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Sims v. County of Greenville

United States District Court, D. South Carolina, Anderson/Greenwood Division

January 19, 2016

Demetrius Allen Sims, Plaintiff, [1]
v.
The County of Greenville; Dept. of Public Safety for Greenville County[2]; Scotty Bodiford; Tracy Krein; Lisa McCombs; Kim Olszewski; Marie Livingston, Defendants.

          REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION OF MAGISTRATE JUDGE

          JACQUELYN D. AUSTIN, Magistrate Judge.

         This matter is before the Court on a motion for summary judgment filed by Defendants. [Doc. 28.] Pursuant to the provisions of 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(B) and Local Civil Rule 73.02(B)(2)(d), D.S.C., this magistrate judge is authorized to review all pretrial matters in cases filed under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and to submit findings and recommendations to the District Court.

         This action was filed on January 19, 2015, [3] alleging violations of Plaintiff's constitutional rights pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. [Doc. 1.] Defendants filed a motion for summary judgment and additional attachments on July 23, 2015. [Docs. 28-40.] The same day, pursuant to Roseboro v. Garrison, 528 F.2d 309 (4th Cir. 1975), Plaintiff was advised to respond to the motion and of the possible consequences if he failed to adequately respond. [Doc. 41.] Plaintiff filed a response in opposition to the motion on August 26, 2015 [Doc. 43], and Defendants filed a reply on August 28, 2015 [Doc. 45]. Accordingly, the motion is ripe for review.

         BACKGROUND[4]

         Plaintiff, who is a pretrial detainee at the Greenville County Detention Center ("GCDC"), alleges that the GCDC's showers are contaminated and infested with gnats, worms, and bacteria and that, as a result of using these showers, Plaintiff has suffered skin infections and ringworm-like lesions. [Doc. 1 at 6 ¶ a.] The six original plaintiffs contacted Defendant Scotty Bodiford ("Bodiford"), the jail administrator, and Defendant Tracy Krein ("Krein"), the medical administrator, about the health and safety risks on October 19, 2014, but neither administrator responded. [ Id. ] Plaintiff alleges that he and two other original plaintiffs filed a grievance regarding the infestations of bugs and vermin throughout the housing units, but no one responded to that grievance. [ Id. at 6 ¶ b.] The six original plaintiffs began filing grievances and appeals regarding the poor jail conditions and incomprehensive medical and mental health care, and each grievance and appeal was answered by the same persons; Plaintiff contends the grievance system and policy is systematically flawed and improper because the jail administrator responds to every grievance that it is not a grievable issue. [ Id. at 6 ¶ c.] Plaintiff further alleges that he was charged $2.50 for depositing funds into his inmate trust account on July 30, 2014 and each time thereafter when funds were deposited; Plaintiff contends this charge is illegal under federal trust laws. [ Id. at 7 ¶ d.] Plaintiff filed a grievance with respect to this allegation but the grievance was returned without a response. [ Id. ] Plaintiff alleges he requested mental health services as early as July 30, 2014, but Defendant Marie Livingston, the mental health supervisor, insisted that "one (1) psychiatric spread over approximately 1550 inmates causes back log on seeing or receiving help" and informed Plaintiff of a three- to six-month waiting list to see mental health or receive services. [ Id. at 7 ¶ e.] Plaintiff has requested emergency medical treatment and has been denied such treatment, resulting in pain, aggravation, and worsened medical conditions; Plaintiff suffered small strokes as a result. [ Id. at 7 ¶ F.] When contacted, Krein and Defendants Kim Olszewski and Lisa McCombs each denied knowledge. [ Id. ] Finally, Plaintiff alleges he was forced to sleep on the floor from July 8, 2014 through July 20, 2014 due to overcrowding of the jail. [ Id. at 8 ¶ G.] He filed a grievance and sent a request for status to the jail administrators, but received no response to either the grievance or the request. [ Id. ] Plaintiff seeks punitive and compensatory damages and any other relief the Court deems appropriate. [ Id. at 9.]

         APPLICABLE LAW

         Liberal Construction of Pro Se Complaint

         Plaintiff brought this action pro se, which requires the Court to liberally construe her pleadings. Estelle v. Gamble, 429 U.S. 97, 106 (1976); Haines v. Kerner, 404 U.S. 519, 520 (1972); Loe v. Armistead, 582 F.2d 1291, 1295 (4th Cir. 1978); Gordon v. Leeke, 574 F.2d 1147, 1151 (4th Cir. 1978). Pro se pleadings are held to a less stringent standard than those drafted by attorneys. Haines, 404 U.S. at 520. The mandated liberal construction means only that if the Court can reasonably read the pleadings to state a valid claim on which the plaintiff could prevail, it should do so. Barnett v. Hargett, 174 F.3d 1128, 1133 (10th Cir. 1999). A court may not construct the plaintiff's legal arguments for her. Small v. Endicott, 998 F.2d 411, 417-18 (7th Cir. 1993). Nor should a court "conjure up questions never squarely presented." Beaudett v. City of Hampton, 775 F.2d 1274, 1278 (4th Cir. 1985).

         Requirements for a Cause of Action Under § 1983

         This action is filed pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, which provides a private cause of action for constitutional violations by persons acting under color of state law. Section 1983 "is not itself a source of substantive rights, ' but merely provides a method for vindicating federal rights elsewhere conferred.'" Albright v. Oliver, 510 U.S. 266, 271 (1994) (quoting Baker v. McCollan, 443 U.S. 137, 144 n.3 (1979)). Accordingly, a civil action under § 1983 allows "a party who has been deprived of a federal right under the color of state law to seek relief." City of Monterey v. Del Monte Dunes at Monterey, Ltd., 526 U.S. 687, 707 (1999).

         Section 1983 provides, in relevant part,

Every person who, under color of any statute, ordinance, regulation, custom, or usage, of any State... subjects, or causes to be subjected, any citizen of the United States or any person within the jurisdiction thereof to the deprivation of any rights, privileges, or immunities secured by the Constitution and laws, shall be liable to the party injured in an action at law, suit in equity, or other proper proceeding for redress...

42 U.S.C. § 1983. To establish a claim under § 1983, a plaintiff must prove two elements: (1) that the defendant "deprived [the plaintiff] of a right secured by the Constitution and laws of the United States" and (2) that the defendant "deprived [the plaintiff] of this constitutional right under color of [State] statute, ordinance, regulation, custom, or usage." Mentavlos v. Anderson, 249 F.3d 301, 310 (4th Cir. 2001) (third alteration in original) (citation and internal quotation marks omitted).

         The under-color-of-state-law element, which is equivalent to the "state action" requirement under the Fourteenth Amendment,

reflects judicial recognition of the fact that most rights secured by the Constitution are protected only against infringement by governments. This fundamental limitation on the scope of constitutional guarantees preserves an area of individual freedom by limiting the reach of federal law and avoids imposing on the State, its agencies or officials, responsibility for conduct for which they cannot fairly be blamed.

Id. (quoting Dowe v. Total Action Against Poverty in Roanoke Valley, 145 F.3d 653, 658 (4th Cir. 1998)) (internal citations and quotation marks omitted). Nevertheless, "the deed of an ostensibly private organization or individual" may at times be treated "as if a State has caused it to be performed." Brentwood Acad. v. Tenn. Secondary Sch. Athletic Ass'n, 531 U.S. 288, 295 (2001). Specifically, "state action may be found if, though only if, there is such a close nexus between the State and the challenged action' that seemingly private behavior may be fairly treated as that of the State itself.'" Id. (quoting Jackson v. Metro. Edison Co., 419 U.S. 345, 351 (1974)). State action requires both an alleged constitutional deprivation "caused by the exercise of some right or privilege created by the State or by a rule of conduct imposed by the State... or by a person for whom the State is responsible" and that "the party charged with the deprivation [is] a person who may fairly be said to be a state actor." Lugar v. Edmondson Oil Co., 457 U.S. 922, 937 (1982). A determination of whether a private party's allegedly unconstitutional conduct is fairly attributable to the State requires the court to "begin[ ] by identifying the specific conduct of which the plaintiff complains.'" Am. Mfrs. Mut. Ins. Co. v. Sullivan, 526 U.S. 40, 51 (1999) (quoting Blum v. Yaretsky, 457 U.S. 991, 1004 (1982)).

         Summary Judgment Standard

         Rule 56(c) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure states, as to a party ...


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