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Estate of Riopedre ex rel. Mendez v. United States

United States District Court, D. South Carolina

February 6, 2015

Estate of Jose R. Riopedre, by and through Fernando Mendez; and Susana Mendez, Plaintiffs,
v.
United States of America, Mildred L. Rivera; Robert Binford; James Solvik; Chris Orr; Raganold Williams; Richella Lawson; Richard Wallace; Paul Sneed; Gregory Bondurant; John J. Enzinna; Dr. Derick Phillips; Stephen Buckler; Pam Weathers; Christopher Bush; C. Wiggins; John Does 1-8; individually and in their individual capacities, Defendants.

OPINION AND ORDER

BRUCE HOWE HENDRICKS, District Judge.

The estate of Jose Riopedre ("Riopedre") and his wife, Susana Mendez, (collectively "the plaintiffs") bring this civil rights action under Bivens v. Six Unknown Named Agents of Federal Bureau of Narcotics, 403 U.S. 388 (1971), alleging a claim for loss of consortium, love, companionship, and familial association and a claim for wrongful death under the Federal Torts Claim Act ("FTCA"), 28 U.S.C. §§ 2671-2680. (Third Am. Complaint, ECF No. 40.) Riopedre was a federal prisoner in who died after hanging himself on October 31, 2009, while incarcerated in the Special Housing Unit ("SHU") at the Estill Federal Corrections Institution ("Estill") in Estill, South Carolina. This matter is before the court for review of the Report and Recommendation of United States Magistrate Judge Jacquelyn D. Austin, made in accordance with 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(B) and Local Rule 73.02 for the District of South Carolina.

BACKGROUND

The Court has reviewed the record and finds that the relevant facts are sufficiently summarized in the Magistrate Judge's Report and Recommendation. Where additional facts are relevant, they will be incorporated directly into the Court's analysis. On November 27, 2013, the defendants filed a motion (ECF No. 88) seeking summary judgment. Magistrate Judge Austin submitted a Report and Recommendation (the "Report") (ECF No. 108) on July 3, 2014. Magistrate Judge Austin recommends that the defendants' motion for summary judgment be granted as to the plaintiffs' First, Fifth and Fourteenth Amendment claims under Bivens, be denied with respect to the plaintiffs' Eighth Amendment claim against the defendants in their individual capacities under Bivens, and be denied with respect to the plaintiffs' FTCA claim. (ECF No. 108.) Both the defendants and the plaintiffs filed objections to the Report (ECF No. 112 (plaintiffs) and ECF No. 111 (defendants)).

STANDARD OF REVIEW

The Magistrate Judge makes only a recommendation to the court. The recommendation has no presumptive weight. The responsibility to make a final determination remains with the court. Mathews v. Weber, 423 U.S. 261, 270-71, 96 S.Ct. 549, 46 L.Ed.2d 483 (1976). The court is charged with making a de novo determination of those portions of the Report and Recommendation (the "Report") to which specific objection is made, and the court may accept, reject, or modify, in whole or in part, the recommendation of the Magistrate Judge, or recommit the matter with instructions. 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1). However, the court need not conduct a de novo review when a party makes only "general and conclusory objections that do not direct the court to a specific error in the magistrate's proposed findings and recommendations." Orpiano v. Johnson, 687 F.2d 44, 47 (4th Cir. 1982). In the absence of a timely filed, specific objection, the Magistrate Judge's conclusions are reviewed only for clear error. See Diamond v. Colonial Life & Accident Ins. Co., 416 F.3d 310, 315 (4th Cir. 2005).

Summary Judgment

A party asserting that a fact is genuinely disputed must support the assertion by "citing to particular parts of materials in the record, including depositions, documents, electronically stored information, affidavits or declarations, stipulations (including those made for purposes of the motion only), admissions, interrogatory answers, or other materials." Fed.R.Civ.P. 56 (c)(1)(A). A litigant "cannot create a genuine issue of material fact through mere speculation or the building of one inference upon another." Beale v. Hardy, 769 F.2d 213, 214 (4th Cir. 1985). "Mere unsupported speculation... is not enough to defeat a summary judgment motion." Ennis v. National Ass'n of Bus. & Educ. Radio, Inc., 53 F.3d 55, 62 (4th Cir. 1995).

"[W]here the record taken as a whole could not lead a rational trier of fact to find for the nonmoving party, disposition by summary judgment is appropriate." Teamsters Joint Council No. 83 v. Centra, Inc., 947 F.2d 115, 119 (4th Cir. 1996). "Summary judgment is proper only when it is clear that there is no dispute concerning either the facts of the controversy or the inferences to be drawn from those facts." Pulliam Inv. Co. v. Cameo Props ., 810 F.2d 1282, 1286 (4th Cir. 1987). The court must determine "whether the evidence presents a sufficient disagreement to require submission to a jury or whether it is so one-sided that one party must prevail as a matter of law." Anderson, 477 U.S. at 251-52.

DISCUSSION

The Plaintiffs' Objections

The plaintiffs' object to the following findings:

(a) the Court's determination that Riopedre's Eighth Amendment rights were not violated by his placement in SHU,
(b) the Court's determination that Riopedre's ability to stockpile the socks that killed him, did not rise to ...

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