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Anderson v. Eagleton

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

September 15, 2017

Sherald Anderson, #250152, Plaintiff,
v.
Warden Willie L. Eagleton (Official Capacity), Corporal V. Lovin (Vernon), Officer Doe Lucas, In Their Individual Capacities, Defendants.

          ORDER AND OPINION

          J. Michelle Childs, United States District Judge

         This matter is now before the court upon the Report and Recommendation (“Report”) (ECF No. 74) filed by United States Magistrate Judge Thomas E. Rogers, III on June 22, 2017. Plaintiff Sherald Anderson (“Plaintiff”), a prisoner at Evans Correctional Institution in the South Carolina Department of Corrections (“SCDC”) proceeding pro se, filed this action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 alleging Eighth and Fourteenth Amendment violations against Defendants Warden Willie L. Eagleton, Officer Corporal V. Lovin (Vernon) (“Officer Lovin”), and Officer Doe Lucas (“Officer Lucas”) (collectively “Defendants”). (ECF No. 1.)

         This review considers Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment (ECF No. 36), the Magistrate Judge's Report (ECF No. 74), Response to Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment and Cross-Motion for Summary Judgment on Behalf of the Plaintiff (ECF No. 76), Defendants' Objections to Report and Recommendation (“Objections”) (ECF No. 79), Defendants' Response in Opposition to Plaintiff's Motion for Summary Judgment (ECF No. 83), Plaintiff's Response in Opposition to Defendants' Objection to the Report and Recommendation (ECF No. 84), and Plaintiff's Response in Opposition to Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment (ECF No. 86). For the reasons set forth herein, the court ACCEPTS the Magistrate Judge's Report (ECF No. 74) and DENIES Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment (ECF No. 36).

         I. RELEVANT FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

         In Plaintiff's Complaint, he alleges that Officer Lovin sprayed chemical munitions on his face, slammed and hit him on his mouth, and knocked out his front tooth. (ECF No. 1 at 7.) Plaintiff contends that Officer Lucas held him while Officer Lovin administered chemical munitions. (ECF No. 86.) On or about April 4, 2016, Plaintiff was charged with Assault and/or Battery of an SCDC Employee and Threatening an Employee. (ECF No. 36-2.) A disciplinary hearing was held and Plaintiff was found guilty on the assault and/or battery charge. (ECF No. 1-1 at 2.)

         On December 27, 2016, Defendants filed a Motion for Summary Judgment. In this Motion, Defendants denied excessive use of force on Plaintiff and claimed Eleventh Amendment Immunity and qualified immunity. (ECF No. 36.) Defendants further state that Defendant Warden Eagleton did not assist in the use of force against Plaintiff. Hence, Respondeat superior liability should not be imputed to him. (Id.) The Magistrate Judge recommended that Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment as to Officers Lovin and Lucas be denied based on Eleventh Amendment Immunity and qualified immunity. (ECF No. 74 at 11-12.) However, the Magistrate Judge determined that Plaintiff could sue Officers Lovin and Lucas in their individual capacities for personal liability for their actions under color of state law. (Id.) Thus, Plaintiff's Eighth Amendment lawsuit is not treated as a suit against the state. (Id.) Next, the Magistrate Judge determined that Officers Lovin and Lucas are not entitled to a qualified immunity defense because “malicious and sadistic use of force for the very purpose of causing pain is always in violation of clearly established law.” (Id.) The Magistrate Judge recommended that Plaintiff's Eighth Amendment claim against Warden Eagleton be dismissed because Plaintiff did not allege that this defendant was personally involved in the use of force against him. In Plaintiff's Complaint, he did not contend that Warden Eagleton had actual knowledge of any specific harm to him, and then took no corrective actions. (Id.)

         On July 12, 2017, Defendants filed an objection to the Magistrate Judge's recommendation to deny their Motion for Summary Judgment as to Plaintiff's excessive force claims under the Eighth Amendment on the basis that: (1) Plaintiff was found guilty of assault and/or battery as a result of the alleged incident on April 4, 2016, (2) Plaintiff did not allege that Officer Lucas was involved in the use of force against Plaintiff or caused him any injures, and (3) Plaintiff's Response to their Motion for Summary Judgment was untimely. (ECF No. 1-1 at 2.) The court finds that it is not necessary to fully address Defendants' third argument as the court finds that Plaintiff's response to Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment is timely.[1]

         II. LEGAL STANDARDS

         The Magistrate Judge's Report and Recommendation is made in accordance with 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1) and Local Civil Rule 73.02 for the District of South Carolina. “The Court is not bound by the recommendation of the magistrate judge but, instead, retains responsibility for the final determination.” Wallace v. Hous. Auth., 791 F.Supp. 137, 138 (D.S.C. 1992) (citing Matthews v. Weber, 423 U.S. 261, 271 (1976)). The court is charged with making a de novo determination of those portions of the Report and Recommendation to which specific objections are made, and the court may accept, reject, or modify, in whole or in part, the Magistrate Judge's recommendation or recommit the matter with instructions. See 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1).

         Summary judgment is appropriate when the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with affidavits, if any, show 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). To prevail on a motion for summary judgment, the movant must demonstrate that: (1) there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and (2) that he is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. In determining whether a genuine issue has been raised, the court must construe all inferences and ambiguities against the movant and in favor of the non-moving party. See United States v. Diebold, Inc., 369 U.S. 654, 655 (1962).

         The party seeking summary judgment shoulders the initial burden of demonstrating to the district court that there is no genuine issue of material fact. See Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323 (1986). Once the movant has made this threshold demonstration, the non-moving party, to survive the motion for summary judgment, may not rest on the allegations averred in his pleadings. Rather, the non-moving party must demonstrate that specific, material facts exist which give rise to a genuine issue. See Id. at 324. Under this standard, the existence of a mere scintilla of evidence in support of the plaintiff's position is insufficient to withstand the summary judgment motion. See Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 252 (1986). Likewise, conclusory allegations or denials, without more, are insufficient to preclude the granting of the summary judgment motion. See Ross v. Commc'ns Satellite Corp., 759 F.2d 355, 365 (4th Cir. 1985). “Only disputes over facts that might affect the outcome of the suit under the governing law will properly preclude the entry of summary judgment. Factual disputes that are irrelevant or unnecessary will not be counted.” Anderson, 477 U.S. at 248.

         III. ANALYSIS

         Because Plaintiff was disciplined for assault and/or battery that arose out of the incident in question, the court will analyze Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment in light of Heck v. Humphrey, 512 U.S. 477 (1994). In Heck, the U.S. Supreme Court held that in order

to recover damages for allegedly unconstitutional conviction or imprisonment, or for other harm caused by actions whose unlawfulness would render a conviction or sentence invalid, a § 1983 plaintiff must prove that the conviction or sentence has been reversed on direct appeal, expunged by executive order, declared invalid by a state tribunal reversed on direct appeal, authorized to make such determination, or called into question by a federal court's issuance of a writ of habeas corpus, 28 U.S.C. § 2254. A claim for damages bearing that relationship to a conviction or sentence that has not been so invalidated is not cognizable under § 1983. Thus, when a state prisoner seeks damages in a §1983 suit, the district court must consider whether a judgment in favor of the plaintiff would necessarily imply the invalidity of his conviction or sentence; if it would, the complaint must be dismissed unless the plaintiff can demonstrate that the conviction or sentence has already been invalidated. But if the district court determines that the plaintiff's action, even if successful, will not demonstrate the invalidity of any outstanding criminal judgment against the plaintiff, the action should be allowed to proceed, in the absence of some other bar to the suit.

Id. at 486-487. The rule in Heck has been extended to apply to rulings issued in prison disciplinary proceedings. See Edwards v. Balisok, 520 U.S. 641 (1997) (a prisoner's § 1983 claim that prison officials were deceitful and biased during his disciplinary hearing was not cognizable because it necessarily implies the invalidity of the punishment imposed by the prison officials).

         A. Eighth Amendment Claims ...


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