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Seabrooke v. Leopard

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

June 28, 2019

Michael L. Seabrooke, Plaintiff,
v.
Lt. K. Leopard and Charles Way, Defendants.

          ORDER

          HONORABLE BRUCE HOWE HENDRICKS, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         This matter is before the Court upon Plaintiff Michael L. Seabrooke's pro se complaint filed pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. In his complaint, Plaintiff, who is a pre-trial detainee, challenges the conditions of his confinement and alleges violations of his constitutional rights. In accordance with 28 U.S.C. § 636(b) and Local Civil Rule 73.02(B)(2)(c) (D.S.C.), the matter was referred to a United States Magistrate Judge for initial review.

         On February 6, 2019, Magistrate Judge Kevin F. McDonald filed a Report and Recommendation (“Report”) outlining the issues and recommending that the Court grant Defendant Lt. K. Leopard's motion for summary judgment and that the Court dismiss Defendant Charles Way without prejudice based on Plaintiff's failure to timely serve him. Attached to the Report was a notice advising the parties of their right to file written objections to the Report within fourteen days of being served with a copy. After being granted an extension of time, Plaintiff filed objections on March 19, 2019, and Defendant Leopard filed a response to Plaintiff's objections on April 2, 2019.

         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. Mathews v. Weber, 423 U.S. 261 (1976). The Court is charged with making a de novo determination only of those portions of the Report to which specific objections are made, and the Court may accept, reject, or modify, in whole or in part, the recommendation of the Magistrate Judge, or recommit the matter to the Magistrate Judge with instructions. 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1). In the absence of specific objections, the Court reviews the matter only for clear error. See Diamond v. Colonial Life & Accident Ins. Co., 416 F.3d 310, 315 (4th Cir. 2005) (stating that “in the absence of a timely filed objection, a district court need not conduct a de novo review, but instead must ‘only satisfy itself that there is no clear error on the face of the record in order to accept the recommendation.'”) (quoting Fed.R.Civ.P. 72 advisory committee's note).

         ANALYSIS

         After a thorough review of the record, including Plaintiff's objections and Defendant Leopard's response to the those objections, the Court first agrees with Defendant Leopard that Plaintiff's objections fail to point to any specific legal or factual errors in the Magistrate Judge's Report. Rather, Plaintiff simply rehashes his claims and objects to the Magistrate Judge's findings outright without pointing to specific evidence in support of his unsupported objections. Despite this failure, the Court will proceed to consider the merits of Plaintiff's claims below.

         First, with respect to Plaintiff's claim that he has been denied legal materials and that Defendant Leopard forced him to take a public defender, the Court finds no error in the Magistrate Judge's determination that Plaintiff's claim fails to survive summary judgment. Stated plainly, Plaintiff has shown no actual injury from the alleged deprivations, and although Plaintiff now complains that the Sixth Amendment permits him “to conduct the organization and content of his defense, ” nowhere does Plaintiff point to evidence indicating that he has been precluded from doing so. Furthermore, the Court notes that there is no right to appointed counsel in § 1983 cases, and this case does not present exceptional or unusual circumstances to warrant the appointment of counsel.

         Next, with respect to Plaintiff's claim of deliberate indifference to serious medical needs, the Court agrees with the Magistrate Judge that Plaintiff has failed to satisfy either the objective or subjective elements of his claim. As an initial matter, none of the documents submitted to the Court reflect involvement by Defendant Leopard in Plaintiff's medical treatment, and although Plaintiff now objects that Defendant Leopard failed to pay Plaintiff's medical bills, the evidence does not support this conclusory objection. Second, with respect to Defendant Way, who has yet to appear in this action, the evidence provided to the Court indicates that Plaintiff did receive treatment and medication, along with a follow-up appointment, in connection with his mouth infection.

         The Court also finds no merit to Plaintiff's claim that he was subjected to cruel and unusual punishment by being forced to sleep on the floor, as the evidence indicates that, contrary to the facts of Thompson v. Los Angeles, 885 F.2d 1439 (9th Cir. 1989), on which Plaintiff relies in his objections, Plaintiff was always provided with a mattress and bedding during his detention. As the Magistrate Judge explained, the placement of his mattress on the floor rather than on a bunk does not amount to the deprivation of a basic human need. Moreover, these is absolutely no evidence that Plaintiff's mattress was placed on the floor for the purpose of causing him discomfort. Thus, the Court agrees with the Magistrate Judge's determination that Plaintiff has failed to establish either the objective or the subjective elements of this claim.

         Plaintiff next asserts in his objections that Defendant Leopard knew about and permitted a “lynch mob” to occur, but Plaintiff offers no evidence to support this assertion, and, as the Magistrate Judge properly explained, Plaintiff may not rest on his unsupported allegations alone to defeat summary judgment.

         With respect to his claim that he was subjected to cruel and unusual punishment by being exposed to mold at the detention facility, the evidence submitted to the Court indicates that mold was remediated in 2015, and Plaintiff offers no evidence to support his assertion that he received medical treatment for mold exposure rather than for unrelated chest pain and discomfort. In all, the Court agrees with the Magistrate Judge that Defendant is entitled to summary judgment on this claim.

         Next, to the extent Plaintiff alleges that Defendant Leopard is liable under a theory of respondeat superior for the actions of others, the Magistrate Judge properly explained that this doctrine is generally inapplicable to § 1983 claims. Moreover, the Court finds that Plaintiff has failed to show how Defendant Leopard was aware of any pervasive or unreasonable risk of harm or injury to Plaintiff, or that there was any causal link between Defendant Leopard's alleged inaction and any constitutional injury. As such, the Court fully agrees with the Magistrate Judge that Plaintiff's claims brought against Defendant Leopard under a supervisory liability theory fail.

         Finally, with respect to Defendant Way, Plaintiff objects that he provided the information known about Dr. Way, but that he has no way of looking up correct information. Here, the Court specifically instructed Plaintiff that he was responsible for providing information sufficient to identify this Defendant so he could be timely served. When the initial summons was returned and marked with “unable to locate - no longer employed by Pickens Co. detention center, ” the Court informed Plaintiff that he had provided insufficient information and that under Rule 4(m), the Court must dismiss an action against a defendant who is not timely served. (ECF No. 38.) The Court again directed Plaintiff to provide updated ...


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