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Muhammad v. CCOH or CCHM

United States District Court, D. South Carolina

December 18, 2019

Ameen A. Muhammad, #1337028, Plaintiff,
v.
CCOH or CCHM, H. Drayton, Theodolph Jacobs, O'Brien, G. Williams, and John Doe, Defendants.

          ORDER AND NOTICE

          Shiva V. Hodges United States Magistrate Judge

         Ameen A. Muhammad (“Plaintiff”), proceeding pro se and in forma pauperis, filed this complaint pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against CCOH or CCHM, Detention Center Director H. Drayton (“Drayton”), Dr. Theodolph Jacobs (“Dr. Jacobs”), Dr. O'Brien, Dr. G. Williams (“Dr. Williams”), and John Doe (“Doe”) (collectively “Defendants”), in their official and individual capacities, alleging violations of his constitutional rights. 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.

         I. Factual and Procedural Background

         Plaintiff is a pretrial detainee incarcerated at Sheriff Al Cannon Detention Center (“Detention Center”) in North Charleston. [ECF No. 1 at 2, 4]. He alleges Defendants violated his due process rights under the Fourteenth Amendment by subjecting him to cruel and unusual punishment and providing inadequate medical care in violation of the Eighth Amendment. Id. at 4. He claims additional violations based on negligence and breach of contract.[1] Id.

         Plaintiff alleges Defendants violated minimum standards for screening for communicable diseases in local detention facilities. Id. at 4. He claims that on November 15, 2019, hepatitis A vaccines were administered to all inmates in the Detention Center. Id. at 5. He maintains he has been experiencing symptoms of hepatitis A, including headache, fatigue, throbbing behind his left eye, blurred vision, and anal irritation. Id. at 5-6. He alleges CCMH did not properly screen for the disease, allowing him to become infected.[2] Id. at 5.

         Plaintiff demands compensatory damages of $5, 000, 000, “nominal” damages of $100, 000, punitive damages of $5, 000, 000, a declaratory judgment, a change in policy, “or reduced likelihood of future violations.” Id. at 6.

         II. Discussion

         A. Standard of Review

         Plaintiff 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).

         A 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).

         The 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 678‒79.

         B. Analysis

         1. CCOH or CCHM Not A “Person” Under § 1983

         To state a plausible claim for relief under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, [3] an aggrieved party must sufficiently allege that he was injured by “the deprivation of any [of his or her] rights, privileges, or immunities secured by the [United States] Constitution and laws” by a “person” acting “under color of state law.” See 42 U.S.C. § 1983; see generally 5 Charles Alan Wright & Arthur R. Miller, Federal Practice and Procedure § 1230 (3d ed. 2014). Only “persons” may act under color of state law; therefore, a defendant in a § 1983 action must qualify as a “person.” For example, inanimate objects such as buildings, facilities, and grounds are not “persons” and cannot act under color of state law. See Preval v. Reno, 57 F.Supp.2d 307, 310 (E.D. Va. 1999) (“[T]he Piedmont Regional Jail is not a ‘person,' and therefore not amenable to ...


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