United States District Court, D. South Carolina
Julius L. Harrison, Plaintiff,
United States of America, Defendant.
REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION OF MAGISTRATE
Jacquelyn D. Austin, United States Magistrate Judge
matter is before the Court on a motion to dismiss or, in the
alternative, for summary judgment, filed by Defendant. [Doc.
20.] Plaintiff, proceeding pro se, brought this action
pursuant to the Federal Tort Claims Act (?FTCA”). [Doc.
1.] 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.
filed this action on September 26, 2017. [Doc. 1.] On
January 26, 2018, Defendant filed a motion to dismiss or, in
the alternative, for summary judgment. [Doc. 20.] The same
day, the Court issued an Order pursuant to Roseboro v.
Garrison, 528 F.2d 309 (4th Cir. 1975), advising
Plaintiff of the dismissal procedure and the possible
consequences if he failed to adequately respond to the
motion. [Doc. 21.] Plaintiff's response in opposition was
entered on the docket on March 5, 2018. [Doc. 30.]
Accordingly, the motion is ripe for review.
is a federal prisoner, and he alleges he was injured on
December 18, 2016, while incarcerated at FCI Williamsburg in
Salters, South Carolina. [Doc. 1 ¶¶ 7-8.] He
alleges he slipped and fell in his cell because of water on
the floor that had leaked from the ceiling because of rain
the previous night. [Id. at ¶ 8-9.] He asserts
that he possibly re-injured a pre-existing back injury when
he fell. [Id. at ¶ 8.] Medical staff and others
picked Plaintiff up and moved him by wheelchair to the
medical area. [Id. ¶ 11.]
arrived at FCI Williamsburg on December 16, 2016, and was not
warned that the buildings had a substantial leaking problem
whenever it rained. [Id. ¶ 12.] Plaintiff
alleges the buildings continue to leak, and many cells have
mold and other microbial buildup, which has caused Plaintiff
and other inmates to develop an uncontrollable cough.
[Id. ¶¶ 13-14.] Plaintiff further contends
that the leakage problem has existed for years and staff have
been aware of the leakage and mold problems, but they have
done nothing to address the problems or warn of the potential
hazard. [Id. ¶¶ 15-17, 24-25.] Plaintiff
further alleges that he has been denied effective treatment
and MRIs for the injuries related to his slip and fall.
[Id. ¶ 38.]
asserts that as a result of FCI Williamsburg's
employees' negligence, he has suffered
"exacerbated physical injuries as well as the mental
distress, discomfort, and oppression/depression associated
with not rec[ei]ving effective medical treatment” and
"will continue to experience pain for said injuries into
the future.” [Id. ¶ 52.] He seeks $5,
000, 000 in compensatory damages. [Id. ¶ 54.]
Construction of Pro Se Complaint
brought this action pro se, which requires the Court to
liberally construe his pleadings. Estelle, 429 U.S.
97, 106 (1976); Haines v. Kerner, 404 U.S. 519, 520
(1972) (per curiam); Loe v. Armistead, 582 F.2d
1291, 1295 (4th Cir. 1978); Gordon v. Leeke, 574
F.2d 1147, 1151 (4th Cir. 1978). Pro se pleadings are held to
a less stringent standard than those drafted by attorneys.
Haines, 404 U.S. at 520. Even under this less
stringent standard, however, a pro se complaint is still
subject to summary dismissal. Id. at 520-21. The
mandated liberal construction means that only if the court
can reasonably read the pleadings to state a valid claim on
which the complainant could prevail, it should do so.
Barnett v. Hargett, 174 F.3d 1128, 1133 (10th Cir.
1999). A court may not construct the complainant's legal
arguments for him. Small v. Endicott, 998 F.2d 411,
417-18 (7th Cir. 1993). Nor should a court “conjure up
questions never squarely presented.” Beaudett v.
City of Hampton, 775 F.2d 1274, 1278 (4th Cir. 1985).
12(b)(6) Dismissal Standard
Rule 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, a
claim should be dismissed if it fails to state a claim upon
which relief can be granted. When considering a motion to
dismiss, the court should “accept as true all
well-pleaded allegations and should view the complaint in a
light most favorable to the plaintiff.” Mylan
Labs., Inc. v. Matkari, 7 F.3d 1130, 1134 (4th Cir.
1993). However, the court “need not accept the legal
conclusions drawn from the facts” nor “accept as
true unwarranted inferences, unreasonable conclusions, or
arguments.” Eastern Shore Mkts., Inc. v. J.D.
Assocs. Ltd. P'ship, 213 F.3d 175, 180 (4th Cir.
2000). Further, for purposes of a Rule 12(b)(6) motion, a
court may rely on only the complaint's allegations and
those documents attached as exhibits or incorporated by
reference. See Simons v. Montgomery Cty. Police
Officers, 762 F.2d 30, 31 (4th Cir. 1985). If matters
outside the pleadings are presented to and not excluded by
the court, the motion is treated as one for summary judgment
under Rule 56 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure.
respect to well-pleaded allegations, the United States
Supreme Court explained the interplay between Rule 8(a) and
Rule 12(b)(6) in Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly:
Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 8(a)(2) requires only
“a short and plain statement of the claim showing that
the pleader is entitled to relief, ” in order to
“give the defendant fair notice of what the . . . claim
is and the grounds upon which it rests.” While a
complaint attacked by a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss does
not need detailed factual allegations, a plaintiff's
obligation to provide the “grounds” of his
“entitle[ment] to relief” requires more than
labels and conclusions, and a formulaic recitation of the
elements of a cause of action will not do. Factual
allegations must be enough to raise a right to relief above
the speculative level on the assumption that all the
allegations in the complaint are true (even if doubtful in
550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007) (footnote and citations omitted);
see also 5 Charles Alan Wright & Arthur R.
Miller, Federal Practice and Procedure § 1216,
at 235-36 (3d ed. 2004) (“[T]he pleading must contain
something more . . . than a bare averment that the pleader
wants compensation and is entitled to it or a statement of
facts that merely creates a suspicion that the pleader might
have a legally cognizable right of action.”).
claim has facial plausibility when the plaintiff pleads
factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable
inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct
alleged.” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678
(2009) (citing Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556). “The
plausibility standard is not akin to a ‘probability
requirement, ' but it asks for more than a sheer
possibility that a defendant has acted unlawfully.”
Id. (citing Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556). The
plausibility standard reflects the threshold requirement of
Rule 8(a)(2)-the pleader must plead sufficient facts to show
he is entitled to relief, not merely facts consistent with
the defendant's liability. Twombly, 550 U.S. at
557 (quoting Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2)); see also Iqbal,
556 U.S. at 678 (“Where a complaint pleads facts that
are ‘merely consistent with' a defendant's
liability, it ‘stops short of the line between
possibility and plausibility of “entitlement to
relief.”'” (quoting Twombly, 550
U.S. at 557)). Accordingly, the plausibility standard
requires a plaintiff to articulate facts that, when accepted
as true, demonstrate that the plaintiff has stated a claim
that makes it plausible the plaintiff is entitled to relief.
Francis v. Giacomelli, 588 F.3d 186, 193 (4th Cir.
2009) (quoting Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678). If on a
motion pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6), matters outside the
pleading are presented to and not excluded by the court, the
motion shall be treated as one for summary judgment.