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Lott v. Budz

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

September 22, 2019

Mark Lott, Plaintiff,
Timothy Budz Defendant.


          Richard Mark Gergel United States District Court Judge

         Before the Court is the Report and Recommendation ("R & R") of the Magistrate Judge. (Dkt. No. 107.) recommending that the Court grant Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment. (Dkt. No. 85.) Also before the Court is Plaintiffs motion for subpoena. (Dkt. No. 111.) For the reasons set forth below, the Court adopts the R & R, and grants Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment and denies Plaintiffs motion for subpoena.

         I. Background

         Plaintiff brought apro se action under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 on June 28, 2018. (Dkt. No. 1.) Plaintiff is a civilly-committed individual in the Sexually Violent Predator Treatment Program ("SC SVPTP") at the state facility Correct Care Solutions ("CCRS") located in Columbia South Carolina. Plaintiff alleges that on May 23, 2018, W., a civilly-committed individual, began assaulting another civilly-committed individual, G., in the recreation yard. (Dkt. No. 11 at 5.) Plaintiff alleges he jumped on G. to protect him and W. began to hit and stab Plaintiff with a pen and fists. (Id. at 5-6.) Plaintiff alleges that CCRS staff restrained W. while waiting for help to arrive. (Id. at 6.) Plaintiff alleges the staff were not at their posts and did not have radios that day. (Id.) Plaintiff alleges Timothy Budz, Director of CCRS was "well aware of. . . [W.'s] violent behaviors . . . since [CCRS] took over the program. (Id.)

         Plaintiff alleges claims for negligence, failure to protect, and mitigating circumstances. (Id. at 4.) In addition, the complaint alleges Plaintiffs constitutional rights were violated under the First, Eighth, and Fourteenth Amendments. (Id.) Defendant produced several incident reports that recount the incident at issue all dated May 23, 2019. (Dkt. Nos. 84-2, 105-2.) In addition, Defendant produced a video of the incident, which does not provide a clear view of the altercation. On April 29, 2019, Defendants filed a motion for summary judgment and Plaintiff responded. (Dkt. Nos. 85, 91, 110, 112.) The Magistrate Judge recommended dismissing Plaintiffs § 1983 claims. (Dkt. No. 107.) Plaintiff filed objections to the R & R and subsequently filed a motion for subpoena. (Dkt. Nos. 109, 111.) Defendant filed responses to Plaintiffs objection to the R & R and Plaintiffs motion for subpoena. (Dkt. No. 114, 115.)

         II. Legal Standard

         A. Summary Judgment

         To prevail on a motion for summary judgment, the movant must demonstrate that there is no genuine issue of any material fact and that the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). The party seeking summary judgment has the burden of identifying the portions of the "pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, any admissions on file, together with the affidavits, if any, which show there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322 (1986). The Court will construe all inferences and ambiguities against the movant and in favor of the non-moving party. US. v. Diebold, Inc., 369 U.S. 654, 655 (1962). The existence of a mere scintilla of evidence in support of the non-moving party's position is insufficient to withstand a motion for summary judgment. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 252 (1986). However, an issue of material fact is genuine if the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict in favor of the non-movant. Id. at 257.

         "When the moving party has carried its burden under Rule 56(c), its opponent must do more than simply show that there is some metaphysical doubt as to the material facts." Matsushita Elec, Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 586 (1986). "In the language of the Rule, the nonmoving party must come forward with "specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial." Id. at 587. "Where the record taken as a whole could not lead a rational trier of fact to find for the non-moving party, there is no 'genuine issue for trial.'" Id. quoting First Nat'l Bank of Ariz. v. Cities Serv. Co., 391 U.S. 253, 289 (1968)).

         B. Report and Recommendation

         The Magistrate Judge makes only a recommendation to this Court. The recommendation has no presumptive weight, and the responsibility for making a final determination remains with this Court. See Mathews v. Weber, 423 U.S. 261, 270 - 71 (1976). This Court is charged with making a de novo determination of those portions of the Report and Recommendation to which specific objection is made. Additionally, the Court may "accept, reject, or modify, in whole or in part, the findings or recommendations made by the magistrate judge." 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1). In the absence of any specific objections, "a district court need not conduct a de novo review, but instead must only satisfy itself that there is no clear error on the face of the record in order to accept the recommendation." See Diamond v. Colonial Life & Accident Ins. Co., 416 F.3d 310, 315 (4th Cir. 2005) (internal quotation omitted). Plaintiff filed objections and therefore the R & R is reviewed de novo.

         III. Discussion

         As the Magistrate Judge ably found, Plaintiffs § 1983 claims fail. Plaintiff asserts a failure to protect claim while also asserting claims for negligence and mitigating circumstances. (Dkt. No. 11 at 5-6.) The Magistrate Judge concedes that Plaintiffs claims for negligence and mitigating circumstances are not actionable under § 1983. See Daniels v. Williams, 474 U.S. 327, 328 (1986) 328 (1986) (holding the Due Process Clause is "simply not implicated by a negligent act of an official causing unintended loss of or injury to life, liberty, or property.") Failure to protect claims filed by a civilly committed SVP are analyzed under a standard coextensive with that applicable to persons under the Eighth Amendment. Francis v. Watson, No. C/A 3:05-2499-JFA-JRM, 2006 WL 2716452, at *6 (D.S.C. Sept. 22, 2006). The Eighth Amendment is not violated by the "negligent failure to protect inmates from violence." Id.

         Plaintiff is a civilly committed individual under the Sexually Violent Predator Act. S. C. Code Ann. § 44-48-10. This type of custody most closely resembles that of a pre-trial detainee. Treece v. McGill, Case No. 3:08-cv-03909-DCN, 2010 WL 3781695, at *4 (D.S.C. Sept. 21, 2010). The Due Process rights of a pre-trial detainee are at least equal to Eighth Amendment protections available to a protected prisoner. Martin v. Gentile,849 F.2d 863, 870 (4th Cir. 1988). The Eighth Amendment requires prison officials to protect prisoners from violence at the hands of other prisoners." Farmer v. Brennan,511 U.S. 825, 833 (1994). The burden ...

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