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Wells v. SCDF

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

July 30, 2014

Ray Edward Wells, aka Ray Anthony Wells, Ray Wells, Plaintiff,
v.
SCDF Defendant Employees; Larry W. Powers; Dr. Salvatore Bianco; Nurse Susan Blackwell; Warden Chuck Wright; and The Medical Staff, Defendants.

REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION

WALLACE W. DIXON, Magistrate Judge.

Plaintiff, Ray Edward Wells, also known as Ray Anthony Wells and Ray Wells ("Plaintiff"), proceeding pro se and in forma pauperis, brings this civil action against Defendants, seeking damages for alleged deliberate indifference to his serious medical needs while he was a detainee in the Spartanburg County Detention Facility ("SCDF") in 2011. Pursuant to the provisions of 28 U.S.C. §636(b)(1)(B), and Local Rule 73.02(B)(2) (D.S.C.), the undersigned United States Magistrate Judge is authorized to review such complaints for relief and to submit findings and recommendations to the District Court. After careful review, the undersigned finds that Plaintiff's Complaint should be summarily dismissed, without prejudice and without issuance and service of process, because Plaintiff's claims are duplicative of his claims in Wells v. SCDF Employees, et al., C/A No. 2:10-3111-CMC-BHH (D.S.C.), all of which were dismissed with prejudice in Plaintiff's previous lawsuit, when Plaintiff's motion for summary judgment was denied and Defendants' motion for summary judgment was granted, on February 28, 2012.[1] See Order, Wells v. SCDF Employees, et al., C/A No. 2:10-3111-CMC-BHH (D.S.C.), Dkt. No. 105.[2]

PRO SE AND IN FORMA PAUPERIS REVIEW

Under established local procedure in this judicial district, a careful review has been made of the pro se complaint pursuant to the procedural provisions of 28 U.S.C. § 1915. The review has been conducted in light of the following precedents: Neitzke v. Williams , 490 U.S. 319, 324-25 (1989); Estelle v. Gamble , 429 U.S. 97 (1976); Haines v. Kerner , 404 U.S. 519 (1972); and Gordon v. Leeke , 574 F.2d 1147 (4th Cir. 1978). The Complaint herein has been filed pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915, which permits an indigent litigant to commence an action in federal court without prepaying the administrative costs of proceeding with the lawsuit. To protect against possible abuses of this privilege, the statute allows a district court to dismiss the case upon a finding that the action is "frivolous or malicious, " "fails to state a claim on which relief may be granted, " or "seeks monetary relief against a defendant who is immune from such relief." 28 U.S.C. §1915(e)(2)(B)(i), (ii), (iii). Hence, under 28 U.S.C. §1915(e)(2)(B), a claim based on a meritless legal theory may be dismissed sua sponte. Neitzke v. Williams , 490 U.S. 319 (1989).

This Court is required to liberally construe pro se documents, Estelle v. Gamble , 429 U.S. 97 (1976), holding them to a less stringent standard than those drafted by attorneys, Hughes v. Rowe , 449 U.S. 5 (1980) (per curiam). Even under this less stringent standard, however, a pro se complaint is subject to summary dismissal.

The mandated liberal construction afforded pro se pleadings means that if the court can reasonably read the pleadings to state a valid claim on which the plaintiff could prevail, it should do so, but a district court may not rewrite a petition to "conjure up questions never squarely presented" to the court. Beaudett v. City of Hampton , 775 F.2d 1274, 1278 (4th Cir. 1985). The requirement of liberal construction does not mean that the court can ignore a clear failure in the pleading to allege facts which set forth a claim currently cognizable in a federal district court. Weller v. Dep't. of Soc. Servs. , 901 F.2d 387 (4th Cir. 1990).

BACKGROUND

Plaintiff, who is not currently incarcerated, files this action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, seeking damages for alleged deliberate indifference to serious medical needs while he was a detainee in the SCDF in 2011.[3] Although Plaintiff's Complaint and Amended Complaint are difficult to follow, Plaintiff complains about contracting "boils and infections" in his leg while Plaintiff was incarcerated at the SCDF. (See Dkt. No. 1 at 3-4 of 18.) Plaintiff alleges that his staph infection "caused him numbness" as well as the "lo[ss] of power and feelings in his infect[ed] leg." (Id. at 4.) Plaintiff contends that Defendants were grossly negligent, willful, and reckless. (See, e.g., Dkt. No. 1 at 8, 12 of 18.) Plaintiff states that he seeks "three million five thousand dollars on each of the Plaintiff['s] four claims..." (Id. at 16 of 18.)[4]

DISCUSSION

As a threshold consideration, Defendants "SCDF Defendant Employees" and "The Medical Staff" are not "persons, " thus they are not proper defendants in a § 1983 action, and should be summarily dismissed.[5] See 42 U.S.C. § 1983; Monell v. Dep't of Soc. Serv. , 436 U.S. 658, 690 & n.55 (1978) (noting that for purposes of § 1983 a "person" includes individuals and "bodies politic and corporate"); see generally 5 Charles Alan Wright & Arthur R. Miller, Federal Practice and Procedure § 1230 (2002). It is well settled that only "persons" may act under color of state law, therefore, a defendant in a § 1983 action must qualify as a "person." For example, several courts have held that inanimate objects such as buildings, facilities, and grounds are not "persons" and do not act under color of state law. See Allison v. California Adult Auth. , 419 F.2d 822, 823 (9th Cir. 1969) (California Adult Authority and San Quentin Prison not "person[s]" subject to suit under 42 U.S.C. § 1983); Preval v. Reno , 57 F.Supp.2d 307, 310 (E.D. Va. 1999) ("[T]he Piedmont Regional Jail is not a person, ' and therefore not amenable to suit under 42 U.S.C. § 1983."); Brooks v. Pembroke City Jail , 722 F.Supp. 1294, 1301(E.D. N.C. 1989) ("Claims under § 1983 are directed at persons' and the jail is not a person amenable to suit."). Additionally, use of the term "medical staff" or the equivalent as a name for alleged defendants, without the naming of specific staff members, is not adequate to state a claim against a "person" as required in § 1983 actions. See Barnes v. Baskerville Corr. Cen. Med. Staff, No. 3:07CV195, 2008 WL 2564779 (E.D. Va. June 25, 2008); Martin v. UConn Health Care, No. 3:99CV2158 (DJS), 2000 WL 303262, *1 (D. Conn. Feb. 09, 2000); Ferguson v. Morgan, No. 90 Civ. 6318 , 1991 WL 115759 (S.D.N.Y. June 20, 1991).

In Plaintiff's previous cases, Wells v. SCDF Employees, et al., C/A No. 2:10-3111-CMC-BHH (D.S.C.) and Wells v. SCDF Employees, et al., C/A No. 2:13-cv-03061-TMC (D.S.C.), he also attempted to bring suit against such improper defendants, i.e. "SCDF Employees" and "SCDF Medical Staff, " and his complaints against these non-persons were summarily dismissed. See Order, Wells v. SCDF Employees, et al., C/A No. 2:10-3111-CMC-BHH (D.S.C.), Dkt. No. 58; see also Order, Wells v. SCDF Employees, et al., C/A No. 2:13-cv-03061-TMC (D.S.C.), Dkt. No. 20. For the reasons cited above, Plaintiff's claims in the instant case against SCDF Defendant Employees and The Medical Staff are subject to summary dismissal, just as they were in Plaintiff's previous cases.

In C/A No. 10-3111, Plaintiff alleged deliberate indifference claims against, inter alia, "Warden Larry W. Powers, " "Dr. Bianco, " and "Nurse Susan Blackwell." Plaintiff's claims in C/A No. 10-3111 involved SCDF staff members' alleged indifference to Plaintiff's chronic right leg pain and migraine headaches, and Plaintiff's alleged falls, in May 2010 (in his cell) and October 2010 (in a common area), and SCDF medical staff's subsequent alleged inadequate medical treatment of his injuries, while Plaintiff was incarcerated in the SCDF, between October 2009 and June 2011. (Plaintiff was transferred to the South Carolina Department of Corrections' Kirkland Reception & Evaluation Center in June 2011, then to Kershaw Correctional Institution in September 2011, then was apparently released in December 2011.) In C/A No. 10-3111, Plaintiff also complained of contracting the recurring staph infection which is the subject of the instant case.

Judge Hendricks' Report & Recommendation ("R&R") in C/A No. 10-3111 discusses Plaintiff's claims of deliberate indifference to these same staph infections, noting that Plaintiff alleges that he developed a swollen right [sic] leg in December 2010, which Plaintiff appears to attribute to his fall on May 26, 2010, which was not treated until January 2011 "when [his] right [sic] leg had to be cut and drain[ed] from the swollen infection built up germs, p[uss], dirt, and blood at the Spartanburg Regional Medical Center." R&R, Wells v. SCDF Employees, et al., C/A No. 2:10-3111-CMC-BHH (D.S.C.), Dkt. No. 103, p. 10. The Defendants in C/A No. 10-3111 introduced affidavits and records showing that a red knot appeared on Plaintiff's left leg in January 2011, which SCDF medical staff treated with an antibiotic, Bactrim. However, later in the month of January 2011, Plaintiff developed a boil or abscess on his left leg, which was diagnosed by Spartanburg Regional Medical Center as a staph infection (Methicillin Resistant Staphylococcus bacteria or MRSA).

Judge Hendricks' R&R of February 3, 2012 in C/A No. 10-3111 discusses Plaintiff's claim re: his staph infections and abscesses, as alleged in Plaintiff's Amended Complaint (C/A No. 10-3111, Dkt. No. 12), Supplemental Complaint (C/A No. 10-3111, Dkt. No. 21), and in the numerous Declarations (C/A No. 10-3111, Dkt. Nos. 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 219, 20, 22, 23, 24, 25, 26, 34, 36, 39, 48) and Motions (C/A No. 10-3111, Dkt. Nos. ...


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