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Coleman v. Pate

United States District Court, D. South Carolina

March 31, 2017

DARIAN ANTONIO COLEMAN, Plaintiff,
v.
WARDEN JOHN PATE, OFFICER CHARLIE FRAZIER, SGT. LEON MACK, LT. ELLEN INABINET, MAJOR WORROCK, NURSE MRS. SPALDING, and DIRECTOR BRYAN P. STERLING, Defendants.

          ORDER

          DAVID C. NORTON UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         This matter is before the court on Magistrate Judge Jacquelyn D. Austin's Report and Recommendation (“R&R”), ECF No. 139, that the court: (1) grant defendants Warden John Pate (“Pate”) and Director Bryan Sterling's (“Sterling”) motion to dismiss, ECF No. 10, with respect to plaintiff Darian Antonio Coleman's (“plaintiff”) 42 U.S.C. § 1983 claims; (2) grant defendant Sargent Leon Mack's (“Mack”) motion to dismiss, ECF No. 82, with respect to plaitniff's § 1983 claims; (3) grant defendants Officer Charlie Frazier (“Frazier”), Lt. Ellen Inabinet (“Inabinet”), and Major Worrock's (“Worrock”) motion for summary judgment, ECF No. 85, with respect to plaintiff's § 1983 claims; (4) grant defendant Nurse Mrs. Spalding's (“Spalding”) motion for summary judgment, ECF No. 123, with respect to plaintiff's § 1983 claims; and (5) remand the case to state court to address any remaining state law causes of action. Defendants have all filed objections to the R&R. For the reasons set forth below, the court adopts the R&R in part and rejects the R&R in part, and grants defendants various motions to dismiss and motions for summary judgment with respect to all of plaintiff's claims.

         I. BACKGROUND[1]

         Plaintiff alleges that on June 10, 2014, he was subjected to excessive force by use of chemical munitions. ECF No. 1-1 at 14. More specifically, plaintiff asserts that he was kicking his cell door to get the attention of security staff so that he could use the computer to conduct legal research. Id. Frazier asked plaintiff what his problem was, and plaintiff informed Frazier that he had requested to use the computer. Id. Frazier informed plaintiff he would not be able to use the computer, at which point plaintiff kicked his cell door again because it was clear he would not be allowed to use the computer. Id. Frazier then came to plaintiff's door, opened the feeding flap, administered chemical munitions, locked the flap, and walked away. Id. Plaintiff contends that Frazier subsequently falsified an incident report, that Inabinet helped conceal the falsified report by signing the report, and that Worrock helped conceal the falsified report by failing to “blow the whistle” on Frazier. Id. at 14-15. Plaintiff contends that Inabinet and Mack failed to meet correctional standards by failing to ensure cell checks were conducted every 30 minutes. Id. at 15. Plaintiff further contends that Inabinet and Mack reported to plaintiff's cell 20 to 30 minutes after the incident and removed plaintiff's cell mate from the cell but refused to remove plaintiff. Id. Plaintiff also alleges he informed Mack and Spalding that he was having chest pains when they came to his cell to administer his daily medication, but Spalding did nothing. Id. at 16. Further, Mack told Spalding that Plaintiff refused medical assistance. Id.

         Plaintiff filed the instant action in the Court of Common Pleas for Richland County on December 16, 2015. ECF No. 1-1. Defendants removed the action to this court on March 4, 2016. ECF No. 1. Pate and Sterling filed a motion to dismiss on March 9, 2016, ECF No. 10. Plaintiff filed a response in opposition on April 5, 2016, ECF No. 29, and Pate and Sterling filed a reply on April 15, 2016. ECF No. 32. Plaintiff filed another document on April 22, 2016, which the magistrate judge construed to be a second response in opposition to Pate and Sterling's motion to dismiss. ECF No. 35. Mack filed a motion to dismiss on July 21, 2016, ECF No. 82, and Frazier, Inabinet and Worrock filed a motion for summary judgment on July 22, 2016. Plaintiff filed a response in opposition to these motions on October 18, 2016. ECF No. 118. Spalding filed a motion for summary judgment on November 9, 2016, ECF No. 123, and plaintiff filed a response in opposition on December 2, 2016. ECF No. 127. The magistrate judge issued the R&R on January 31, 2017. ECF No. 139. Fraizer, Inabinet, Mack, Pate, Sterling, and Worrock (the “SCDC Defendants”) filed objections to the R&R on February 14, 2017. ECF No. 142. Spalding filed separate objections to the R&R the same day. ECF No. 144. Plaintiff never filed any objections to the R&R or any reply to defendants' objections. The matter is now ripe for the court's review.

         II. STANDARDS

         A. De Novo Review

         This court is charged with conducting a de novo review of any portion of the magistrate judge's R&R to which specific, written objections are made. 28 U.S.C. 636(b)(1). The court may adopt the portions of the R&R to which the petitioner did not object, as a party's failure to object is accepted as agreement with the conclusions of the magistrate judge. Thomas v. Arn, 474 U.S. 140, 149-50 (1985). The recommendation of the magistrate judge carries no presumptive weight, and it is this court's responsibility to make a final determination. Mathews v. Weber, 423 U.S. 261, 270-71 (1976).

         B. Pro Se Plaintiff

         Plaintiff is proceeding pro se in this case. Federal district courts are charged with liberally construing complaints filed by pro se litigants to allow the development of a potentially meritorious case. See Hughes v. Rowe, 449 U.S. 5, 9-10 (1980). Pro se complaints are therefore held to a less stringent standard than those drafted by attorneys. Id. Liberal construction, however, does not mean that the court can ignore a clear failure in the pleading to allege facts that set forth a cognizable claim. See Weller v. Dep't of Soc. Servs., 901 F.2d 387, 390-91 (4th Cir. 1990).

         C. Motion to Dismiss

         Under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6), a party may move to dismiss for “failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted.” When considering a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss, the court must “accept[] all well-pleaded allegations in the plaintiff's complaint as true and draw[] all reasonable factual inferences from those facts in the plaintiff's favor.” Edwards v. City of Goldsboro, 178 F.3d 231, 244 (4th Cir. 1999). But “the tenet that a court must accept as true all of the allegations contained in a complaint is inapplicable to legal conclusions.” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009).

         On a motion to dismiss, the court's task is limited to determining whether the complaint states a “plausible claim for relief.” Id. at 679. A complaint must contain sufficient factual allegations in addition to legal conclusions. Although Rule 8(a)(2) requires only a “short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief, ” “a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action will not do.” Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007). The “complaint must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to ‘state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.'” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678 (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 570). “Facts pled that are ‘merely consistent with' liability are not sufficient.” A Soc'y Without a Name v. Virginia, 655 F.3d 342, 346 (4th Cir. 2011) (quoting Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678).

         D. ...


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