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Dietrich v. Bryant

United States District Court, D. South Carolina, Charleston Division

June 10, 2014

David Micheal Dietrich, Plaintiff,
Sheriff Bruce Bryant; Richard L Martin; Chief Arwood; Lt. Guidry; and Tammy Dover RN; Defendants.



This matter comes before the Court on the Report and Recommendation (R & R) of the Magistrate Judge (Dkt. No. 121), recommending that Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment be granted and Plaintiff's Motion for Summary Judgment and Motion for Default Order against Defendants be denied. Plaintiff filed timely objections. (Dkt. No. 124). For the reasons stated below, the Court ADOPTS the R & R in fulL Accordingly, Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment (Dkt. No. 62) is GRANTED, and Plaintiffs Motion for Summary Judgment (Dkt. No. 84) and Motion for Default Order (Dkt. No. 85) against Defendants are DENIED.

Legal Standard

The Magistrate Judge makes only a recommendation to this Court. The recommendation has no presumptive weight, and the responsibility to make a final determination remains with the Court. Mathews v. Weber, 423 U.S. 261, 270-71 (1976). The Court may "accept, reject, or modify, in whole or in part, the findings or recommendations made by the magistrate." 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1). This Court is charged with making a de novo determination of those portions of the R & R or specified proposed findings or recommendations to which objection is made. Diamondv. Colonial Life & Ace. Ins. Co., 416 F.3d 310, 315 (4th Cir. 2005) (quoting 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)); accord Fed.R.Civ.P. neb). As to portions of the R & R to which no specific objection has been made, this Court "must only satisfY itself that there is no clear error on the face of the record in order to accept the recommendation.'" Id. (quoting Fed. R. Civ. P n advisory committee note). Moreover, in the absence of specific objections to the R & R, the Court need not give any explanation for adopting the Magistrate Judge's analysis and recommendation. See Camby v. Davis, 718 F.2d 198, 199-200 (4th Cir. 1983).


A. Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment

Plaintiff is a pretrial detainee at the York County Detention Center (YCDC). (Dkt. No. 1 at 2). It is undisputed that on March 17, 2011, Plaintiff was assaulted by another inmate, Williams Huggins. (Dkt. No.1 at 10; Dkt. No. 62-6 at ¶ 10). Plaintiff brought a deliberate indifference claim against Defendants claiming that they "knew that there was a substantial risk to [Plaintiff] of serious harm, but ignored that risk and failed to take reasonable steps to adequately protective [Plaintiff] while in protective custody." (Dkt. No.1 at 5). However, the Court agrees with the Magistrate Judge that there is no evidence in the record that Defendants knew Inmate Higgns posed a threat to Plaintiff and disregarded that risk. As Plaintiff himself states, "Plaintiff had no reason to alert any staffer about a problem with Higgins, because there were none up to the point of the assault." (Dkt. No. 69 at 10).

Plaintiff states that YCDC officials knew of Higgins' "violent history" because ofthe charges against him.[1] (Dkt. No. 124 at 2). While Higgins was arrested on a charge of Assault and Battery (2nd Degree), in addition to charges ofTrafficking in Crack Cocaine and Resisting Arrest, this charge was predicated on allegations that Higgins had assaulted a police officer. (Dkt. No. 62-6 at ¶¶ 12-13). Thus, YCDC officials were concerned that Higgins might pose a threat to YCDC staff and that his own safety or security might be a concern. (Id. at ¶ 14). However, until the assault at issue, Higgins presented no signs of aggression toward another inmate, and no conflicts between Higgins and any other inmate were brought to the attention of YCDC staff. (Id. at ¶ 15.) Plaintiff and Higgins were in the same unit for nearly two weeks without incident and without any reason for Plaintiff or YCDC staff to be concerned about Higgins' actions toward Plaintiff or other inmates. (Id. at ¶ 16; Dkt. No. 69 at 10).

Plaintiff appears to believe that because he was assaulted while in custody and was not at fault for the assault, Defendants must be liable under Section 1983. (See generally, Dkt. No. 124). "It is not, however, every injury suffered by one prisoner at the hands of another that translates into constitutional liability for prison officials responsible for the victim's safety." Farmer v. Brennan, 511 U.S. 825, 834 (1994). Prison officials must have a "sufficiently culpable state of mind." Id.

Plaintiff also argues that "[i]f all procedures were followed correctly" the assault would not have occurred. (Dkt. No. 124 at I, 3). First, there is no evidence in the record that any procedures were not followed. However, even assuming this were true, it at best states a claim for negligence. "Deliberate indifference is a very high standard-a showing of mere negligence will not meet it." Young v. City ofMount Ranier, 238 FJd 567, 575 (4th Cir. 2001) (quotations omitted).

Finally, Plaintiff argues that the fact that YCDC paid his medical bills indicates "fault" on their part. (Dkt. No. 124 at 2). However, "[e]vidence offumishing, promising to pay, or offering to pay medical, hospital, or similar expenses resulting from an injury is not admissible to prove liability for the injury." Fed.R.Evid. 409.

Plaintiff has simply failed to put forward evidence that Defendants knew of a substantial risk to his safety and disregarded it. Therefore, summary judgment is appropriate.[2]

The Magistrate Judge also found that Plaintiffs medical indifference claim fails, and recommended granting summary judgment in favor of Nurse Dover. (Dkt. No. 121 at 10). Plaintiff has not objected to this recommendation. (Dkt. No. 124). The Court agrees that this claim fails for the reasons stated in its prior Order ...

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