United States District Court, D. South Carolina, Beaufort Division
REBECCA DELANEY, as personal representative of the Estate of Justin Nicholas Miller, Plaintiff,
THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Defendant.
C. NORTON, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
matter is before the court on a motion for summary judgment
filed by defendant the United States of America
(“government”). For the reasons set forth below,
the court grants the government's motion.
February 24, 2012, Kalvin Hunt (“Hunt”), a Marine
on involuntary leave while appealing his dishonorable
discharge, was accompanied to the Beaufort Naval Hospital
(“US Naval Hospital”) by Edward Ray
(“Ray”), an employee of the Beaufort County
Office of Veteran's Affairs. When Hunt and Ray arrived at
the naval hospital, Nurse Saundra Smith (“Smith”)
came to offer assistance and meet with Hunt. While Smith was
in the process of interviewing Hunt and scheduling an
appointment for him to see a doctor the following Monday,
Hunt began to rock back and forth in his chair and let out an
exasperated kind of moan. When Smith asked Hunt if he wanted
to hurt himself, he said that he did. At that time, Smith
took Hunt and Ray to the emergency department.
the emergency department, Hunt first saw triage nurse Janice
McDonald (“Janice”). When Janice asked Hunt
whether he had thoughts about hurting himself, he responded
that he did, although he had no plan to hurt himself at that
time. Janice informed Hunt that he would be evaluated by a
psychiatrist and, depending on her judgment, a decision would
be made whether to admit him. Janice turned Hunt over to her
husband Joe McDonald (“Joe”), who is also a
registered nurse in the emergency department. Joe accompanied
Hunt to be evaluated by Dr. Christian Jansen (“Dr.
Jansen”). Dr. Jansen noted that while Hunt had suicidal
thoughts and thoughts of hurting others, he had no specific
plans. At that time, Dr. Jansen called for a psychiatric
technician from the U.S. Naval Hospital's mental health
unit to evaluate Hunt.
Manning (“Manning”), a psychiatric technician,
evaluated Hunt and recommended that Hunt be admitted. The
on-duty psychiatrist, Dr. Beverly Hendelman (“Dr.
Hendelman”), accepted the recommendation and made the
decision to hospitalize Hunt. Dr. Hendelman then relayed her
decision to Dr. Jansen. The plan was to admit Hunt to nearby
Beaufort Memorial Hospital because the U.S. Naval Hospital
did not provide in-patient mental health treatment.
the time that Dr. Jansen was in the process of determining
bed availability at Beaufort Memorial Hospital, Ray asked Joe
if he and Hunt could go outside for some fresh air, and Joe
said that they could. Once outside, Hunt removed some items
of clothing and ran towards the front gate. A security guard
saw Hunt running but did not stop him. Ray attempted to
pursue Hunt, but was unable to catch him. Ray approached the
front gate and described the events that had just occurred to
a group of security guards. A security guard called the
Beaufort County Sheriff's Department to report the
same time, the Town of Port Royal Fire Department was
responding to an emergency call at a nearby apartment
complex. Hunt got into a still-running and unattended fire
truck and began driving it down Ribaut Road at high speed.
Hunt collided with several cars and struck and killed
pedestrian Justin Miller.
August 22, 2014, plaintiff Rebecca Delaney
(“Delaney”) filed this suit as personal
representative of Justin Miller's estate. Delaney brings
causes of action against the government for negligence under
the Federal Tort Claims Act
(“FTCA”). On February 10, 2017, the government filed
a motion for summary judgment on all of Delaney's claims.
Delaney responded on February 23, 2017, and the government
filed a reply on March 2nd, 2017. This matter has been fully
briefed and is now ripe for the court's review.
STANDARD OF REVIEW
judgment shall be granted “if the movant shows that
there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and that
the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.”
Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). “Only disputes over facts that
might affect the outcome of the suit under the governing law
will properly preclude the entry of summary judgment.”
Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248
(1986). “[S]ummary judgment will not lie if the dispute
about a material fact is ‘genuine, ' that is, if
the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a
verdict for the nonmoving party.” Id.
“[A]t the summary judgment stage the judge's
function is not himself to weigh the evidence and determine
the truth of the matter but to determine whether there is a
genuine issue for trial.” Id. at 249. The
court should view the evidence in the light most favorable to
the nonmoving party and draw all justifiable inferences in
its favor. Id. at 255.
party seeking summary judgment shoulders the initial burden
of demonstrating to the district court that there is no
genuine issue of material fact.” Major v.
Greenville Hous. Auth., No. 6:12-cv-183, 2012 WL
3000680, at *1 (D.S.C. Apr. 11, 2012). Nevertheless,
“when a properly supported motion for summary judgment
is made, the adverse party ‘must set forth specific
facts showing that there is a genuine issue for
trial.'” Id. (quoting Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(e)).
The plain language of Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56(c)
“mandates the entry of summary judgment, after adequate
time for discovery and upon motion, against a party who fails
to make a showing sufficient to establish the existence of an
element essential to that party's case, and on which that
party will bear the burden of proof at trial.”
Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322 (1986).
“[C]onclusory allegations or denials, without more, are
insufficient to preclude the granting of the summary judgment
motion.” Major, 2012 WL 2000680, at *1.
government moves for summary judgment on all of Delaney's
claims.Gov.'s Mot. 1. Although somewhat
muddled, the government appears to be arguing that Delaney
has not met the requirements for expert testimony outlined in
S.C. Code Ann. § 15-79-125, and that even if Delaney had