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Hurley v. Downing

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

January 4, 2018

Bernard A. Hurley, Plaintiff,
Kenneth Downing, Lt. Mickey Boland, Donna Miller, and M.D. Scott, Defendants.


          Kevin F. McDonald Greenville, United States Magistrate Judge

         This matter is before the court on the defendants' motions for summary judgment (docs. 30, 33). The plaintiff is a pretrial detainee at the Greenwood County Detention Center (“GCDC”) proceeding pro se. Pursuant to the provisions of Title 28, United States Code, Section 636(b)(1)(B), and Local Civ. Rule 73.02(B)(2)(d) (D.S.C.), this magistrate judge is authorized to review all pretrial matters in cases filed under Title 42, United States Code, Section 1983, and submit findings and recommendations to the district court.

         The plaintiff initially filed a hand-written complaint in February 2017, alleging that GCDC's Capt. Kenneth Downing and Lt. Mickey Boland subjected him to unconstitutional conditions of confinement (doc. 1). He then filed another complaint using this court's standard prisoner complaint form, adding Nurse Miller and Dr. Scott as defendants, alleging that they failed to provide him adequate medical care (doc. 7). Capt. Downing and Lt. Boland filed an answer denying the allegations (doc. 21), as did Nurse Miller and Dr. Scott (doc. 18).

         Nurse Miller and Dr. Scott filed a motion for summary judgment on June 23, 2017, and Capt. Downing and Lt. Boland filed a motion for summary judgment on June 30, 2017 (docs. 30, 33). By orders filed June 26 and July 5, 2017, pursuant to Roseboro v. Garrison, 528 F.2d 309 (4th Cir. 1975), the plaintiff was advised of the summary judgment procedure and the possible consequences if he failed to respond adequately to the motions (docs. 31, 34). On July 10, 2017, the plaintiff filed a response in opposition to the motions (doc. 36). After discovery was provided by the defendants, the plaintiff supplemented his response in opposition on August 17, 2017 (doc. 45). The defendants thereafter filed replies in support of their respective motions for summary judgment (docs. 56, 57).


         The plaintiff alleges that on December 11, 2016, he complained to various staff members at the GCDC that his light in cell 122 was not working. He was told that a work order was submitted to fix the lights, but nothing changed, and this caused him eye strain, stress, depression, and fatigue (doc. 1 at 2). He alleges that on January 21, 2017, he fell in his cell and hit his head and that he filed grievances about the lights and his fall, but still nothing changed (id. at 3). The plaintiff does not allege that he informed Capt. Downing or Lt. Boland of the lack of lighting in his cell or its resulting effects, nor does he allege that either officer then had knowledge of his claims. However, he alleges generally that both of these defendants failed to provide adequate safety conditions, and in context with the rest of his allegations, he is clearly referencing the failure to provide lighting in his cell (doc. 7 at 5-6).

         The plaintiff further alleges that as a result of not having lights, he fell from his cell bunk and “busted his head” on January 30th. He was taken to the hospital by emergency medical services (“EMS”), treated for his head injury, and released. The next morning, he awoke with a bloody mouth, migraine, and back pain (doc. 1 at 3; doc. 7 at 6). He filed a grievance and was seen by Dr. Scott and Nurse Miller, who treated him for his headache (doc. 1 at 3; doc. 7 at 6).

         With his response in opposition to summary judgment, the plaintiff provides copies of inmate grievance forms and other GCDC reports, some of which reference the non-functioning cell light and his own claims of resulting eye strain and depression (docs. 45-3; 45-4; 45-6; 45-7 at 1, 2, 8-12, 14-17, 19-21; 45-8 at 1-2). None of the grievance forms name Capt. Downing or Lt. Boland, though one attachment is an April 11, 2017, email from Capt. Downing (copied to Lt. Boland) addressed to GCDC maintenance stating, “B-122 Light still out and has not been fixed for months” (doc. 45-3). Also submitted is the corresponding maintenance form listing Capt. Downing as the requesting officer to fix the lights in four cells, including B-122 (doc. 45-8, p. 2).

         In support of summary judgment, the defendants deny that they were indifferent to the plaintiff's medical needs, and Nurse Miller provides her affidavit with attached records documenting the medical staff's responses to the plaintiff's numerous complaints (doc. 30-1, 2). Capt. Downing and Lt. Boland also argue that the plaintiff's claims regarding the lack of lighting in his cell do not rise to a constitutional deprivation, and that they were not personally responsible and cannot be held liable based on the doctrine of respondeat superior. Lt. Boland provides his affidavit stating that GCDC staff placed a work order to fix the light in the plaintiff's cell, though the plaintiff meanwhile had light from an exterior window and an interior hallway (doc. 33-2). The plaintiff disputes this, claiming the exterior window was painted and the interior hall light was also not working (doc. 45-2). Lt. Boland also states that the plaintiff was moved to a different cell with better lighting (doc. 33-2). The plaintiff himself provides a Maintenance Request Form dated March 19, 2017, showing that he was then housed in a cell B101 rather than B122, and likewise requested that a light be fixed in that cell (doc. 45-8, p. 1). It is not clear from the records submitted when the plaintiff was moved from cell B122 to B101. Maintenance Request Forms show that both cell lights were working on April 27, 2017 (doc. 45-8, pp. 1-2).


         Summary Judgment Standard

         Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56 states, as to a party who has moved for summary judgment: “The court shall grant summary judgment if the movant shows 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). As to the first of these determinations, a fact is deemed “material” if proof of its existence or nonexistence would affect the disposition of the case under the applicable law. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986). An issue of material fact is “genuine” if the evidence offered is such that a reasonable jury might return a verdict for the non-movant. Id. at 257. 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. 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. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 325 (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, he must demonstrate that specific, material facts exist that give rise to a genuine issue. 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. Anderson, 477 U.S. at 252. Likewise, conclusory allegations or denials, without more, are insufficient to preclude the granting of the summary judgment motion. Id. at 248. “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.” Id.

         Medical ...

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