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Lott v. Scott

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

August 21, 2014

MARK LOTT a/k/a MARK TILLMAN LOTT a/k/a ML, Plaintiff,
ROBERT SCOTT, individually and in his official capacity, and the TURBEVILLE CORRECTIONAL INSTITUTE, Defendants.


DAVID C. NORTON, District Judge.

This matter is before the court on Magistrate Judge Wallace W. Dixon's Report and Recommendation ("R&R") that this court grant in part and deny in part a motion for summary judgment filed by defendants Robert Scott ("Scott") and the Turbeville Correctional Institution ("TCI"). Scott filed written objections to the R&R. For the reasons set forth below, the court adopts the R&R and grants in part and denies in part defendants' motion for summary judgment.


Plaintiff Mark Lott ("Lott") is an inmate within the South Carolina Department of Corrections who is currently incarcerated at TCI. Lott alleges that on September 28, 2011, Scott, a correctional officer at TCI, deliberately choked him without provocation. Compl. ¶ 6. According to Lott, he was waiting for lunch when he was assaulted by another inmate. Compl. Ex. 1. Scott saw the incident and "locked down" both inmates in their cells. Id . After the door to Lott's cell was closed, another inmate hit the door, and Scott returned, believing that Lott had kicked the door. Id . Scott came into the cell, "grabbed [Lott] around [his] neck and pushed [him] into [a] table while he was still choking [him]." Id . With his hands still around Lott's neck, Scott pushed Lott onto his bed and continued choking him. Id . Scott let go of Lott once another correctional officer entered the cell. Id.

The next day, Lott visited health services and complained of neck pain due to "an assault by a security officer." Def.'s Mot. Ex. 2. The nurse examining Lott noted "small abrasions" on the right side of the neck which were scabbed over. Id . Lott was able to move his neck without difficulty, but reported that moving his neck caused pain. Id.

The evidence submitted by defendants paints a very different picture. Scott filled out an incident report stating that he had seen Lott and another inmate "horse playing" and proceeded to put them in their cells. Def.'s Mot. Ex. 1. Scott contends that he used "appropriate force in an attempt to control inmate Lott during a combative situation because he was refusing orders, being belligerent and kicking his cell door." Scott Aff. ¶ 3. Scott asserts that he removed Lott's boots and that the incident was handled pursuant to SCDC policy and procedure, but that he did not choke Lott. Id . ¶¶ 3-4.

Lott filed the present action on August 27, 2012. With the benefit of an attorney, he filed an amended complaint on January 5, 2013, asserting a cause of action under 42 U.S.C. §1983 for excessive force. On January 17, 2014, defendants filed a motion for summary judgment. Lott filed a response on January 30, 2014. The magistrate judge issued an R&R on July 11, 2014. Scott filed objections on July 25, 2014 and Lott responded on August 11, 2014. This matter is now ripe for the court's review.


A. Objections to R&R

This court is charged with conducting a de novo review of any portion of the magistrate judge's R&R to which specific, written objections are made. 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1). A party's failure to object is accepted as agreement with the conclusions of the magistrate judge. See Thomas v. Arn , 474 U.S. 140, 149-50 (1985). In absence of a timely filed objection to a magistrate judge's R&R, this court need not conduct a de novo review, but instead must "only satisfy itself that there is no clear error on the face of the record in order to accept the recommendation." Diamond v. Colonial Life & Acc. Ins. Co. , 416 F.3d 310, 315 (4th Cir. 2005) (citing Fed.R.Civ.P. 72 advisory committee's note). The recommendation of the magistrate judge carries no presumptive weight, and the responsibility to make a final determination rests with this court. Mathews v. Weber , 423 U.S. 261, 270-71 (1976). This court may accept, reject, or modify the report of the magistrate judge, in whole or in part, or may recommit the matter to him with instructions for further consideration. 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1).

B. Summary Judgment

Summary judgment is proper "if the movant 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). "Only disputes over facts that might affect the outcome of the suit under the governing law will properly preclude the entry of summary judgment." Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc. , 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986). "[S]ummary judgment will not lie if the dispute about a material fact is genuine, ' that is, if the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party." Id . At the summary judgment stage, the court must view the evidence in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party and draw all reasonable inferences in his favor. Id. at 255.


As an initial matter, neither party objects to the magistrate judge's recommendation that the court grant summary judgment to TCI and Scott in his official capacity. Because there is no clear error on the face of the record, the court accepts the R&R and grants summary judgment in favor of TCI and Scott in his official capacity. ...

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