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Cato v. Clark

United States District Court, D. South Carolina

January 11, 2019

Bill Berry Cato, Plaintiff,
v.
Sheriff Rick Clark; Captain Marvin Nix; Christy Lepord; Staff Under Clinical Solutions, LLC, Defendants.

          ORDER REGARDING AMENDMENT OF COMPLAINT

          PAIGE J. GOSSETT, UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE

         The plaintiff, Bill Berry Cato, proceeding pro se, brings this civil rights action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. The Complaint has been filed pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915A. 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.). Having reviewed the Complaint in accordance with applicable law, the court finds this action is subject to summary dismissal if Plaintiff does not amend the Complaint to cure the deficiencies identified herein.

         I. Factual and Procedural Background

         Plaintiff, an inmate in the Pickens County Detention Center, indicates he brings this civil rights action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against the defendants in their individual capacities, seeking damages. (Compl., ECF No. 1 at 2-4, 6.) Plaintiff claims that he was twice beaten and robbed by fellow inmates due to the jail being overcrowded, received extensive injuries from the beating, and was not provided adequate medical care. (Compl., ECF No. 1-1 at 1-2.) As to his medical care, he claims he was put in a “detox cell” with extensive injuries, was not provided treatment, and had to lay in his own bodily waste and blood. (Id. at 2.) He also claims that the conditions of the jail are poor, including the presence of black mold and pests, a lack of security, overcrowding that forces inmates to sleep on the floor and reduces access to water, lack of access to legal materials and his lawyer, and a lack of uniforms and linens. (Id. at 4-7.) Plaintiff claims these violations have occurred under the authority of Defendant and Sheriff Rick Clark. (Id. at 3.)

         II. Discussion

         A. Standard of Review

         Under 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. § 1915A and the Prison Litigation Reform Act (“PLRA”), Pub. L. No. 104-134, 110 Stat. 1321 (1996), which requires the court to review a complaint filed by a prisoner that seeks redress from a governmental entity or officer or employee of a governmental entity. See McLean v. United States, 566 F.3d 391 (4th Cir. 2009). Section 1915A requires a district court to dismiss the case upon a finding that the action is frivolous, malicious, fails to state a claim on which relief may be granted, or seeks monetary relief against a defendant who is immune from such relief. 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(b).

         In order to state a claim upon which relief can be granted, the plaintiff must do more than make mere conclusory statements to state a claim. See Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009); Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007). Rather, the complaint must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to state a claim that is plausible on its face. Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678; Twombly, 550 U.S. at 570. The reviewing court need only accept as true the complaint's factual allegations, not its legal conclusions. Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678; Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555.

         This court is required to liberally construe pro se complaints, which are held to a less stringent standard than those drafted by attorneys. Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 94 (2007); King v. Rubenstein, 825 F.3d 206, 214 (4th Cir. 2016). Nonetheless, 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, 684 (2009) (outlining pleading requirements under Rule 8 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure for “all civil actions”).

         B. Analysis

         A legal action under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 allows “a party who has been deprived of a federal right under the color of state law to seek relief.” City of Monterey v. Del Monte Dunes at Monterey, Ltd., 526 U.S. 687, 707 (1999). To state a claim under § 1983, a plaintiff must allege: (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). While Plaintiff claims he brings this suit pursuant to § 1983, he does not identify a statutory or constitutional right that he feels was violated. Therefore, in accordance with the court's duty to liberally construe pro se complaints, see Erickson, 551 U.S. at 94, the court construes Plaintiff's Complaint as alleging violations of the Fourteenth Amendment's Due Process Clause based on deliberate indifference to medical needs, deliberate indifference to conditions of confinement, failure to protect from violence, and lack of access to legal materials and counsel.

         Here, Plaintiff fails to allege any facts about the named defendants that would show that they had any involvement in the purported constitutional violations that Plaintiff alleges in the Complaint. See Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 676 (providing that a plaintiff in a § 1983 action must plead that the defendant, through his own individual actions, violated the Constitution); Wright v. Collins, 766 F.2d 841, 850 (4th Cir. 1985) (“In order for an individual to be liable under § 1983, it must be ‘affirmatively shown that the official charged acted personally in the deprivation of the plaintiff's rights. The doctrine of respondeat superior has no application under this section.' ”) (quoting Vinnedge v. Gibbs, 550 F.2d 926, 928 (4th Cir. 1977)). Plaintiff's claim that these violations occurred under the “authority” of Defendant Clark is insufficient to state a claim for supervisory liability. See generally Carter v. Morris, 164 F.3d 215, 221 (4th Cir. 1999) (providing that to demonstrate supervisory liability, plaintiff must show that the supervisory official (1) was actually or constructively aware of a risk of constitutional injury, (2) was deliberately indifferent to that risk, and (3) that an affirmative causal link exists between the supervisor's inaction and the particular constitutional injury suffered by the plaintiff). Because Plaintiff does not explain how the named defendants personally participated in the purported violation of Plaintiff's rights, Plaintiff fails to meet the federal pleading standards. See Fed.R.Civ.P. 8 (requiring that a pleading contain “a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief”); Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 676 (providing that a plaintiff in a § 1983 action must plead that the defendant, through his own individual actions, violated the Constitution).

         Additionally, Defendant Staff Under Clinical Solutions, LLC is not an entity that is amenable to suit. The use of the term “staff, ” “department, ” or the equivalent as a name for alleged defendants, is not adequate to state a claim against a “person” as required in § 1983 actions. See Monell v. Dep't of Soc. Servs., 436 U.S. 658, 694 (1978) (noting that for purposes of § 1983 a “person” includes individuals and “bodies politic and corporate”); see, e.g., Harden v. Green, 27 Fed.Appx. 173, 178 (4th Cir. 2001) (“The medical department of a prison may not be sued, because it is not a person within the meaning of § 1983.”); and Shadoan v. Florence Cty. Det. Ctr. Med. Dep't, No. 8:12-cv- 2908 DCN JDA, 2013 WL 6408347, at *2 (D.S.C. Dec. 6, 2013) (collecting cases).[1] And, to the extent Plaintiff seeks to sue the corporation directly, Plaintiff fails to make any allegation that would plausibly show that the corporation has a policy that caused any constitutional violation. See Austin v. Paramount Parks, Inc., 195 F.3d 715, 728 (4th Cir. 1999) (“[A] private corporation is liable under § 1983 only when an official policy or custom of the corporation causes the alleged deprivation of federal rights.”).

         Consequently, Plaintiff's Complaint is subject to summary dismissal pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(b)(1) for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. Plaintiff is hereby granted twenty-one (21) days from the date this order is entered (plus three days for mail time) to file an amended complaint pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 15(a) that corrects the deficiencies identified above.[2] If Plaintiff fails to file an amended ...


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