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Webb v. Nicks

United States District Court, D. South Carolina

July 7, 2019

Jeremy Renard Webb, Plaintiff,
CPT. Marvin Nicks, Defendant.



         Jeremy Renard Webb (“Plaintiff”) filed this action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, alleging violations of his constitutional rights by Captain Marvin Nix[1](“Nix”) while detained at Pickens County Detention Center (“PCDC”).

         This matter is before the court on Defendant's motion for summary judgment. [ECF No. 33]. Having been fully briefed [ECF Nos. 51, 52], the motion is ripe for disposition. Pursuant to the provisions of 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(B), and Local Civ. Rule 73.02(B)(2)(d) (D.S.C.), this matter has been referred to the undersigned for all pretrial proceedings. Having carefully considered the record in this case, the undersigned recommends the district judge grant Defendant's motion for summary judgment.

         I. Factual Background

         Plaintiff alleges various constitutional violations occurring during his confinement at PCDC between February 10, 2018, and December 6, 2018.[2]Plaintiff alleges he was exposed to black mold in the showers and bunks, resulting in a bad rash and difficulty breathing. Id. at 5, 7. He asserts he was forced to drink brown, foul-smelling water from rusty pipes; lead paint peeled from the walls; most of the bathrooms in the bunks did not function, leading to a bad smell; PCDC had a poor ventilation system; he lacked access to a law library; and he was denied medical treatment. Id. 5-8. In addition, Plaintiff contends PCDC was overcrowded, forcing detainees to sleep anywhere they could find space. [ECF No. 51 at 1]. He asserts he injured his right leg when he had to step over another inmate lying on the floor. [ECF No. 1-1 at 8]. In his response, Plaintiff further alleges Nix unsuccessfully attempted to have his criminal charges dropped so Plaintiff would dismiss this action. [ECF No. 51 at 3-4].

         Plaintiff seeks monetary damages for medical bills related to his leg injury, as well as for pain and suffering and inhumane conditions. [ECF No. 1-1 at 8].

         II. Discussion

         A. Standard on Summary Judgment

         The court shall grant summary judgment “if the movant shows that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to a judgment as a matter of law.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). The movant bears the initial burden of demonstrating that summary judgment is appropriate; if the movant carries its burden, then the burden shifts to the non-movant to set forth specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial. See Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322-23 (1986). If a movant asserts that a fact cannot be disputed, it must support that assertion either by “citing to particular parts of materials in the record, including depositions, documents, electronically stored information, affidavits or declarations, stipulations (including those made for purposes of the motion only), admissions, interrogatory answers, or other materials;” or “showing . . . that an adverse party cannot produce admissible evidence to support the fact.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c)(1).

         In considering a motion for summary judgment, the evidence of the non-moving party is to be believed and all justifiable inferences must be drawn in favor of the non-moving party. See Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 255 (1986). However, “[o]nly disputes over facts that might affect the outcome of the suit under the governing law will properly preclude the entry of summary judgment. Factual disputes that are irrelevant or unnecessary will not be counted.” Id. at 248. Further, while the federal court is charged with liberally construing a complaint filed by a pro se litigant to allow the development of a potentially meritorious case, see, e.g., Cruz v. Beto, 405 U.S. 319 (1972), the requirement of liberal construction does not mean that the court can ignore a clear failure in the pleadings to allege facts that set forth a federal claim, nor can the court assume the existence of a genuine issue of material fact when none exists. Weller v. Dep't of Soc. Servs., 901 F.2d 387 (4th Cir. 1990).

         B. Analysis

         1. Exhaustion

         Defendant argues Plaintiff failed to timely exhaust his administrative remedies as required by the Prison Litigation Reform Act (“PLRA”), specifically 42 U.S.C. § 1997e(a). Section 1997e(a) provides that “[n]o action shall be brought with respect to prison conditions under section 1983 of this title, or any other Federal law, by a prisoner confined in any jail, prison, or other correctional facility until such administrative remedies as are available are exhausted.” Id. This requirement “applies to all inmate suits about prison life, whether they involve general circumstances or particular episodes, and whether they allege excessive force or some other wrong.” Porter v. Nussle, 534 U.S. 516, 532 (2002). To satisfy this requirement, a plaintiff must avail himself of every level of available administrative review. See Booth v. Churner, 532 U.S. 731 (2001). Those remedies neither need to meet federal standards, nor are they required to be plain, speedy, and effective. Porter, 534 U.S. at 524.

         Satisfaction of the exhaustion requirement requires “using all steps that the agency holds out, and doing so properly.” Woodford v. Ngo, 548 U.S. 81, 90 (2006) (quoting Pozo v. McCaughtry, 286 F.3d 1022, 1024 (7th Cir. 2002)) (emphasis in original). Thus, “it is the prison's requirements, and not the [PLRA], that define the boundaries of proper exhaustion.” Jones v. Bock, 549 U.S. 199, 218 (2007). Defendant has the burden of establishing that Plaintiff failed to exhaust his administrative remedies. Anderson v. XYZ Corr. Health Servs., Inc., 407 F.3d 674, 683 (4th Cir. 2005).

         PCDC grievance procedure requires inmates to first verbally discuss the problem with a detention officer. [See Inmate Orientation Packet, ECF No. 33-4 at 4]. If the inmate disagrees with the officer's explanation, he can then file a formal, written grievance by requesting a grievance form from an officer, completing the form, and returning it to the officer for a written response. Id. If the inmate disagrees with the written response, he may appeal to the officer's supervisor. Id.

         In his complaint, Plaintiff alleges he filed grievances regarding all his claims, but did not receive responses. [ECF No. 1-1 at 9-11]. In his response, Plaintiff asserts he made informal grievances regarding the dark, foul-smelling water, poor ventilation system, chipping paint, and malfunctioning toilets and sinks. [ECF No. 51 at 2-3]. Plaintiff further alleges he filed a written grievance after an officer denied him bleach, but Plaintiff does not specify the contents of that grievance. Id. at 3. Plaintiff contends he did not receive a response to his written grievance and the form was not returned to him. Id.

         PCDC's grievance policy does not specify a timeframe in which the receiving officer must respond to a grievance form, nor does it indicate a detainee may retain or request a copy of his grievance prior to receiving a response. [See ECF No. 33-4 at 4]. Further, it does not appear an ...

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