United States District Court, D. South Carolina
John H. Hammond, #172452, Plaintiff,
John Doe, Kirkland's Unknown Doctor; Nurse Williams, Kirkland's Nurse; John or Jane Doe, Kirkland's Commissary Manager; Mr. Beckett, Kirkland's Lieutenant; and Mr. Byrne, Kershaw's Doctor, Kershaw Correctional Institution, in their individual and official capacities, Defendants.
REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION
SHIVA V. HODGES, Magistrate Judge.
John H. Hammond ("Plaintiff"), proceeding pro se, is an inmate incarcerated at the Kershaw Correctional Institution ("KCI") of the South Carolina Department of Corrections ("SCDC"). He filed this action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 alleging a violation of his constitutional rights during his incarceration at the Kirkland Reception and Evaluation Center ("Kirkland R&E") and KCI. Plaintiff sues KCI Doctor Byrne ("Byrne") and the following Kirkland R&E employees: Doctor John Doe, Commissary Manager Jane or John Doe, Nurse Williams ("Williams"), and Lieutenant Beckett (collectively "Defendants"). Pursuant to the provisions of 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(B) and Local Civ. Rule 73.02(B)(2)(d) (D.S.C.), the undersigned is authorized to review such complaints for relief and submit findings and recommendations to the district judge. For the reasons that follow, the undersigned recommends that the district judge dismiss the complaint in this case without prejudice and without issuance and service of process.
I. Factual and Procedural Background
Plaintiff alleges on June 12, 2014, while walking quickly to get out of the rain, he fell on a "grease-like spot" and bumped the back of his head on the concrete sidewalk. [ECF No. 1 at 4-5]. Plaintiff claims two inmates helped him up while officers stood at the door and watched. Id. at 5. Plaintiff states he was sent to medical the next day and Williams examined his head and then ordered x-rays. Id. at 6. Plaintiff alleges he was prescribed pain medication for his fall injuries and cream for his skin condition without being given a diagnosis for these conditions. Id. at 6-7. Plaintiff states he was charged for a steroid shot by Kirkland R&E on June 13, 2014, but KCI's medical staff has not administered the shot. Id. at 7. Plaintiff alleges KCI's medical staff ordered ibuprofen and meloxicam for his pain with the knowledge this medication would be less effective. Id.
Plaintiff claims when he arrived at Kirkland R&E on April 5, 2014, he was given old clothes and an old mattress, both containing dead skin. Id. at 7. Plaintiff alleges he slept on the mattress on his right side and claims two weeks after he received the mattress a rash appeared on the right side of his body. Id. at 8. Plaintiff states he signed up for sick call and claims an unknown doctor prescribed cream and ointment for his rash that were ineffective. Id. at 9. Plaintiff alleges he was seen several more times in sick call and Byrne again issued the same medications even though he told them the medicines were ineffective. Id. at 9-10.
Plaintiff alleges Defendants took money out of his account "with no intent to assist him in obtaining access to court by processing (and timely providing him with) the financial certificate that is needed for attachment to his Application to Proceed Without Pre-payment Of Fees and Affidavit." Id. at 10-11. Plaintiff claims the money was taken "to cause a chilling effect and to make him angry [at a fellow inmate] for bad advice." Id. at 11.
Finally, Plaintiff argues Defendants violated his constitutional rights by providing meals that did not meet the daily recommended amounts for protein, potassium, niacin, Omega 3, and vitamin C. Id. at 11-12. Plaintiff alleges Defendants also published beef dishes in SCDC menus when the meat in those dishes was made from ground poultry organs. Id. at 12. Plaintiff seeks monetary damages, and declaratory and injunctive relief. Id. at 12.
A. Standard of Review
Under established local procedure in this judicial district, a careful review has been made of the pro se complaint. Even though Plaintiff has paid the filing fee in this action, the court possesses the inherent authority to ensure that Plaintiff has standing, federal jurisdiction exists, and the case is not frivolous. See Ross v. Baron, 493 F.Appx. 405, 406-407 (4th Cir. 2012); see also Mallard v. United States Dist. Court for S. Dist. of Iowa, 490 U.S. 296, XXXXXXXXX (1989) ("Section 1915(d)... authorizes courts to dismiss a frivolous or malicious' action, but there is little doubt they would have power to do so even in the absence of this statutory provision.").
Pro se complaints are held to a less stringent standard than those drafted by attorneys. Gordon v. Leeke, 574 F.2d 1147, 1151 (4th Cir. 1978). A federal court is charged with liberally construing a complaint filed by a pro se litigant to allow the development of a potentially meritorious case. Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 94 (2007). In evaluating a pro se complaint, the plaintiff's allegations are assumed to be true. Fine v. City of N.Y., 529 F.2d 70, 74 (2d Cir. 1975). The mandated liberal construction afforded to 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. Nevertheless, the requirement of liberal construction does not mean that the court can ignore a clear failure in the pleading to allege facts that set forth a claim currently cognizable in a federal district court. Weller v. Dep't of Soc. Servs., 901 F.2d 387, 390-91 (4th Cir. 1990).
1. Medical Indifference
Plaintiff complains Defendants improperly treated his head injury and skin condition. [ECF No. 1 at 4-5, 7-9]. Deliberate indifference is a very high standard requiring more than a showing of mere negligence, Estelle v. Gamble, 429 U.S. 97, 105-106 (1976), and "more than ordinary lack of due care for the prisoner's interests or safety." Whitley v. Albers, 475 U.S. 312, 319 (1986); see also Farmer v. Brennan, 511 U.S. 825, 835-36 (1994) (providing greater explanation of the level of culpability required for deliberate indifference). The Fourth Circuit has noted that treatment "must be so grossly incompetent, inadequate or ...