United States District Court, D. South Carolina, Orangeburg Division
DAVID C. NORTON UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
This matter is before the court on Magistrate Judge Kaymani D. West’s Report and Recommendation (“R&R”) that this court grant the motion for summary judgment filed by all defendants of record. Plaintiff Dmitry Pronin (“Pronin”) filed a written objection to the R&R. For the reasons set forth below, the court adopts in part and rejects in part the R&R and grants in part and denies in part defendants’ motion for summary judgment.
Pronin is presently confined in the United States Penitentiary, Administrative Maximum Facility near Florence, Colorado. Pronin was formerly an inmate at FCI-Edgefield (“Edgefield”) in Edgefield, South Carolina. Pronin alleges that in March 2012, fellow Edgefield inmate Larry Burns (“Burns”) was moved into Pronin’s cell. Compl. 11. Within approximately two months “it became obvious to [Pronin] that [Burns] was sexually perverse, had homosexual desires that he was eager to fullfill [sic] on [Pronin’s] account.” Id. Pronin contends that he filed two request-to-staff-member forms (“staff requests”) on May 18, 2012, notifying defendants John Bryant (“John”) and Dewick Bryant (“Dewick”) of Burns’s sexually charged threats and habitual drug abuse. Id. Pronin contends that he asked John and Dewick to interfere and move him out of Burns’s cell, but these requests were ignored. Id. Burns allegedly continued to threaten Pronin and began bragging about his “good connections” with prison officers. Id. at 12. Pronin states that on June 5, 2012, he filed a staff request to defendant Charles Collie regarding Burns’ drug use, followed by renewed requests to John and Dewick on June 18 and June 19, 2012, respectively.
Pronin further states that on June 26, 2012, Burns purchased drugs from defendant Sandra K. Lathrop (“Lathrop”) and that the next day, Burns told Pronin that Lathrop and defendant Sherilyn Cheek (“Cheek”) had told Burns that Pronin was registered as a sex offender. Id. Burns allegedly threatened to reveal this fact if Pronin refused to perform sexual acts on him. Id. Pronin states that he spoke to John on June 28, 2012, who told him that there were no cells available, that he was too busy, and that Pronin should speak to him later. Id. at 12–13. On July 12, 2012, after a third cellmate was moved out of the cell, Burns’ threats allegedly intensified. Id. at 13. Shortly thereafter, on July 15, 2012, Pronin contends that Burns pressed a knife to the right side of his neck and raped him. Id. at 13.
On the basis of such allegations, Pronin brings a claim for “failure to protect” against John and Dewick, arguing that John and Dewick knew of the specific threat Burns posed, but did nothing about it. Pl.’s Objections 3. On March 2, 2015, defendants filed the instant motion for summary judgment. Pronin filed a response on March 10, 2015, and defendants filed a reply on March 20, 2015. The magistrate judge issued the R&R on August 31, 2015, recommending the court grant summary judgment on all claims and dismiss the case. Pronin filed his objection to the R&R on October 2, 2015, and defendants replied to his objection on October 19, 2015. The matter is now ripe for the court’s review.
This court is charged with conducting a de novo review of any portion of the magistrate judge’s report to which specific, written objections are made, and may accept, reject, or modify, in whole or in part, the recommendations contained in that report. 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1). The magistrate judge’s recommendation does not carry presumptive weight, and it is the responsibility of this court to make a final determination. Mathews v. Weber, 423 U.S. 261, 270–71 (1976). A party’s failure to object may be treated as agreement with the conclusions of the magistrate judge. See Thomas v. Arn, 474 U.S. 140, 150 (1985).
Pronin initially appeared pro se in this case. Federal district courts are charged with liberally construing complaints filed by pro se litigants to allow the development of a potentially meritorious case. See Haines v. Kerner, 404 U.S. 519, 521 (1972). The requirement of liberal construction does not mean that the court can ignore a clear failure in the pleadings to allege facts which set forth a cognizable claim, nor does it mean the court can assume the existence of a genuine issue of material fact where none exists. Weller v. Dep’t of Soc. Servs., 901 F.2d 387 (4th Cir. 1990).
Summary judgment shall be granted if the movant shows that there is no genuine dispute as to any issue of material fact and that it is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). “Only disputes over facts that might affect the outcome of the suit under the governing law will properly preclude the ECF of summary judgment.” Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986). “[S]ummary judgment will not lie if the dispute about a material fact is ‘genuine, ’ that is, if the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party.” Id. At the summary judgment stage, the court must view the evidence in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party and draw all reasonable inferences in his favor. Id. at 255.
Pronin’s objections only address his failure to protect claim against John and Dewick. Pl.’s Objections 2. In addition to the fact that “[a] party’s failure to object may be treated as agreement with the conclusions of the magistrate judge, ” see Thomas, 474 U.S. at 150, Pronin has explicitly agreed to abandon the claims not addressed by his objections. Pl.’s Objections 2 n.1. Therefore, after reviewing the record for clear error and finding none, the court adopts the R&R with respect to all claims, other than Pronin’s failure to protect claim against John and Dewick, and grants defendants’ motion for summary judgment on such claims.
With regard to the failure to protect claim, Pronin does not contest the magistrate judge’s determination that “a claim for failure to protect from violence [requires] an inmate [to] show: (1) ‘that he is incarcerated under conditions posing a substantial risk of serious harm, ’  and (2) that the prison officials had a ‘sufficiently culpable state of mind.’” R&R at 21 (quoting Farmer v. Brennan, 511 U.S. 825, 833 (1994)). There is also no dispute that, in this case, Pronin must show that John and Dewick acted with “deliberate indifference.” Id. (quoting Farmer, 511 U.S. at 834); Pl.’s Objections at 3 (citing Young v. City of Mount Ranier, 238 F.3d 567, 575–76 (4th Cir. 2001)). Pronin’s objection simply turns on whether the evidence is sufficient to create a question of material fact under that standard.
In support of his claim, Pronin offers his own sworn declarations, Compl. Exs. 1, 16–18; ECF No. 122-3, Pronin Dec. in Opp. ¶¶ 1–9, as well as a number of staff request forms which he claims to have filed in an attempt to prevent Burns’s actions. Compl. Exs. 11–15; Pl.’s Resp. Ex. 5. The magistrate judge found that these submissions could not be considered at the summary judgment stage, because: (i) the declarations were self-serving; and (ii) the staff requests were unauthenticated, as there was no evidence they were actually filed with John, Dewick, or any other staff member. R&R at 23. Therefore, the ...