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Lombrana-Perez v. Sheffield-Wilkes

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

February 25, 2019

Enrique Lombrana-Perez, Plaintiff,
v.
Diane Sheffield-Wilkes and Victor Basily, in their individual and official capacities, Defendants.

          ORDER

          THE HONORABLE BRUCE HOWE HENDRICKS JUDGE.

         This matter is before the Court upon Plaintiff Enrique Lombrana-Perez's (“Plaintiff” or “Lombrana-Perez”) motion for default judgment as to Defendant Diane Sheffield-Wilkes (“Sheffield-Wilkes”) (ECF No. 116) and Defendant Victor Basily's (“Basily”) motion to dismiss (ECF No. 111). In accordance with 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(B) and Local Civil Rule 73.02(B)(2)(d) (D.S.C.), the matter was referred to a United States Magistrate Judge for preliminary determinations. On July 19, 2018, Magistrate Judge Kevin F. McDonald issued a report and recommendation (“Report”) outlining the issues and recommending that the Court grant in part Plaintiff's motion for default judgment as to Defendant Sheffield-Wilkes in the amount of $500.00 and that the Court grant Defendant Basily's motion to dismiss, which should be treated as one for summary judgment. Attached to the Magistrate Judge's Report was a notice advising the parties of the right to file written objections to the Report within fourteen days of being served with a copy. Plaintiff filed written objections to the Report, and the matter is ripe for review.

         STANDARD OF REVIEW

         The Magistrate Judge makes only a recommendation to the Court. The recommendation has no presumptive weight, and the responsibility to make a final determination remains with the Court. See Mathews v. Weber, 423 U.S. 261 (1976). The Court is charged with making a de novo determination of any portion of the Report to which a specific objection is made. The Court may accept, reject, or modify, in whole or in part, the recommendation made by the Magistrate Judge or recommit the matter to the Magistrate Judge with instructions. See 28 U.S.C. § 636(b).

         ANALYSIS

         In his Report, the Magistrate Judge thoroughly outlined the background and procedural history of this case before evaluating the pending motions. With respect to Plaintiff's pending motion for default judgment, the Magistrate Judge explained that Defendant Sheffield-Wilkes was given a number of chances to answer or otherwise respond to Plaintiff's complaint, but that she failed to do so, ultimately resulting in an entry of default against her on March 7, 2018. Thereafter, Plaintiff filed his motion for default judgment, and a hearing was held on June 21, 2018, before the Magistrate Judge. Plaintiff, who is incarcerated in California, appeared telephonically at the hearing with the assistance of a translator, and although Defendant Sheffield-Wilkes called the Court on the date of the hearing, she indicated she did not feel well enough to participate in the hearing telephonically. The Court informed both parties it would leave the record open until July 5, 2018, if they wished to provide any information relating to Plaintiff's alleged damages, after which Defendant Sheffield-Wilkes hung up the telephone and chose not to participate further in the hearing. Following the hearing, neither party provided the Court with additional information regarding Plaintiff's claim.

         Thereafter, the Magistrate Judge issued his Report, determining that Plaintiff is entitled to relief on his claim against Defendant Sheffield-Wilkes for deliberate indifference to a serious medical need based on his allegation that he suffered a delay in treatment with respect to his high blood pressure, an infection in his penis, vomiting blood, blurry vision, and bloody stool, during which he experienced pain, discomfort, weakness, and lost sleep.

         The Magistrate Judge explained:

Based upon the facts alleged against Defendant Sheffield-Wilkes, which are deemed to be true based upon her default, she knew of the pain the plaintiff was suffering and of the need for immediate treatment, and she failed to provide adequate treatment for at least the time period between his arrival at the detention center and the filing of his complaint in June 2016.[1]

(ECF No. 158 at 9-10.)

         Turning to the question of damages, the Magistrate Judge explained that because Plaintiff seeks damages for an alleged violation of his constitutional rights, the amount to which he is entitled is not certain. Because neither party submitted additional evidence after the hearing related to Plaintiff's alleged damages, the Magistrate Judge considered Plaintiff's sworn testimony that due to the alleged delay in treatment by Defendant Sheffield-Wilkes, he had difficulty using the bathroom, lost weight, experienced blurry vision, suffered pain and discomfort, felt numb and “up in the air, ” lost sleep, and was weak.The Magistrate Judge acknowledged that it is difficult to place a dollar figure on pain and suffering, but after considering Plaintiff's testimony regarding the intensity of the pain and the length of time he suffered it, the Magistrate Judge recommended a compensatory damages award of $500.00. The Magistrate Judge also found that there had been no showing of evil motive or intent on the part of Defendant Sheffield-Wilkes, or of reckless or callous indifference, sufficient to warrant an award of punitive damages.

         In his objections to the Magistrate Judge's Report, Plaintiff first objects to the Magistrate Judge's calculation of damages in the amount of $500.00. Plaintiff asserts “that he should be awarded compensatory damages in the amount of $250, 000 for his claim for medical indifference against Defendant Sheffield-Wilkes as he requested in his default judgment motion.” (ECF No. 160 at 3.) As the Magistrate Judge explained in his Report, however, although Plaintiff's motion for default judgment requests $250, 000, Plaintiff's complaint demands $20, 000 for “compensatory, punitive, nominal damages” (ECF No. 1 at 6), and “[a] default judgment must not differ in kind from, or exceed in amount, what is demanded in the pleadings.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 54(c). Moreover, with respect to Plaintiff's objection that “[f]ive hundred dollars is just too small [an] amount for the many sleepless nights due to pain this Plaintiff suffered at the hands of a defendant who does not deny these allegations, ” the Court agrees with the Magistrate Judge's assessment that, considering Plaintiff's sworn testimony regarding the intensity of his pain and the length of time he suffered, a compensatory damages award in the amount of $500.00 is appropriate.[2] (ECF No. 160 at 3.)

         In addition to objecting to the amount of compensatory damages the Magistrate Judge's Report recommends, Plaintiff also objects to the Magistrate Judge's finding that punitive damages should not be awarded. Plaintiff states:

In his pleading Plaintiff gave an accurate account of the events that led up to his lawsuit-complaint filing. Defendant Sheffield-Wilkes' constant denials to provide medical attention that[']s adequate and up to standard was indeed the result of evil motive and[/]or intent, ...

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