United States District Court, D. South Carolina
ORDER AND NOTICE
V. Hodges United States Magistrate Judge.
Joe Marshall (“Plaintiff”), proceeding pro se,
filed this complaint pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983
against “Mental Health Dept. of Correction, ” Ms.
Fox, and “Dept. of Correction Inst.”
(collectively, “Defendants”), alleging violations
of his constitutional rights. Pursuant to the provisions of
28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(B) and Local Civ. Rule
73.02(B)(2)(e) (D.S.C.), the undersigned is authorized to
review such complaints for relief and submit findings and
recommendations to the district judge.
Factual and Procedural Background
is incarcerated at Lee Correctional Institution. [ECF No. 1
at 2]. He alleges on April 15, 2018, from 5:00 to 6:00,
prison officials left him in the F3 dorm, where bodies were
lying on the ground. Id. at 4-5. Plaintiff asserts
he has been denied needed mental health care after the
incident and that the Department of Corrections' lack of
security endangered his life. Id.
Standard of Review
filed his complaint pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915, which
permits an indigent litigant to commence an action in federal
court without prepaying the administrative costs of
proceeding with the lawsuit. To protect against possible
abuses of this privilege, the statute allows a district court
to dismiss a case upon a finding that the action fails to
state a claim on which relief may be granted or is frivolous
or malicious. 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B)(i), (ii). A
finding of frivolity can be made where the complaint lacks an
arguable basis either in law or in fact. Denton v.
Hernandez, 504 U.S. 25, 31 (1992). A claim based on a
meritless legal theory may be dismissed sua sponte under 28
U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B). See Neitzke v.
Williams, 490 U.S. 319, 327 (1989).
complaints are held to a less stringent standard than those
drafted by attorneys. Gordon v. Leeke, 574 F.2d
1147, 1151 (4th Cir. 1978). A federal court is charged with
liberally construing a complaint filed by a pro se litigant
to allow the development of a potentially meritorious case.
Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 94 (2007). In
evaluating a pro se complaint, the plaintiff's
allegations are assumed to be true. Fine v. City of
N.Y., 529 F.2d 70, 74 (2d Cir. 1975). The mandated
liberal construction afforded to pro se pleadings means that
if the court can reasonably read the pleadings to state a
valid claim on which the plaintiff could prevail, it should
do so. Nevertheless, the requirement of liberal construction
does not mean that the court can ignore a clear failure in
the pleading to allege facts that set forth a claim currently
cognizable in a federal district court. Weller v.
Dep't of Soc. Servs., 901 F.2d 387, 390-91 (4th Cir.
complaint must contain “a short and plain statement of
the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to
relief.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2). Although the court must
liberally construe a pro se complaint, the United States
Supreme Court has made it clear a plaintiff must do more than
make conclusory statements to state a claim. See Ashcroft
v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 677-78 (2009); Bell Atlantic
Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007). Rather, the
complaint must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as
true, to state a claim that is plausible on its face, and the
reviewing court need only accept as true the complaint's
factual allegations, not its legal conclusions.
Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678-79.
state a plausible claim for relief under 42 U.S.C. §
1983, an aggrieved party must sufficiently allege he was
injured by “the deprivation of any [of his or her]
rights, privileges, or immunities secured by the [United
States] Constitution and laws” by a
“person” acting “under color of state
law.” See 42 U.S.C. § 1983; see
generally 5 Charles Alan Wright & Arthur R. Miller,
Federal Practice and Procedure § 1230 (3d ed.
“persons” may act under color of state law, and,
therefore, a defendant in a § 1983 action must qualify
as a “person.” See Monnell v. Dep't of
Soc. Serv., 436 U.S. 658, 690 (1978). Inanimate objects
such as buildings, facilities, and grounds cannot act under
color of state law. See Harden v. Green, 27
Fed.Appx. 173, 178 (4th Cir. 2001) (finding that the medical
department of a prison is not a person pursuant to §
1983); see also Post v. City of Fort Lauderdale, 750
F.Supp. 1131 (S.D. Fla. 1990) (dismissing city police
department as improper defendant in § 1983 action
because not “person” under the statute);
Shelby v. City of Atlanta, 578 F.Supp. 1368, 1370
(N.D.Ga. 1984) (dismissing police department as party
defendant because it was merely a vehicle through which city
government fulfills policing functions).
doctrine of supervisory liability is generally inapplicable
to § 1983 suits, such that an employer or supervisor is
not liable for the acts of his employees, absent an official
policy or custom that results in illegal action. See
Monell v. Department of Social Services, 436 U.S. 658,
694 (1978); Fisher v. Washington Metro. Area Transit
Authority, 690 F.2d 1133, 1142-43 (4th Cir. 1982). The
Supreme Court explains that “[b]ecause vicarious
liability is inapplicable to Bivens and § 1983
suits, a plaintiff must plead that each Government-official
defendant, through the official's own individual actions,
has violated the Constitution.” Iqbal, 556
U.S. at 676; see Slakan v. Porter, 737 F.2d 368,
372-74 (4th Cir. 1984) (finding officials may be held liable
for the acts of their subordinates, if the official is aware
of a pervasive, unreasonable risk of harm from a specified
source and fails to take corrective action as a result of
deliberate indifference or tacit authorization).
assert a viable § 1983 claim against a particular public
official, Plaintiff must allege a causal connection or
affirmative link between the conduct of which he complains
and the official sued. See Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556
U.S. 662, 676 (2009) (providing that a plaintiff in a §
1983 action must plead that the defendant, through his own
individual actions, violated the Constitution); Rizzo v.
Goode, 423 U.S. 362, 371-72 (1976) (holding a §
1983 plaintiff must show that he suffered a specific injury
as a result of specific conduct of a defendant, and an
affirmative link between the injury and that conduct);
Wright v. Collins, 766 F.2d 841, 850 (4th Cir. 1985)
(“In order for an individual to be liable under §
1983, it must be ‘affirmatively shown that the official
charged acted personally in the deprivation of the
plaintiff's rights. The doctrine of respondeat superior
has no application under this section.'”) (quoting