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Obataiye v. Lanigan

United States District Court, D. New Jersey

September 27, 2019

ODE OBATAIYE, Plaintiff,
v.
GARY LANIGAN et al., Defendants.

          OPINION

          FREDA L. WOLFSON U.S. CHIEF DISTRICT JUDGE

         I. INTRODUCTION

         Plaintiff, Ode Obataiye (“Obataiye”), is a state prisoner presently incarcerated at East Jersey State Prison, in Rahway, New Jersey. He is proceeding pro se with the proceeded portions of a Fourth Amended Complaint asserting claims under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. (ECF No. 47.) Presently before the Court is an unopposed motion by defendants, Gary Lanigan (“Lanigan”), Charles E. Warren (“Warren”), Jimmy Barnes (“Barnes”), Michelle Ricci (“Ricci”), and Dr. Flora DeFilippo (“DeFilippo”) (collectively, “Defendants”), seeking summary judgment in their favor under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56. (ECF No. 77.) For the following reasons, the motion is granted, and judgment is summarily granted to Defendants.

         II. BACKGROUND AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

         A. Underlying Facts

         As the underlying allegations are well known to the parties, I include here only the circumstances directly relevant to Obataiye’s active claims. Obataiye is serving a criminal sentence imposed by the Connecticut courts. (ECF No. 47 ¶ 1; see also Ans., ECF No. 56, ¶ 1.) After being charged with assaulting a guard in a Connecticut prison, Obataiye was administratively transferred to New Jersey State Prison (“NJSP”) on January 17, 2008. (ECF No. 47 ¶¶ 11–14; see also ECF No. 56 ¶¶ 11–14.) Upon his arrival at NJSP, Obataiye was assigned to the Management Control Unit (“MCU”), [1] and he was initially placed on close observation, which apparently involved constant observation and the confiscation of his shoes. (ECF No. 47 ¶¶ 15–23; ECF No. 56 ¶¶ 15–23.) Despite efforts to be reassigned to the general population of the prison via quarterly and annual reviews, Obataiye remained in the MCU for six and a half years, finally being reassigned to the general population in August or September 2014. (ECF No. 47 ¶¶ 79–87; ECF No. 56 ¶¶ 79–87.) While in MCU, Obataiye experienced extreme temperatures and other discomforts. (ECF No. 47 ¶¶ 25–43; see also ECF No. 56 ¶¶ 25–43.)

         Obataiye filed one inmate remedy form regarding cold temperatures in his cell on January 18, 2011. (ECF No. 77-2 ¶ 16; Ex. H, ECF No. 77-11, at ECF p. 2.) The staff response indicated that the prison was “waiting on parts for N/C Hot Water Heating System.” (ECF No. 77-11 at ECF p. 2.) Obataiye did not file any administrative appeal of this grievance. (Id.; see also ECF No. 77-2 ¶ 17.)[2]

         B. Procedural History and Prior Motion Practice

          As I fully recounted the tortuous procedural history of this case in the opinion granting in part and denying in part Defendants’ motion to dismiss Obataiye’s Fourth Amended Complaint, (ECF No. 53), I include here only a brief overview of the course of this litigation. Obataiye originally commenced this action on February 1, 2013, by filing a Verified Complaint with the Superior Court of New Jersey, Mercer County, Law Division. (Notice of Removal, Ex. A, Ver. Compl., ECF No. 1-1, at ECF pp. 5–36.) That Complaint was removed to this Court as Obataiye v. Lanigan, Civ. No. 13-4323 (FLW) (TJB), then remanded to state court, and then the First Amended Complaint[3] was removed to this Court again as the pleading in the present action, (see ECF No. 1).

         Obataiye filed a Second Amended Complaint in December 2015 with leave of the Court. (ECF No. 23.) On September 26, 2016, I granted in part and denied in part a motion by Defendants to dismiss the Second Amended Complaint. (ECF Nos. 28 & 29.) The Court dismissed with prejudice Obataiye’s claims against Defendants in their official capacities and his demands for declaratory relief. (ECF No. 28 at 10–12.) I further dismissed without prejudice Obataiye’s conspiracy claim. (Id. at 12–14.) Though I found that Obataiye’s due-process claim implicated a constitutional liberty interest, I dismissed the claim and related claims for supervisory liability on the basis that Obataiye had failed to plead facts supporting an argument that he did not receive due process in being placed or maintained in the MCU. (Id. at 14–20.) I permitted Obataiye’s claims concerning extreme temperatures to proceed against defendants Warren and Ricci but dismissed those claims as against the other defendants and insofar as they concerned other conditions of confinement. (Id. at 22–27.)

         Shortly thereafter, Obataiye filed a Third Amended Complaint alleging only due-process violations. (ECF No. 34). He quickly followed this with an all-inclusive Fourth Amended Complaint, the substantive allegations of which are largely the same as those he asserted in his Second Amended Complaint. (See ECF No. 47.) He alleged that he was consistently subjected to extreme cold in the winter and extreme heat in the summer, causing various health problems, and he also claimed that his cell was unsanitary. (Id. ¶¶ 25–67, 171–179.) Obataiye asserted that he was not released from MCU until September 2014 despite previously completing programs intended to facilitate release to the general population. (Id. ¶¶ 68–74, 79–85.) He challenged both his initial placement in MCU and the ongoing decisions not to release him. (Id. ¶¶ 90–92, 126–156.)

         On June 18, 2018, I granted in part and denied in part an unopposed motion by Defendants to dismiss the Fourth Amended Complaint. (ECF No. 53 & 54.) Specifically, I found that Obataiye had alleged facts sufficient to support a due-process claim, at least against DeFilippo, Barnes, and Warren. (ECF No. 53 at 13–18.) I rejected Defendants’ argument that Obataiye’s claims must be dismissed for failure to exhaust administrative remedies because exhaustion is an affirmative defense to be pleaded by the defendant. (Id. at16.) I again found that Obataiye had adequately alleged that Warren and Ricci were deliberately indifferent to the problem of extreme temperatures, but dismissed the remaining Eighth Amendment claims. (See id. at 18–22.) Applying the relevant two-year statute of limitations, however, I dismissed the claims that accrued prior to February 1, 2011, as untimely. (See Id . at 17, 22.)

         Following that motion practice, the parties engaged in discovery. Once discovery was complete, Defendants filed the motion for summary judgment that is presently before the Court. (ECF No. 77.) When Obataiye had not filed any opposition to the summary judgment motion within his time to do so, I issued a Memorandum and Order providing him an additional 30 days to file an opposition and warning Obataiye that, if he failed to do so, the motion would be decided as unopposed. (ECF No. 82.) Obataiye has never responded to that Order or filed any opposition papers.

         III. ...


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