Jones v. Spivey, C/A No. 0:12-739-BHH-PJG

CourtUnited States District Courts. 4th Circuit. United States District Court of South Carolina
Writing for the CourtPaige J. Gossett UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
Docket NumberC/A No. 0:12-739-BHH-PJG
PartiesDr. Anthony B. Jones, Sr., Plaintiff, v. Peggy E. Spivey, Director; C. Rufus Hodge, Major, Defendants.
Decision Date08 September 2014

Dr. Anthony B. Jones, Sr., Plaintiff,
Peggy E. Spivey, Director; C. Rufus Hodge, Major, Defendants.

C/A No. 0:12-739-BHH-PJG


September 8, 2014


The plaintiff, Dr. Anthony B. Jones, Sr. ("Jones"), a self-represented state prisoner, filed this civil rights matter pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. This matter is before the court pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(b) and Local Civil Rule 73.02(B)(2) DSC for a Report and Recommendation on the defendants' motion for summary judgment. (ECF No. 50.) Pursuant to Roseboro v. Garrison, 528 F.2d 309 (4th Cir. 1975), the court advised Jones of the summary judgment and dismissal procedures and the possible consequences if he failed to respond adequately to the defendants' motion. (ECF No. 51.) Jones filed a response in opposition. (ECF No. 54.) Having carefully considered the parties' submissions and the applicable law, the court concludes that the defendants' motion should be granted.


Jones alleges that, while a pre-trial detainee housed at Kershaw County Detention Center, he was denied medical care and medication for his mental illness. He alleges that he told the named defendants that he needed medication and that he was hearing voices. Jones also generally

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complains about the conditions of his confinement and his lock-down status. Jones seeks monetary damages.1


A. Summary Judgment Standard

Summary judgment is appropriate only if the moving party "shows that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the [moving party] is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(a). A party may support or refute that a material fact is not disputed by "citing to particular parts of materials in the record" or by "showing that the materials cited do not establish the absence or presence of a genuine dispute, or that an adverse party cannot produce admissible evidence to support the fact." Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(c)(1). Rule 56 mandates entry of summary judgment "against a party who fails to make a showing sufficient to establish the existence of an element essential to that party's case." Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322 (1986).

In deciding whether there is a genuine issue of material fact, the evidence of the non-moving party is to be believed and all justifiable inferences must be drawn in favor of the non-moving party. See Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 255 (1986). However, "[o]nly disputes over facts that might affect the outcome of the suit under the governing law will properly preclude the

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entry of summary judgment. Factual disputes that are irrelevant or unnecessary will not be counted." Id. at 248.

The moving party has the burden of proving that summary judgment is appropriate. Once the moving party makes this showing, however, the opposing party may not rest upon mere allegations or denials, but rather must, by affidavits or other means permitted by the Rule, set forth specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(c), (e); Celotex Corp., 477 U.S. at 322. Further, while the federal court is charged with liberally construing a complaint filed by a pro se litigant to allow the development of a potentially meritorious case, see, e.g., Cruz v. Beto, 405 U.S. 319 (1972), the requirement of liberal construction does not mean that the court can ignore a clear failure in the pleadings to allege facts which set forth a federal claim, nor can the court assume the existence of a genuine issue of material fact where none exists. Weller v. Dep't of Soc. Servs., 901 F.2d 387 (4th Cir. 1990).

B. Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment

1. Pleading Requirements

The defendants first argue that Jones's Complaint, with its conclusory allegations and unsupported factual assertions, fails to comply with the minimum pleading requirements of Rule 8(a) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. (Defs.' Mem. Supp. Summ. J., ECF No. 50-1 at 5-6.) Rule 8(a)(2) provides that a complaint must contain "a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief." Although the court must liberally construe a pro se complaint, the United States Supreme Court has made clear that a plaintiff must do more than make conclusory statements to state a claim. See Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 667-68 (2009); Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007). Further, the reviewing court need only accept as true the

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complaint's factual allegations, not its legal conclusions. Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678-79. To the extent Jones's claims may be liberally construed and identified from the factual allegations in the Complaint, they are addressed below. However, to the extent that Jones may be attempting to raise any additional claims, the court finds that the defendants' motion should be granted and those claims should be dismissed as too conclusory and insufficient to state a claim upon which relief may be granted.

2. Deliberate Indifference—Medical Treatment

The standard for reviewing medical claims of pre-trial detainees under the Fourteenth Amendment is essentially the same as that for a convicted prisoner under the Eighth Amendment—deliberate indifference to serious medical needs. Hill v. Nicodemus, 979 F.2d 987, 991 (4th Cir. 1992); Martin v. Gentile, 849 F.2d 863, 871 (4th Cir. 1988) (citing Estelle v. Gamble, 429 U.S. 97 (1976)). Not "every claim by a prisoner [alleging] that he has not received adequate medical treatment states a violation of the [Constitution]." Estelle, 429 U.S. at 105. A defendant is deliberately indifferent if he has actual knowledge of a substantial risk of harm to a detainee and disregards that substantial risk. Farmer v. Brennan, 511 U.S. 825, 847 (1994); see also Parrish v. Cleveland, 372 F.3d 294, 302 (4th Cir. 2004). The government is required to provide medical care for incarcerated individuals. Estelle, 429 U.S. at 102. However, to establish deliberate indifference, the treatment "must be so grossly incompetent, inadequate or excessive as to shock the conscience or to be intolerable to fundamental fairness." Miltier v. Beorn, 896 F.2d 848 (4th Cir. 1990). Mere negligence, malpractice, or incorrect diagnosis is not actionable under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. See Estelle, 429 U.S. at 106. Further, while the Constitution requires a prison to provide detainees with medical care, it does not demand that a prisoner receive the treatment of his choice. Jackson v. Fair, 846 F.2d

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811, 817 (1st Cir. 1988). "[A detainee's] mere difference of opinion over matters of expert medical judgment or a course of medical treatment fail[s] to rise to the level of a constitutional violation." Nelson v. Shuffman, 603 F.3d 439, 449 (8th Cir. 2010) (internal quotation marks and citation omitted); see also Wright v. Collins, 766 F.2d 841, 849 (4th Cir. 1985). Moreover, a prisoner's disagreement as to the appropriate treatment fails to rise to the level of a constitutional claim and fails to create a genuine issue of material fact. See Nelson, 603 F.3d at 449; see also O'Connor v. Pierson, 426 F.3d 187, 202 (2d Cir. 2005) ("Lay people are not qualified to determine . . . medical fitness, whether physical or mental; that is what independent medical experts are for."); Dulany v. Carnahan, 132 F.3d 1234, 1240 (8th Cir. 1997) ("In the face of medical records indicating that treatment was provided and physician affidavits indicating that the care provided was adequate, an inmate cannot create a question of fact by merely stating that she did not feel she received adequate treatment."); Fleming v. Lefevere, 423 F. Supp. 2d 1064, 1070 (C.D. Cal. 2006) ("Plaintiff's own opinion as to the appropriate course of care does not create a triable issue of fact because he has not shown that he has any medical training or expertise upon which to base such an opinion.").

Jones alleges that he was denied "proper medical attention," and that he spoke to Defendant Spivey and informed her that he needed psychotropic medicine and told Defendant Hodge that he was hearing voices. Jones does not specify the date on which he spoke to the defendants.

As an initial matter, the named defendants are all non-medical personnel. To establish a claim for denial of medical care against non-medical personnel, a prisoner must show that they failed to promptly provide needed medical treatment, deliberately interfered with prison doctors' treatment, or tacitly authorized or were indifferent to the prison physicians' misconduct. Miltier v. Beorn, 896 F.2d at 854. Moreover, because most prison officials are not trained medical personnel, they are


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