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DeJesus-Brito v. Barber

United States District Court, D. South Carolina, Orangeburg Division

September 19, 2018

Carlos Rafael DeJesus-Brito, Plaintiff,
Christi Barber[1], Defendant.


          Kaymani D. West United States Magistrate Judge

         This matter is before the court on Defendant Christine “Christy” Barbee's (“Defendant” or “Barbee”) Motion for Summary Judgment. ECF No. 42. This case was referred to the undersigned United States Magistrate Judge for all pretrial proceedings pursuant to the provisions of 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(A) and (B) and Local Civil Rule 73.02(B)(2)(d) and (e), D.S.C. Because the Motion is dispositive, a Report and Recommendation is entered for the court's review. For the reasons outlined below, the undersigned recommends that the court grant Barbee's Motion.

         I. Background

         Carlos Rafael DeJesus-Brito (“DeJesus-Brito” or “Plaintiff”) filed his Complaint on June 5, 2017. ECF No. 1. In the Complaint, DeJesus-Brito initially listed as Defendants eight other individuals and the Spartanburg County Detention Facility (“SCDF”). ECF No. 1 at 2. On August 7, 2017, the undersigned issued a Report and Recommendation, recommending that the District Court partially dismiss the Complaint with respect to Defendants Wright, Freeman, Jones, White, Paz, Jordan, Padget, and the SCDF. ECF No. 16. On September 11, 2017, the District Court adopted the Report and Recommendation and dismissed, without prejudice, all Defendants except Barbee. ECF No. 22. On October 13, 2017, Barbee filed an Answer to the Complaint. ECF No. 26. On March 17, 2018, Barbee filed the Motion for Summary Judgment at issue here. ECF No. 42. And DeJesus-Brito filed his Response in Opposition to Barbee's Motion on March 26, 2018. ECF No. 47.

         In his Complaint, DeJesus-Brito alleges that on March 7, 2017, he slipped and fell in the shower area of the SCDF, injuring his collarbone and back. ECF No. 1 at 10. DeJesus-Brito alleges that Barbee refused to give him the Neurontin 300mg as prescribed to him by the Emergency Room physician who examined him after his fall.[2] ECF No. 1 at 14. He alleges that Barbee accused him of faking his injuries and that she told him that if he wanted to get out of the medical area he would have to walk. ECF No. 1 at 14. DeJesus-Brito also claims that he heard her say that he was faking and was just scared to go back to Mexico. Id. He alleges that she used the term “wetback”, and when he told her that he was Puerto Rican, he claims that she said “whatever.” Id.

         According to DeJesus-Brito, he went to a kiosk at the SCDF on March 20, 2017, to file a complaint, and that in response to his complaint, Barbee placed him in a medical room for approximately 80 hours without pain medication, without the ability to make a phone call, and without the ability to take a shower. ECF No. 1 at 14. Once that period ended, DeJesus-Brito alleges that Barbee told him the SCDF no longer administered the Neurontin that his physician prescribed because of problems within SCDF concerning inmate abuse of the drug. Id. DeJesus- Brito alleges that Barbee was not telling the truth about SCDC's policy on Neurontin because he was aware that another inmate received 30mg of Morfin (sic) twice per day. ECF No. 1 at 14-15.

         DeJesus-Brito also alleges that on May 31, 2017, at approximately 8:40am, Barbee ordered the dorm officer to take DeJesus-Brito's wheelchair from him. ECF No. 1 at 17. According to DeJesus-Brito, despite telling them that he could not walk, they insisted on taking the wheelchair. Id. A corporal then took him to the medical office where he again told Barbee that he could not walk, but Barbee told him that they were replacing his wheelchair with a walker. ECF No. 1 at 17. DeJesus-Brito claims that he refused to give up his wheelchair, and as a result the S.O.G. Team physically took him out of the chair and put him in a bed. Id. He claims that they were rude and hurt him. Id. He also claims that he eventually received a seat walker but when he asked for medical attention they refused to provide it. Id. According to DeJesus-Brito, “[w]hen I came here I walk. Now I have to stay in a wheel chair because when I try to stand I can not [sic] resist the pain.” Id.

         II. Standard of Review

         A federal court must liberally construe pleadings filed by pro se litigants to allow them to fully develop potentially meritorious cases. See Cruz v. Beto, 405 U.S. 319 (1972); see also Haines v. Kerner, 404 U.S. 519 (1972). In considering a motion for summary judgment, the court's function is not to decide issues of fact, but to decide whether there is an issue of fact to be tried. 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 claim. Weller v. Dep't of Soc. Servs., 901 F.2d 387, 391 (4th Cir. 1990). Nor can the court assume the existence of a genuine issue of material fact where none exists. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c). “The court shall grant summary judgment if the movant shows that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). See also Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 247 (1986). The movant “bears the initial burden of pointing to the absence of a genuine issue of material fact.” Temkin v. Frederick Cnty. Comm'rs, 945 F.2d 716, 718 (4th Cir. 1991) (citing Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322 (1986)).

         If the movant carries its burden of showing there is an absence of evidence to support a claim, then the plaintiff must demonstrate by affidavits, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, that there is a genuine issue of material fact for trial. Celotex, 477 U.S. at 324-25. An issue of fact is “genuine” if the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the plaintiff. Anderson, 477 U.S. at 248. Issues of fact are “material” only if establishment of such facts might affect the outcome of the lawsuit under governing substantive law. Id. A complete failure of proof concerning an essential element of the plaintiff's case necessarily renders all other facts immaterial. Celotex, 477 U.S. at 322-23. Moreover, a “mere scintilla of evidence” in support of an essential element will not forestall summary judgment. Anderson, 477 U.S. at 251.

         III. Analysis

         A. Deliberate Indifference to Medical Needs

         To prevent the entry of summary judgment on a cause of action for deliberate indifference to medical needs, a plaintiff must present evidence sufficient to create a genuine issue of fact that the defendant was deliberately indifferent to his serious medical need. Farmer v. Brennan, 511 U.S. 825, 832-35 (1994); Wilson v. Seiter, 501 U.S. 294, 297 (1991); Estelle v. Gamble, 429 U.S. 97, 104-05 (1976). Deliberate indifference to a serious medical need requires proof that each defendant knew of and disregarded the risk posed by the plaintiff's objectively serious medical needs. Farmer, 511 U.S. at 846. An assertion of mere negligence or malpractice is not enough to state a constitutional violation, plaintiff must allege and demonstrate “[deliberate indifference] . .. by either actual intent or reckless disregard.” Miltier v. Beorn, 896 F.2d 848, 851 (4th Cir. 1990), overruled in part on other grounds by Farmer, 511 U.S. at 837.

         In other words, Plaintiff must allege facts demonstrating that Barbee's actions were “[s]o grossly incompetent, inadequate or excessive as to shock the conscience or to be intolerable to fundamental fairness.” Id. The United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit defines a serious medical need as “one that has been diagnosed by a physician as mandating treatment or one that is so obvious that even a lay person would easily recognize the necessity for a doctor's attention.” Iko v. Shreye, 535 F.3d 225, 241 (4th Cir. 2008) (internal citation omitted). A medical condition is ...

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