United States District Court, D. South Carolina, Anderson/Greenwood Division
REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION OF MAGISTRATE
Jacquelyn D. Austin United States Magistrate Judge
matter is before the Court on a motion for summary judgment
filed by Defendants South Carolina Department of Corrections
(“SCDC”), FNU Lee, FNU Turman, James Bell,
Dewayne Campbell, and Joey Tutt (“the Moving
Defendants”). [Doc. 39.] Pursuant to the provisions of
28 U.S.C. § 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 42 U.S.C.
§ 1983 and to submit findings and recommendations to the
through counsel, filed this action against Defendants SCDC
and Dwight Jones on January 17, 2017, in the McCormick County
Court of Common Pleas. [Doc. 1-2.] On April 29, 2018,
Plaintiff filed an Amended Complaint, adding Defendants Lee,
Turman, Bell, Campbell, and Tutt, and asserting claims
against them pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 for violating
Plaintiff's Eighth and Fourteenth Amendment rights as
well as a claim against SCDC for gross negligence/reckless
conduct and a claim against Jones for assault and battery.
[Doc. 1-1.] The Moving Defendants removed the case to this
Court on May 3, 2018. [Doc. 1.]
April 30, 2019, the Moving Defendants filed a motion for
summary judgment. [Doc. 39.] Plaintiff filed a response in
opposition on May 14, 2019 [Doc. 46], and the Moving
Defendants filed a reply on May 21, 2019 [Doc. 48].
Accordingly, the motion for summary judgment is ripe for
times relevant to this action, Plaintiff was in the custody
of the South Carolina Department of Corrections
(“SCDC”) and housed at McCormick Correctional
Institution (“McCormick”). [Doc. 1-1 at 3.]
Plaintiff was housed in room 253 of the F2 dorm for a number
of years until he was moved to room 260 of the F2 dorm in
February 2015. [Doc. 39-13 at 76.] When he was moved to room
260, his assigned roommate was Defendant Dwight Jones.
[Id. at 75.] The cell assignment form that was
completed on February 18, 2015, indicates that both Plaintiff
and Jones were serving sentences for violent crimes-Plaintiff
for carjacking with bodily harm and Jones for murder, both
Plaintiff and Jones were classified at custody level ME3, and
both Plaintiff and Jones had convictions for assault on other
inmates or staff. [Id.] Based on these factors,
Plaintiff and Jones were considered compatible to be in the
same room. [Id. at 57:3-14; see also Doc.
39-14 at 39:18-40:7.] Plaintiff moved to room 260 on February
18, 2015. [Doc. 39-13 at 76.]
Plaintiff and Jones were in the same room, they had a fight
and subsequently asked to be moved out of the room. [Doc.
39-12 at 53:22-25, 82:3-24.] They were told to go to
classification, and when Plaintiff asked classification about
a room change, he was told to wait until his annual review.
[Id. at 54:1-3.] As part of his annual review,
Plaintiff submitted a hardship transfer request on February 19,
2015. [Doc. 39-13 at 73.] Plaintiff also requested a room
change at his annual review, which was approved on February
24, 2015. [Id. at 74.]
room change is approved at an annual review, the caseworker
is responsible for making the change as bed space permits.
[Id. at 47:3-12.] Generally, a caseworker would have
30 days to make the room change [id. at 47:13-20];
however, it could take longer based on bed availability [Doc.
39-14 at 61:9-25]. Plaintiff testified that he asked multiple
times after he had been approved for a room change why he had
not yet been moved. [Doc. 39-12 at 54.] On April 28, 2015,
Turman told Plaintiff that he would move him the following
day; when Plaintiff saw Turman on April 29, 2015, he again
asked about being moved, and Turman responded, “I got
you.” [Id. at 54:14-24.]
April 30, 2015, Officer William Brooks found Plaintiff
covered in blood and screaming for help. [Docs. 39-5; 39-6.]
Plaintiff was taken to medical with numerous stab wounds and
ultimately transported to Self Regional Health Care via
ambulance. [Docs. 39-6; 39-7.] During the subsequent
investigation, a confidential informant told McCormick
employees that Jones and another inmate had assaulted
Plaintiff in room 260. [Doc. 39-12 at 129.]
for a Cause of Action Under § 1983
action is filed pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, which
provides a private cause of action for constitutional
violations by persons acting under color of state law.
Section 1983 “‘is not itself a source of
substantive rights,' but merely provides ‘a method
for vindicating federal rights elsewhere
conferred.'” Albright v. Oliver, 510 U.S.
266, 271 (1994) (quoting Baker v. McCollan, 443 U.S.
137, 144 n.3 (1979)). Accordingly, a civil action under
§ 1983 allows “a party who has been deprived of a
federal right under the color of state law to seek
relief.” City of Monterey v. Del Monte Dunes at
Monterey, Ltd., 526 U.S. 687, 707 (1999).
1983 provides, in relevant part,
Every person who, under color of any statute, ordinance,
regulation, custom, or usage, of any State . . . subjects, or
causes to be subjected, any citizen of the United States or
any person within the jurisdiction thereof to the deprivation
of any rights, privileges, or immunities secured by the
Constitution and laws, shall be liable to the party injured
in an action at law, suit in equity, or other proper
proceeding for redress . . .
42 U.S.C. § 1983. To establish a claim under §
1983, a plaintiff must prove two elements: (1) that the
defendant “deprived [the plaintiff] of a right secured
by the Constitution and laws of the United States” and
(2) that the defendant “deprived [the plaintiff] of
this constitutional right under color of [State] statute,
ordinance, regulation, custom, or usage.” Mentavlos
v. Anderson, 249 F.3d 301, 310 (4th Cir. 2001) (third
alteration in original) (citation and internal quotation
under-color-of-state-law element, which is equivalent to the
“state action” requirement under the Fourteenth
reflects judicial recognition of the fact that most rights
secured by the Constitution are protected only against
infringement by governments. This fundamental limitation on
the scope of constitutional guarantees preserves an area of
individual freedom by limiting the reach of federal law and
avoids imposing on the State, its agencies or officials,
responsibility for conduct for which they cannot fairly be
Id. (quoting Dowe v. Total Action Against
Poverty in Roanoke Valley, 145 F.3d 653, 658 (4th Cir.
1998)) (internal citations and quotation marks omitted).
Nevertheless, “the deed of an ostensibly private
organization or individual” may at times be treated
“as if a State has caused it to be performed.”
Brentwood Acad. v. Tenn. Secondary Sch. Athletic
Ass'n, 531 U.S. 288, 295 (2001). Specifically,
“state action may be found if, though only if, there is
such a ‘close nexus between the State and the
challenged action' that seemingly private behavior
‘may be fairly treated as that of the State
itself.'” Id. (quoting Jackson v.
Metro. Edison Co., 419 U.S. 345, 351 (1974)). State
action requires both an alleged constitutional deprivation
“caused by the exercise of some right or privilege
created by the State or by a rule of conduct imposed by the
State . . . or by a person for whom the State is
responsible” and that “the party charged with the
deprivation [is] a person who may fairly be said to be a
state actor.” Lugar v. Edmondson Oil Co., 457
U.S. 922, 937 (1982). A determination of whether a private
party's allegedly unconstitutional conduct is fairly
attributable to the State requires the court to “begin[
] by identifying ‘the specific conduct of which the
plaintiff complains.'” Am. Mfrs. Mut. Ins. Co.
v. Sullivan, 526 U.S. 40, 51 (1999) (quoting Blum v.
Yaretsky, 457 U.S. 991, 1004 (1982)).
of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure 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.
Civ. P. 56(a). A fact is “material” if proof of
its existence or non-existence would affect disposition of
the case under 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. When 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).
party seeking summary judgment shoulders the initial burden
of demonstrating to the court that there is no genuine issue
of material fact. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S.
317, 323 (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. Id. at 324. Rather, the non-moving
party must demonstrate specific, material facts exist that
give rise to a genuine issue. Id. Under this
standard, the existence of a mere scintilla of evidence in
support of the non-movant'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 granting the
summary judgment motion. Id. at 248. “Only
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. Further,
Rule 56 provides in pertinent part:
A party asserting that a fact cannot be or is genuinely
disputed must support the assertion by:
(A) 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),