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Ways v. Smith

United States District Court, D. South Carolina

September 6, 2019

John Antwoin Ways, #356740, Plaintiff,
Major Smith, Associate Warden Canning, Associate Warden Ford, and Kershaw Correctional Institution, Defendants.


          Shiva V. Hodges United States Magistrate Judge

         John Antwoin Ways ("Plaintiff), proceeding pro se, filed this complaint pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, alleging a violation of civil rights against the above-named defendants. 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.

         I. Factual and Procedural Background

         Plaintiff is a state prisoner incarcerated at Kershaw Correctional Institution ("KCI"). [ECF No. 1 at 2]. Plaintiff maintains he arrived at KCI in October 2018 and was placed in a cell with no mattress for several days and no running water for 14 days. Id. at 5. He claims he was permitted to shower once a week, was not allowed to communicate with his family members, and was denied recreation time. Id. at 6. He maintains he received no medical evaluation for nearly 60 days after entering KCI. Id. at 6. He contends he received no cleaning supplies, causing black mold to grow in his cell. Id. at 6. He claims several fires were set within his unit, causing him to experience smoke inhalation as a result of nonworking sprinklers. Id. at 6. He maintains KCI is understaffed, placing his safety in jeopardy. Id. at 6.

         Plaintiff specifically alleges he informed Major Smith ("Smith") of conditions within his cell and that Smith witnessed the fires. Id. at 6. He generally alleges defendants Associate Warden Canning ("Canning"), Associate Warden Ford ("Ford") and Smith were notified several times of unconstitutional and inhumane conditions in KCI and did nothing to improve them. Id. at 4. Plaintiff has sued each defendant in his official capacity. Id. at 2-3.

         Plaintiff alleges he suffered staphylococcus-like symptoms and developed growths and rashes because he was not permitted to bathe properly. Id. at 7. He claims he developed respiratory problems as a result of smoke and black mold inhalation. Id. at 7. He indicates his treatment at KCI has caused him to become emotionally unstable. Id. at 7. He maintains he has requested medical attention on multiple occasions, but has not seen a doctor or mental health counselor. Id. at 7.

         Plaintiff asserts a cause of action for cruel and unusual punishment and requests the court award him damages of $500.00 per day from October 20, 2016, through May 1, 2019, and commute his sentence to community supervision so he may obtain rehabilitation and medical attention.[1]

         II. Discussion

         A. Standard of Review

         Plaintiff 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. § l9l5(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).

         Pro se 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 plaintiffs 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. 1990).

         B. Analysis

         A 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.

         To state a plausible claim for relief under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, [2] an aggrieved party must sufficiently allege that 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. ยง 1983; see generally 5 Charles Alan Wright ...

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