United States District Court, D. South Carolina, Charleston Division
Timothy M. Cain United States District Judge.
above-captioned cases arise from alleged incidents of prison
violence occurring in 2016 and 2017 at Lee Correctional
Institution (“LCI”) in Bishopville, South
Carolina. Originally, the plaintiffs in each of these actions
were co-plaintiffs in a single action filed in South Carolina
state court alleging federal and state law claims against
Defendants South Carolina Department of Corrections
(“SCDC”); Warden Cecilia Reynolds, individually
and in her official capacity as Warden of LCI (“Warden
Reynolds”); and Warden Aaron Joyner, individually and
in his official capacity as Warden of LCI (“Warden
Joyner”). (ECF No. 1-1). The original action was
removed to federal court, (ECF No. 1), and the court
subsequently severed it into separate actions. (ECF No.
In accordance with 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1) and Local Civil
Rule 73.02, D.S.C., this matter was referred to a magistrate
judge for pretrial handling. Defendants filed identical
motions for partial summary judgment in each of the
above-captioned cases. (ECF No. 106). Plaintiffs filed a
joint response in opposition to partial summary judgment,
(ECF No. 110), and the magistrate judge conducted a hearing,
(ECF No. 112).
matter is now before the court on the magistrate judge's
Report and Recommendation (“Report”),
recommending that the court dismiss Plaintiffs' §
1983 claims against SCDC and that the court deny
Defendants' request that the court decline to exercise
supplemental jurisdiction over Plaintiffs' remaining
state law claims against SCDC. (ECF No. 120). Defendants
filed objections to the Report (ECF No. 123), and Plaintiffs
filed a reply (ECF No. 125) .
allege that while they were incarcerated at LCI in 2016 and
2017, they were subjected to similar attacks by other inmates
as a result of Defendants' “system-wide
failures” to ensure inmate safety and, in particular,
their failure to control “the use of illegal contraband
weapons” at LCI. (ECF No. 21 at 6). Plaintiffs allege
that in each case, the attacks occurred when correctional
officers “abandoned their posts, ” left
“cell or wing doors unlocked, ” or otherwise
acted in violation of SCDC's policies and procedures.
Id. at 7. Moreover, Plaintiffs allege that
Defendants “were aware of these deficiencies and
substandard patterns and practices within SCDC” but
failed to correct them even though they knew “their
failure to correct these substandard patterns or practices
would lead to serious bodily injury [to] the
Plaintiffs.” Id. at 6. Plaintiffs further
allege that these failures, including the substandard
performance of LCI's correctional officers, resulted from
Defendants' “gross[ly] negligen[t]” failure
“to employ sufficient correctional officers, . . . to
enforce its policies and procedures, [or] . . . to train or
retrain its correctional officer[s] to comply with the
existing policies and procedures, ” as well as their
“grossly negligent, reckless, willful, wanton, and/or
deliberate[ly] indifferent actions.” Id. at 8.
assert identical claims pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983,
alleging that all three Defendants abridged their rights
under the Fifth, Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments. (ECF No.
21 at 9-13). Plaintiffs also assert claims against SCDC under
the South Carolina Tort Claims Act. See S.C. Code.
Ann. § 15-78-10 et seq. (ECF No. 21 at 13-15).
Plaintiffs seek injunctive relief; actual, consequential and
punitive damages; and attorney fees and costs. Id.
filed this motion for partial summary judgment, seeking
dismissal of Plaintiffs' § 1983 claims only as to
Defendant SCDC. (ECF No. 106-1 at 7-9). Defendants argue that
because SCDC, a state agency, has not waived its immunity
under the Eleventh Amendment, Plaintiffs cannot maintain
claims against it under § 1983. Id.
Additionally, Defendants argue that if the court dismisses
Plaintiffs' § 1983 claims against SCDC, the court
should decline to exercise supplemental jurisdiction over the
state law claims against SCDC that remain. Id. at
9-10. After initially opposing Defendants' argument that
SCDC was entitled to summary judgment on Eleventh Amendment
Immunity grounds, Plaintiffs all subsequently withdrew their
§ 1983 claims against SCDC. (ECF No. 113 at 4).
Plaintiffs, however, urged the court to retain jurisdiction
over the state law claims against SCDC. (ECF No. 110 at 18).
magistrate judge, after a hearing on the motion, issued a
Report finding that Defendants' motion as to the §
1983 claims against SCDC was moot but recommending that the
court maintain jurisdiction over Plaintiffs' state law
claims against SCDC. (ECF No. 120 at 12). The magistrate
judge noted that “even if the Court grants the motion
for Partial Summary Judgment in its entirety, federal causes
of action will remain against Defendants Warden Reynolds and
Warden Joyner” and concluded that “defendants
have failed to present any compelling reasons for declining
jurisdiction over the state law claims against SCDC.”
Id. at 9.
filed objections to the Report, arguing that if the court
exercises supplemental jurisdiction, Defendants will suffer
prejudice from the differing standards of proof that apply to
§ 1983 claims and claims under the Tort Claims Act. (ECF
No. 123 at 4). Specifically, Defendants argue that jurors are
likely to be confused by the fact that a mere negligence
standard applies to the state law claims against SCDC while a
deliberate indifference standard applies to the federal
claims against the individual Defendants. Id. at 5.
In response, Plaintiffs urge the court to adopt the Report
“in full.” (ECF No. 125 at 3). Highlighting the
fact that their federal and state claims arise from
closely-related factual bases, Plaintiffs argue that no
compelling circumstances exist for the court to decline
jurisdiction and that any potential confusion can be
alleviated by appropriate jury instructions. Id. at
Standard of Review for Report and Recommendation
magistrate makes only a recommendation to this court. The
recommendation has no presumptive weight, and the
responsibility to make a final determination remains with
this court.” Estrada v. Witkowski, 816 F.Supp.
408, 410 (D.S.C. 1993) (citing Mathews v. Weber, 423
U.S. 261, 270-71 (1976)). This Court “shall make a de
novo determination of those portions of the report or
specified proposed findings or recommendations to which
objection is made.” 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1).
“The filing of objections to a magistrate's report
enables the district judge to focus attention on those
issues-factual and legal-that are at the heart of the
parties' dispute.” Thomas v. Arn, 474 U.S.
140, 147 (1985). “[W]hen a party makes general and
conclusory objections that do not direct the court to a
specific error in the magistrate's proposed findings and
recommendations, ” de novo review is unnecessary.
Orpiano v. Johnson, 687 F.2d 44, 47 (4th Cir. 1982)
(citations omitted). As recounted above, Defendants filed a
specific objection as to the magistrate judge's
recommendation that the court continue to exercise
jurisdiction over Plaintiffs' state law claims against
SCDC. Accordingly, the court will consider that portion of
the Report de novo and review the remainder of the Report for
1367 of Title 28 of the United States Code provides, in
pertinent part, as follows:
[I]n any civil action of which the district courts have
original jurisdiction, the district courts shall have
supplemental jurisdiction over all other claims that are so
related to claims in the action within such original
jurisdiction that they form part of the same case or