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Hamm v. Mittal

United States District Court, D. South Carolina

September 16, 2016

Michael E. Hamm, Plaintiff,
v.
Dr. Mittal, Defendants.

          ORDER

          Richard Mark Gergel United States District Judge

         This matter comes before the Court on the Report and Recommendation (R & R) of the Magistrate Judge (Dkt. No. 36), recommending that Defendant's motion for summary judgment be granted. For the reasons stated below, the Court ADOPTS the R & R, GRANTS Defendant's motion for summary judgment (Dkt. No. 19), 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 because (1) Defendant denied him a hearing test, (2) Defendant did not order treatment by a dermatologist for his skin lesions, and (3) Defendant did not order a blood test to determine if he has rheumatoid arthritis. (Dkt. No. 1-2). The Magistrate Judge recommended granting summary judgment as to all of Plaintiff s claims. (Dkt. No. 36). Plaintiff has filed a response to the R&R, (Dkt. No. 38), and Defendant has filed a reply. (Dkt. No. 39).

         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. Diamondv. 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.'" Diamondv. Colonial Life &Acc. 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). 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 Defendant substantially departed from the accepted standards in providing medical care to Plaintiff. With regard to the hearing test, it is undisputed that Defendant initially ordered a hearing test and only cancelled the hearing test when Plaintiff requested ear plugs because he was unable to sleep due to noise outside his room. Defendant, after consulting with another medical professional, determined Plaintiffs hearing complaints were inconsistent with his ...


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