, 511
U.S. 825, 834 (1994)). “To be cruel and unusual
punishment, conduct that does not purport to be punishment at
all must involve more than ordinary lack of due care for the
prisoner's interests or safety.” Whitley v.
Albers, 475 U.S. 312, 319 (1986); see also
Jones, 610 Fed.Appx. at 168. A claim of negligence is
therefore patently insufficient to support an Eighth
Amendment claim. Jones, 610 Fed.Appx. at 169. The
Third Circuit has, in at least one instance, held that the
failure to provide a ladder to those with difficulty using
their assigned top bunk, in the absence of evidence clearly
indicating a more severe mental state, states no more than a
claim for negligence and thus will not support an Eighth
Amendment claim. Id. at 168.
Plaintiff's claim largely mirrors the claim rejected as
insufficient by the Third Circuit in Jones, and as
Plaintiff himself alleges that Defendant Spires acted with
negligence, rather than the deliberate indifference required
to make out an Eighth Amendment claim, Plaintiff's
complaint fails to state a viable Eighth Amendment claim and
Plaintiff's sole federal claim must be dismissed without
prejudice for failure to state a claim for which relief may
be granted. Id. To the extent that Plaintiff also
intended to raise a state law claim for negligence in his
complaint, this Court declines to extend supplemental
jurisdiction over any such claim as all claims over which
this Court had original jurisdiction are being dismissed.
See 28 U.S.C. § 1367(c)(3). Plaintiff's
complaint shall therefore be dismissed without prejudice in
conclusion, Plaintiff's application to proceed in
forma pauperis (Document 1 attached to ECF No. 1) is
GRANTED, and Plaintiff's complaint (ECF No. 1) is
DISMISSED WITHOUT ...