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Cheatham v. Tross

United States District Court, D. South Carolina

November 13, 2019

Freddie Cheatham, Plaintiff,
v.
Dr. Rozanna Tross, Defendant.

          ORDER REGARDING AMENDMENT OF COMPLAINT

          PAIGE J. GOSSETT UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE

         The plaintiff, Freddie Cheatham, proceeding pro se, brings this civil rights action. The Complaint has been filed pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915. This matter is before the court pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(b) and Local Civil Rule 73.02(B)(2) (D.S.C.). Having reviewed the Complaint in accordance with applicable law, the court finds this action is subject to summary dismissal if Plaintiff does not amend the Complaint to cure the deficiencies identified herein.

         I. Factual and Procedural Background

         Plaintiff indicates he is detained in the South Carolina Department of Mental Health's (“the Department”) Sexually Violent Predator (“SVP”) Program pursuant to an order of civil commitment. (Compl., ECF No. 1 at 6.) Plaintiff filed this action on a standard complaint form for pro se prisoners claiming violations of their civil rights. Plaintiff indicates that he brings this action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 for violations of the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments. (Id. at 4.) Plaintiff also indicates that he raises claims of “malpractice, ” slander, and “false detainment.” (Id.) The only defendant listed by Plaintiff is Dr. Rozanna Tross of the Department, whom Plaintiff names only in her official capacity. (Id.at 1-2.) Plaintiff indicates in other parts of the Complaint that he seeks to directly sue the Department. (Id. at 6, 10.)

         Plaintiff indicates he was convicted in a criminal trial of assault and battery of a high and aggravated nature, and because that crime is not sexual in nature, the Department lacked jurisdiction to civilly commit Plaintiff under the SVP Program under South Carolina Code § 44-48-20. (Id. at 6-7.) Plaintiff seeks damages against the Department for this violation of his rights and to be released from the Program. (Id. at 7, 10.)

         Additionally, Plaintiff claims that since arriving in the SVP Program, he has diligently kept up with his treatment so that he can be released, but Dr. Rozanna Tross said otherwise in her latest “forensics annual treatment report.” (Id. at 7.) Plaintiff claims that in her report, Tross states that Plaintiff fails to participate in group treatment, has sexual relations with men, and was previously committed to the SVP Program. (Id. at 8, 13.) Plaintiff claims that Tross's report has no basis in fact and is defamatory, and that she made those statements for the purpose of keeping Plaintiff in the Program. (Id. at 8-9.) Plaintiff seeks damages against the Department based on Tross's defamation. (Id. at 9.)

         Plaintiff also raises a “breach of contract” claim against the Department's “Forensic Evaluation Program” because the private, for-profit companies that provide medical care to SVP Program detainees-Correct Care and Well-Path-are “blatantly” denying Plaintiff proper medical care. (Id. at 10.) Specifically, Plaintiff claims those companies have neglected him when he has requested medical care, over-dosed his insulin, and caused him to be hospitalized due to a blood sugar condition. (Id. at 10-11.) He claims the companies provide substandard medical care to save money for the State of South Carolina. (Id. at 10.) Plaintiff seeks damages for the lack of medical care. (Id. at 13.)

         II. Discussion

         A. Standard of Review

         Under established local procedure in this judicial district, a careful review has been made of the pro se Complaint. The Complaint has been filed 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. This statute allows a district court to dismiss the case upon a finding that the action “is frivolous or malicious, ” “fails to state a claim on which relief may be granted, ” or “seeks monetary relief against a defendant who is immune from such relief.” 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B).[1]

         To state a claim upon which relief can be granted, the plaintiff must do more than make mere conclusory statements. See Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009); Bell Atl. 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. Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678; Twombly, 550 U.S. at 570. The reviewing court need only accept as true the complaint's factual allegations, not its legal conclusions. Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678; Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555.

         This court is required to liberally construe pro se complaints, which are held to a less stringent standard than those drafted by attorneys. Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 94 (2007); King v. Rubenstein, 825 F.3d 206, 214 (4th Cir. 2016). Nonetheless, the requirement of liberal construction does not mean that the court can ignore a clear failure in the pleading to allege facts which set forth a claim cognizable in a federal district court. See Weller v. Dep't of Soc. Servs., 901 F.2d 387 (4th Cir. 1990); see also Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 684 (2009) (outlining pleading requirements under Rule 8 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure for “all civil actions”).

         B. Analysis

         Initially, the court construes Plaintiff's Complaint to raise claims only against the Department. Plaintiff names Dr. Rozanna Tross as the only defendant in the pleading, but Plaintiff makes clear that he has named her only in her official capacity as an employee of the Department. See Kentucky v. Graham, 473 U.S. 159, 166-67 (1985) (“Official-capacity suits . . . ‘generally represent only another way of pleading an action against an entity of which an officer is an agent.' ”) (citing Monell v. New York City Dep't of Soc. Servs., 436 U.S. 658, 690, n.22 (1978)). And in parts of the ...


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