United States District Court, D. South Carolina
REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION
Kaymani D. West, United States Magistrate Judge
a civil action filed pro se by a local
detainee. Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1),
and Local Civil Rule 73.02(B)(2)(e) (D.S.C.), this magistrate
judge is authorized to review all pretrial matters in such
pro se cases and to submit findings and recommendations to
the district court. See 28 U.S.C. §§
1915(e); 1915A (as soon as possible after docketing, district
courts should review prisoner cases to determine whether they
are subject to summary dismissal).
to publicly available information, Christopher Odom
(“Plaintiff”) is a detainee at the Sheriff Al
Cannon Detention Center in Charleston County, South Carolina
(last consulted Oct. 31, 2017). In his initial pleading,
Plaintiff asserts that, on December 11, 2015 while attending
a hearing on a civil case, he was detained against his will
and placed in handcuffs and leg shackles by a bailiff at the
Charleston County Courthouse. ECF No. 1 at 2. Plaintiff alleges
that he was then involuntarily committed to Trident Hospital,
where he was deprived of his liberty and happiness by
undisclosed personnel “injecting needless in Plaintiff
and also extracting blood from Plaintiff.” Id.
Plaintiff does not indicate the length of time he was
allegedly held at Trident Hospital. Plaintiff names many
Defendants, whom he also calls Respondents. Plaintiff seeks
damages in the amount of $3 million. ECF No. 1 at
Standard of Review
established local procedure in this judicial district, a
careful review has been made of Plaintiff's pro se
pleading filed in this case. This review has been conducted
pursuant to the procedural provisions of 28 U.S.C.
§§ 1915, 1915A, and the Prison Litigation Reform
Act of 1996 and the Anti-Terrorism and Effective Death
Penalty Act of 1996 and in light of the following precedents:
Denton v. Hernandez, 504 U.S. 25 (1992); Neitzke
v. Williams, 490 U.S. 319, 324-25 (1989); Haines v.
Kerner, 404 U.S. 519 (1972); Nasim v. Warden,
Md. House of Corr., 64 F.3d 951 (4th Cir. 1995);
Todd v. Baskerville, 712 F.2d 70 (4th Cir. 1983);
Boyce v. Alizaduh, 595 F.2d 948 (4th Cir. 1979).
pleadings are held to a less stringent standard than those
drafted by attorneys, Gordon v. Leeke, 574 F.2d
1147, 1151 (4th Cir. 1978), and a federal district court is
charged with liberally construing a pleading filed by a pro
se litigant to allow the development of a potentially
meritorious case. Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89,
94 (2007); Kerr v. Marshall Univ. Bd. of Governors,
824 F.3d 62, 72 (4th Cir. 2016). When a federal court is
evaluating a pro se pleading, the pro se litigant's
allegations are assumed to be true. De'Lonta v.
Angelone, 330 F.3d 630, 630 n.1 (4th Cir. 2003).
Nevertheless, the requirement of liberal construction does
not mean that this court can ignore a clear failure in the
pleading to allege facts that set forth a claim currently
cognizable in a federal district court. Weller v.
Dep't of Soc. Servs., 901 F.2d 387, 391 (4th Cir.
to the extent that the pleading under review is construed as
a habeas-corpus Petition, see supra note 1, this
court is charged with screening the lawsuit to determine
whether “it plainly appears from the petition and any
attached exhibits that the petitioner is not entitled to
relief in the district court.” Rule 4 of Rules
Governing Section 2254 Cases in the United States District
Courts; see Rule 1(b) of Rules Governing Section
2254 Cases in the United States District Courts (a district
court may apply these rules to a habeas corpus petition not
filed pursuant to § 2254). Following the required
initial review, it is recommended that the initial pleading
submitted in this case be summarily dismissed under the
provisions of 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B).
the pleading under review is subject to summary dismissal to
the extent that it is considered a habeas-corpus petition
because Plaintiff does not request relief that would shorten
any period of incarceration. See Wilkinson v.
Dotson, 544 U.S. 74, 78-83 (2005) (the proper remedy
lies in habeas corpus only if “success in [an] action
would necessarily demonstrate the invalidity of confinement
or its duration.”). The Wilkinson Court held
that, “where success in the action would not
necessarily spell immediate or speedier release for the
prisoner, ” § 1983, not habeas corpus, is the
appropriate remedy. Id. at 81 (emphasis in
original). Furthermore, to the extent that Plaintiff's
allegations could be liberally construed as a claim that he
was unconstitutionally confined at Trident Hospital, no
habeas-corpus jurisdiction is available for such claim
because Plaintiff is no longer in the custody of the
hospital. Maleng v. Cook, 490 U.S. 488, 490 (1989)
(there is a jurisdictional requirement “that the habeas
petitioner be ‘in custody' under the conviction or
sentence under attack at the time his petition is
to the extent that Plaintiff's allegations may be
liberally construed as an effort to state claims of
constitutional violations pursuant to 42 U.S.C. §§
1983, 1985,  Plaintiff fails to state plausible claims
against Defendants S.C. Taxpayers, Charleston County
Taxpayers, State of; S.C. Budget and Control Board Director;
MUSC; EMS; Dr. Buncher Medical Facility; S.C. Negligence
Injury Insurer; or Champus Insurer because there are no
allegations showing that any of these individuals or
organizations had any personal involvement in the involuntary
commitment to Trident Hospital of which Plaintiff complains.
Plaintiff does not make any specific allegations of
wrongdoing against any of these Defendants or of conspiracy
among these Defendants. Therefore, Plaintiff fails to state
any plausible claims against any of them. See Potter v.
Clark, 497 F.2d 1206, 1207 (7th Cir. 1974) (“Where
a complaint alleges no specific act or conduct on the part of
the defendant and the complaint is silent as to the defendant
except for his name appearing in the caption, the complaint
is properly dismissed.”); Newkirk v. Circuit Court
of City of Hampton, No. 3:14CV372-HEH, 2014 WL 4072212
(E.D. Va. Aug. 14, 2014) (complaint subject to summary
dismissal where no factual allegations against named
defendants within the body of the pleading); see also
Krych v. Hvass, 83 F. App'x 854, 855 (8th Cir.
2003); Black v. Lane, 22 F.3d 1395, 1401 n.8 (7th
Cir. 1994); Walker v. Hodge, 4 F.3d 991, * 2 n.2
(5th Cir. 1993); Banks v. Scott, 3:13CV363, 2014 WL
5430987, at *2 (E.D. Va. Oct. 24, 2014). In absence of
substantive allegations of wrongdoing against these named
Defendants, there is nothing from which this court can
liberally construe any type of plausible cause of action
arising from the pleading against them. See Cochran v.
Morris, 73 F.3d 1310 (4th Cir. 1996) (statute allowing
dismissal of in forma pauperis claims encompasses
complaints that are either legally or factually baseless);
Weller v. Dep't of Social Servs., 901 F.2d at
389 n.2 (dismissal proper when there were no allegations to
support claim). The mere fact that an insurance company
provided coverage for a defendant or defendants in a case
does not provide the required personal involvement or state
action under §§ 1983, 1985. See Wagner v.
Washington Cnty., 493 F.3d 833, 836 (7th Cir. 2007);
Burreson v. Barneveld Sch. Dist., 434 F.Supp.2d 588,
592 (W.D. Wisc. 2006).
Plaintiff fails to state plausible §§ 1983, 1985
claims against Defendants Trident Hospital Director, Atty
Burrow, or Atty Carta Bus Co. because there are no
allegations of wrongdoing against them and, even if there
were such allegations, there are no allegations from which it
may be inferred that any of these Defendants is a state actor
or that he or she conspired with anyone else to violate
Plaintiff's constitutional rights. To state a cause of
action under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, a plaintiff must allege
that: (1) the defendant(s) deprived him or her of a federal
right, and (2) did so under color of state law. See Am.
Mfrs. Mut. Ins. Co. v. Sullivan, 526 U.S. 40, 49-50
(1999); Gomez v. Toledo, 446 U.S. 635, 640 (1980);
see also Hall v. Quillen, 631 F.2d 1154, 1155-56
(4th Cir. 1980). Because the United States Constitution
regulates only the Government, not private parties, a
litigant claiming that his constitutional rights have been
violated must first establish that the challenged conduct
constitutes “state action.” See Blum v.
Yaretsky, 457 U.S. 991, 1002 (1982). To qualify as state
action, the conduct in question “must be caused by the
exercise of some right or privilege created by the State or
by a rule of conduct imposed by the State or by a person for
whom the State is responsible, ” and “the party
charged with the [conduct] must be a person who may fairly be
said to be a state actor.” Lugar v. Edmondson Oil
Co., 457 U.S. 457 U.S. 922, 937 (1982); see United
States v. Int'l Bhd. of Teamsters, Chauffeurs,
Warehousemen Helpers of America, AFL-CIO, 941 F.2d 1292
(2d Cir. 1991). Purely private conduct such as that alleged
in this case, no matter how wrongful, injurious, fraudulent,
or discriminatory, is not actionable under 42 U.S.C. §
1983 or under the Fourteenth Amendment, the two most common
provisions under which persons come into federal court to
claim that others have violated their constitutional rights.
See Lugar, 457 U.S. at 936 (1982); Burton v.
Wilmington Parking Auth., 365 U.S. 715, 721 (1961).
Here, Plaintiff asserts that Defendant Hospital Director and
unnamed “employees” invaded his “freedom
and liberty to pursuit happiness by injecting needles in
Plaintiff and also extracting blood from Plaintiff, ”
ECF No. 1 at 2; however, there are no allegations that
Defendant Hospital Director was acting under color of state
law when participating in Plaintiff's medical care.
a private individual's action or corporation's action
rises to the level of state action necessarily depends on the
relationship between the activity and the state. The inquiry
involves “whether there is a sufficiently close nexus
between the State and the challenged action . . . so that the
action of the latter may be fairly treated as that of the
State itself.” Jackson v. Metropolitan Edison
Co., 419 U.S. 345, 351 (1974). In Blum v.
Yaretsky, 457 U.S. 991, 1004 (1982), the Supreme Court
held that a state is responsible for private action only when
it has exercised “coercive power” or has provided
“significant encouragement” in the implementation
of the action. Here, there are no allegations of any
particular “nexus” or unusually close
relationship between Defendants Hospital Director, Atty
Burrows, or Atty Carta Bus Co. and law enforcement officials
that might support any claim of “state action” in
connection with the involuntary commitment of which Plaintiff
complains. The fact that a private hospital is involved in
committing a person for a mental-health evaluation does not
make the hospital a state actor. See, e.g.,
Wittner v. Banner Health, 720 F.3d 770, 780 (10th
Cir. 2013) (involuntary commitment of mentally ill patient
was not public function, and thus did not constitute state
action for § 1983 purposes; private medical center and
its employees were not state actors); Benn v. Universal
Health Sys., Inc., 371 F.3d 165, 173 (3d Cir. 2004)
(private hospital and its employee were not state actors by
virtue of their involvement in application for involuntary
examination); Harvey v. Harvey, 949 F.2d 1127,
1130-31 (11th Cir. 1992) (state law governing private
participation in commitment process does not transform
private hospital into state actor); Spencer v. Lee,
864 F.2d 1376, 1381-82 (7th Cir. 1989) (private physician and
private hospital did not act under color of state law when
they committed mentally disturbed person); Kay v. Ben
son, 472 F.Supp. 850 (D.N.H. 1979) (holding that any
involvement of private medical center and its rehabilitation
counselor with respect to plaintiff's admission to state
mental health facility did not constitute “state
action” for purposes of federal civil rights statute).
There are no allegations of wrongdoing against Atty Carta Bus
Co. and the only allegations against Atty Burrows are that he
“undermine Plaintiff Carta Bus Claim making agreements
against Plaintiff permission/consent.” ECF No. 1 at 2.
These allegations do not show any state action in Atty
Burrows activities and, at most, show a potential legal
malpractice claim against this attorney. However,
malpractice is not a federal cause of action, but is rather a
state-law-based claim that can only be considered by this
court under its diversity jurisdiction. See Daniels v.
Williams, 474 U.S. 327, 328-336 & n.3 (1986);
Davidson v. Cannon, 474 U.S. 344, 345-348 (1986);
Ruefly v. Landon, 825 F.2d 792, 793-94 (4th Cir.
1987); Cianbro Corp. v. Jeffcoat & Martin, 804
F.Supp. 784, 788-91 (D.S.C. 1992). No such jurisdiction is
shown on the face of Plaintiff's pleading.
§ 1985, there are no factual allegations from which it
may be inferred that anyone conspired with Defendants
Hospital Director, Atty Burrows, or Atty Carta Bus Co. to
violate Plaintiff's constitutional rights because of
Plaintiff's race or other class-based discrimination. As
such, Plaintiff fails to satisfy the “heightened
pleading requirement” under § ...