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Collins v. Williams

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

November 13, 2018

Robbie Collins, Plaintiff,
Warden C. Williams, M.C.I.; Byron Stirling, SCDC Director; and S. Williams, Grievance Coordinator, Defendants.


          Richard Mark Gergel, United States District Court Judge.

         Before this Court is the Report and Recommendation ("R & R") of the Magistrate Judge (Dkt. No. 30) recommending that Defendant's motion to dismiss (Dkt. No. 22) be granted in part and denied in part. For the reasons set forth below, the Court adopts the R & R and grants in part and denies in part the Defendant's motion to dismiss.

         I. Background

         Plaintiff Robbie Collins is currently incarcerated at the Broad River Correctional Institution ("Broad River") in the custody of the South Carolina Department of Corrections ("SCDC"). (Dkt. No. 11 at 2.) Plaintiff makes four claims: denial of medical care, denial of outdoor recreation, freedom of religion, and denial of access to the grievance system.

         Plaintiff alleges that his ribs were broken on April 4, 2018, after being attacked by a group of inmates. (Dkt. No. 11 at 5.) A doctor ordered an x-ray and other treatment, but Plaintiff was transferred to McCormick Correctional Institution ("MCI") before receiving any treatment. (Id.) On April 10, 2018, Plaintiff visited health services at MCI, and the nurse informed him he would receive an x-ray and told him to fill out a "sick-call request." (Id.) The following day, Plaintiff was placed in the Restrictive Housing Unit ("RHU"). (Id.) While in the RHU, Plaintiff claims that he asked to see medical staff but continued to not be treated despite being in excruciating pain. (Id.) Plaintiff claims he then submitted two Requests to Staff Members ("RTSM"), since an inmate must seek an informal resolution of an issue prior to filing a step 1 grievance.

         On April 20, 2018, Plaintiff filed an emergency step 1 grievance, alleging that he required medical attention for his ribs, and that he had been defecating and urinating blood. (Dkt. No. 1-2 at 1.) His grievance noted that he had wrote a "staff request to medical." (Id.) On May 1, 2018, Plaintiff went to the medical unit again for his ribs, and a nurse was allegedly "shocked" that his ribs were protruding out of his side and instructed Plaintiff to file a grievance. (Dkt. No. 1-1 at 1.) Plaintiff filed another emergency step 1 grievance that same day, reiterating that he had previously sent an RTSM. (Dkt. No. 1-2 at 3.) On May 6, 2018, Plaintiff filed an additional emergency step 1 grievance. (Id. at 5.) No later than June 2, 2018, Plaintiff was transferred from MCI to Broad River. On June 2, 2018, Plaintiff received a response to one of his alleged RTSMs (dated April 25, 2018), noting that MCI would not take any action because Plaintiff was no longer an inmate at MCI. (Dkt. No. 11-1 at 3.)

         Plaintiff additionally claims that the Defendants unlawfully denied him outdoor recreation. Plaintiff filed a step 1 grievance regarding the issue on May 7, 2018, which stated that he had previously filed an RTSM. (Dkt. No. 1-2 at 13.)

         Plaintiffs Complaint also alleges that the Defendants denied Plaintiff freedom of religion. (Dkt. No. 11 at 8.) Specifically, Plaintiff alleges he is a member of the Nation of Gods and Earths, which is allegedly not recognized as a religion by SCDC because it is designated as a Security Threat Group ("STG"). (Id.) On November 3, 2015, while incarcerated at Lieber Correctional Institution, Plaintiff filed a grievance regarding the STG designation. (Dkt. No. 1-2 at 7.) He requested Nation of Gods and Earth to be recognized as a religion, and sought religious materials, the right to observe holy days, attend formal gatherings, and "correspond with the school." (Id.) The grievance was denied on December 31, 2015, and indicated that Plaintiff had since been transferred to Lee Correctional Institution. (Id. at 8.) Plaintiff filed a step 2 grievance on January 12, 2016, and the grievance was again denied on March 23, 2016. (Id. at 9)

         Finally, Plaintiff claims that Defendant Williams denied him access to the grievance system by refusing to process his grievances without an answered RTSM. (Dkt. No. 11 at 10).

         Plaintiff filed his Complaint on June 2, 2018, (Dkt. No.l) and filed an Amended Complaint (Dkt. No. 11) on June 25, 2018, in response to a proper form order. Defendants filed a motion to dismiss on August 29, 2018, and Plaintiff opposed. (Dkt. Nos. 22, 25.) The Magistrate Judge issued an R & R on October 18, 2018, and no parties have filed objections.[1] (Dkt. No. 30.)

         II. Legal Standard

         A. Motion to Dismiss

         Rule 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure permits the dismissal of an action if the complaint fails "to state a claim upon which relief can be granted." Such a motion tests the legal sufficiency of the complaint and "does not resolve contests surrounding the facts, the merits of the claim, or the applicability of defenses.... Our inquiry then is limited to whether the allegations constitute 'a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief" Republican Party of N.C. v. Martin, 980 F.2d 943, 952 (4th Cir. 1992) (quotation marks and citation omitted). In a Rule 12(b)(6) motion, the Court is obligated to "assume the truth of all facts alleged in the complaint and the existence of any fact that can be proved, consistent with the complaint's allegations." E. Shore Mkts., Inc. v. J.D. Assocs. Ltd. P'ship, 213 F.3d 175, 180 (4th Cir. 2000). However, while the Court must accept the facts in a light most favorable to the non-moving party, it "need not accept as true unwarranted inferences, unreasonable conclusions, or arguments." Id.

         To survive a motion to dismiss, the complaint must state "enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face." Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly,550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007). Although the requirement of plausibility does not impose a probability requirement at this stage, the complaint must show more than a "sheer possibility that a defendant has acted unlawfully." Ashcroft v. Iqbal,556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009). A complaint has "facial plausibility" where the pleading "allows the ...

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