United States District Court, D. South Carolina
REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION
BRISTOW MARCHANT UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.
Plaintiff, Steven Benfield, proceeding pro se and in
forma pauperis, brings this action pursuant to 42
U.S.C. § 1983. Plaintiff is a pretrial detainee at the
York County Detention Center. On May 18, 2018, this court
issued an order giving the plaintiff notice to file an
amended complaint because the original complaint was subject
to dismissal for failure to state a claim upon which relief
could be granted. ECF No. 9. Plaintiff filed an Amended
Complaint on May 31, 2018. ECF No. II.
established local procedure in this judicial district, a
careful review has been made of the pro se Complaint pursuant
to the procedural provisions of 28 U.S.C. § 1915 and
§ 1915A, the Prison Litigation Reform Act, Pub.L. No.
104-134, 110 Stat. 1321 (1996), and in light of the following
precedents: Denton v. Hernandez, 504 U.S. 25 (1992),
Neitzke v. Williams, 490 U.S. 319 (1989), Haines
v. Kerner, 404 U.S. 519 (1972), Nasim v. Warden,
Maryland House of Coil, 64 F.3d 951 (4th Cir. 1995), and
Todd v. Baskerville, 712 F.2d 70 (4th Cir. 1983).
Pro se 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 pro se complaint to
allow the development of a potentially meritorious case.
Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 93 (2007) (citing
Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555-56
(2007)); Hughes v. Rowe, 449 U.S. 5, 9 (1980).
even when considered pursuant to this liberal standard, for
the reasons set forth here in below this case is subject to
summary dismissal. The requirement of liberal construction
does not mean that the court can ignore a clear failure in
the pleading to allege facts which set forth a claim
cognizable in a federal district court. See Weller v.
Dep't of Soc. Servs., 901 F.2d 387 (4th Cir. 1990);
see also Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662 (2009)
[outlining pleading requirements under the Federal Rules of
from York County indicate that Plaintiff was arrested in
August 2015 on charges of murder and possession of a weapon
during a violent crime. See York County, Sixteenth Judicial
Circuit Public Index,
5010056115 (last visited June I8, 2OI8). Plaintiff alleges
that Defendant Piedmont Medical Center EMS was negligent for
failure to take him to the hospital in a speedy and timely
manner and for failing, at the urging of the York County
Sheriffs Department, to bandage his cuts or administer any
kind of care on August 10, 2015. Specifically, Plaintiff
claims that on August 10, 2015 he was beaten unconscious
inside his home. Plaintiff alleges that Piedmont Medical
Center EMS crew members Rodney Dutton (EMT Paramedic) and
Kenneth Langley (EMT Basic) arrived at his home at 10:23
a.m., and that he entered and was "set" in the
captain's chair inside the ambulance, but that EMS crew
members did not bandage his cuts or administer any pain
medication and the unit sat in the yard until 11:59 a.m.
Plaintiff asserts that he told crew members to take him to
Kings Mountain Hospital, but they ignored his request and
transferred him to Piedmont Medical Center (which he claims
was further away) at 1:06 p.m. ECF No. 11 at 1-2. Plaintiff
contends that as a result of the alleged incident he suffered
severe physical and mental pain and anguish, and that he has
suffered permanent disabilities including chronic headaches,
impaired vision, breathing problems, eye pain, and
post-traumatic stress disorder. ECF No. 11 at 2. He requests
monetary damages. Id.
Amended Complaint filed in this case is subject to summary
dismissal without service of process because, even after
Plaintiff was put on notice of defects in his original
pleading and given an opportunity to amend his Complaint,
Plaintiffs Amended Complaint still fails to state a claim
which this Court may consider under its federal question
jurisdiction, see 28 U.S.C. § 1331, or its diversity
jurisdiction, see 28 U.S.C. § 1332. Plaintiff appears to
have filed this action pursuant to § 1983, which
'"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 civil action
under § 1983 "creates a private right of action to
vindicate violations of 'rights, privileges, or
immunities secured by the Constitution and laws' of the
United States," Rehberg v. Paulk, 566 U.S. 356,
361 (2012); and to state a claim under § 1983, 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 state law.
West v. Atkins, 487 U.S. 42, 48 (1988).
noted previously in the order to amend, Defendant Piedmont
Medical Center E.M.S. is not a "person" subject to
suit under § 1983. Courts have routinely held that
inanimate objects such as a building, facility, and grounds
do not act under color of state law, and are not
"persons" subject to suit under § 1983. See
Allison v. California Adult Autfa., 419 F.2d 822,
823 (9th Cir. 1969)[California Adult Authority and San
Quentin Prison not "person[s]" subject to suit
under 42 U.S.C. § 1983]: Nelson v. Lexington Cnty.
Pet. Ctr., C/A No. 8:10-2988-JMC, 2011 WL 2066551, at *1
(D.S.C. May 26, 2011) [Finding that a detention center, as a
building and not a person, was not amenable to suit under
§ 1983]; Preval v. Reno, 57 F.Supp.2d 307, 310
(E.D. Va. 1999)["[T]he Piedmont Regional Jail is not a
'person,' and therefore not amenable to suit under 42
U.S.C. § l983."l; Brooks v. Pembroke City
Jail, 722 F.Supp. 1294, l301(E.D. N.C.
l989)["Claims under§ 1983 are directed at
'persons' and the jail is not a person amenable to
suit."]. Further, to the extent that the Defendant is a
branch or department of the Piedmont Medical Center or could
be considered a group of people employed by Piedmont Medical
Center, it again is not a person amenable to suit under
§ 1983. See Harden v. Green, 27 Fed.Appx. 173,
178 (4th Cir. 2001)[finding that the medical department of a
prison is not a person pursuant to § 1983]; Dalton
v. South Carolina Dep't of Corr., C/A No.
8:09-260-CMC-BHH, 2009 WL 823931, at *2 (D.S.C. March 26,
2009)[dismissing the medical staff of SCDC and Prison Health
Services as defendants because they were not persons!;
Barnes v. Baskerville Corr. Cen. Med. Staff, No.
3:07CV 195.2008 WL 2564779 (E.D.Va. June 25,
2008)["Plaintiff s allegations that unspecified prison
personnel violated his rights does not adequately state a
§ 1983 claim."].
even if Piedmont Medical Center E.M.S. satisfied the
"person" requirement for a suit under § 1983
(or Plaintiff had named the individual EMS personnel as the
party Defendants), there is no allegation that the Defendant
here has acted under color of state law. The Defendant is a
private, not a public, entity, and its employees are private,
not public, employees. Purely private conduct such as that
alleged in this case, no matter how wrongful, injurious,
fraudulent, or discriminatory, is not actionable under 42
U.S.C. § 1983 or under the Fourteenth Amendment, the two
most common provisions under which persons come into federal
court to claim that others have violated their constitutional
rights. See Lugar v. Edmondson Oil Co., 457 U.S.
922, 936 (1983); Burton v. Wilmington Parking Auth.,
365 U.S. 715, 721 (1961). Because the United States
Constitution regulates only the government, not private
parties, a litigant asserting a § 1983 claim that his
constitutional rights have been violated must first establish
that the challenged conduct constitutes "state
action." See, &£., Blum v. Yaretsky,
457 U.S. 991, 1002 (1982). To qualify as state action, the
conduct in question "must be caused by the exercise of
some right or privilege created by the State or by a rule of
conduct imposed by the State or by a person for whom the
State is responsible," and "the party charged with
the [conduct] must be a person who may fairly be said to be a
state actor." Lugar, 457 U.S. at 937; see
U.S. v. Int'l Bhd. of Teamsters, Chauffeurs,
Warehousemen and Helpers of Am., AFL-CIO. 941 F.2d 1292
(2d Cir.1991). Although a private individual or corporation
can act under color of state law, his, her, or its actions
must occur where the private individual or entity is "a
willful participant in joint action with the State or its
agents." Dennis v. Sparks, 449 U.S. 24, 27-28
(1980). Plaintiff has set forth no facts to show or establish
that Piedmont Medical Center EMS, which appears to be a
private company, is a state actor, as there is no allegation
to suggest that the Defendant's actions were anything
other than purely private conduct.
Plaintiff alleges that the Defendant was negligent. However,
such a claim is not actionable under § 1983. See
Davidson v. Cannon, 474 U.S. 344. 345-48 (1986);
Daniels v. Williams, 474 U.S. 327, 328-36 & n. 3
(1986). Civil rights statutes, such as 42 U.S.C. § 1983,
do not impose liability for violations of duties of care
arising under a state's tort law. DeShaney v.
Winnebago Cty. Dep't of Soc. Serv., 489 U.S. 189,
200-03 (1989). While Plaintiff does also state that he has
filed this action pursuant to South Carolina Code Ann. §
15-78-10 and the South Carolina Tort Claims Act
(SCTCA); ECF No. 11 at 3; even if the SCTCA is
applicable to Plaintiffs claims (and it does not appear to
be, as Plaintiff has not alleged that the Defendant is an
entity covered by the SCTCA), the SCTCA expressly provides
that the State of South Carolina does not waive Eleventh
Amendment immunity, consents to suit only in a court of the
State of South Carolina, and does not consent to suit in a
federal court or in a court of another state. S.C. Code Ann.
Plaintiff has intended to simply bring a state law negligence
claim against the Defendant, federal courts are allowed to
hear and decide state-law claims only in conjunction with
federal-law claims, through the exercise of
"supplemental jurisdiction." See 28 U.S.C.
§1367; Wisconsin Dep't of Corrs. v.
Schacht, 524 U.S. 381, 387 (1998). As noted, however, no
viable federal claim has been asserted. Of course, a district
court can have jurisdiction of a civil action involving
solely state law claims "where the matter in controversy
exceeds the sum or value of $75, 000...and is between-(1)
citizens of different States...". 28 U.S.C. § 1332.
However, in order to maintain an action based upon diversity
jurisdiction, complete diversity between the plaintiff and
the defendant must exist at the time the complaint is filed.
Martinez v. Duke Energy Corp., 130 Fed.Appx. 629,
634 (4th Cir. 2005). Plaintiff has not alleged complete
diversity of the parties in this case, nor is diversity of
the parties shown or established anywhere in his pleadings.
See Owen Equipment & Erection Co. v.
Kroger, 437 U.S. 365, 372-374 (1978) [Complete diversity
of parties means that no party on one side may be a citizen
of the same State as any party on the other side]. Therefore,
as Plaintiff has asserted no valid federal claim and there is
no diversity jurisdiction, this Court should not exercise
supplemental jurisdiction over Plaintiffs state law claims.
See 28 U.S.C. § 1367; see also United Mine Workers
v. Gibbs, 383 U.S. 715, 726 (1966); Tigrett v.
Rector and Visitors of the Univ. of Va., 290 F.3d 620,
626 (4th Cir. 2002)[affirming district court's dismissal
of state law claims when no federal claims remained in the
case]; Lovern v. Edwards, 190 F.3d 648, 655 (4th
Cir. 1999) ["[T]he Constitution does not contemplate the
federal judiciary deciding issues of state law among
it should be noted that Plaintiff has failed to bring his
case into proper form. In an order dated May 18, 2018,
Plaintiff was given an opportunity to provide the necessary
information and paperwork, to include forms necessary to
effect service, to bring the case into proper form for
evaluation and possible service of process. ECF No. 7.
Plaintiff failed to provide the necessary documents or to
otherwise respond to the proper form order. Plaintiff was
specifically warned that failure to provide the necessary
information within the timetable set forth in the Order would
subject the case to dismissal. See Fed.R.Civ.P. 41. Thus, in
the alternative, it is recommended that this action be
dismissed, without prejudice, in accordance with Rule 41,
Fed.R.Civ.P. See Link v. Wabash R.R. Co., 370 U.S.
626 (1962); Ballard v. Carlson, 882 F.2d 93, 95-96
(4th Cir. 1989). cert, denied sub nom. Ballard
v. Volunteers of America, 493 U.S. 1084 (1990) [holding
that district court's dismissal following an explicit and
reasonable warning was not an abuse of discretion].