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Holmes v. Carroll

United States District Court, D. South Carolina

August 15, 2018

Romell Holmes, Plaintiff,
Ed Carroll, Sheriff; Latoya Buckton, LPN, Nurse; Deloris Charlton, Administrator at Barnwell County Detention Center, Defendants.



         Plaintiff Romell Holmes, a self-represented pretrial detainee, filed this action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 alleging violation of his constitutional rights by the defendants[1] while he was detained at the Barnwell County Detention Center (“BCDC”). This matter is before the court pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(b) and Local Civil Rule 73.02(B)(2) (D.S.C.) for a Report and Recommendation on the Defendant Buxton's motion for summary judgment. (ECF No. 69.) Pursuant to Roseboro v. Garrison, 528 F.2d 309 (4th Cir. 1975), Holmes was advised of the summary judgment and dismissal procedures and the possible consequences if he failed to respond adequately to the defendant's motion. (ECF No. 71.) In response, Holmes filed a cross motion for summary judgment and response in opposition to the defendant's motion (ECF No. 76), to which the defendant filed a response (ECF No. 80). Having carefully considered the parties' submissions and the applicable law, the court concludes that the defendant's motion should be granted and Holmes's motion should be denied.


         With regard to Defendant Buxton, the verified Second Amended Complaint alleges that she was a nurse at BCDC and was deliberately indifferent to his medical needs. Specifically, Holmes alleges that on January 3, 2017, he slipped and fell on his back and he was taken by EMS to the emergency room. Holmes alleges that he was discharged from the hospital with a lower back injury and returned to BCDC within the hour. Holmes alleges that on January 6, 2017, he requested medical treatment for his pain and that Defendant Buxton stated that his concerns would be addressed during sick call. Holmes states that in response to his request/grievance dated January 24, 2017 requesting a followup visit with the doctor about his back, a nurse stated “refer to MD.” (2d Am. Compl. at 2, ECF No. 23 at 2.) Holmes alleges that he submitted a request on February 3, 2017 to a nurse for his back and hip pain, and that on February 6, Buxton responded that his concerns would be addressed at sick call. Holmes further alleges that on March 10, 2017, Buxton advised him that Defendant Charlton denied his request for a doctor consultation because Holmes is indigent and has a bullet in his back. Holmes states that on March 28, 2017, he requested treatment for his back and that on March 30, 2017, Buxton indicated that his concerns would be addressed at sick call, and noted that she requested another mattress for Holmes but Holmes already had two mattresses. Holmes alleges that on July 21, 2017, he requested to return to the emergency room for his pain and Buxton informed Holmes that he was on the list to see the doctor on July 25, 2017. Holmes alleges that on July 25, the doctor at the hospital advised Holmes that he had a ruptured disc and a “bone pi[n]ching [his] nerves.” (Id. at 3.) Holmes states that the doctor directed Holmes to an orthopedist for surgery or injections and indicated that Holmes should have a back brace. Finally, Holmes alleges that the nurse later advised him that the administrator had denied Holmes's medical treatment by denying the doctor's orders.

         Holmes generally states that he attempted to exhaust his administrative remedies by submitting a grievance on January 6, 2017 requesting treatment and alleges that he has written numerous grievances complaining of these issues.


         A. Summary Judgment Standard

         Summary judgment is appropriate only if the moving party “shows that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the [moving party] is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). A party may support or refute that a material fact is not disputed by “citing to particular parts of materials in the record” or by “showing that the materials cited do not establish the absence or presence of a genuine dispute, or that an adverse party cannot produce admissible evidence to support the fact.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c)(1). Rule 56 mandates entry of summary judgment “against a party who fails to make a showing sufficient to establish the existence of an element essential to that party's case.” Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322 (1986).

         In deciding whether there is a genuine issue of material fact, the evidence of the non-moving party is to be believed and all justifiable inferences must be drawn in favor of the non-moving party. See Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 255 (1986). However, “[o]nly disputes over facts that might affect the outcome of the suit under the governing law will properly preclude the entry of summary judgment. Factual disputes that are irrelevant or unnecessary will not be counted.” Id. at 248.

         The moving party has the burden of proving that summary judgment is appropriate. Once the moving party makes this showing, however, the opposing party may not rest upon mere allegations or denials, but rather must, by affidavits or other means permitted by the Rule, set forth specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial. See Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c), (e); Celotex Corp., 477 U.S. at 322. Further, while the federal court is charged with liberally construing a complaint filed by a pro se litigant to allow the development of a potentially meritorious case, see, e.g., Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89 (2007), the requirement of liberal construction does not mean that the court can ignore a clear failure in the pleadings to allege facts which set forth a federal claim, nor can the court assume the existence of a genuine issue of material fact where none exists. Weller v. Dep't of Soc. Servs., 901 F.2d 387 (4th Cir. 1990).

         B. Exhaustion of Administrative Remedies

         As an initial matter, the defendant argues that summary judgment should be granted in her favor because Holmes failed to exhaust his administrative remedies. (ECF No. 69 at 7-11.) A prisoner must exhaust his administrative remedies as required by the Prison Litigation Reform Act (“PLRA”), specifically 42 U.S.C. § 1997e(a).[2] Section 1997e(a) provides that “[n]o action shall be brought with respect to prison conditions under section 1983 of this title, or any other Federal law, by a prisoner confined in any jail, prison, or other correctional facility until such administrative remedies as are available are exhausted.” This requirement “applies to all inmate suits about prison life, whether they involve general circumstances or particular episodes, and whether they allege excessive force or some other wrong.” Porter v. Nussle, 534 U.S. 516, 532 (2002). Moreover, exhaustion is required even when a prisoner seeks remedies, such as money damages, that are not available in the administrative proceedings. See Booth v. Churner, 532 U.S. 731, 740-41 (2001). To satisfy this requirement, a plaintiff must avail himself of every level of available administrative review. See generally Id. Those remedies neither need to meet federal standards, nor are they required to be plain, speedy, and effective. Porter, 534 U.S. at 524 (quoting Booth, 532 U.S. at 739). Satisfaction of the exhaustion requirement requires “using all steps that the agency holds out, and doing so properly.” Woodford v. Ngo, 548 U.S. 81, 90 (2006) (quoting Pozo v. McCaughtry, 286 F.3d 1022, 1024 (7th Cir. 2002)). Thus, “it is the prison's requirements, and not the [Prison Litigation Reform Act], that define the boundaries of proper exhaustion.” Jones v. Bock, 549 U.S. 199, 218 (2007). The defendant has the burden of establishing that a plaintiff failed to exhaust his administrative remedies. See Custis v. Davis, 851 F.3d 358, 361 (4th Cir. 2017).

         Here, the defendant indicates that BCDC has a grievance procedure. Specifically, Captain Michael Rasar, the Administrator for BCDC, attests that BCDC

has an established detainee grievance procedure, which allows the detainees to file written grievances related to the conditions of their detainment. All detainees have access to this grievance procedure. All inmates receive instructions on the grievance procedure in place. All grievances must be in writing. If an inmate is not satisfied with the response he or she receives, the inmate may file a written appeal after receipt of the response ...

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