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Fordham v. McCree

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

October 22, 2018

Antrell Jermaine Fordham, Plaintiff,
John B. McCree, [1] M.D.; Vernon Gore; Elizabeth A. Holcomb; Debra Middleton, Defendants.



         Plaintiff, proceeding pro se and in forma pauperis, brought this action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. (Dkt. No. 1.) This matter is before the Court upon Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment, (Dkt. No. 32), and Plaintiff's Motion for an Order for Defendants to give Plaintiff a Snack with His Medication (Dkt. No. 35). Pursuant to the provisions of Title 28, United States Code, Section 636(b)(1) and Local Rule 73.02(B)(2)(e), D.S.C., all pretrial matters in cases involving pro se litigants are referred to a United States Magistrate Judge for consideration. For the reasons set forth herein, the undersigned recommends granting Defendants' motion and denying Plaintiff's motion.


         In the instant action, Plaintiff complains about events that occurred while he was an inmate at Lieber Correctional Institution from “sometime in 2016” to the present day. (Dkt. No. 1 at 5.) Specifically, Plaintiff alleges that he has not been provided the necessary amount of food to take with his prescribed medication, Geodon (Ziprasidone). (Id.) According to Plaintiff, he must ingest 500 calories of food when he takes his Geodon “to absorb th[e] medication.” (Id.) Plaintiff alleges Defendant Elizabeth Holcomb is the nurse who “put the orders into the cafeteria.” (Id. at 6.) Plaintiff alleges that Defendant John B. McRee, M.D., dismissed his “medical treatment.” (Id. at 5.) Plaintiff further alleges that Defendant “Vernon Gore is the head of food service.” (Id. at 6.) The Complaint describes Plaintiff's injuries as “losing weight” and also states that Plaintiff “get[s] very hungry” when he takes Geodon. (Id. at 6.) Plaintiff alleges that Defendants have violated his constitutional rights under the Eighth Amendment and the Fourteenth Amendment. (Id. at 4.) He seeks “compensatory damages in the amount of 9, 000 dollars” for his “losing weight.” (Id. at 6.) In further briefing, Plaintiff indicates he seeks injunctive relief in that he “asks that an order be granted for Plaintiff to receive the five-hundred calorie snack every night, as prescribed.” (Dkt. No. 47 at 2; see also Dkt. No. 35.)

         Plaintiff filed a Complaint on February 6, 2018. (Dkt. No. 1.) On August 9, 2018, Defendants filed a Motion for Summary Judgment. (Dkt. No. 32.) By Order filed August 10, 2018, pursuant to Roseboro v. Garrison, 528 F.2d 309 (4th Cir. 1975), Plaintiff was advised of the dismissal procedure and the possible consequences if he failed to adequately respond to the motion. (Dkt. No. 33.) On August 13, 2018, Plaintiff filed a Motion for an Order for Defendants to Give Plaintiff a Snack with His Medication. (Dkt. No. 35.) On September 19, 2018, Plaintiff filed a Response in Opposition to Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment. (Dkt. No. 47.)


         A. Liberal Construction of Pro Se Complaint

         Plaintiff brought this action pro se, which requires the Court to liberally construe his pleadings. Estelle v. Gamble, 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. 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).

         B. Summary Judgment Standard

         Pursuant to Rule 56 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, summary judgment “shall” be granted “if the movant shows that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and that the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). “Facts are ‘material' when they might affect the outcome of the case, and a ‘genuine issue' exists when the evidence would allow a reasonable jury to return a verdict for the nonmoving party.” The News & Observer Publ'g Co. v. Raleigh-Durham Airport Auth., 597 F.3d 570, 576 (4th Cir. 2010) (citing Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986)). In ruling on a motion for summary judgment, “‘the nonmoving party's evidence is to be believed, and all justifiable inferences are to be drawn in that party's favor.'” Id. (quoting Hunt v. Cromartie, 526 U.S. 541, 552 (1999)); see also Perini Corp. v. Perini Constr., Inc., 915 F.2d 121, 123-24 (4th Cir. 1990).


         Defendants present several arguments in support of their Motion for Summary Judgment. (Dkt. No. 32-1.) They argue, inter alia, that: (1) Plaintiff has failed to exhaust his administrative remedies as required by the Prison Litigation Reform Act (“PLRA”); (2) Plaintiff has failed to establish an Eighth Amendment claim that Defendants were deliberately indifferent to his serious medical needs; and (3) Plaintiff has failed to establish a claim for violation of his constitutional rights under the Fourteenth Amendment. In support of their motion, Defendants have submitted: (1) an affidavit from Sherman L. Anderson, Chief of the Inmate Grievance Branch of the Office of General Counsel for the South Carolina Department of Corrections (“SCDC”); (2) Plaintiff's grievance records; (3) affidavits from Defendant Elizabeth Ringold[2] (“Nurse Ringold”), Defendant Vernon Gore (“Mr. Gore”), and Defendant John B. McRee, M.D. (“Dr. McRee”); (4) Plaintiff's medical summary records from April 2, 2017 to February 8, 2018; (5) an affidavit from Deborah A. Middleton, LPN (“Nurse Middleton”); and (6) Plaintiff's Medication Administration Records from July 2017 through February 2018. (Dkt. Nos. 32-2 through 32-6.) The undersigned will address Defendants' arguments in turn.

         A. Exhaustion of Administrative Remedies

         Defendants first argue that Plaintiff has failed to exhaust his administrative remedies and his claims should therefore be dismissed. (Dkt. No. 32-1 at 5-7.) Section 1997e(a) of the PLRA 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.” 42 U.S.C. § 1997e(a). Through the enactment of this statute, “Congress has mandated exhaustion clearly enough, regardless of the relief offered through administrative procedures.” Booth v. Churner, 532 U.S. 731, 741 (2001); see also Porter v. Nussle, 534 U.S. 516 (2002).

         The purpose of the exhaustion requirement is twofold. First, it gives an administrative agency “an opportunity to correct its own mistakes with respect to the programs it administers before it is haled into federal court.” Woodford, 548 U.S. 81, 89 (2006) (quoting McCarthy v. Madigan, 503 U.S. 140, 145 (1992)). Second, “[c]laims generally can be resolved much more quickly and economically in proceedings before an agency than in litigation in federal court.” Id.

         Exhaustion is defined by each prison's grievance procedure, not the PLRA; a prisoner must comply with his prison's grievance procedure to exhaust his administrative remedies. Jones v. Bock, 549 U.S. 199, 218 (2007). An inmate's failure to “properly take each step within the administrative process . . . bars, and does not just postpone, suit under § 1983.” Pozo v. McCaughtry, 286 F.3d 1022, 1024 (7th Cir. 2002); see also Johnson v. Ozmint, 567 F.Supp.2d 806, 815-16 (D.S.C. 2008) (granting summary judgment on the plaintiff's § 1983 claims for failure to exhaust his administrative remedies with respect to those claims).

         The Complaint alleges that Plaintiff submitted a Step 1 Grievance asking for a snack with his medication, but the grievance was “never returned.” (Dkt. No. 1 at 8-9.) Plaintiff attached to the Complaint two Request to Staff Member forms dated January 14, 2018, and January 25, 2018, in which ...

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