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Hamm v. Scaturo

United States District Court, D. South Carolina

July 28, 2016

Michael E. Hamm, Plaintiff,
Holly Scaturo; NFN Chuma, Mr, Ziggy; NFN Dawson; NFN Pratt; NFN Borum; NFN Sanders; NFN Trapp; NFN Harnett; and NFN Meyers, Defendants.



         This matter conies before the Court on the Report and Recommendation (R & R) of the Magistrate Judge (Dkt. No. 65), recommending that Defendants' motion for summary judgment be granted. For the reasons stated below, the Court ADOPTS the R & R as modified, GRANTS Defendants' motion for summary judgment (Dkt. No. 58), and DISMISSES this action with prejudice.

         I. Background

         Plaintiff is a civilly committed inmate under the South Carolina Sexually Violent Predator's Act (SVPA), SC Code Ann. § 44-48-10, et. seq. He asserts claims under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), the Rehabilitation Act, and possibly the Omnibus Adult Protection Act. Specifically, Plaintiff alleges that he received inadequate medical care and that the conditions of his confinement are unconstitutional and violate the ADA and Rehabilitation Act. The Magistrate Judge recommended granting summary judgment as to all of Plaintiff s claims. (Dkt. No. 65). Plaintiff has filed objections, (Dkt. No. 70), and Defendants have filed a reply. (Dkt. No. 71).

         II. Legal Standard

         A. Report and Recommendation

         The Magistrate Judge makes only a recommendation to this Court. The recommendation has no presumptive weight, and the responsibility to make a final determination remains with the Court. Mathews v. Weber, 423 U.S. 261, 270-71 (1976). The Court may "accept, reject, or modify, in whole or in part, the findings or recommendations made by the magistrate." 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1). This Court is charged with making a de novo determination of those portions of the R & R or specified proposed findings or recommendations to which objection is made. Diamond v. Colonial Life & Acc. Ins. Co., 416 F.3d 310, 315 (4th Cir. 2005) (quoting 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)); accord Fed. R. Civ. P. 72(b).

         However, as to portions of the R & R to which no objection is made, this Court "must 'only satisfy itself that there is no clear error on the face of the record in order to accept the recommendation.'" Diamond v. Colonial Life & Ace. Ins. Co., 416 F.3d 310, 315 (4th Cir. 2005) (quoting Fed. R. Civ. P 72 advisory committee note). Additionally, the Court need not give any explanation for adopting the R & R in the absence of specific objections by the parties. See Camby v. Davis, 718 F.2d 198, 200 (4th Cir. 1983) ("Absent objection, we do not believe that any explanation need be given for adopting the report.").

         B. Summary Judgment

         Summary judgment is appropriate "if the movant shows that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a), Only material facts-those "that might affect the outcome of the suit under the governing law"-will preclude the entry of summary judgment. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986). A dispute about a material fact is genuine, "if the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the non-moving party." Id. At the summary judgment stage, the court must "construe the evidence, and all reasonable inferences that may be drawn from such evidence, in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party." Dash v. Mayweather, 731 F.3d 303, 310 (4th Cir. 2013). However, "the nonmoving party must rely on more than conclusory allegations, mere speculation, the building of one inference upon another, or the mere existence of a scintilla of evidence." Id. at 311.

         III. Discussion

         A. Section 1983 Claims Regarding Medical Treatment

         "The substantive component of the due process clause protects against only the most egregious, arbitrary governmental conduct-that is, conduct that can be said to 'shock[ ] the conscience.'" Patten v. Nichols, 274 F.3d 829, 834 (4th Cir. 2001) (quoting Cty. of Sacramento v. Lewis, 523 U.S. 833, 846 (1998)). "[I]t is ... clear that negligence alone does not amount to a constitutional violation." Id. In the case of a civilly committed individual, denial-of-medical-care claims and inadequate-medical-care claims are governed by the professional judgment standard articulated by the Supreme Court in Youngberg v. Romeo, 457 U.S. 307 (1982).[1] Id. at 842. Under Youngberg, "decisions made by the appropriate professional are entitled to a presumption of correctness, " and "liability may be imposed only when the decision by the professional is such a substantial departure from accepted professional judgment, practice, or standards as to demonstrate that the person responsible actually did not base the decision on such a judgment, " 457 U.S. at 323, 324.

         The Court agrees with the Magistrate Judge that Plaintiff has put forward no evidence that Defendants substantially departed from the accepted standards in providing medical care to Plaintiff. Defendants have submitted expert testimony that their actions were within the standards of care, and Plaintiff has only submitted conclusory assertions to the contrary. Plaintiff lacks the expertise to opine about whether the care he received was within professional standards of care, and the alleged inadequacies (e.g., having to wait 15 minutes on medication and denial of a foam mattress) are not "so obvious[ly]" a substantial departure from accepted standards "that even a lay person would easily recognize" them as such. Cf, Iko v. Shreve,535 F.3d 225, 241 (4th Cir. 2008) (defining a "serious medical need" as a "one that has been diagnosed by a ...

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