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Vanzant v. Weissglass

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

September 6, 2016

Ronnie Joe Vanzant, Plaintiff,
Dr. Berry Weissglass, Dr. Theodolph Jacobs, and Karen Huffman, Defendants.


          R. Bryan Harwell United States District Judge

         Plaintiff Ronnie Joe Vanzant, a state pretrial detainee proceeding pro se, has sued the three above-named Defendants under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 alleging they violated his constitutional rights by acting in deliberate indifference to his serious medical needs. The matter is before the Court for review of the Report and Recommendation (“R & R”) of United States Magistrate Judge Jacquelyn D. Austin, made in accordance with 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(B) and Local Rule 73.02 for the District of South Carolina.[1] See R & R, ECF No. 70. The Magistrate Judge recommends the Court grant Defendants' motion for summary judgment. R & R at 15-16. Plaintiff has filed objections to the R & R. See ECF No. 72. Defendants have filed a reply to Plaintiff's objections. See ECF No. 74.

         Legal Standards

         I. Review of the Magistrate Judge's R & R

         The Magistrate Judge makes only a recommendation to the Court. The Magistrate Judge's 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 must conduct a de novo review of those portions of the R & R to which specific objections are made, and it may accept, reject, or modify, in whole or in part, the recommendation of the Magistrate Judge or recommit the matter with instructions. 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1).

         The Court must engage in a de novo review of every portion of the Magistrate Judge's report to which objections have been filed. Id. However, the Court need not conduct a de novo review when a party makes only “general and conclusory objections that do not direct the [C]ourt to a specific error in the [M]agistrate [Judge]'s proposed findings and recommendations.” Orpiano v. Johnson, 687 F.2d 44, 47 (4th Cir. 1982). In the absence of specific objections to the R & R, the Court reviews only for clear error, Diamond v. Colonial Life & Acc. Ins. Co., 416 F.3d 310, 315 (4th Cir. 2005), and the Court need not give any explanation for adopting the Magistrate Judge's recommendation. Camby v. Davis, 718 F.2d 198, 199-200 (4th Cir. 1983).

         II. Summary Judgment

         Summary judgment is appropriate when no genuine issue of material fact exists and the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Reyazuddin v. Montgomery Cty., Md., 789 F.3d 407, 413 (4th Cir. 2015); see Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(a) (“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 judgment as a matter of law.”). “A party asserting that a fact cannot be or is genuinely disputed must support the assertion by: (A) citing to particular parts of materials in the record . . .; or (B) showing that the materials cited do not establish the absence or presence of a genuine dispute, or that an adverse party cannot produce admissible evidence to support the fact.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c)(1). The facts and inferences to be drawn from the evidence must be viewed in the light most favorable to the non-moving party, Reyazuddin, 789 F.3d at 413, but the Court “cannot weigh the evidence or make credibility determinations.” Jacobs v. N.C. Admin. Office of the Courts, 780 F.3d 562, 569 (4th Cir. 2015).


         Viewed in the light most favorable to Plaintiff, the facts are as follows. Plaintiff was incarcerated as a pretrial detainee at the Sheriff Al Cannon Detention Center in North Charleston, South Carolina, during all times relevant to his allegations. Sec. Am. Compl., ECF No. 51 at 2. He alleges that on the morning of July 11, 2015, [3] he suffered a seizure attack, injured his head when he hit the concrete, and was taken to the medical unit at the jail. Id. While Plaintiff was in the medical unit, an officer searched his cell and found pills from a medication that had been administered to Plaintiff earlier that morning. Id. at 3-5. Plaintiff was charged with a disciplinary infraction for medication hoarding and placed in lock-up for fifteen days, and Defendants[4] immediately discontinued all of his medications, including his mental health and seizure medications, that they had been providing him for the past year-and-a-half. Id. at 3; Huffman Aff., ECF No. 62-4 at 2. Although Defendants eventually began providing most of his medications again, Plaintiff claims their sudden termination of all medications and the delay in reinstating the medications (particularly his seizure medications) constituted deliberate indifference to his serious medical needs. Sec. Am. Compl. at 3, 5-6; Pl.'s Supp. Pldg., ECF No. 65 at 1.


         The Magistrate Judge recommends the Court grant Defendants' motion for summary judgment on Plaintiff's deliberate indifference claim brought under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. R & R at 15-16. Plaintiff lodges several objections to the Magistrate Judge's recommendation.[5] See Pl.'s Objs., ECF No. 72.

         First, Plaintiff indicates he does not understand the legal standard set forth in the R & R regarding the “Requirements for a Cause of Action Under § 1983.” Pl.'s Objs. at 2; see R & R at 4-5. Specifically, Plaintiff states he “doesn't understand how state statutes can be [i]nvolved in a federal constitutional complaint.” Pl.'s Objs. at 2. As the Magistrate Judge explains, a plaintiff asserting a claim under § 1983 must show he was “deprived of a right secured by the Constitution or laws of the United States, and that the alleged deprivation was committed under color of state law.” Am. Mfrs. Mut. Ins. Co. v. Sullivan, 526 U.S. 40, 49-50 (1999) (emphasis added). The “under color of state law” requirement encompasses “any statute . . . of any State, ” see 42 U.S.C. § 1983 (emphasis added), and it is met when the deprivation was “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.” Lugar v. Edmondson Oil Co., 457 U.S. 922, 937 (1982). The Court finds the R & R correctly summarizes the legal standard required for a claim brought under § 1983.

         Plaintiff next asserts, “Everything Plaintiff stated in his complaint is true and he can prove it all through discovery process.” Pl.'s Objs. at 2. Elsewhere in his objections, Plaintiff requests permission to conduct discovery to prove his deliberate indifference claim.[6]See Id. at 2-3, 9. To the extent Plaintiff is moving for leave to conduct discovery, his request is untimely because the discovery phase of this case has long since expired. Local Civil Rule 26.04 requires that pretrial discovery in a civil case exempt under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 26(a)(1)(B) must be completed within ninety days after the joinder of issues. Local Civ. Rule 26.04 (D.S.C.); see Fed. R. Civ. P. 26(a)(1)(B)(iv) (exempting from initial disclosure an action filed by a person who is in state custody and not represented by an attorney). “Joinder of issues occurs when the basic factual and legal questions raised by the parties ‘crystallize' i.e., when [the] defendant answers or otherwise responds to the allegations set forth in [the] plaintiff's complaint.” Bachman v. M. Lowenstein & Sons, Inc., 85 F.R.D. 10, 12 (D.S.C. 1979). Here, joinder of the issues occurred at the latest on March 2, 2016, when Defendants filed and served their answer to Plaintiff's second amended complaint. See ECF No. 56. Pretrial discovery therefore closed on May 31, 2016. Consequently, Plaintiff's request to conduct discovery is ...

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