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Sansbury v. Southern Health Partners

United States District Court, D. South Carolina

April 30, 2015

Rodney Sansbury, Plaintiff,
Southern Health Partners; Nurse Shelton, LPN; Cpl JC Miers, BDG #425; T. Van Doran; Captain Darling, #62; Lt. Branch; and Captain Taylor, Defendants.


KAYMANI D. WEST, Magistrate Judge.

Plaintiff, a former inmate with the Dorchester County Detention Center ("DCDC"), filed this 42 U.S.C. § 1983 action alleging Defendants violated his constitutional rights. Since filing his Complaint and Amended Complaint, Plaintiff has retained counsel. See ECF No. 52. This matter is before the court on Defendants' Motions for Summary Judgment. ECF Nos. 79, 80. Plaintiff filed Responses in Opposition to Defendants' Motions for Summary Judgment on February 17, 2015. ECF Nos. 84, 85. On February 27, 2015, Defendants replied to Plaintiff's Responses. ECF Nos. 86, 87. This case was referred to the undersigned United States Magistrate Judge for all pretrial proceedings pursuant to the provisions of 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(A) and (B) and Local Civil Rule 73.02(B)(2)(d) and (e), D.S.C. Because the Motions are dispositive, a Report and Recommendation is entered for the court's review.

I. Background

Plaintiff was previously incarcerated at the DCDC and began serving a 90-day sentence on February 18, 2014, for "driving under suspension 3rd." ECF No. 1 at 3. On March 25, 2014, Plaintiff filed the initial lawsuit alleging that he was discriminated against because he was not allowed to work kitchen detail because of his HIV medical condition. ECF No. 1.

In his Complaint, Plaintiff maintains that on February 19, 2014, he requested that he be placed on work detail so that he could reduce his sentence time through earned credits. Id. at 3; ECF No. 1-1 at 4-5. On February 20, 2014, Plaintiff was notified that his "application for work [was] being reviewed, [and] not to submit any more work requests." Id. Plaintiff maintains that on February 21, 2014, he was called in for a physical examination. ECF No. 1 at 3. Plaintiff represents that Nurse Brandy examined Plaintiff and indicated to him that he was in good health to work. Id. Plaintiff further represents that:

We then talked briefly of my HIV, how long I've had it and the Affordable Care Act. At this time I noticed a stick-em on my file stating no kitchen work allowed. I enquired as to why I couldn't work in kitchen she stated that "the order came from the head nurse LPN Shelton" I then stated that my health was perfectly fine and that my CD4 count was above 600 and my viral load was undetectable. She stated that she had no idea why nurse Shelton put that on my file. I further explained that I am a cook by trade and that I've been cooking for over 20 years.

Id. Plaintiff alleges that the following week he witnessed five inmates be placed on luncheon detail. Id. at 4. After a sixth person was assigned work detail, Plaintiff maintains that he asked Defendant Miers why he had not been assigned to a work detail, and Defendant Miers responded that he did not know but understood that Plaintiff was not allowed kitchen duty due to his HIV status. Id. Plaintiff maintains that he responded by stating that the facility is run by SCDC protocol, and SCDC has discontinued the practice of discriminating against HIV inmates. Id.

Thereafter, Plaintiff went to speak with Defendant Shelton and asked her about his medications. Id. Plaintiff alleges that Defendant Shelton asked him if he could get more medications because he had two refills left on the medications that Plaintiff's wife brought to him. Id. Plaintiff maintains that he told Defendant Shelton he did not know, and Defendant Shelton responded that she would call Plaintiff's prescription into the CVS pharmacy. Id. Plaintiff maintains that Defendant Shelton then told him that she would arrange for CVS to send his medications to his home, and his wife could then bring them in again. Id. at 4-5. Plaintiff alleges that he expressed concern to Defendant Shelton over how he would get his medication because he wife was away. Id. at 5. Plaintiff maintains that on March 1, 2014, he was called to return to medical to speak with Nurse Amanda and she asked that Plaintiff sign a release form for his medical records from MUSC (Medical University of South Carolina). Id. Plaintiff represents that he consented to the release. Id.

Plaintiff maintains that on March 8, 2014, he began work as a "dorm worker, " which consisted of 15 minutes of work per day. Id. However, Plaintiff still preferred to work in the kitchen and again asked Defendant Shelton why he could not work there. Id. Plaintiff maintains that he "was told by [Defendant] Shelton that [he] can't [work] due to [his] HIV status." Id. At this point, Plaintiff alleged that he proceeded to write to the courts. Id. Plaintiff alleges that on March 13, 2014, he wrote another request to Defendant Shelton asking her to clarify why he could not work in the kitchen. Id.

Plaintiff maintains that he then met with Defendant Shelton, and she stated to him that she never denied him work due to his HIV-that she did not know why Plaintiff was not allowed to work in the kitchen. ECF No. 1 at 6. On March 6, 2014, Plaintiff alleges that he requested work anywhere in the jail if kitchen work was unavailable. Id. Then, on March 13, 2014, Plaintiff maintains that he wrote to Defendant Miers requesting kitchen duty again and stating that dorm work was only 10-15 minutes a day. Id. Plaintiff alleges that Defendant Miers declined to respond to his request. Id.

Plaintiff also complains about the lack of confidentiality concerning his medical condition. ECF No. 1 at 7. Specifically, Plaintiff maintains that he was escorted to medical on several different occasions, "and each time [he] was subjected to shame as the nurse on duty blurted out all [his] medical issues directly in front of the escorting officer." Id. Plaintiff contends that DCDC did not honor his rights regarding privacy on medical issues by asking him personal medical questions while an officer was within three feet of the conversation. Id.

In his request for relief, Plaintiff requests that "the courts make DCDC comply with the directives of the DOJ in regard to HIV inmates [and] have oversight of the implementation of such changes." ECF No. 1 at 8. Additionally, Plaintiff asks that the courts instruct "DCDC to change handbook and DCDC guidelines to reflect such changes [and] that the courts withhold federal funding of DCDC if such changes are not implemented within 30 days of this action." Id. Plaintiff seeks attorney's fees if he "is forced to acquire outside help upon his release from DCDC." Id. Plaintiff seeks $400, 000 for pain and suffering and $200, 000 in punitive damages. Id. Finally Plaintiff "pray[s] that this honorable court investigate this institutions' practice towards HIV inmates and grant whatever relief deemed just and proper under the laws of the United States of America." Id.

On April 8, 2014, Plaintiff filed an Amended Complaint. ECF No. 10. There, Plaintiff added Lt. Branch and Captain Taylor as additional Defendants to the lawsuit and expressed concern about whether his inmate grievance was received by the clerk's office. ECF No. 10-1. Additionally, Plaintiff maintains that his outgoing mail "sat of the director's desk for two days thus leaving the possibility for tampering in [Plaintiff's] mind." Id. In his Motion to Amend, Plaintiff alleged that he attempted to mail his § 1983 action to the federal courts on March 19, 2014, and on March 20, 2014, but his Complaint had not been mailed by Defendant Taylor. ECF No. 10 at 1. Additionally, Plaintiff maintains that he was "called to director's office and confronted hostily by Capt. Taylor and Major Van Doran whom tried to dissuade [him] from filing said suit. That said suit was not mailed until 3-21-14 two whole days later." Id. Plaintiff represents that on March 21, 2014 he was "appeased by being allowed to work in kitchen as part of dissuasion for Plaintiff to not file suit." Id. On March 22, 2014, Plaintiff maintains that he was fired from kitchen and told he was fired for trying to change the way things were done." Id. Also on March 22, 2014, Plaintiff maintains that Defendant Branch entered kitchen after Plaintiff had left and informed all kitchen inmates that she was happy Plaintiff was fired and "further stated that she did not want Plaintiff in kitchen because he had HIV." ECF No. 10 at 1-2. Further, Plaintiff alleges that Defendant Branch "had all inmates in kitchen write statements on the Plaintiff to substantiate Plaintiff's termination." Id. at 2. Plaintiff attached grievance forms, grievance responses, prisoner request forms, request response forms, and certain policy excerpts to his Amended Complaint. See ECF Nos. 10-2; 10-3. These motions follow.

II. Standard of Review

In considering a motion for summary judgment, the evidence of the non-moving party is to be believed and all justifiable inferences must be drawn in favor of the non-moving party. See Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 255 (1986). However, "[o]nly disputes over facts that might affect the outcome of the suit under the governing law will properly preclude the entry of summary judgment. Factual disputes that are irrelevant or unnecessary will not be counted." Id. at 248. Further, while the federal court is charged with liberally construing a complaint filed by a pro se litigant to allow the development of a potentially meritorious case, see, e.g., Cruz v. Beto, 405 U.S. 319 (1972), the requirement of liberal construction does not mean that the court can ignore a clear failure in the pleadings to allege facts that set forth a federal claim, nor can the court assume the existence of a genuine issue of material fact when none exists. Weller v. Dep't of Soc. Servs., 901 F.2d 387 (4th Cir. 1990).

III. Analysis

A. Health Care Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment

Defendants Southern Health Partners, Inc. and Heather Shelton, LPN ("Southern Health Defendants") move for summary judgment and argue that Plaintiff cannot establish any basis for recovery under § 1983. ECF No. 80-2 at 5-6. Specifically, Southern Health Defendants argue that Plaintiff was provided with proper medical care at all times, and Plaintiff cannot establish any violation related to work assignments. Id. at 6-12. Additionally, Southern Health Defendants maintain that Plaintiff has no evidence or legal basis for his breach of confidentiality claim and no independent basis for recovery against them. Id. at 12-14. Finally, Southern Health Defendants argue that Plaintiff has no evidence of physical damages. Id. at 15.

In Response to the Motion, Plaintiff recites several facts contained in his Complaint. ECF No. 85 at 1-3. In his legal argument section Plaintiff maintains that if construed in the light most favorable to him, "it is clear that Defendants did not follow their own procedures and protocols." Id. at 4. Additionally, Plaintiff asserts that his testimony demonstrates that Defendants did not allow him to work in the kitchen because of his HIV status. Id. Plaintiff maintains that his civil rights were violated when Defendants allowed an escort to be present when Plaintiff met with medical personnel. Id. Finally, Plaintiff maintains that "[p]risoners (sic) rights should be confidential because of their medical status, especially where there is no danger of transmission." Id. at 4-5. Other than these arguments, Plaintiff does not specifically address the remaining arguments made by Southern Health Defendants. The undersigned will address each Southern Health argument in turn.

1. Basis for § 1983 Claim-Proper Medical Care

Southern Health Defendants argue that Plaintiff acknowledges and does not dispute that his HIV was properly treated at the DCDC and that Plaintiff received appropriate HIV medications. ECF No. 80-2 at 6. Additionally, they maintain that Plaintiff's condition did not deteriorate in any manner and his sole complaint specifically regarding medical treatment pertains to the medical treatment he received for a cyst on his face. Id. Southern Health Defendants argue that a cyst is not a serious medical condition and medical attention was ...

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