United States District Court, D. South Carolina
DENNIS J. JOHNSON, #10297-018, Plaintiff,
CHRISTOPHER SIMPSON, Defendant.
HOWE HENDRICKS, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
Dennis J. Johnson (“Plaintiff”) is an inmate in
the custody of the Bureau of Prisons and is currently housed
at FCI Estill. Plaintiff filed a pro se complaint
seeking a monetary award under the Inmate Accident
Compensation Act (“IACA”), 18 U.S.C. §
4126(c), for a work-related injury he sustained to his head,
which resulted in permanent disfigurement. Plaintiff claims a
violation of his Fourteenth Amendment rights under Bivens
v. Six Unknown Fed. Narcotics Agents, 403 U.S. 388
(1971), contending that Defendant Christopher Simpson, the
assistant safety manager at FCI Estill, refused to file a
claim for compensation on Plaintiff's
behalf. In accordance with 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)
and Local Civil Rule 73.02(B)(2)(c) (D.S.C.), the matter was
referred to a United States Magistrate Judge for initial
February 11, 2019, Magistrate Judge Kaymani D. West filed a
Report and Recommendation (“Report”) outlining
the issues and recommending that the Court summarily dismiss
the complaint without prejudice and without service of
process. Attached to the Report was a notice advising
Plaintiff of his right to file written objections to the
Report within fourteen days of being served with a copy.
Plaintiff filed objections on February 27, 2019. The Report
sets forth the relevant factual and procedural background as
well as the relevant legal standards, which the Court
incorporates here without recitation.
Magistrate Judge makes only a recommendation to the Court.
The recommendation has no presumptive weight, and the
responsibility to make a final determination remains with the
Court. Mathews v. Weber, 423 U.S. 261 (1976). The
Court is charged with making a de novo determination
only as to those portions of the Report to which specific
objections are made, and the Court may accept, reject, or
modify, in whole or in part, the recommendation of the
Magistrate Judge, or recommit the matter to the Magistrate
Judge with instructions. 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1). In the
absence of specific objections, the Court reviews the matter
only for clear error. See Diamond v. Colonial Life &
Accident Ins. Co., 416 F.3d 310, 315 (4th Cir. 2005)
(stating that “in the absence of a timely filed
objection, 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.'”) (quoting Fed.R.Civ.P.
72 advisory committee's note).
Magistrate Judge recommended that the Court dismiss the
complaint without prejudice because it does not assert a
cognizable constitutional violation. The Magistrate Judge found
that under the clear language of the IACA:
Plaintiff-or Simpson on Plaintiff's behalf-may not file a
claim until 45 days prior to Plaintiff's release date; if
that claim is approved, Plaintiff's amount of
compensation will be calculated based on the extent of his
injuries at that time. While Plaintiff may appoint a legal
representative, neither he nor his representative is entitled
to any money at this time-still approximately ten years
before Plaintiff's projected release date. Accordingly,
by not filing Plaintiff's claim, Simpson has not violated
Plaintiff's asserted constitutionally vested right in his
(ECF No. 12 at 4).
appears to contend that the Magistrate Judge misapplied the
law in that she treated the injury as an impairment rather
than as disfigurement and failed to appropriately consider
the fact that Plaintiff has appointed his sister as his legal
representative for the purpose of receiving a lump sum award.
Plaintiff argues that had Defendant filed the claim for
compensation when Plaintiff requested, Plaintiff's legal
representative would have received the lump sum award under
the IACA and the Federal Employees' Compensation Act
(“FECA”), 5 U.S.C. § 8101, et seq..
(ECF No. 15 at 9). For support, Plaintiff cites the following
governing regulations, which he also cited in the complaint:
28 C.F.R. §§ 301.303, 301.304, 301.314 These
citations do not support Plaintiff's position and rather
they reinforce the Magistrate Judge's findings.
IACA is a workers' compensation scheme that covers
federal prisoners injured during the course of their prison
employment and it provides the exclusive remedy for a federal
prisoner who was injured while working. United States v.
Demko, 385 U.S. 149, 152 (1966). See also Aston v.
United States, 625 F.2d 1210, 1211 (5th Cir. 1980)
(“Demko makes clear that [the IACA] is the sole remedy
against the government where the injury is work-related, and
the cause of the injury is irrelevant so long as the injury
itself occurred while the prisoner was on the
job”); Koprowski v. Baker, 822 F.3d 248, 250
(6th Cir. 2016). The IACA clearly states that a prisoner
cannot file a claim to recover compensation for a physical
impairment caused by a work-related injury earlier than 45
days before he is released from custody. 28 C.F.R. §
301.303(a). See 28 C.F.R. § 301.301 (“No
compensation for work-related injuries resulting in physical
impairment shall be paid prior to an inmate's
release”). The amount recoverable is specified in the
compensation schedule in FECA. Id. at §
301.314(b). FECA does not, however, provide relief to inmates
who are injured during prison work detail. See Id.
at § 301.319 (“Recovery under the Inmate Accident
Compensation procedure was declared by the U.S. Supreme Court
to be the exclusive remedy in the case of work-related
injury”). Plaintiff acknowledges that he cannot receive
an award under IACA while in custody, but asserts that his
sister could receive the award as his personal
representative. (ECF No. 15 at 11). While the IACA provides
an avenue by which an inmate can appoint a personal
representative, 28 U.S.C. § 301.304(a), the regulation
contains no provision allowing a personal representative to
collect an award prior to the inmate's release from
custody. And, while Plaintiff appears to suggest that he is
entitled to expedited relief on the basis that his injury
caused disfigurement rather than impairment, there is no
provision in the regulation to support this contention.
there is no basis for finding that Defendant's refusal to
submit the claim for compensation will prevent Plaintiff from
applying for the lump sum award pursuant to the
specifications in § 301.303(a). Although the governing
regulations require that an inmate's work supervisor
complete and forward a BP-140 injury report to the
Institutional Safety Manager at the time of the injury, 28
C.F.R. § 301.105(a), the manager's failure to do so
does not preclude Plaintiff from obtaining relief under the
IACA. See Hatfield v. United States, No.
5:18-cv-00420, 2018 WL 8621209, at * 7 & n.2 (S.D. W.Va.
Aug. 29, 2018) (collecting cases).
Court has reviewed the record, the applicable law, and the
findings and recommendations of the Magistrate Judge and
finds no error, let alone clear error. Accordingly, the Court
adopts and incorporates the Magistrate Judge's Report
(ECF No. 12) and dismisses this action without prejudice and
without service of process.
IS SO ORDERED.
OF RIGHT TO APPEAL
parties are hereby notified that any right to appeal this
Order is governed by Rules 3 and 4 of the ...