Edwards v. Samuels, et al.

A nonsmoking federal prisoner filed a pro se action against various prison officials for having willfully exposed him to secondhand tobacco smoke, thereby exposing him to an unreasonable risk of harm and injury.  Edwards alleged that, even though the FCI Fort Dix facility where he is incarcerated has a non-smoking policy, that policy has not been enforced, despite his repeated requests for a non-smoking unit and the official’s knowledge of his medical condition.  Edwards has been on a 26-week medication regimen for tuberculosis and a radical drug treatment for bronchitis, and requires the permanent daily use of an oral inhalator pump.  Edwards alleges that these conditions were caused by his exposure to secondhand smoke in prison.  The Court ruled that Edwards’ claim of a violation of his Eighth Amendment right not to be subjected to cruel and unusual punishment could proceed.  Similarly, his tort claim alleging intentional infliction of emotional distress, based on the defendants’ refusal to allow for medical treatment, is also allowed to proceed.

The defendants moved for a partial motion to dismiss or, alternatively, for partial summary judgment, contending that “this Court lacks subject matter jurisdiction over the tort claim due to Plaintiff’s failure to comply with the administrative claim requirements of the Federal Tort Claims Act (FTCA) before filing suit.”.  Defendants also claim that Plaintiff’s medical care claim must be dismissed for Plaintiff’s failure to exhaust his administrative remedies prior to filing suit, as required by the Prison Litigation Reform Act (PLRA).  The Court, at 2008 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 11084, agreed that it lacks subject matter jurisdiction over Plaintiff’s tort claim of intentional infliction of emotional distress because of Plaintiff’s failure to comply with the terms of the FTCA.  That claim is dismissed.  However, regarding the tort claim alleging denial of medical care in violation of the Eighth Amendment, the Court ruled that the Plaintiff “substantially complied with the administrative remedy procedure and, thus, did exhaust his administrative remedies.”  Therefore, the defendants’ motion for summary judgment on that claim is denied.

The defendants moved for reconsideration.  The Court, at 2008 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 27789, denied the motion, finding that the defendants are seeking to have the court rethink its earlier decision.  The “Court maintains its holding the Plaintiff raised his health concerns (stemming from his exposure to second hand smoke) at all three Bureau authority levels, thereby substantially complying with the administrative remedy procedure.” (emphasis in original).  The Court also noted that, “as this case was previously administratively terminated pursuant to Rule 10.1, it will be re-opened solely for the entry of an appropriate Order and thereafter closed.”

2007 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 1325, 2007 WL 81884 (U.S.D.C. D. N.J.).