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Beaufort v. Coxe

United States District Court, D. South Carolina, Orangeburg Division

October 14, 2016

Sherwin Beaufort, Plaintiff,
v.
Charlie Coxe, Larry Cartledge, Brian Stirling, Lloyd Greer, Dr. Ingraham, and Dr. M. Garcia, Defendants.

          ORDER

          R. BRYAN HARWELL UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         Plaintiff Sherwin Beaufort, currently incarcerated at Kirkland Correctional Institution (“KCI”), and proceeding pro se, brought this action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 alleging that Defendants subjected him to unconstitutional conditions of confinement while he has been detained at KCI. This matter is before the Court after issuance of the Report and Recommendation (“R&R”) of United States Magistrate Judge Kaymani D. West, filed on April 29, 2016. [ECF #10]. This matter was referred to the Magistrate Judge pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1) and Local Civil Rule 73.02(B)(2)(e). In the R&R, the Magistrate Judge recommends summary dismissal of Plaintiff's Complaint. On May 18, 2016, Plaintiff filed a motion to amend/correct his complaint [ECF #12]. Concurrently, this document also appears to serve as his objections to the R&R. [ECF #13]. This matter is now before the Court for review.

         Background

         Plaintiff filed this action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 on April 12, 2016 against Defendants, alleging violations of his constitutional rights, including allegations of medical malpractice, false imprisonment, and cruel and unusual punishment. [ECF #1, p. 2]. Specifically, Plaintiff alleges that on January 18, 2014, while housed at McCormick Correctional Institution (“MCI”), Warden Leroy Cartledge found a large hole/tunnel in Plaintiff's housing unit. [ECF#1, p. 3]. Upon examination of the hole/tunnel, agent Charlie Coxe found contraband including cell phones, tobacco, a hammer, ice pick, pliers, a chisel, pieces of metal, and cell phone chargers. [ECF #1, p. 3]. Plaintiff shared this unit with another inmate for approximately one year. [ECF#1, p. 3]. Plaintiff alleges that he had no knowledge of the hole/tunnel or its contents, and that he is being forced to remain at KCI, despite being innocent of the charges. [ECF #1, p. 4]. Plaintiff initially alleged that he was stripped naked and left without a blanket after being sent to KCI, and further, that he was interrogated by Defendants Coxe and Greer. [ECF #1, p. 4]. Plaintiff also alleged that he is being subjected to cruel and unusual punishment at KCI because of conditions which include ceiling leaks and lack of heat. [ECF #1, p. 4]. Plaintiff further alleges that prison officials refused to transport him to his preliminary hearings for his criminal matter. [ECF#1, pp. 4-5]. Plaintiff also alleges that he has broken out into rashes and hives because he is allergic to the state soap at KCI, but the medical staff have committed malpractice and been unprofessional by failing to adequately treat his rashes and hives and for failing to provide him new soap to use. [ECF #1, p. 5]. He also initially alleged his requests for sick call have gone ignored, as has his request to see an outside dermatologist. [ECF #1, p. 5]. While he names two doctors as Defendants in this case, he does not allege any personal involvement with them with respect to his medical care.

         On April 29, 2016, Magistrate Judge Kaymani D. West issued her Report and Recommendation (“R&R”) recommending that Plaintiff's complaint be summarily dismissed on several grounds. First, the Magistrate Judge recommends summary dismissal as to Defendants Cartledge, Stirling[1], Ingraham, and Garcia because Plaintiff does not allege any allegations against these Defendants in his Complaint. [ECF #10, p. 3]. To the extent they are considered “supervisors, ” the Magistrate Judge states that Plaintiff has failed to allege a causal connection between these Defendants and a plausible constitutional violation claim, as required by 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Nor does the Plaintiff allege that these Defendants should be held liable pursuant to the three elements required to prove supervisory liability as enunciated by the Fourth Circuit in Shaw v. Stroud, 13 F.3d 791, 799 (4th Cir. 1994).[2] With respect to Defendants Greer and Coxe, the Magistrate Judge recommends summary dismissal because Plaintiff alleged these two individuals simply questioned him, which does not state a colorable claim under § 1983. Furthermore, the Magistrate Judge points out that even if Plaintiff alleged allegations of personal involvement of these Defendants, Plaintiff does not state any plausible Eighth Amendment violations based on being subjected to “cruel and unusual punishment.” With respect to Plaintiff's alleged receipt of inadequate medical care, the Magistrate Judge also recommends summary dismissal because Plaintiff does not meet the threshold standard of showing deliberate indifference to his serious medical needs. Finally, the Magistrate Judge notes that Plaintiff's alleged claims for negligence or malpractice claims should be summarily dismissed because these claims may only be brought in the federal system if diversity of citizenship and the amount in controversy requirements are met. Here, Plaintiff does not plead or otherwise allege these requirements.

         On May 18, 2016, Plaintiff filed a document styled “Motion to Amend Complaint” which was also subsequently filed as his objections to the R&R. [ECF #12; ECF #13]. Within this filing, Plaintiff does not raise any specific objections to the R&R. Instead he includes further allegations with respect to Defendants Charlie Coxe, Leroy Cartledge, Brian Stirling, and Lloyd Greer. He does not make any allegations against Dr. Ingraham or Dr. M. Garcia. [ECF #12; ECF #13]. However, he does add more specific allegations against the other Defendants. For example, he alleges that despite requesting his lawyer, Mr. Coxe tried to force him to answer questions about the contents found in his cell room. [ECF #12, p. 1]. He alleges Mr. Stirling “refused to answer” Plaintiff's “request(s) of questions” about his charges, and it was Mr. Stirling who gave the final recommendation for him to be placed at KCI. Plaintiff again alleges that Defendants Coxe, Cartledge, Greer and Stirling are the reason he is in KCI and being subjected to cruel and unusual and inhumane punishment. [ECF #12, p. 2]. He further alleges that Defendants Coxe and Greer failed to properly investigate the allegations regarding the possession of contraband and escape or “comply with the requests of information and evidence about my escape and possession of tools/conceal weapon charges from” his lawyer or the solicitor. [ECF #12, p. 3]. Plaintiff alleges Mr. Cartledge's involvement includes the fact that he received a note, apparently the initial start to this investigation, from a confidential informant regarding the tunnel in his cell. [ECF #12, p. 3]. This Court will consider these new allegations found in the motion to amend complaint in its review of this lawsuit.

         Standards of Review

         I. Review of the Magistrate Judge's Report & Recommendation

         The Magistrate Judge makes only a recommendation to the Court. The recommendation has no presumptive weight. The responsibility to make a final determination remains with the Court. Mathews v. Weber, 423 U.S. 261, 270-71 (1976). The Court is charged with making a de novo determination of those portions of the report and recommendation to which specific objection is made, and the Court may accept, reject, or modify, in whole or in part, the recommendation of the Magistrate Judge, or recommit the matter to the Magistrate Judge with instructions. 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1). The right to de novo review may be waived by the failure to file timely objections. Orpiano v. Johnson, 687 F.2d 44, 47 (4th Cir. 1982). The district court is obligated to conduct 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's proposed findings and recommendations.” Id. 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).

         Discussion

         I. Claims Against Defendants Ingraham and Garcia

         The Magistrate Judge recommends summary dismissal as to Defendants Ingraham and Garcia because Plaintiff fails to allege any acts of wrongdoing on the part of these Defendants. Plaintiff does not object to this aspect of the R&R, nor does Plaintiff provide any allegations in his filing styled “motion to amend complaint” related to these two individuals. Accordingly, this Court need only review the R&R for clear error. Diamond, 416 F.3d at 315. Here, this Court agrees with the Magistrate Judge's analysis with respect to the absence of any cognizable claim within Plaintiff's Complaint, indeed there are not even any factual allegations, against Defendant Ingraham and Garcia. Plaintiff has not alleged he has suffered from any objective injury while housed at KCI, nor has he otherwise alleged that these individuals were deliberately indifferent to his serious medical needs. See Estelle v. Gamble, 429 U.S. 97 (1977). Moreover, to consider to consider a negligence or malpractice claim under § 1983, Plaintiff must allege complete diversity of parties and an amount in controversy exceeding $75, 000.00. Plaintiff has not alleged or otherwise met this requirement. Accordingly, this Court finds no clear error in the Magistrate Judge's recommendation of summary dismissal of any alleged claims against Defendants Ingraham and Garcia.

         II. Claims Against Remaining Defendants

         Within the R&R, the Magistrate Judge recommends finding that to the extent any of the Defendants were sued based on the doctrine of vicarious liability or respondeat superior, those allegations must be dismissed because those claims are not actionable under § 1983. In response, Plaintiff has not argued that Defendants Cartledge, Stirling (or Defendants Ingraham or Garcia) are liable under this theory, nor does he object to the finding that he hasn't met the limited exception to this rule, which provides for supervisory liability if: (1) the supervisor had actual or constructive knowledge that a subordinate was engaged in conduct posing a pervasive and unreasonable risk of constitutional injury to citizens like Plaintiff; (2) the supervisor's response to this knowledge was so inadequate as to show “deliberate indifference” or tacit authorization of the alleged conduct; and (3) there was an “affirmative causal link” between the supervisor's inaction and the particular constitutional injury suffered by ...


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