United States District Court, D. South Carolina
ORDER AND NOTICE
V. Hodges United States Magistrate Judge.
Watts (“Plaintiff”), proceeding pro se and in
forma pauperis, filed this complaint against the United
States of America (“Defendant”) seeking damages
under the Federal Tort Claims Act (“FTCA”).
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.
Factual and Procedural Background
is a federal prisoner currently incarcerated at Yazoo City
Low Federal Correctional Institution (“FCI”) in
Yazoo, MS. [ECF No. 1 at 1]. Plaintiff alleges he sustained
tears to his right acromioclavicular and medial collateral
ligaments (“ACL” and “MCL”) while he
was detained in federal custody at Irwin County Detention
Center in or around December 2007. Id. He claims his
repeated requests for medical attention were ignored by the
sentencing judge and Federal Bureau of Prisons
(“BOP”) staff. Id. at 1-2. Plaintiff
alleges he sustained a fall in 2015 or 2016, causing
additional injury to his right knee. Id. at 2. He
states he received a brace and cortisone injections following
the injury. Id. He claims he was subsequently
transported to FCI Edgefield in Edgefield, SC, where he
underwent magnetic resonance imaging (“MRI”).
Id. He indicates his brace was confiscated by BOP
staff upon transfer because it contained metal rods.
Id. He claims the BOP staff assured him the brace
would be replaced, but it was not. Id. He indicates
he underwent arthroscopic examination of his right knee in
preparation for surgery on December 13, 2018, but has not yet
undergone surgery. Id.
alleges his knee dislocates from the joint, causing
difficulty walking. Id. He claims he has gained
weight and his muscles have atrophied because he is unable to
engage in effective exercise. Id. He states he was
previously housed with two other inmates in a cell designed
for two and had difficulty using the toilet stall because of
his knee injury. Id.
alleges he filed a tort claim with the BOP on January 6,
2019. Id. at 1, ECF No. 1-1 at 1-4. He maintains the
BOP acknowledged receipt of the claim on January 28, 2019.
Id.; ECF No. 1-1 at 5. He acknowledges he has not
received a right-to-sue letter, but states he has waited the
requisite period and is entitled to bring suit against
claims Defendant's negligent acts and omissions caused
him to lose earning potential, health, and vigor.
Id. at 1, 2. He seeks compensatory damages of $950,
000. Id. at 2.
Standard of Review
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. § 1915(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).
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). 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). In evaluating a pro se complaint, the
plaintiff's 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. 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).
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). 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
raises a claim of negligence pursuant to the FTCA. “The
FTCA represents a limited congressional waiver of sovereign
immunity for injury or loss caused by the negligent or
wrongful act of a Government employee acting within the scope
of his or her employment.” Medina v. U.S., 259
F.3d 220, 223 (4th Cir. 2001). Because Plaintiff alleges a
substantial part of the acts and omissions underlying his
claim occurred in South Carolina (ECF No. 1 at 1), South
Carolina's substantive law is controlling. See
28 U.S.C. § 1346(b)(1) (permitting plaintiffs to recover
damages in civil actions for injury or loss caused the
“negligent or wrongful act or omission of any employee
of the Government while acting within the scope of his office
or employment, under circumstances where the United States,
if a private person, would be liable to the claimant in
accordance with the law of the place where the act or