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Williams v. Dillon County

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

September 20, 2017

Webster D. Williams, III, Plaintiff,
Dillon County, Lieutenant Pam, Sammy Samuels, Brandie Barfield, Officer Tosha, Officer Best, Officer Cooper, Officer Wendy, Officer Crystal, Sergeant McQueen, Officer Hodges, Terry McArthur, Ms Greer, Ms Barfield, Officer Godboldt, Officer Abraham, Various other employees of Dillon County, John Doe, and Richard Roe, Defendants.


          Richard Mark Gergel United States District Court Judge.

         This matter is before the Court on the Report and Recommendation ("R. & R.") of the Magistrate Judge (Dkt. No. 86), recommending that Defendants' motion for summary judgment (Dkt. No. 38) be granted in part and denied in part and Plaintiffs motion for summary judgment (Dkt. No. 69) be denied. For the reasons set forth below, this Court adopts portions of the R. & R. as the order of the Court. Defendants' motion for summary judgment is granted as to all claims except for Plaintiffs deliberate indifference and retaliation claims against Defendant Barfield in her individual capacity.[1] Plaintiffs motion for summary judgment is denied.

         I. Background

         Plaintiff is a federal prisoner proceeding pro se. He was detained at the Dillon County Detention Center ("DCDC") from December 18, 2012 until February 15, 2015 while awaiting trial on federal charges. The DCDC is operated and staffed by the Dillon County Sheriffs Office ("DCSO"). The DCDC was responsible for rendering medical care to Plaintiff from his intake on December 18, 2012 until July 15, 2014. From July 15, 2014 onward, the DCDC contracted with Southern Health Partners ("SHP") to provide medical care for detainees at the DCDC. (Dkt. No. 86 at 2.)

         Plaintiff filed the instant complaint on April 20, 2016, alleging under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 that Defendants were deliberately indifferent to his serious medical needs when they failed to provide him with his prescribed medication and retaliated against him for complaining about not receiving his medications. (Dkt. No. 1 at 2-4.) Specifically, Plaintiff alleges that he suffers from several medical conditions, including bone marrow cancer, gout, and high blood pressure, for which he is prescribed medication. He claims he was deprived of over 500 doses of medication by defendants Barfield, Samuels, McQueen, Cooper, McArthur, and Chrystal Todd. He claims that when he complained about not receiving his medications as prescribed, defendants Barfield and Samuels retaliated against him by placing him in medical isolation. To support his allegations, Plaintiff has submitted a declaration and a copy of the medication logs he maintained during his confinement at DCDC. (Dkt. No. 86 at 3.)

         II. Legal Standards

         a. Pro Se Pleadings

         This Court liberally construes complaints filed by pro se litigants to allow the development of a potentially meritorious case. See Cruz v. Beto, 405 U.S. 319 (1972); Haines v. Kerner, 404 U.S. 519 (1972). The requirement of liberal construction does not mean that the Court can ignore a clear failure in the pleadings to allege facts which set forth a viable federal claim, nor can the Court assume the existence of a genuine issue of material fact where none exists. See Weller v. Dep't of Social Services, 901 F.2d 387 (4th Cir. 1990).

         b. Magistrate's Report and Recommendation

         The Magistrate Judge makes only a recommendation to this Court. The recommendation has no presumptive weight, and the responsibility for making a final determination remains with this Court. See Mathews v. Weber, 423 U.S. 261, 270-71 (1976). This Court is charged with making a de novo determination of those portions of the Report and Recommendation to which specific objection is made. Additionally, the Court may "accept, reject, or modify, in whole or in part, the findings or recommendations made by the magistrate judge." 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1). In the absence of specific objections, "a district court need not conduct a de novo review, but instead must only satisfy itself that there is no clear error on the face of the record in order to accept the recommendation." See Diamond v. Colonial Life & Accident Ins. Co., 416 F.3d 310, 315 (4th Cir. 2005) (internal quotation omitted).

         c. Summary Judgment

         To prevail on a motion for summary judgment, the movant must demonstrate that there is no genuine issue of any material fact such that the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). The party seeking summary judgment has the burden of identifying the portions of the "pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, any admissions on file, together with the affidavits, if any, which show there is no genuine issue as to any material fact." Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322 (1986). The Court will construe all inferences and ambiguities in favor of the non-moving party. See U.S. v. Diebold, Inc., 369 U.S. 654, 655 (1962). The existence of a mere scintilla of evidence in support of the non-moving party's position is insufficient to withstand a motion for summary judgment. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 252 (1986). However, an issue of material fact is genuine if the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict in favor of the non-movant. Id. at 257.

         "When the moving party has carried its burden under Rule 56(c), its opponent must do more than simply show that there is some metaphysical doubt as to the material facts." Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 586 (1986). "In the language of the Rule, the nonmoving party must come forward with 'specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial.'" Id. at 587. "Where the record taken as a whole could not lead a rational trier of fact to find for the non-moving party, there is no 'genuine issue for trial.'" Id. (quoting First Natl Bank of Ariz. v. Cities Serv. Co., 391 U.S. 253, 289 (1968)).

         d. Deliberate Indifference to Serious Medical Needs

         Claims of pretrial detainees against detention center officials regarding conditions of confinement are evaluated under the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment rather than under the Eighth Amendment's proscription against cruel and unusual punishment. See Bell v. Wolfish, 441 U.S. 520, 535 & n.16 (1979); Martin v. Gentile, 849 F.2d 863, 870 (4th Cir. 1988). "The due process rights of a pretrial detainee are at least as great as the eighth amendment protections available to the convicted prisoner; while the convicted prisoner is entitled to protection only against punishment that is 'cruel and unusual, ' the pretrial detainee, who has yet to be adjudicated guilty of any crime, may not be subjected to any form of 'punishment.'" Martin, 849 F.2d at 870; see also Hill v. Nicodemus, 979 F.2d 987, 991 (4th Cir. 1992). Further, "the fact that [the] detention interferes with the detainee's understandable desire to live as comfortably as possible and with as little restraint as possible during confinement does not convert the conditions or restrictions of detention into 'punishment.'" Bell, 441 U.S. at 537.

         The United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit has held that the standard for determining whether detention center officials have violated a pretrial detainee's right to due process is deliberate indifference. See Hill, 979 F.2d at 991. Although these claims are analyzed under the Fourteenth Amendment, case law interpreting the standard of "deliberate indifference" under the Eighth Amendment is instructive. See, e.g., Brown v. Harris, 240 F.3d 383, 388 (4th Cir. 2001) (stating that whether the plaintiff is a pretrial detainee or a convicted prisoner, the "standard in either case is the same-that is, whether a government official has been 'deliberately indifferent to any [of his] serious medical needs'") (quoting Belcher v. Oliver, 898 F.2d32, 34 (4th Cir. 1990)).

         Generally, to establish a § 1983 claim based on alleged deliberate indifference, an inmate must establish two requirements: (1) objectively, that the deprivation suffered or injury inflicted was "sufficiently serious, " and (2) subjectively, that the prison officials acted with a "sufficiently culpable state of mind." Farmer v. Brennan,511 U.S. 825, 834 (1994); Williams v. Benjamin,77 F.3d 756, 761 (4th Cir. 1996). "What must be established with regard to each component 'varies according to the nature of the alleged constitutional violation.'" Williams, 77 F.3d at 761 (quoting Hudson v. McMillian,503 U.S. 1, 5 (1992)). Objectively, the court must assess "whether society considers the risk that the prisoner complains of to be so grave that it violates contemporary standards of decency to expose anyone unwillingly to such a risk." Helling v. McKinney,509 U.S. 25, 36 (1993). Plaintiff need not show that he suffered an actual injury to have an ...

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