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Jones v. United States

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

June 24, 2019

OTIS JONES, Plaintiff,


          Thomas E. Rogers, III, United States Magistrate Judge


         This is a civil action filed pro se by Otis Jones (“Plaintiff”/ “Jones”) on June 25, 2018. Plaintiff is currently incarcerated at the Federal Correctional Institution (FCI) in Jesup, Georgia. Plaintiff was previously incarcerated at FCI Bennetsville, South Carolina, and his claims arise from his incarceration there. The Defendants are South Carolina BOP employees who are or were employed at FCI Bennettsville. The Defendants are Warden Bragg, former Associate Warden Kelly, Associate Warden Furman, former Foreman Shipman, and Dr. Onuoha who is the Clinical Director at FCI Bennettsville, each in their individual capacities.[1] This matter is currently before the court on the Defendants' motion to dismiss or, in the alternative, for summary judgment filed February 25, 2019. (ECF #35).[2] As the Plaintiff is proceeding pro se, the court issued an order on or about February 26, 2019, pursuant to Roseboro v. Garrison, 528 F.2d 309 (4th Cir. 1975), advising Plaintiff of the motion to dismiss/motion for summary judgment procedure and the possible consequences if he failed to respond adequately. Plaintiff filed a response in opposition after being granted two extensions.



         As matters outside of the pleadings have been submitted by both parties, this motion will be treated as one for summary judgment.

         The federal court is charged with liberally construing the complaints filed by pro s e litigants, to allow them to fully develop potentially meritorious cases. See C r u z v. Beto, 405 U.S. 319 (1972); Haines v. Kerner, 404 U.S. 519 (1972). The court's function, however, is not to decide issues of fact, but to decide whether there is an issue of fact to be tried. The requirement of liberal construction does not mean that the court can ignore a clear failure in the pleadings to allege facts which set forth a federal claim, Weller v. Dep't of Social Servs., 901 F.2d 387 (4th Cir. 1990), nor can the court assume the existence of a genuine issue of material fact where none exists. If none can be shown, the motion should be granted. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c).

         The moving party bears the burden of showing that summary judgment is proper. Summary judgment is proper if there is no genuine dispute of material fact and the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a); Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322 (1986). Summary judgment is proper if the non-moving party fails to establish an essential element of any cause of action upon which the non-moving party has the burden of proof. Celotex, 477 U.S. 317. Once the moving party has brought into question whether there is a genuine dispute for trial on a material element of the non-moving party's claims, the non-moving party bears the burden of coming forward with specific facts which show a genuine dispute for trial. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(e); Matsushita Electrical Industrial Co., Ltd. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574 (1986). The non-moving party must come forward with enough evidence, beyond a mere scintilla, upon which the fact finder could reasonably find for it. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 247-48 (1986). The facts and inferences to be drawn therefrom must be viewed in the light most favorable to the non-moving party. Shealy v. Winston, 929 F.2d 1009, 1011 (4th Cir. 1991). However, the non-moving party may not rely on beliefs, conjecture, speculation, or conclusory allegations to defeat a motion for summary judgment. Barber v. Hosp. Corp. of Am., 977 F.2d 874-75 (4th Cir. 1992). The evidence relied on must meet “the substantive evidentiary standard of proof that would apply at a trial on the merits.” Mitchell v. Data General Corp., 12 F.3d 1310, 1316 (4th Cir. 1993).

         To show that a genuine dispute of material fact exists, a party may not rest upon the mere allegations or denials of his pleadings. See Celotex, 477 U.S. at 324 (Rule 56(e) permits a proper summary judgment motion to be opposed by any of the kinds of evidentiary materials listed in Rule 56(c), except the mere pleadings themselves). Rather, the party must present evidence supporting his or her position through “depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with . . . affidavits, if any.” Id. at 322; see also Cray Communications, Inc. v. Novatel Computer Systems, Inc., 33 F.3d 390 (4th Cir. 1994); Orsi v. Kickwood, 999 F.2d 86 (4th Cir. 1993); Local Rules 7.04, 7.05, D.S.C.


         In his Complaint, Jones alleges that on September 16, 2015, he was instructed to remove a rusted and damaged nut-bolt from a pipe that needed repair and restoration while incarcerated at FCI Bennetsville. Jones contends that while trying to pry the bolt so that he could loosen it, the bolt snapped and he hyper-extended his elbow and ruptured his triceps tendon. Jones asserts he is bringing this “negligence claim against the United States of America for failing to provide adequate safety safeguards for its inmates” by negligently hiring, supervising and training its employees who disregard the safety procedures and the safety and health of the inmates. (Complaint). Jones alleges that the prison officials at FCI Bennettsville “who were acting/omitting through and by the United States/FBOP condon and turn a blind eye to proper safety measures as required by its own policy and program statement. These acts/omissions by the United States and its prison employees named herein caused Plaintiff a permanent residual injury in his arm that will require medical care for the rest of his life.” (Id.).

         Further, Jones alleges that he brings this claim against the Defendants for “medical ordinary negligence” for the acts/omission of Dr. Onuoha for not sending him to the hospital right away and for the way he handled Plaintiff's post-surgical care including having him transferred to another prison. Jones alleges Defendants Bragg, Kelly, Furman, and Shipman failed to protect him in regard to his safety and health which was a deliberate indifference with regard for his safety. Jones asserts that his claims are both under the FTCA and Bivens. He requests monetary damages.[3]

         In their motion, Defendants assert that Jones was assigned to the Plumbing Shop work detail at FCI Bennettsville on September 16, 2015, where he had been on work detail since March 11, 2014, with the exception of a vacation from August 30, 2015, to September 6, 2015. Jones's supervisor was the Plumbing Worker Supervisor. Jones had been a Plumbing Assistant from October 16, 2012, until February 24, 2014.

         The court construes Jones' Complaint as purporting to raise claims pursuant to Bivens v. Six Unknown Named Agents of Federal Bureau of Narcotics, 403 U.S. 388 (1971), and the Federal Tort Claims Act (“FTCA”), 28 U.S.C. §§ 2671-2680, 1346(b).



         Defendants argue that the Inmate Accident Compensation Act (IACA) provides the exclusive remedy against the United States for federal inmates' claims of work-related injuries as opposed to the FTCA. Thus, Defendants assert that the IACA bars Jones's FTCA claims and Defendant United States is entitled to judgment as a matter of law on the work-related injury claim, as the Court lacks subject matter jurisdiction over the FTCA claim. In the response to summary judgment, Jones states that he “concedes to Defendants argument concerning ‘IACA' is the exclusive remedy for an inmates work related injuries!” (ECF No. 45 at 2).

         As stated, Jones alleges he sustained personal injury while performing his prison job at FCI Bennetsville. Under the Inmate Accident Compensation Act (“IACA”), 18 U.S.C. § 4126, Congress authorized Federal Prison Industries, Inc. (“FPI”) to compensate inmates for “injuries suffered in any industry or in any work activity in connection with the maintenance or operation of the institution in which the inmates are confined.” 18 U.S.C. § 4126(c)(4); see also 28 C.F.R. § 301.319. Federal prisoners cannot recover under the FTCA for work-related injuries, as the IACA provides the exclusive remedy against the Government for injuries incurred in work-related incidents. United States v. Demko, 385 U.S. 149, 152-53 (1966). See also 28 C.F.R. § 301.319 (“Inmates who are subject to the provisions of these Inmate Accident Compensation regulations are barred from recovery under the Federal Torts Claim Act.”). Recovery is barred under the FTCA not only for the work-related injury, but also for the negligent treatment of that injury. Vander v. U.S. Dep't of Justice, 268 F.3d 661 (9th Cir. 2001); Wooten v. United States, 825 F.2d 1039, 1044 (6th Cir. 1987)(“Section 4126 is also the exclusive remedy when a work-related injury is subsequently aggravated by negligence and malpractice on the part of prison officials or when the injury stems from a negligent job assignment.”) (internal citations omitted); Church v. United States, 2014 Wl 5527829 (D.S.C. 2014)(finding that “the IACA includes medical negligence as a compensable injury, and provides that ‘compensation may only be paid for work-related injuries or claims alleging improper medical treatment of a work-related injury'” (citing 28 C.F.R. §301.201(b)); Elliott v. United States, No. 0:17-3407-DCC-PJG, 2018 WL 7820722 (D.S.C. Sept. 10, 2018) report and recommendation adopted, No. 0:17-cv-03407-DCC, 2019 WL 580976 (D.S.C. Feb. 13, 2019)(finding the court lacks jurisdiction to adjudicate Plaintiff's FTCA claim regarding his work related injury and alleged failure to properly treat the injury because the IACA system is the exclusive remedy against the Government). Accordingly, this Court lacks jurisdiction to adjudicate Jones's FTCA claim with regard to his work-related injury. Walker v. Reese, 364 Fed.Appx. 872, 876 (5th Cir. 2010) (“Because the IAC system is Walker's exclusive remedy against the Government, the court lacks jurisdiction to adjudicate his FTCA claim.”). Therefore, it is recommended that Defendants' motion for summary judgment be granted, and the FTCA claims regarding work-related injuries be dismissed for lack of subject matter jurisdiction, with prejudice.

         2. ...

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