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Cash v. Wright

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

September 13, 2019

Alfred W. Cash, Plaintiff,
Chuck Wright, Sheriff of Spartanburg County; Major Freeman; Captain Hayes; Deputy Ellis; and Deputy Johnson, Defendants.


          Kevin F. McDonald United States Magistrate Judge.

         This matter is before the court on the motion for summary judgment by defendants Sheriff Chuck Wright, Major Freeman, and Captain Hayes (doc. 41), and the motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim by defendants Deputy Ellis and Deputy Johnson (doc. 67). The plaintiff, a former pretrial detainee[1] who is proceeding pro se, brings this action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 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.


         This case was filed by the plaintiff in October 2018 against Sheriff Wright, Maj. Freeman, and Capt. Hayes, along with other Spartanburg County Detention Center (“SCDC”) officers initially identified as “Jane and John Does” (doc. 1). Judicial screening and pretrial handling were assigned to the Honorable Mary Gordon Baker, United States Magistrate Judge. In June 2019, the plaintiff identified Dep. Ellis and Dep. Johnson as the Jane and John Does, so Judge Baker authorized service on these defendants (doc. 61). On July 26, 2019, the case was reassigned from Judge Baker to the undersigned (doc. 65).

         The plaintiff alleges multiple claims arising from his pretrial detention at the SCDC while awaiting disposition of a federal firearms charge in this court.[2] His initial handwritten complaint (doc. 1), subsequent standardized form complaints (docs. 1-4, 1-5), and supplemental complaint (doc. 25) present allegations that the conditions of his confinement at the SCDC were unconstitutional (docs. 1, 1-4, 1-5). He claims after his arrival at the SCDC in August 2017, he was placed in the Behavioral Management Unit (“BMU”) for five days in a crowded four-man 8' x 11' cell (doc. 1, pp. 2-3). While there, he alleges he was required to get on his knees and put his hands on his head during the count, which was painful for him to do, and that he was starved by the guards (id., p. 3). He also alleges he was denied his legal documents, phone access, showers, hygiene, and medical treatment while in the BMU (id.). He was then relocated to the SCDC general population and placed in another four-man cell with a single toilet. He alleges that mold was growing on the privacy wall, and the showers were nasty and flooded with “biohazard” water that caused him to suffer foot rot and sores (doc. 1-4, p. 6). He further alleges he was again denied access to legal materials and medical care, including a three-day delay for treating a broken rib (doc. 1-5, p. 4). He also claims that he did not receive nutritional food and that the SCDC canteen is engaged in ramen noodle price-gouging by charging 80 cents per package and over-charging on other items (doc. 1-4, p. 5).

         The plaintiff alleges that he presented these grievances to Maj. Freeman and Capt. Hayes, as well as other officers, without success. As noted above, the plaintiff was a federal pretrial detainee while housed in the SCDC. He was represented by retained counsel throughout his federal criminal case, including during the period he was held in the SCDC (see No. 6:17-cr-333-BHH, doc. 16). In that case, the plaintiff pled guilty to the indicted firearms charge and was sentenced to a term of 97 months imprisonment on January 2, 2019 (id., doc. 52). The plaintiff was thereafter transferred to FCI-Williamsburg to serve his sentence.

         The defendants Sheriff Wright, Maj. Freeman, and Capt. Hayes filed an answer (doc. 22) denying the plaintiff's allegations, and they filed a motion for summary judgment on April 11, 2019 (doc. 41). By order filed the next day, pursuant to Roseboro v. Garrison, 528 F.2d 309 (4th Cir. 1975), the plaintiff was advised of the motion for summary judgment procedure and the possible consequences if he failed to respond adequately to the defendants' motion (doc. 43). The plaintiff filed a response in opposition to summary judgment on May 15, 2019 (doc. 45), to which these defendants filed a reply on May 22, 2019 (doc. 48). The defendants Dep. Ellis and Dep. Johnson filed a motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim (doc. 67) on July 26, 2019. By Roseboro order filed July 29, 2019, the plaintiff was advised of the motion to dismiss procedure and the possible consequences if he failed to respond adequately to these defendants' motion (doc. 68). The plaintiff filed his response in opposition on August 26, 2019 (doc. 74).

         In their motion for summary judgment, Sheriff Wright, Maj. Freeman, and Capt. Hayes argue that the plaintiff was properly housed, fed, and cared for while in the detention center's BMU and general population. They provide the sworn affidavits of Maj. Freeman and SCDC Medical Administrator Katherine White (docs. 41-2, 41-3, 48). Maj. Freeman attests that the plaintiff incurred 40 separate disciplinary infractions in 15 months, resulting in his placement at times in the BMU and loss of privileges (doc. 41-2, Freeman aff. ¶¶ 8-16). He states that the plaintiff was in different cells at different times, but that all cells are eight by twelve feet, for a total square footage of 96 feet. In general population, the cells have three bunks and enough room to move an additional bed in and out, as needed. The maximum number of detainees assigned to a cell is four (id.). As for the plaintiff's other complaints, Maj. Freeman states that (1) the SCDC showers can become temporarily clogged, but upon notice, the maintenance department corrects the problem; (2) the food is approved by a dietician and served warm on individual trays; (3) the prices of items at the SCDC canteen are set by the private entity that operates it and not by the SCDC; and (4) the SCDC does not have a law library and that, in any event, the plaintiff was represented by an attorney while housed in the SCDC. He also denies any awareness of mold at the SCDC and that any complaints of mold were not made to him, Capt. Hayes, or the maintenance department. He further states that the SCDC is working to engage a contractor to change all of the carpeting and shower floors (id. ¶¶ 17-21). In his supplemental affidavit filed with the reply, Maj. Freeman states that some areas of the SCDC were inspected for mold years ago with negative results and that further testing beyond the kitchen and food preparation areas is not being conducted (doc. 48-1, Freeman aff. ¶¶ 2-4).

         Ms. White attests that, as the SCDC Medical Administrator, she reviewed the plaintiff's medical records while he was housed in the SCDC. On November 16, 2018, the plaintiff submitted a kiosk request complaining about black mold on a privacy wall and that he was having problems breathing and with his ears, nose, and throat. He was seen by the medical staff the next day, and their records reflect that his lungs were clear and his cough was dry and non-productive. He was given ibuprofen for his headache and a cold relief packet. He was then seen in followup the next week, and he reported feeling better, though he still had a cough. He was again given a cold relief packet (doc. 41-3, White aff. ¶¶ 1-5). Ms. White further states that the plaintiff never complained about “any illness that he attributed to shower conditions, the quantity or temperature of food, or the number of detainees in his cell” (id. ¶ 6).

         In his response in opposition to summary judgment, the plaintiff argues that the defendants' motion is unsupported by documented evidence, particularly inspection reports that he presumes will reveal that the SCDC is a dangerous place that must be closed by the Health Department and condemned (doc. 45). In his sur-reply (doc. 51), the plaintiff takes issue with Maj. Freeman's affidavit regarding mold and again demands mold inspection reports be provided.

         In their motion to dismiss (doc. 67), Deputies Ellis and Johnson argue that the plaintiff's pleadings fail to allege any personal involvement by them in the alleged constitutional violations. In his response in opposition, the plaintiff fails to address these defendants' argument, and instead he repeats his general concerns regarding the alleged conditions at the SCDC during his confinement there (doc. 74).


         A. Sheriff Wright, Major Freeman, Captain Hayes 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 ...

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