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Davis v. Reynolds

United States District Court, D. South Carolina

March 14, 2016

Thomas Jeremy Davis, Plaintiff,
Robert Reynolds and Kenneth B. Weedon, Defendants.


KAYMANI D. WEST, Magistrate Judge.

Plaintiff, an inmate with the South Carolina Department of Corrections ("SCDC"), filed this 42 U.S.C. § 1983 action alleging Defendants violated his constitutional rights. This matter is before the court on Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment. ECF No. 39. As Plaintiff is proceeding pro se, the court entered a Roseboro order[1] on November 16, 2015, advising Plaintiff of the importance of such a motion and of the need for him to file an adequate response. ECF No. 40. Plaintiff filed a Response in Opposition to Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment on November 23, 2015. ECF No. 42. 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 Motion is dispositive, a Report and Recommendation is entered for the court's review.

I. Background

Plaintiff Thomas Jeremy Davis is currently incarcerated at SCDC's Walden Correctional Institution ("WCI"). ECF No. 1 at 2. Plaintiff alleges he is litigating "unsafe work environment [and] neglect for human life" issues. Id. Specifically, Plaintiff alleges that on March 10, 2015, he cut his left pinkie down to the top knuckle while working with a jointer machine in the carpentry shop at WCI. Id. at 3. Plaintiff alleges that the guard on the machine was supposed to cover the blade so it would be impossible for the machine user to cut himself but that the "guard on the machine had not been working the whole time [he] was in the class." Id. Plaintiff alleges that Defendant Reynolds knew about the condition of the machine and "had us using it anyway." Id.

After his finger was cut, Plaintiff maintains that Defendant Reynolds wrapped the injury and took him to operations. Id. Once at medical services, Plaintiff represents that nurses gave him a shot and some kind of pain medication. Id. Plaintiff was taken to Richland Memorial Hospital where Plaintiff alleges he was not given any pain medicine or antibiotics-that only an x-ray was taken. Id. Plaintiff represents that Surgeon Andrew Swentik eventually arrived and treated Plaintiff. Id. at 3-4. Plaintiff alleges that Dr. Swentik "had to amputate [his] finger the rest of the way to the knuckle, folded it over, and stitched it up...." Id. at 4. Plaintiff maintains he continues to experience pain from the amputation and scarring. Id. Plaintiff seeks $10, 000.00 in damages from each Defendant for his pain and suffering, the permanent injury, and the disability to his left hand. Id. at 5.[2]

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. Failure to State a Claim under § 1983 against Defendant Weedon

Defendants maintain that Plaintiff's action against Defendant Weedon should be dismissed because "Plaintiff does not mention Defendant Weedon in the body of the Complaint and does not attempt to describe what Defendant Weedon specifically did or did not do." ECF No. 39-2 at 3. Accordingly, Defendants maintain that Defendant Weedon should be dismissed as a party to this action as well as other "individuals who are not named in the caption and who have not been served with the Summons and Complaint." Id. In Response to Defendants' Motion, Plaintiff maintains that Defendant Weedon, as warden of WCI, "is supposed to make rounds' through areas including the carpentry shop, and has seen the broken safety guard on the jointer machine, and not doing anything about it, makes him responsible as well." ECF No. 42-1 at 1.

Rule 8 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure requires that complaints shall contain "a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief." The purpose behind Rule 8 is to give the defendant fair notice of the claims and the grounds upon which it rests. Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007). Further, the plaintiff is obligated to provide "more than labels and conclusions, and a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action will not do...." Id. The factual allegations must be enough to raise a right to relief above the speculative level. Id. "A claim has facial plausibility when the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged." Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009). The Twombly Court noted that defendants will not know how to respond to conclusory allegations, especially when "the pleadings mentioned no specific time, place, or person involved in the alleged conspiracies." Twombly, 550 U.S. at 565 n.10. However, Twombly did not expressly hold that a plaintiff must assert specific time, place, and persons involved in order to comply with Rule 8. See Ashcroft, 556 U.S. at 678 (internal Twombly citation omitted) ("As the Court held in Twombly, [] the pleading standard Rule 8 announces does not require detailed factual allegations, ' but it demands more than an unadorned, the-defendant-unlawfully-harmed-me accusation."); Starr v. Sony BMG Music Entm't, 592 F.3d 314, 325 (2d Cir. 2010) (finding the Twombly court noted, in dicta, that the pleadings there mentioned no specific time, place, or person involved in the alleged conspiracies and rejected defendants' argument that Twombly requires a plaintiff identify the specific time, place, or person related to each conspiracy allegation); Milliken & Co. v. CNA Holdings, Inc., 3:08-CV-578-RV, 2011 WL 3444013, at *5 (W.D. N.C. Aug. 8, 2011) (finding other courts have held a plaintiff can survive a motion to dismiss even though he fails to answer who, what, when and where).

Plaintiff is proceeding pro se in this case. Pro se complaints should be construed liberally by this court and are held to a less stringent standard than those drafted by attorneys. Estelle v. Gamble, 429 U.S. 97, 105 (1976). Dismissal of a pro se complaint for failure to state a valid claim is only appropriate when, after applying this liberal construction, it appears "beyond doubt that the plaintiff can prove no set of facts in support of his claim which would entitle him to relief." Haines v. Kerner, 404 U.S. 519 (1972). The requirement of liberal construction, however, does not mean that the court can ignore a clear failure in the pleading to allege facts which set forth a claim currently cognizable in a federal district court. See Weller, 901 F.2d at 390-91.

Liberally construing Plaintiff's Complaint, the undersigned finds that Plaintiff has not alleged enough facts to withstand dismissal of Defendant Weedon as a party to this action. See ECF No. 1. In the three pages of Plaintiff's narrative recounting the carpentry shop incident, Plaintiff does not mention Defendant Weedon by name or reference the Warden of WCI. See id. In fact, Defendant Weedon is only referenced once in Plaintiff's Complaint under form questions concerning whether Plaintiff filed grievances prior to filing this action. Id. at 2. There, Plaintiff was asked what steps he took during the grievance process and the ultimate result, and he responded: "I also wrote security and Lt Lane on the kiosk and talked to the Warden in person. They all just blew me off, the Warden himself just walked off and said there's nothing he can do." Id. Based on the allegations contained in Plaintiff's Complaint, the undersigned finds that Plaintiff has failed to allege a cause of action against Defendant Weedon and the allegations concerning Defendant Weedon's alleged inaction during the grievance process do not give rise to a § 1983 cause of action for deliberate indifference to health and safety. The undersigned notes Plaintiff's Response wherein he indicates that Defendant Weedon also had knowledge of the broken safety guard on the jointer machine and failed to act. ECF No. 42-1 at 1. However, Rule 8 indicates the necessary requirements for a pleading stating a claim for relief. Here, those requirements are not met. Accordingly, the undersigned recommends granting Defendants' motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim and dismissing Defendant Weedon as a party to this action.

Additionally, the undersigned finds that it is not necessary to consider Defendants' argument concerning the individuals who were not named in the Complaint's caption and who have not been served in this action. These individuals were never made parties ...

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