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Winkfield v. Staphen

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

July 30, 2019

Montavious Winkfield, Plaintiff,
Michael Staphen, Lisa Young, Anite Stevens, and Laura H. Kawaguchi, Defendants.



         This matter is before the court on the defendants' motion for summary judgment (doc. 65). The plaintiff, who is proceeding pro se, filed this action asserting claims for violations of his constitutional rights pursuant to Title 42, United States Code, Section 1983. Pursuant to the provisions of Title 28, United States Code, Section 636(b)(1)(B), and Local Civil Rule 73.02(B)(2)(d) (D.S.C.), this magistrate judge is authorized to review all pretrial matters in cases filed under Section 1983 and submit findings and recommendations to the district court.


         The plaintiff is currently incarcerated in Dixon Correctional Institution in the Illinois Department of Corrections. He is a former inmate of the South Carolina Department of Corrections (“SCDC”). In a complaint filed on February 9, 2018, the plaintiff and 27 other inmates attempted to file a class action to litigate the conditions of their confinement in the SCDC (see Dyke v. Staphen, C.A. No. 6:18-402-TMC, doc. 1). The court allowed each plaintiff to pursue their individual claims in separate cases (see id., doc. 5), which the plaintiff did in the instant action (doc. 1). By order dated May 29, 2018, the undersigned found that the plaintiff's complaint was subject to summary dismissal as it failed to state a claim upon which relief may be granted (doc. 22). The undersigned allowed the plaintiff 14 days in which to correct the defects in his complaint by filing an amended complaint (id.). The plaintiff filed an amended complaint in the instant action on June 11, 2018 (doc. 27). On June 18, 2018, the undersigned authorized service of process on the defendants (doc. 28). The defendants' answer was filed on August 29, 2018 (doc. 40). On November 16, 2018, the undersigned granted the defendants' motion to take the plaintiff's deposition at the institution where he is housed in the Illinois Department of Corrections (doc. 54). The deposition was conducted on December 7, 2018 (doc. 65-2). The defendants were granted two extensions of time within which to file their dispositive motions (docs. 49, 58).

         On January 22, 2019, the defendants filed a motion for summary judgment (doc. 65). On February 4, 2019, pursuant to Roseboro v. Garrison, 528 F.2d 309 (4th Cir. 1975), the plaintiff was advised of the summary judgment procedure and the possible consequences if he failed to respond adequately (doc. 67). The plaintiff did not timely respond, and an order was issued on March 12, 2019, giving him through April 1, 2019, to file his response to the motion for summary judgment (doc. 73). On April 1, 2019, the plaintiff filed a motion for extension of time to file his response, which was granted through May 3, 2019 (docs. 77, 78). On April 23, 2019, a second motion for extension of time was granted through June 3, 2019 (docs. 80, 81). The plaintiff again did not file a response to the motion for summary judgment within the required time period, and therefore an order was issued on June 4, 2019, giving the plaintiff through June 24, 2019, to file his response (doc. 86). The plaintiff was again advised that if he failed to respond, this action would be subject to dismissal for failure to prosecute (id.) On June 24, 2019, the plaintiff filed his third motion for extension of time (doc. 88). On June 25, 2019, the plaintiff was granted a final extension of time through July 25, 2019 (doc. 89). The order specifically stated that no further extensions would be granted and again advised that if he failed to file a response to the motion for summary judgment, this action would be subject to dismissal for failure to prosecute (id.). The plaintiff failed to file any response to the motion for summary judgment.


         The plaintiff filed this action against defendants Michael Stephan (misidentified as Michael Staphen), Lisa Young, Anita Stevens (misidentified as Anite Stevens), and Laura Kawaguchi (doc. 27 at 1).[1] The plaintiff's complaint arises from an incident that occurred on October 23, 2017, when he was incarcerated in the SCDC (doc. 65-2, pl. dep. 20-22). The plaintiff testified that, on that date, he was stabbed in the Saluda Unit in Broad River Correctional Institution (“BRCI”) by another inmate, Timothy Rainey, while he was in “Statewide Protective Custody” (id. 22, 24). The plaintiff was located in the Saluda Restrictive Housing Unit at the time (doc. 65-9, Stevens aff. ¶ 5) The plaintiff testified that on October 23rd, he and Rainey were “jawing back and forth" at one another (doc. 65-2, pl. dep. 47). The plaintiff stated that defendant Stevens, who was at that time a Sergeant at BRCI[2], was working in the unit (id. 120). He stated that the “jawing” back and forth was not worrisome, and he told defendant Stevens that she should not “be scared” (id. 47).[3] The plaintiff stated that another officer was in the control room during all relevant times as well (id. 26). Defendant Stevens left to go get the inmates' food from the commissary (id.). While defendant Stevens retrieved the lunch, the officer in the control room monitored the Saluda Unit (doc. 65-9, Stevens aff. ¶¶ 11-12). The plaintiff testified that, while Stevens was gone, Rainey stabbed him with a flat blade (doc. 65-2, pl. dep. 34).

         Defendant Stevens testified in her affidavit that, once she returned from getting the inmates' lunch, the plaintiff appeared injured, but he told her “not to worry about it, ” and he did not mention being stabbed by another inmate, in particular Rainey (doc. 65-9, Stevens aff. ¶ 14). Regardless, Stevens testified that she and another officer escorted the plaintiff to see medical personnel to treat the plaintiff's injuries (id. ¶ 15; doc. 65-3). She further testified that the plaintiff was examined by medical staff (doc. 65-9, Stevens aff. ¶ 15).

         An incident report and medical records submitted by the defendants show that the plaintiff refused some treatment (doc. 65-3) but allowed for a bandage to be placed on his head (doc. 65-4 at 7). The medical staff told Stevens and the other officer to place the plaintiff in a holding cell for further treatment (doc. 65-9, Stevens aff. ¶ 15). While being escorted to the holding cell, the petitioner sprinted out of the room and climbed a fence (id. ¶¶ 16-17; doc. 65-4 at 7 (“I/M Winkfield is hanging on the fence . . . with . . . a bandage on his head.”)). He eventually came down from the fence and was taken back to a holding cell to be assessed by the medical staff (doc. 65-3). The plaintiff told medical staff that he had “two cuts on [his] head and one on [his] shoulder” (doc. 65-4 at 6). He stated that he “got in a fight and got stabbed” (id.). The plaintiff's wounds were described in the medical record as a laceration on the right temple (approximately 3 mm deep), a laceration on the upper mid forehead (approximately 7 mm deep), and a laceration on the left shoulder (approximately one inch long) (id.).

         The plaintiff testified that he never received any medical treatment for his injuries (doc. 65-2, pl. dep. 125, 146). However, the plaintiff's medical records show that he was seen by medical staff on October 23, 2017, at 2:54 p.m. for the wounds described above and again at 3:34 p.m. so that a nurse practitioner could evaluate him for stitches (doc. 65-4 at 6-7). He refused the nurse practitioner's attempts to clean the wounds in order to place stitches, so he was “educated on the potential for infection and prolonged wound healing” (id. at 6). The plaintiff allowed his head wounds to be cleaned with wound cleanser and covered with gauze (id.). The plaintiff was seen again on October 24, 25, and 26 to receive further treatment for his injuries (id. at 2-5). On October 26, 2017, SCDC's medical personnel noted that the plaintiff's wounds were scabbing and showed no signs of infection, and the plaintiff had no complaints of pain (id. at 2).

         The plaintiff testified that, prior to October 23, 2017, he had no knowledge that Rainey was going to harm him (doc. 65-2, pl. dep. 29). The plaintiff never received any threats from Rainey (id. 34). Defendant Stevens testified in her affidavit that the Saluda Restrictive Housing Unit “is on lockdown and secluded from the remaining BRCI units for the safety of these inmates” (doc. 5-9, Stevens aff. ¶ 6). She further testified that, in this particular unit, inmates “mouth off at one another” and “make disparaging remarks directed at one another on a daily basis. This is considered customary by inmates” (id. ¶ 7). According to Stevens, on the day of the alleged stabbing, the conversations between the plaintiff and other inmates were normal, and she had no reason to believe that any inmate would become violent towards the plaintiff (id. ¶¶ 8-10).

         The plaintiff testified, as set out above, that defendant Stevens was not in the unit at the time of the stabbing (doc. 65-2, pl. dep. 29). The plaintiff also admitted that defendant Warden Stephan was not working at BRCI at the time of the incident (id. 35-36). Defendant Stephan was the Warden at McCormick Correctional Institution in October 2017 and became the Warden at BRCI in November 2017 (doc. 65-7, Stephan aff. ¶ 1). Further, the plaintiff admitted that defendant Young was not working in the unit on the day of the incident (doc. 65-2, pl. dep. 41). Defendant Young, who was formerly a Captain at BRCI[4], concurred and stated in her affidavit that she was not present during the alleged stabbing and was not working in the plaintiff's unit at that time (doc. 65-8, Young aff. ¶ 5). The plaintiff testified that he did not recall seeing defendant Kawaguchi the day of the incident or at any time during the events stated in his complaint (doc. 65-2, pl. dep. 43). Defendant Kawaguchi, who was formerly the Assistant Division Director for Classification and Inmate Records at BRCI, testified in her affidavit that she has been retired from SCDC since 2014 (doc. 65-10, Kawaguchi aff. ¶ 1).


         In his amended complaint, the plaintiff claimed that his radio was taken by Captain Young (doc. 27 at 14), and in his deposition, he testified that the radio was returned undamaged within two to three weeks (doc. 65-2, pl. dep. 103). The plaintiff admitted this concern was promptly remedied after he wrote request forms (id.). He did not state any damages that were suffered as a result of this allegation. The plaintiff also alleged in his amended complaint that “Sgt. Stevens and other officers that work there was tak[ing] my mail for no reason” (doc. 27 at 8). He also did not state any damages suffered as a result of this allegation. As noted by the defendants, the plaintiff's amended complaint focused on the events from October 23, 2017, and the medical treatment following this incident (id. at 5).

         In the section of his amended complaint regarding exhaustion of administrative remedies, the plaintiff stated that he filed a grievance claiming that “Sgt. Stevens [and] other officers that work there was taking my mail for no reason. An[d] Cpt. Young keeping me in my room to die right after I done cut myself” (doc. 27 at 8). In response to the question of whether the grievance process was completed, the plaintiff stated, “really don't [know] cause they play too many game[s] with the mail. [T] hey was not doing anything about the grievance. [T]hey keep them in the mail box for weeks with no respon[se]” (id.).


         Summary Judgment Standard

         Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56 states, as to a party who has moved for 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 judgment as a matter of law.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). As to the first of these determinations, a fact is deemed “material” if proof of its existence or nonexistence would affect the disposition of the case under the applicable law. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986). An issue of material fact is “genuine” if the evidence offered is such that a reasonable jury might return a verdict for the non-movant. Id. at 257. In determining whether a genuine issue has been raised, the court must construe all inferences and ambiguities against the movant and in favor of the non-moving party. United States v. Diebold, Inc., 369 U.S. 654, 655 (1962).

         The party seeking summary judgment shoulders the initial burden of demonstrating to the district court that there is no genuine issue of material fact. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett,477 U.S. 317, 325 (1986). Once the movant has made this threshold demonstration, the non-moving party, to survive the motion for summary judgment, may not rest on the allegations averred in his pleadings; rather, he must demonstrate that specific, material facts exist that give rise to a genuine issue. Id. at 324. Under this standard, the existence of a mere scintilla of evidence in support of the plaintiff's position is insufficient to withstand the summary judgment motion. Anderson, 477 U.S. at 252. Likewise, conclusory allegations or denials, without more, are insufficient to preclude the granting of the summary judgment motion. Id. at 248. “Only ...

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