United States District Court, D. South Carolina, Florence Division
Matthew J. Ward, Plaintiff,
James Blackwell, Tamara Ravenell, Jacek Kicinski, Defendants.
C. Coggins, Jr. United States District Judge.
matter is before the Court on Defendants' Motion for
Summary Judgment. ECF No. 58. In accordance with 28 U.S.C.
§ 636(b) and Local Civil Rule 73.02(B)(2), (D.S.C.),
this matter was referred to United States Magistrate Judge
Thomas E. Rogers, III, for pre-trial proceedings. On February
6, 2018, the Magistrate Judge issued a Report and
Recommendation (“Report”) recommending that
Plaintiff's claims against all Defendants in their
official capacities be dismissed, that his claims against
James Blackwell and Tamara Ravenell in their individual
capacities be dismissed, and that his claim against Jacek
Kicinski in his individual capacity survive the Motion. ECF
No. 87. The Magistrate Judge advised the parties of the
procedures and requirements for filing objections to the
Report. Plaintiff and Defendants filed objections to the
Magistrate Judge makes only a recommendation to this Court.
The recommendation has no presumptive weight, and the
responsibility to make a final determination remains with the
Court. See Mathews v. Weber, 423 U.S. 261 (1976).
The Court is charged with making a de novo determination of
any portion of the Report of the Magistrate Judge to which a
specific objection is made. The Court may accept, reject, or
modify, in whole or in part, the recommendation made by the
Magistrate Judge or recommit the matter to the Magistrate
Judge with instructions. See U.S.C. § 636(b).
The Court will review the Report only for clear error in the
absence of an objection. See Diamond v. Colonial Life
& Accident Ins. Co., 416 F.3d 310, 315 (4th Cir.
2005) (stating that “in the absence of timely filed
objection, a district court need not conduct a de
novo review, but instead must only satisfy itself that
there is no clear error on the face of the record in order to
accept the recommendation.” (citation omitted)).
initial matter, neither Plaintiff nor Defendants object to
the portion of the Report recommending that Defendants Motion
be granted regarding Plaintiff's claims against them in
their official capacities. Upon review of the record,
applicable law, and the Report, the Court finds no clear
error and agrees with the Magistrate's recommendation
that Defendants are entitled to summary judgment with respect
to this claim.
objects to the recommendation that the Motion be granted with
respect to his claims against Blackwell and Ravenell in their
individual capacities. Plaintiff asserts that Blackwell and
Ravenell should have known there was a high risk of injury as
a result of double-celling inmates. ECF No. 90 at 1.
Moreover, he contends that Blackwell and Ravenell failed to
properly supervise and train Kicinski. Id. at 2.
Finally, Plaintiff alleges that he is unable to show evidence
of habit because the Court did not compel discovery as
requested. Id. at 2-3. The Court overrules
Plaintiff's allegations that Blackwell and Ravenell
should have been aware that he was at risk for harm because
of double-celling and that they failed to supervise or train
Kicinski, the Court finds these claims were properly
evaluated by the Magistrate. In his Complaint, Plaintiff
fails to present any evidence beyond his own conclusory
allegations that either Blackwell or Ravenell had actual or
constructive knowledge that Kicinski or other officers were
deliberately indifferent to a specific and known risk of harm
to Plaintiff. See Ross v. Commc'ns Satellite
Corp., 759 F.2d 355, 365 (4th Cir.1985), overruled
on other grounds, 490 U.S. 228 (1989) (holding that
conclusory allegations or denials, without more, are
insufficient to preclude granting the summary judgment
motion.); Green v. Beck, 539 Fed.Appx. 78 (4th Cir.
2013) (holding that, in order to maintain a claim for
supervisory liability, a plaintiff must allege “that
the supervisor had actual or constructive knowledge that his
subordinate[s were] engaged in conduct that posed a pervasive
and unreasonable risk of constitutional injury” to
plaintiff, “the supervisor's response to the
knowledge was so inadequate as to show deliberate
indifference to or tacit authorization of the alleged
offensive practices, ” and “there was an
affirmative causal link between the supervisor's inaction
and the particular constitutional injury suffered by the
a defendant cannot be liable under § 1983 merely because
they are a supervisor or manager. The doctrines of vicarious
liability and respondeat superior are not applicable in
§ 1983 actions. See Vinnedge v. Gibbs, 550 F.2d
926, 927-29 (4th Cir. 1977); see also Polk Cty. v.
Dodson, 454 U.S. 312, 325 (1981). Accordingly,
Defendants are entitled to summary judgment with respect to
Plaintiff's claims against Blackwell and
object to the Magistrate's recommendation that their
Motion be denied with respect to Plaintiff's claims
against Kicinski in his individual capacity. ECF No. 93.
Defendants contend that Plaintiff's allegations fail to
establish either the requisite objective or subjective
component to maintain a claim for failure to protect.
Specifically, Defendants contend that Plaintiff has not
established that he was exposed to a substantial risk of harm
in that if nothing was done, he would almost certainly be
seriously harmed. Moreover, regarding the subjective
component, Defendants assert that Plaintiff failed to inform
Kicinski that he had been threatened with serious physical
harm or that he feared for his life. Defendants also argue
that any investigation into whether Plaintiff should have
been moved would have taken too long to prevent the fight;
they allege Kicinski had no authority to remove Plaintiff
from his cell without permission and that he followed
procedure to stop the fight once he realized that it had
begun. The Court disagrees and overrules the objections.
establish a failure to protect claim, a prisoner must make
two showings: first, that he suffered significant injury or
was “incarcerated under conditions posing a substantial
risk of serious harm”; and second, that the prison
official at issue had a “sufficiently culpable state of
mind.” Makdessi v. Fields, 789 F.3d 126, 133
(4th Cir. 2015) (quoting Farmer v. Brennan, 511 U.S.
825, 834 (1970)). Under the first prong, the objective
inquiry, “a prisoner must allege a serious or
significant physical or emotional injury resulting from the
challenged conditions, or demonstrate a substantial risk of
such serious harm resulting from the prisoner's exposure
to the challenged conditions.” De'Lonta v.
Angelone, 330 F.3d 630, 634 (4th Cir. 2003) (internal
citations omitted). The second showing is subjective and
requires proof of deliberate indifference. See Toomer v.
Baltimore City Det. Ctr., No. DKC 12-0083, 2014 WL
4678712, at *3 (D. Md. Sept. 18, 2014) (“In order to
prevail on a claim of failure to protect from violence, [a
plaintiff] must establish that [the defendants] exhibited
deliberate or callous indifference to a specific known risk
of harm.” (citing Pressly v. Hutto, 816 F.2d
977, 979 (4th Cir. 1987)). Ultimately, “the test is
whether the [prison officials] know the plaintiff inmate
faces a serious danger to his safety and they could avert the
danger easily yet they fail to do so.” Brown v.
N.C. Dep't of Corr., 612 F.3d 720. 723 (4th Cir.
2010) (quoting Case v. Ahitow, 301 F.3d 605, 607
(7th Cir. 2002)).
Plaintiff has alleged facts sufficient to survive
Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment. With respect to
the objective component, Plaintiff alleges that he told
Kicinski twice that he and his cellmate were about to fight.
As noted in the Report, Plaintiff and his cellmate were
arguing at the time that Kicinski was making his rounds and
at least two other inmates could tell that the argument was
on the verge of escalating into a physical confrontation.
With respect to the subjective component, Plaintiff provides
the affidavits of two witnesses who aver that Kicinski told
Plaintiff and his cellmate to “go ahead and
fight” and delayed responding to the fight until
another officer arrived. ECF No. 78-2 at 5-10; see
Kartman v. Markle, 582 Fed.Appx. 151, 154 (4th Cir.
2014) (finding that summary judgment was appropriate where
the plaintiff's verified complaint provided undisputed
evidence that the defendant prison official saw plaintiff
being assaulted and unreasonably delayed breaking up the
fight). Accordingly, Defendants' Motion for Summary
Judgment should be denied with respect to this
also argue that Kicinski is entitled to qualified immunity.
This is the same argument raised in Defendants' Motion.
The Court finds that the Report accurately states and applies
the qualified immunity ...