United States District Court, D. South Carolina, Orangeburg Division
Timothy L. Wright, Plaintiff,
Warden Joseph McFadden and Captain William Brightharp, Defendants.
TIMOTHY M. CAIN, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
Timothy L. Wright (“Wright”), a state prisoner
proceeding pro se, filed this action pursuant to 42 U.S.C.
§ 1983, alleging a failure to protect claim against
Defendants Warden Joseph McFadden (“Warden”) and
Captain William Brightharp (“Brightharp”)
(collectively “Defendants”). Defendants filed a
motion to dismiss raising Eleventh Amendment immunity (ECF
No. 36), and Wright filed a response opposing the motion (ECF
No. 41). Defendants also filed a motion for summary judgment
(ECF No. 49). Wright filed a response opposing the summary
judgment motion (ECF No. 62), and Defendants filed a reply to
Wright's response (ECF No. 63). On June 7, 2019,
Magistrate Judge Kaymani D. West issued a Report and
Recommendation (“Report”) recommending that
Defendants' motions be granted. (ECF No.
64).Plaintiff timely filed objections to the
Report. (ECF No. 66).
Report has no presumptive weight and the responsibility to
make a final determination in this matter remains with this
court. See Mathews v. Weber, 423 U.S. 261, 270-71
(1976). In the absence of objections, this court is not
required to provide an explanation for adopting the Report.
See Camby v. Davis, 718 F.2d 198, 199 (4th Cir.
1983). Rather, “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.” Diamond v. Colonial Life &
Accident Ins. Co., 416 F.3d 310, 315 (4th Cir. 2005)
(quoting Fed.R.Civ.P. 72 advisory committee's note).
Furthermore, failure to file specific written objections to
the Report results in a party's waiver of the right to
appeal the district court's judgment based upon that
recommendation. See 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1);
Thomas v. Arn, 474 U.S. 140 (1985); Wright v.
Collins, 766 F.2d 841 (4th Cir. 1985); United States
v. Schronce, 727 F.2d 91 (4th Cir. 1984).
Amended Complaint, Wright alleges a failure to protect claim
stemming from an incident that occurred on May 20, 2015. (ECF
No. 25-3 at 4). On that day, Wright was housed in the
specialized management unit (“SMU”) at the Lieber
Correctional Institution. Id. Wright was taken from
his cell in the SMU for a sick call visit and placed in a
holding cell outside of Brightharp's office, Cell #4.
Id. at 4, 8. Wright alleges that when he
was placed in the holding cell, he was restrained with belly
chains and leg irons. Id. There was another inmate
in the holding cell, later identified as Hazel Stoudemire,
who also was restrained with belly chains and leg irons.
Id. at 3, 9; ECF No. 49-2 at 1. Wright alleges
Stoudemire attacked him without provocation. (ECF No. 25-3 at
4). Once Brightharp became aware of the altercation, he
called for back-up. Id. at 5. To separate Wright and
Stoudemire, the officers sprayed chemical munitions on the
inmates. Id. Wright contends that afterwards he was
forced to remain in the cell where the chemical munitions had
been deployed. Id.
judgment is appropriate if, after reviewing the entire record
in a case, the court is satisfied that no genuine issues of
material fact exist and that the movant is entitled to
judgment as a matter of law. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). An issue of
fact is genuine if the evidence is such that a reasonable
jury could return a verdict for the plaintiff. Anderson
v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986). Issues
of fact are material only if establishment of such facts
might affect the outcome of the lawsuit under the governing
substantive law. Id.
Amended Complaint, Wright alleges a failure to protect claim
against Defendants. (ECF No. 25). The Eighth Amendment
requires prison officials to fulfill “certain basic
duties, ” including, the duty to take “reasonable
measures to guarantee the safety of the inmates.”
Raynor v. Pugh, 817 F.3d 123, 127 (4th Cir. 2016)
(quoting Farmer v. Brennan, 511 U.S. 825, 832
(1994)). However, “[n]ot every unpleasant experience a
prisoner might endure while incarcerated constitutes cruel
and unusual punishment within the meaning of the Eighth
Amendment.” Ivey v. Wilson, 832 F.2d 950, 954
(6th Cir. 1987). To succeed on a claim for failure to
protect, a prisoner must show: (1) “that he is
incarcerated under conditions posing a substantial risk of
serious harm” and (2) that prison officials exhibited
deliberate indifference to his health or safety.
Farmer, 511 U.S. 825 at 834; see also
De'Lonta v. Angelone, 330 F.3d 630, 634 (4th Cir.
prison official “is deliberately indifferent to a
substantial risk of harm to a [prisoner] when that [official]
‘knows of and disregards' the risk.”
Parrish ex rel. Lee v. Cleveland, 372 F.3d 294, 302
(4th Cir. 2004) (quoting Farmer, 511 U.S. at 837).
“A prison official is not liable if he or she
‘knew the underlying facts but believed (albeit
unsoundly) that the risk to which the facts gave rise was
insubstantial or nonexistent.'” Strickland v.
Halsey, 638 Fed. App'x 179, 185 (4th Cir. 2015)
(quoting Farmer, 511 U.S. at 844). A showing of
negligence does not rise to the level of deliberate
indifference. Davidson v. Cannon, 474 U.S. 344,
their summary judgment motion, Defendants argue Wright did
not suffer a violation of his constitutional rights, and,
even if he did, they contend that they are entitled to
qualified immunity. (ECF No. 49 at 1). In response, Wright
states that Defendants violated his constitutional rights by:
(1) failing to protect him and placing him in a condition
posing a substantial risk of serious harm; (2) failing to
adequately supervise and train employees; (3) failing to
develop an effective procedure for reporting policy
violations; and (4) failing to discipline employees. (ECF No.
62 at 7-8). He further argues that it is undisputed that he
suffered serious injuries, a bloody mouth, bruises, and
“a bad painful rib cage, ” which required
immediate medial treatment and treatment for several months
afterwards. Id. at 8. Finally, Wright contends that
Defendants knew of the risk of placing him in the holding
cell with another inmate because he had repeatedly written
requests that he and an unknown prisoner were
“beefing” and, moreover, inmates in SMU are
generally the most dangerous inmates. Id. at 9, 10.
Report, the magistrate judge determined that the record does
not establish that Defendants knew of and disregarded an
excessive risk to Wright's safety. (ECF No. 64 at 6). She
notes that the grievance which Wright filed regarding the
incident referred to Stoudemire an “an unknown
prisoner.” Id. She specifically concluded that
Wright's “conclusory allegations about previous
holding cell altercations and sending requests to Defendants
about a ‘beef' with ‘an unknown
prisoner,' in conjunction with his admission that he did
not have any interactions with Stoudemire or even know his
name prior to the incident, fails to create a genuine issue
of material fact concerning whether defendants knew of, and
disregarded an excessive risk to [Wright's]
safety.” Id. at 6-7. Further, she concluded
that any alleged violations of SCDC policy would not rise to
the level of a constitutional violation. Id. at 8-9.
She also determined that Defendant McFadden, who is being
sued in his supervisory capacity, should be dismissed because
vicarious liability is inapplicable to § 1983 actions.
Id. at 7. Finally, she recommended that Defendants
be granted qualified immunity. Id. at 9.
objections, Wright generally objects to the Report. (ECF No.
66). Wright states that once Brightharp heard the incident in
the holding cell, he called for backup and that chemical
munitions were deployed to separate the inmates. Id.
at 3. Wright argues that he is suing Defendant in their
individual and official capacities presumably to oppose the
magistrate judge's recommendation regarding
McFadden's supervisory liability. Id. at 4.
Wright also asserts that Defendants violated his
constitutional rights by failing to protect him. Id.
at 4. He argues that despite Defendants' knowledge of the
May 20th incident, neither he nor Stoudemire were disciplined
after the altercation. Id. at 5. He contends that he
was not charged with a disciplinary violation because
Brightharp did not want to get into trouble for not following
SCDC policy. Id.
reviewing the entire record, the court agrees with the
magistrate judge's conclusion that Wright has failed to
show that Defendants knew of and disregarded an objectively
serious risk of harm to him. See Baze v. Rees, 553
U.S. 35, 50 (2008) (noting that the Eighth Amendment protects
against a risk of future harm that is “‘sure or
very likely to cause serious illness and needless
suffering'”) (quoting Helling v. McKinney,
509 U.S. 25, 33 (1993)). While Wright appears to argue that
two SMU inmates should never be placed in a holding cell
together, when Wright and Stoudemire were placed in the same
cell, each had belly chains and leg irons. At best, Wright
informed Defendants that he was beefing with an unknown
prisoner. However, Wright has not presented any evidence that
Stoudemire specifically posed a serious risk of violence to
him prior to the incident on May 20th, and he does not allege
that he warned Defendants McFadden or Brightharp of any
threat by Stoudemire. See Pope v. Shafer, 86 F.3d
90, 92 (7th Cir. 1996) (“In ...