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Cook v. United States

United States District Court, D. South Carolina, Rock Hill Division

May 7, 2015

Darryl L. Cook, Plaintiff,
v.
United States of America, Defendant.

ORDER

RICHARD MARK GERGEL, District Judge.

This matter is before the Court on the Report and Recommendation ("R&R") of the Magistrate Judge. (Dkt. No. 36.) For the reasons set forth below, the Court agrees with and ADOPTS the R&R as the order of the Court.

I. BACKGROUND

Plaintiff brings this pro se action seeking relief pursuant to the Federal Tort Claims Act (FTCA), 28 U.S.C. ยงยง 2671-80. For the purposes of this motion to dismiss, the Court assumes the facts alleged in the unverified Complaint are true, construes the facts in Plaintiffs favor and draws all inferences in Plaintiff's favor. Plaintiff is a federal inmate at Estill Federal Correctional Institution (FCI). (Dkt. No.1 at 1.) He asserts a claim for negligence arising from the alleged delay in treatment of his "high risk disease of colon-cancer." (Id. at 3-4.) Plaintiff alleges that he is a "colon-cancer gene carrier" whose "remission is questionable." (Id. at 3.) He claims that his colonoscopy on December 18, 2012, had been "prolonged by the retaliating negligence, racial disparity, and deliberate indifference" of the Estill FCI staff. (Id. at 2.) In support, Plaintiff alleges that white inmates were scheduled in a "timely fashion, " while he has been "forced to suffer over three years, " with "developing lobes that are metastasizing." (Id.) According to Plaintiff, the delay in his scheduled colonoscopy also resulted from his "filing of other civil actions against the Health Services" at Estill FCI. (Id.) Plaintiff further alleges that "his mother is suffering" from the accumulation of medical bills, which are being redirected by Defendant to her home. (Id. at 3.)

Defendant moved for dismissal, or in the alternative, for summary judgment, on September 26, 2014. (Dkt. No. 31.) Plaintiff then filed a response opposing the motion. (Dkt. No. 34.) The Magistrate Judge recommended granting Defendant's motion, finding that the Complaint failed to state any plausible claims for relief. (Dkt. No. 36 at 5-9.) Plaintiff filed a timely written objection to the Magistrate Judge's R&R.[1] (Dkt. No. 38.)

II. LEGAL STANDARDS

A. Motion to Dismiss

Rule 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure permits the dismissal of an action if the complaint fails "to state a claim upon which relief can be granted." Such a motion tests the legal sufficiency of the complaint and "does not resolve contests surrounding the facts, the merits of the claim, or the applicability of defenses.... Our inquiry then is limited to whether the allegations constitute a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief.'" Republican Party of N.C. v. Martin, 980 F.2d 943, 952 (4th Cir. 1992) (quotation marks and citation omitted). In a Rule 12(b)(6) motion, the Court is obligated to "assume the truth of all facts alleged in the complaint and the existence of any fact that can be proved, consistent with the complaint's allegations." E. Shore Mkts., Inc. v. JD. Assocs. Ltd. P'ship, 213 F.3d 175, 180 (4th Cir. 2000). However, while the Court must accept the facts in a light most favorable to the non-moving party, it "need not accept as true unwarranted inferences, unreasonable conclusions, or arguments." Id.

To survive a motion to dismiss, the complaint must state "enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face." Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544 (2007). Although the requirement of plausibility does not impose a probability requirement at this stage, the complaint must show more than a "sheer possibility that a defendant has acted unlawfully." Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009). A complaint has "facial plausibility" where the pleading "allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged." Id.

Pro se complaints are construed liberally to allow the development of meritorious claims and "must be held to less stringent standards than formal pleadings drafted by lawyers." Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 94 (2007). However, the requirement of a liberal construction does not mean that the Court can ignore a plaintiffs clear failure to allege facts that set forth a cognizable claim. See Well v. Dep't of Soc. Servs. for Baltimore, 901 F.2d 387, 391 (4th Cir. 1990) ("The special judicial solicitude with which a district court should view pro se complaints does not transform the court into an advocate.").

B. Summary Judgment

Summary judgment is appropriate if a party shows "that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact" and that the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). In other words, summary judgment should be granted "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). "In determining whether a genuine issue has been raised, the court must construe all inferences and ambiguities in favor of the nonmoving party." HealthSouth Rehab. Hosp. v. Am. Nat'l Red Cross, 101 F.3d 1005, 1008 (4th Cir. 1996). The party seeking summary judgment shoulders the initial burden of demonstrating to the court that there is no genuine issue of material fact. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323 (1986).

Once the moving party has made this threshold demonstration, the non-moving party, to survive the motion for summary judgment, may not rest on the allegations averred in his or her pleadings. Id. at 324. Rather, the non-moving party must demonstrate that specific, material facts exist that give rise to a genuine issue. Id. Under this standard, "[c]onclusory or speculative allegations do not suffice, nor does a mere scintilla of evidence'" in support of the non-moving party's case. Thompson v. ...


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