United States District Court, D. South Carolina
REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION
KAYMANI D. WEST, Magistrate Judge.
Jason Thomas Boston ("Plaintiff"), proceeding pro se, brought this civil rights action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, alleging violations of his constitutional rights. This matter is before the court on Defendant Nadia Pressley's Motion for Summary Judgment filed on October 14, 2015. ECF No. 42. As Plaintiff is proceeding pro se, the court entered a Roseboro Order on October 15, 2015, advising Plaintiff of the importance of such motions and of the need for him to file adequate responses. ECF No. 43. Plaintiff responded to the Motion for Summary Judgment on October 22, 2015 and filed a Supplemental Response on February 12, 2016. ECF Nos. 48, 55. Defendant's Motion is now ripe for consideration. 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 this motion is dispositive, a Report and Recommendation is entered for the court's review.
I. Factual and Procedural Background
Plaintiff was a pretrial detainee housed at the Williamsburg County Detention Center ("WCDC") during the time period relevant to his Complaint. ECF No. 1 at 2. Plaintiff is currently incarcerated within the South Carolina Department of Corrections ("SCDC") at Evans Correctional Institution. Id. Plaintiff filed his Complaint on February 26, 2015, ECF No. 1-1; see Houston v. Lack, 487 U.S. 266, 271 (1988) (pro se prisoner's pleading is deemed "filed" at moment of delivery to prison authorities for forwarding to district court), alleging that the conditions of his confinement at WCDC were making him sick due to mold, absent hygienic supplies, and cold food. In his initial pleading to the court Plaintiff alleges that
[T]hey have me house in an room full with dirt mole to now some night my lungs and days feel like they have weights on it nose will state having blood coming out of it and many time they don't bathroom paper for the inmate's to use we having to go 3 and 4 day without bathroom paper. The food are always cold never hot and some time mole on the bread.
ECF No. 1 at 1. On a more detailed complaint form submitted in response to the court's initial order ("proper-form complaint"), Plaintiff alleges that he was "being house[d] in unsafe unclean unit." ECF No. 1-2 at 2. He responds "yes, " to a question on the form asking if he filed a grievance concerning the claims he was making and stated that he filed the grievance in "March an Jan." Id. Plaintiff did not provide a grievance number and alleges that he did not receive a final institutional answer to his grievance because, according to Plaintiff, he received "no responds" from Defendant Pressley. Id.
In the proper-form complaint, Plaintiff alleges that he was forced "to live in dirt." He alleges that rust "come's [sic] out the air vent with the smell of mold...." Id. at 3. Plaintiff also alleges that when the conditions are reported, WCDC officials "try to get somebody to paint over it then remove it." Id. Plaintiff alleges that he had trouble breathing at night and that his lungs felt like he has weights on them. Plaintiff also alleges that he and other detainees were forced to put their hands in a water cooler in order to get cold water and that sometimes he goes without eating because the food he gets is something he "can't eat...." Id. Plaintiff also alleges that the showers at WCDC were "unclean, " that food was handed out by fellow inmates "with the same glove they use around the pod to do thing with, " and that he was forced to use the same paper plate and paper cup since he was admitted to WCDC. Id. Plaintiff repeats his original allegations about lack of toilet paper and about getting a "nose bleed from time to time from inhaling all that rust dirt." Id. at 4. He alleges that he had not seen anybody about his nose bleeds, but said that the water smelled "like sewer water" and that rats ran "under the door in room's." Id. Plaintiff further alleged that the "carts they push the food in are very clean [sic] and leave some kind of mark on the food like the trays they put the paper plate on." Id.
Plaintiff seeks $3.5 million to pay him for his "pain and the way they force me to live." Id. at 5. Plaintiff also asks for "somebody to check the jail out come an [sic] check the mold and rust in c-pod and air vent...." Id.
II. Standard of Review
The court shall grant summary judgment "if the movant shows that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to a judgment as a matter of law." Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). The movant bears the initial burden of demonstrating that summary judgment is appropriate; if the movant carries its burden, then the burden shifts to the non-movant to set forth specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial. See Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322-23 (1986). If a movant asserts that a fact cannot be disputed, it must support that assertion either by "citing to particular parts of materials in the record, including depositions, documents, electronically stored information, affidavits or declarations, stipulations (including those made for purposes of the motion only), admissions, interrogatory answers, or other materials;" or "showing... that an adverse party cannot produce admissible evidence to support the fact." Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c)(1).
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, 322 (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, 391 (4th Cir. 1990).
A. Defendant Pressley's Motion for Summary Judgment
Defendant contends that she is entitled to summary judgment on Plaintiff's claims because Plaintiff's pleadings contain no allegations of personal wrongdoing by her and because Plaintiff does not allege which, if any, of the complained of conditions of confinement she was responsible for or how she violated his constitutional rights. ECF No. 42-1 at 4. Defendant also contends that even if there are sufficient allegations to find her personally responsible for the conditions of which Plaintiff complains, she is entitled to qualified immunity from Plaintiff's monetary claims. Id. Finally, Defendant asserts that Plaintiff's Complaint should be dismissed because he failed to exhaust his administrative remedies. Defendant attaches three affidavits to her Motion. One affidavit, from Captain Jacquelyn Scott, states that she is "involved in the day to day operations of WCDC" and that she reviewed Plaintiff's WCDC files and was "unaware of the existence" of any grievance from Plaintiff that raised complaints about the conditions of confinement that are raised in this case. She also avers that she was "unaware" of Plaintiff telling other staff members about the problems he allegedly experienced. ECF No. 42-2. Another affidavit, from Major Curtis Brown, states that he is in charge of maintenance at WCDC and that he was "unaware" of the environmental and food-service conditions that Plaintiff alleges although he was aware of some instances where detainees complained of needing toilet tissue and about the "trustees who serve water from the water cooler." He said those complaints were handled "promptly." He also avers that Plaintiff had access to water in his cell and not only to water in a water cooler of which he complains and that he was ...