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Munn v. South Carolina Department of Corrections

United States District Court, D. South Carolina

May 3, 2018

Julius Allen Munn, Plaintiff,
v.
South Carolina Department of Corrections, Christopher Lagasse, Elaine Delaney, Defendants.

          REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION OF MAGISTRATE JUDGE

          Jacquelyn D. Austin United States Magistrate Judge.

         This matter is before the Court on a partial motion to dismiss filed by Defendants. [Doc. 16.] Pursuant to the provisions of 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(B) and Local Civil Rule 73.02(B)(2), D.S.C., this magistrate judge is authorized to review all pretrial matters in this case and to submit findings and recommendations to the District Court.

         Plaintiff filed the instant action in the Richland County Court of Common Pleas, alleging violations of his constitutional rights under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, violations of the South Carolina Tort Claims Act (“SCTCA”), violations of Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”), and intentional infliction of emotional distress (?IIED”). [Doc. 1-1.] Defendants removed the action to this Court on August 17, 2017 and, on November 9, 2017, filed a partial motion to dismiss. [Docs. 1; 16.] Plaintiff filed a response in opposition to the partial motion to dismiss on December 22, 2017 [Doc. 20], and Defendants filed a reply on December 29, 2017 [Doc. 22]. Accordingly, the motion is ripe for review.

         BACKGROUND[1]

         Plaintiff was shot in the stomach in 1979 at age 13, and his pancreas had to be removed. [Doc. 1-1 at 5 ¶ 10.] Following the removal of his pancreas, Plaintiff instantly became diabetic. [Id.] As a result, he was required to check his blood sugar levels three times daily, to inject insulin daily, and to eat when necessary to keep his blood sugar in a safe range. [Id.] Plaintiff properly maintained his blood sugar levels and correctly treated his diabetes during the 1980s and 1990s. [Id. at 5 ¶ 11.]

         From December 2002 through 2005, Plaintiff was incarcerated at Kirkland Correctional Institution. [Id. at 3 ¶ 2, 5 ¶ 12.] ¶ 2002 and early 2003, Defendant South Carolina Department of Corrections (“SCDC”) provided test strips so that medical could check Plaintiff's blood sugar levels three times daily. [Id. at 5 ¶ 13.] SCDC also permitted Plaintiff to use a sliding scale to determine if he needed additional insulin and provided insulin for his use when he needed it. [Id. at 5-6 ¶ 13.]

         Defendant Nurse Elaine Delaney (“Delaney”) subsequently took Plaintiff off the sliding scale. [Id. at 6 ¶ 14.] She told Plaintiff, “there's no money to pay for all those test strips” and refused to provide the test strips when Plaintiff offered to pay for them. [Id.] SCDC thereafter allowed Plaintiff to check his blood sugar levels only once every four weeks. [Id. at 6 ¶ 15.] Plaintiff “suffered diabetic attacks, comas, and other fallout from failing to maintain a proper insulin range.” [Id. at 6 ¶ 16.] Plaintiff filed a grievance but SCDC provided no relief. [Id. at 6 ¶ 17.]

         By 2004, Plaintiff's pre-incarceration 20/20 vision had diminished. [Id. at 6 ¶ 18.] Plaintiff has since learned that his diminished eyesight was caused by fluctuations in his blood sugar levels, but he did not know this was the cause at the time. [Id.] A doctor told Plaintiff that his retinas were detaching and conducted surgery twice on each eye. [Id. at 6 ¶ 19.] The doctor told Plaintiff that he could save Plaintiff's eyesight in his right eye; however, SCDC prevented Plaintiff from going to the doctor for treatment, telling Plaintiff there was a fuel shortage. [Id. at 6-7 ¶ 20.] Plaintiff filed another grievance, complaining that he was not taken for medical treatment. [Id. at 7 ¶ 20.]

         In September 2005, Plaintiff became completely blind. [Id. at 7 ¶ 22.] He asked SCDC's medical staff what caused his blindness but they have never answered him. [Id. at 7 ¶ 23.] After Plaintiff became blind, SCDC transferred him to Lieber Correctional Institution. [Id. at 7 ¶ 26.] ¶ 2007, Plaintiff's left eye was removed, and he was fit with a prosthesis. [Id. at 7 ¶ 27.] ¶ 2011, Plaintiff was kept behind a locked door for 29 hours without food or insulin. [Id. at 7 ¶ 28.]

         Plaintiff has requested accommodations[2] but contends that SCDC has failed to accommodate his blindness, including but not limited to failing to supply large print documents, failing to teach Plaintiff braille, failing to provide braille materials for Plaintiff to try to teach himself, failing to provide magnifying glasses or devices, failing to provide electronic text and voice communiques instead of written notes, and failing to provide or assign human readers. [Id. at 8 ¶ 30, 9 ¶ 33.] Plaintiff believes he is one of only two completely blind people at Broad River Correctional Institution, where he is housed in the same dorm as gang members. [Id. at 8 ¶ 31.] Gang members have physically harmed Plaintiff and have stolen his few aid devices and possessions. [Id. at 9 ¶ 31.] Plaintiff has requested to be moved to a safer cellblock but SCDC has refused this request. [Id. at 9 ¶ 32.]

         On October 9, 2016, Plaintiff was let out of his cell to get insulin. [Id. at 22 ¶ 68.] When he returned, Defendant Christopher Lagasse (“Lagasse”) allowed Plaintiff to remain in the hallway to walk off extra insulin. [Id.] Lagasse unlocked the cell of a gang-affiliated inmate and then turned around and walked out of the cellblock, allowing that inmate unsupervised access to Plaintiff. [Id. at 23 ¶ 71.] The gang-affiliated inmate then surprise attacked Plaintiff, causing injuries to Plaintiff's face and body. [Id. at 23 ¶ 72.] Since the attack, Plaintiff has suffered from hyper-awareness, sleeplessness, and post traumatic stress disorder. [Id. at 23 ¶ 73.]

         The Complaint is divided into two claims-Claim One related to Plaintiff's medical treatment and accommodations for his blindness and Claim Two related to the failure to protect Plaintiff from harm. Each claim is further divided into separate causes of action: Claim One:

First Cause of Action-gross negligence/recklessness against SCDC;
Second Cause of Action-violations of Title II of the ADA against SCDC;
Third Cause of Action-IIED against Delaney; and
Fourth Cause of Action-violation of Plaintiff's constitutional rights pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against Delaney and SCDC;

         Claim Two:

First Cause of Action-gross negligence and reckless conduct under S.C. Code Ann. § 1-78-10 et seq., against SCDC; and
Second Cause of Action-violation of Plaintiff's constitutional rights pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against Lagasse.

         APPLICABLE LAW

         Requirements for a Cause of ...


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