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Nieves v. Correctional Facility Essex County

United States District Court, D. New Jersey

October 16, 2019

JOSE L. NIEVES, Plaintiff,
v.
CORRECTIONAL FACILITY ESSEX COUNTY, et al., Defendants.

          OPINION

          Hon. Susan D. Wigenton, United States District Judge.

         This matter comes before the Court on the motion for summary judgment filed in this matter by Defendants Flauhardy[1] and Jackson.[2] (ECF No. 47). Plaintiff, who is proceeding pro se in this matter, did not file a response to the motion. (ECF Docket Sheet). For the following reasons, Defendants motion is granted in part and denied in part.

         I. BACKGROUND

         Plaintiff's complaint in this matter is chiefly concerned with an assault he suffered at the hands of another inmate, Anwan Latham, on April 6, 2014, which Plaintiff contends arose out of instigation by Defendant Flauhardy, a correctional officer at the jail in which Plaintiff was then housed. When he was interviewed by Essex County Correctional Facility investigators regarding this incident in July 2014, Plaintiff provided the following version of those events and the background that led to them.[3]

[Plaintiff] has been incarcerated at the Essex County Jail since January[] 2013. He has been assigned to the infirmary because he is a paraplegic, is wheelchair bound, and uses a catheter. [Plaintiff] stated that he has never had a problem with inmates or officers until the end of 2013. [Plaintiff] stated that officer [Flauhardy] told several inmates that he is incarcerated for molesting children. [Plaintiff] stated that he has never been arrested for any type of sexual charges, especially sexual charges involving children.
[When asked what was said to these other inmates, Plaintiff] stated that officer [Flauhardy] stated to the inmates “[Plaintiff] likes to play Santa Claus and have children sit on his lap.” [When asked if [Flauhardy] said anything else about sex with children, Plaintiff] stated “no.” [Plaintiff] further stated that officer [Flauhardy] never said anything directly to him regarding child molestation. [Plaintiff] stated that officer [Flauhardy] was moved from the infirmary in January[] 2014.
[When asked about the assault, Plaintiff] stated that he and inmate Latham were assigned to the infirmary together and did not have any problems. Inmate Latham was re-assigned to a different unit. Inmate Latham was re-assigned back to the infirmary and back on the same unit with [Plaintiff]. Inmate Latham stated to him, “I heard you like being Santa Claus and having kids sit on your lap.” [Plaintiff] and Latham began arguing and a physical altercation occurred inside cell 200. After the fight ended, Inmate Latham walked out of cell 200. [Plaintiff] did not immediately tell any custody staff of the incident. He was later questioned by a Sergeant regarding this incident. [Plaintiff] stated that he fell from his wheelchair while reaching for something and hurt his eye.
[When asked why he didn't tell the Sergeant he had been assaulted, Plaintiff] stated “I did not want to get Inmate Latham in any trouble.” [Plaintiff further declined to press charges against Latham.] [When asked if he had] ever heard officer [Flauhardy] state anything to him or any other inmate regarding his charges or child molestation, [Plaintiff] stated “no.”

(Document 2 attached to ECF No. 47 at 21-22). Because the record only contains the statement Plaintiff gave to the investigator and that report is written in a way that does not make plain what exactly Plaintiff said, it is not clear if Plaintiff denied ever having overheard Flauhardy make the Santa Claus comment but never heard any other allegations of molestation, or whether Plaintiff denied having even heard that comment. In the notice of claim form he submitted to the jail, however, Plaintiff stated that Latham indicated that Flauhardy had told him the Santa Claus statement. (Id. at 14). As a result of the alleged assault by Latham, Plaintiff received two black eyes and was unable to open one of his eyes for at least a day afterwards. (Id. at 12).

         When Latham was interviewed, he admitted that the fight started after he told Plaintiff he had “heard some shit about [Plaintiff]”, which led to a physical confrontation. (Id. at 23). Latham did not detail what information he heard to the investigator. (Id.). Latham's disciplinary records indicate that he has had frequent administrative charges, several of which involved his being verbally abusive or engaging in fights with other inmates. (Id. at 30-48). While Officer Flauhardy denied ever making any statement about Plaintiff's charges to Latham, including the Santa Claus comment, he did acknowledge that he and Plaintiff had a somewhat antagonistic relationship, which he characterized as being the result of verbal abuse Plaintiff hurled at him following an altercation between Flauhardy and another inmate. (Id. at 24).

         In his second claim, which is directed towards all Defendants other than Flauhardy, Plaintiff contends that he was denied adequate medical treatment when, on at least one occasion, Officer Jackson and two members of the medical staff, non-moving Defendants Nurse Supervisor Gwen and Nurse Maria, denied him access to fresh urinary catheters. (Id. at 7-8). Although Petitioner alleges that medical staff denied him catheters on multiple occasions leading to urinary tract infections and other pain and suffering, Plaintiff identifies only one instance in which Defendant Jackson was involved - an incident which occurred on August 27, 2014. (Id. at 7). According to Plaintiff, “at approximately 5 pm [he] asked C.O. Jackson to open his cell door because he needed to get a urine catheter from his cell and use the toilet, ” a request Jackson apparently denied. (Id.). Presumably, this caused Plaintiff some discomfort. Although medical records within the record confirm both that Plaintiff uses catheters and that he on at least one occasion contracted an infection, (see Id. at 12-13), there is nothing in the record indicating what, if any, harm befell Plaintiff because of Jackson's refusal to let Plaintiff into his cell on August 27, 2014.

         II. DISCUSSION

         A. Legal Standard

         Pursuant to Rule 56, a court should grant a motion for summary judgment where the record “shows that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). The moving party bears the initial burden of “identifying those portions of the pleadings depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with the affidavits, if any, which it believes demonstrate the absence of a genuine issue of material fact.” Celotex, 477 U.S. at 323. A factual dispute is material “if it bears on an essential element of the plaintiff's claim, ” and is genuine if “a reasonable jury could find in favor of the non-moving party.” Blunt v. Lower Merion School Dist., 767 F.3d 247, 265 (3d Cir. 2014). In deciding a motion for summary judgment a district court must “view the underlying facts and all reasonable inferences therefrom in the light most favorable to the party opposing the motion, ” Id., but must not make credibility determinations or engage in any weighing of the evidence. See ...


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