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Bowers v. Nix

United States District Court, D. South Carolina

June 17, 2019

Brian Dale Bowers, Plaintiff,
v.
Captain Marvin Nix, Defendant.

          ORDER AND NOTICE

          Shiva V. Hodges United States Magistrate Judge.

         Brian Dale Bowers (“Plaintiff”), proceeding pro se and in forma pauperis, filed this complaint against Captain Marvin Nix (“Defendant”), alleging a violation of his constitutional rights. Pursuant to the provisions of 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(B) and Local Civ. Rule 73.02(B)(2)(e) (D.S.C.), the undersigned is authorized to review such complaints for relief and submit findings and recommendations to the district judge.[1]

         I. Factual and Procedural Background

         Plaintiff alleges he has suffered unconstitutional conditions of confinement at Pickens County Detention Center (“PCDC”). Specifically, he alleges having experienced nose bleeds due to black mold, being denied care for a toothache that became infected, having back pain from sleeping on the floor for two years, and lacking access to legal books. [ECF No. 1 at 4, 6; ECF No. 1-1 at 7]. Plaintiff requests monetary damages. [ECF No. 1 at 6].[2]

         II. Discussion

         A. Standard of Review

         Plaintiff filed his complaint pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915, which permits an indigent litigant to commence an action in federal court without prepaying the administrative costs of proceeding with the lawsuit. To protect against possible abuses of this privilege, the statute allows a district court to dismiss a case upon a finding that the action fails to state a claim on which relief may be granted or is frivolous or malicious. 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B)(i), (ii). A finding of frivolity can be made where the complaint lacks an arguable basis either in law or in fact. Denton v. Hernandez, 504 U.S. 25, 31 (1992). A claim based on a meritless legal theory may be dismissed sua sponte under 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B). See Neitzke v. Williams, 490 U.S. 319, 327 (1989).

         Pro se complaints are held to a less stringent standard than those drafted by attorneys. Gordon v. Leeke, 574 F.2d 1147, 1151 (4th Cir. 1978). A federal court is charged with liberally construing a complaint filed by a pro se litigant to allow the development of a potentially meritorious case. Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 94 (2007). In evaluating a pro se complaint, the plaintiff's allegations are assumed to be true. Fine v. City of N.Y., 529 F.2d 70, 74 (2d Cir. 1975). The mandated liberal construction afforded to pro se pleadings means that if the court can reasonably read the pleadings to state a valid claim on which the plaintiff could prevail, it should do so. Nevertheless, the requirement of liberal construction does not mean that the court can ignore a clear failure in the pleading to allege facts that set forth a claim currently cognizable in a federal district court. Weller v. Dep't of Soc. Servs., 901 F.2d 387, 390-91 (4th Cir. 1990).

         B. Analysis

         A complaint must contain “a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2). Although the court must liberally construe a pro se complaint, the United States Supreme Court has made it clear that a plaintiff must do more than make conclusory statements to state a claim. See Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 677‒78 (2009); Bell Atlantic 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, and the reviewing court need only accept as true the complaint's factual allegations, not its legal conclusions. Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678‒79.

         1. Personal Involvement

         Plaintiff's complaint does not contain any factual allegations of constitutional wrongdoing or discriminatory actions attributable to Defendant. Accordingly, Plaintiff's civil rights claim is subject to summary dismissal. See Leer v. Murphy, 844 F.2d 628 (9th Cir. 1988) (noting “[s]weeping conclusory allegations against a prison official will not suffice”; an inmate must set forth specific facts as to each individual defendant's participation).

         To the extent Plaintiff alleges Defendant is liable due to his supervisory role at PCDC, Plaintiff has not alleged sufficient facts to support this claim. The doctrine of supervisory liability is generally inapplicable to § 1983 suits, such that an employer or supervisor is not liable for the acts of his employees, absent an official policy or custom that results in illegal action. See Monell v. Department of Social Services, 436 U.S. 658, 694 (1978); Fisher v. Washington Metro. Area Transit Authority, 690 F.2d 1133, 1142-43 (4th Cir. 1982). The Supreme Court explains that “[b]ecause vicarious liability is inapplicable to Bivens and § 1983 suits, a plaintiff must plead that each Government-official defendant, through the official's own individual actions, has violated the Constitution.” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 676; see Slakan v. Porter, 737 F.2d 368, 372- 74 (4th Cir. 1984) (finding officials ...


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