United States District Court, D. South Carolina
REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION
JACQUELYN D. AUSTIN, UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
Sifford (“Plaintiff”), proceeding pro se and in
forma pauperis, commenced this civil action by filing a
Complaint pursuant to Bivens v. Six Unknown Named Agents
of Federal Bureau of Narcotics, 403 U.S. 388, 397
(1971). Specifically, Plaintiff asserts a claim against the
above-named Defendants for deliberate indifference to a
serious medical need. Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §636(b)(1)
and Local Civil Rule 73.02(B)(2) D.S.C., the undersigned
magistrate judge is authorized to review such complaints for
relief and submit findings and recommendations to a district
judge. See 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e) and § 1915A
(as soon as possible after docketing, district courts should
review prisoner cases to determine whether they are subject
to summary dismissal). After careful review of this case, and
for the reasons below, the undersigned finds Plaintiff's
claim is frivolous because this case is duplicative of a
previous case filed by Plaintiff. It is therefore recommended
that the district judge summarily dismiss the Complaint
without prejudice and without issuance and service of
initiated this action by filing a Complaint in the United
States District Court for the Western District of North
Carolina. [Doc. 1.] That Court concluded jurisdiction and
venue over Plaintiff's claims were proper in the District
of South Carolina and therefore transferred the action to
this Court. [Doc. 3.] By orders dated December 6, 2017, and
January 9, 2018, the undersigned directed Plaintiff to bring
the case into proper form for evaluation and possible service
of process. [Docs. 10, 15.] Plaintiff has complied with those
orders, and this case is now substantially in proper form.
Nevertheless, as explained below, this case is subject to
Plaintiff filed his Complaint, he was serving the remainder
of his federal sentence while on home detention, and he had
previously been living in a Federal Bureau of Prison
(“BOP”) “halfway house” in Charlotte,
North Carolina. [Docs. 1 ¶ 1 and 17 ¶¶ A, B.]
On November 21, 2017, Plaintiff was released from the custody
of the BOP and is now living in Charlotte, North Carolina.
[Doc. 17 ¶ C.] However, the incident giving rise to
Plaintiff's claims occurred while Plaintiff was
incarcerated at FCI Bennettsville in South Carolina. [Doc. 1
makes the following allegations in his pro se Complaint.
[Doc. 1.] In February 2002, while playing basketball at FCI
Bennettsville, Plaintiff injured his right knee.
[Id. ¶ 7.] He immediately stopped playing
basketball and started treating his knee with ice packs to
minimize the swelling. [Id. ¶ 7.] The morning
following his injury, Plaintiff's knee was severely
swollen and excruciatingly painful. [Id. ¶ 8.]
Plaintiff went to the infirmary seeking treatment.
[Id. ¶ 9.] The medical staff treated his injury
with ice packs and anti-inflammatory medications; however,
his injury did not respond favorably to this treatment.
[Id. ¶ 9.] Approximately three months later,
the medical staff ordered an MRI of Plaintiff's knee.
[Id. ¶ 9.] The MRI revealed Plaintiff had
sustained a “chronic and complete tear of the ACL in
his right knee as result of the injury Plaintiff sustained
playing basketball.” [Id. ¶ 10.]
Plaintiff's treating physician, Dr. Rubin, (who is not
named as a Defendant in this case) informed Plaintiff that he
needed arthroscopic surgery to repair the substantial damage
to his knee. [Id. ¶ 10.] After months of severe
pain, Plaintiff told each of the Defendants that his
“knee was not stable, ” that he had a complete
tear of his ACL, and that he needed surgery. [Id.
¶ 11.] Despite Plaintiff's “continuous
requests” to Defendants to schedule surgery, the
Defendants “collectively chose to treat Plaintiff
conservatively, ” only providing him with a hinged knee
brace. [Id. ¶ 12.] Plaintiff's pain became
unbearable and his knee continued to deteriorate.
[Id. ¶¶ 13, 15.] For the next several
years, Plaintiff continued to request surgery for his knee,
but Defendants were deliberately indifferent to his pain and
suffering. [Id. ¶ 15.] Now, Plaintiff has
“bone grinding bone” within his knee, causing his
knee to frequently “buckle.” [Id. ¶
alleges he has exhausted all of his administrative remedies,
although he does not allege any facts to support that
assertion. [Id. ¶ 17.] Plaintiff contends he is
entitled to have arthroscopic surgery performed on his knee.
[Id. ¶ 18.] Further, Plaintiff contends that,
because Defendants have refused to provide him with the
needed arthroscopic surgery, he has “suffered
unnecessarily” and has been denied needed medical
treatment. [Id. ¶ 19.] As such, Plaintiff
asserts a claim for deliberate indifference to a serious
medical need pursuant to Bivens. For his relief,
Plaintiff seeks an order from the Court requiring the BOP to
provide appropriate medical care, including arthroscopic
surgery on Plaintiff's knee, as well as actual and
compensatory damages in the amount of $250, 000, along with
an award for punitive damages.
established local procedure in this judicial district, a
careful review has been made of Plaintiff's pro se
Complaint 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 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)(en
banc); Todd v. Baskerville, 712 F.2d 70 (4th Cir.
complaints 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 complaint filed by a pro
se litigant to allow the development of a potentially
meritorious case. Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89
(2007). When a federal court is evaluating a pro se
complaint, the plaintiff's allegations are assumed to be
true. De'Lonta v. Angelone, 330 F.3d 630, 630n.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 which set forth a
claim currently cognizable in a federal district court.
Weller v. Dep't of Soc. Servs., 901 F.2d 387
(4th Cir. 1990). Here, even under this less stringent
standard, the Complaint filed in this case is subject to
summary dismissal under the provisions of 28 U.S.C. §
Bivens v. Six Unknown Named Agents of Federal Bureau of
Narcotics, 403 U.S. 388, 397 (1971), the Supreme Court
established a direct cause of action under the Constitution
of the United States against federal officials for the
violation of federal constitutional rights. A Bivens
claim is analogous to a claim under 42 U.S.C. § 1983;
however, federal officials cannot be sued under 42 U.S.C.
§ 1983 because they do not act under color of state law.
Harlow v. Fitzgerald, 457 U.S. 800, 814-20 (1982).
Case law involving § 1983 claims is applicable in
Bivens actions and vice versa. See Farmer v.
Brennan, 511 U.S. 825 (1994); see also Mitchell v.
Forsyth, 472 U.S. 511, 530 (1985); Turner v.
Dammon, 848 F.2d 440, 443-44 (4th Cir. 1988). The
Complaint is filed pursuant to Bivens, which, like
actions filed under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, “‘is
not itself a source of substantive rights, ' but merely
provides ‘a method for vindicating federal rights
elsewhere conferred.'” Albright v. Oliver,
510 U.S. 266, 271 (1994) (quoting Baker v. McCollan,
443 U.S. 137, 144 n. 3 (1979)). A legal action under
Bivens allows “a party who has been deprived
of a federal right under the color of [federal] law to seek
relief.” City of Monterey v. Del Monte Dunes at
Monterey, Ltd., 526 U.S. 687, 707 (1999). To state a
claim under Bivens, a plaintiff must allege two
essential elements: (1) that a right secured by the
Constitution or laws of the United States was violated, and
(2) that the alleged violation was committed by a person
acting under the color of federal law. West v.
Atkins, 487 U.S. 42, 48 (1988).
indifference to serious medical needs of prisoners
constitutes the unnecessary and wanton infliction of
pain” prohibited by the Eighth Amendment. Estelle
v. Gamble, 429 U.S. 97, 104 (1976). A serious medical
need “is one that has been diagnosed by a physician as
mandating treatment or one that is so obvious that even a lay
person would easily recognize the necessity for a
doctor's attention.” Iko v. Shreve, 535
F.3d 225, 241 (4th Cir. 2008). “A delay in treatment
may constitute deliberate indifference if the delay
exacerbated the injury or unnecessarily prolonged an
inmate's pain.” Abraham v. McDonald, 493
F. App'x 465, 466 (4th Cir. 2012) (citations omitted).
While Plaintiff asserts a violation of his constitutional
rights by alleged federal actors, this case is subject to
summary dismissal because it is a duplicate filing. See
Goins v. Pearson, No. 4:13-cv-412-CMC-TER, 2013 WL
1567451, at *2 (D.S.C. Mar. 28, 2013), report and
recommendation adopted, 2013 WL 1567447 (D.S.C. Apr. 15,
2013). Plaintiff previously filed a case in this Court, which
involves the same facts and alleges the same claims against
the same four Defendants.[*]See Sifford v.
Drew, No. 8:11-cv-3019-JDA-RMG. Indeed, the instant
Complaint provides, almost verbatim, the same factual
allegations presented in Plaintiff's Amended Complaint in
his prior case, presenting the same cause of action and
seeking identical relief. [Case No. 8:11-cv-3019-JDA-RMG,
Doc. 36.] However, Plaintiff may not re-litigate
previously-adjudicated claims against Defendants. See
Trawick v. M.U.S.C., No. 2:16-CV-730-DCN-MGB, 2016 WL
8650132, at *7 (D.S.C. June 28, 2016) (discussing application
of res judicata to duplicate actions to support summary
dismissal of claims). The Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals has
repeatedly held that “district courts are not required
to entertain duplicative or redundant lawsuits.”
Cottle v. Bell, No. 00-6367, 2000 WL 1144623, *1
(4th Cir. Aug.14, 2000); se ...