Bradley v. Sterling et al
ORDER adopting 53 Report and Recommendation; granting Defendants' 33 Motion for Summary Judgment; and dismissing Plaintiff's claims brought under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 with prejudice. Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1367(c), Plaintiff's state law claims, if any, are dismissed withoutprejudice for lack of subject matter jurisdiction. Signed by Honorable R Bryan Harwell on 2/14/2017. (mwal)
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE DISTRICT OF SOUTH CAROLINA
Bryan Sterling, SCDC Director; Ms. Neana )
W. Staley, Warden at Manning; Mr. Roberts,)
A/W at Manning; Ms. Jeannie McKay, A/W )
at Manning; Dr. Valpey, SCDC Doctor;
Civil Action No.: 1:15-cv-04440-RBH
Plaintiff, Freddie Bradley, currently incarcerated at Manning Correctional Institution in
Columbia, South Carolina and proceeding pro se, brought this action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983
alleging Defendants were deliberately indifferent to his serious medical needs. Pending before the
Court is Defendants’ [ECF No. 33] motion for summary judgment.
This matter is before the court with the Report and Recommendation [ECF No. 53] of
Magistrate Judge Shiva V. Hodges filed on December 20, 2016.1 The Magistrate Judge
recommended that Defendants’ motion for summary judgment be granted and the case dismissed.
Plaintiff timely filed Objections [ECF No. 58] to the Magistrate Judge’s Report and
Recommendation. Defendants filed a reply to Plaintiff’s Objections. [ECF No. 59].
Standard of Review
The Magistrate Judge makes only a recommendation to the Court. The recommendation has
no presumptive weight. The responsibility to make a final determination remains with the Court.
This matter was referred to Magistrate Judge Hodges pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(b), and Local
Civil Rule 73.02(B)(2).
Mathews v. Weber, 423 U.S. 261, 270–71 (1976). The Court is charged with making a de novo
determination of those portions of the R & R to which specific objection is made, and the Court may
accept, reject, or modify, in whole or in part, the recommendation of the Magistrate Judge, or
recommit the matter to the Magistrate Judge with instructions. 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1).
The right to de novo review may be waived by the failure to file timely objections. Orpiano
v. Johnson, 687 F.2d 44, 47 (4th Cir. 1982). The Court need not conduct a de novo review when a
party makes only “general and conclusory objections that do not direct the [C]ourt to a specific error
in the [M]agistrate’s proposed findings and recommendations.” Id. Moreover, in the absence of
objections to the R & R, the Court is not required to give any explanation for adopting the
recommendation. Camby v. Davis, 718 F.2d 198, 199 (4th Cir. 1983). However, in the absence of
objections, the Court must “‘satisfy itself that there is no clear error on the face of the record in
order to accept the recommendation.’” Diamond v. Colonial Life & Accident Ins. Co., 416 F.3d
310, 315 (4th Cir. 2005) (quoting Fed. R. Civ. P. 72 advisory committee’s note).
Summary Judgment Standard
“The court shall grant summary judgment if the movant shows that there is no genuine
dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.” Fed. R.
Civ. P. 56(a) (2010). “A party asserting that a fact cannot be or is genuinely disputed must support
the assertion by: (A) citing to particular parts of materials in the record . . .; or (B) 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).
When no genuine issue of any material fact exists, summary judgment is appropriate. See Shealy v.
Winston, 929 F.2d 1009, 1011 (4th Cir. 1991). The facts and inferences to be drawn from the
evidence must be viewed in the light most favorable to the non-moving party. Id. However, "the
mere existence of some alleged factual dispute between the parties will not defeat an otherwise
properly supported motion for summary judgment; the requirement is that there be no genuine issue
of material fact." Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 247-48 (1986).
"Once the moving party has met [its] burden, the nonmoving party must come forward with
some evidence beyond the mere allegations contained in the pleadings to show that there is a
genuine issue for trial." Baber v. Hospital Corp. of Am., 977 F.2d 872, 874-75 (4th Cir. 1992). The
nonmoving party may not rely on beliefs, conjecture, unsupported speculation, or conclusory
allegations to defeat a motion for summary judgment. See Baber, 977 F.2d at 875. Rather, the
nonmoving party is required to submit evidence of specific facts by way of affidavits, depositions,
interrogatories, or admissions to demonstrate the existence of a genuine and material factual issue
for trial. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322 (1986).
Plaintiff claims Defendants were deliberately indifferent to his serious medical needs in that
they failed to provide adequate treatment for his hernia. The Magistrate Judge recommended
granting summary judgment in favor of the Defendants finding that Plaintiff has not demonstrated a
claim of deliberate indifference. The Magistrate Judge noted that Plaintiff received treatment for his
hernia and its complications and that surgery to repair the hernia was scheduled for May 19, 2016.
Although not in the record, the Magistrate Judge emphasized that no party disputed that Plaintiff
had the surgery as scheduled. The Magistrate Judge also recommended summary judgment in favor
of Defendants as to any state law medical malpractice claim because Plaintiff had failed to comply
with the statutory requirements for filing such an action. The Magistrate Judge further found that, to
the extent a constitutional violation occurred, Defendants were entitled to qualified immunity.
Finally, the Magistrate Judge found that Defendants Sterling, Staley, Roberts, and McKay were
entitled to summary judgment to the extent they had been sued in their supervisory capacity.
Plaintiff filed objections to the Magistrate Judge’s Report and Recommendation arguing that
Defendants Sterling, Staley, Roberts, and McKay should not be dismissed because they were sued in
their individual capacities and they were aware of Plaintiff’s hernia but ignored it until they were
served with this lawsuit. Plaintiff claims his hernia caused him extreme pain and surgery should
have been ordered when he first presented with the hernia in 2014, rather than May 2016 after the
lawsuit was served. Plaintiff also argues qualified immunity does not apply to this case.
To state a claim for relief under the Eighth Amendment, the plaintiff must establish that a
prison official was deliberately indifferent to his serious medical needs. Estelle v. Gamble, 429 U.S.
97, 104 (1976). To be deliberately indifferent, a defendant must know of and disregard an
objectively serious condition, medical need, or risk of harm. Rish v. Johnson, 131 F.3d 1092, 1096
(4th Cir. 1997). Deliberate indifference may be demonstrated by either actual intent or reckless
disregard. Miltier v. Beorn, 896 F.2d 848, 851 (4th Cir. 1990). A defendant acts recklessly by
disregarding a substantial risk of danger that is either known to him or which would be apparent to a
reasonable person in his or her position. Miltier, 896 F.2d at 852-53. Disagreements as to
prescribed treatment between the prisoner and physician are not sufficient to state a constitutional
claim, unless exceptional circumstances are alleged. Russell v. Sheffer, 528 F.2d 318, 319 (4th Cir.
1975); Wright v. Collins, 766 F.2d 841, 849 (4th Cir. 1985). Furthermore, medical malpractice or
negligence in diagnosis or treatment is not sufficient to form the basis of a constitutional claim.
Estelle v. Gamble, 429 U.S. 97, 105-06; Johnson v. Quinones, 145 F.3d 164, 168 (4th Cir. 1998).
A review of Plaintiff’s SCDC medical records indicates that Plaintiff was seen multiple
times by SCDC medical staff between June 27, 2012 and March 2, 2016 for his umbilical hernia.
The medical records state that Plaintiff’s umbilical hernia had existed for years, was asymptomatic,
and exhibited no change until March of 2016, when it was noted to have increased in size from 3
centimeters to approximately 5 centimeters. As a result of the hernia’s increase in size from 3 cm to
5 cm, a surgical consult was ordered. Surgery was scheduled for May 19, 2016 at Palmetto
Richland Hospital. In his objections, Plaintiff confirms that he received the surgery to repair his
hernia. See [ECF No. 58-1].
Plaintiff has failed to demonstrate that Defendants were deliberately indifferent to his hernia.
Plaintiff has also failed to establish that surgery to repair the hernia was medically necessary prior to
March of 2016, when the hernia was noted to have increased in size from 3 cm to 5 cm and a
surgical consult was ordered. Although prison officials have an obligation to provide medical care
for those whom it is punishing by incarceration, the care provided need not be the best possible care;
the medical care provided only has to be “reasonable” care. Vinnedge v. Gibbs, 550 F.2d 926 (4th
Cir.1977); see also Blanks v. Cunningham, 409 F.2d 220 (4th Cir.1969); Edwards v. Duncan, 355
F.2d 993 (4th Cir.1966). The mere failure to treat all medical problems to a prisoner's satisfaction,
even if actual medical malpractice is involved, is insufficient to support a claim under § 1983.
Sosabee v. Murphy, 797 F.2d 179 (4th Cir.1986). Plaintiff’s dissatisfaction with Defendants’
treatment, or disagreement with the decision not to surgically repair the hernia prior to May 2016, is
insufficient to state a constitutional violation under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Viewing the evidence in the
light most favorable to the Plaintiff, the record indicates that Plaintiff received reasonable medical
care for the treatment of his hernia.2
Plaintiff has failed to set forth sufficient facts to create a genuine issue of material fact as to
whether Defendants knew of and disregarded Plaintiff’s serious medical needs. Accordingly,
Defendants are entitled to summary judgment on Plaintiff’s claims of deliberate indifference to
serious medical needs brought under 42 U.S.C. § 1983.3 To the extent Plaintiff has alleged any state
law claims, the Court declines to exercise jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. § 1367(c)(3).
Having reviewed the record and applicable law, the court agrees with the recommendations
of the Magistrate Judge and finds that the Magistrate Judge correctly applied the law to the facts of
this case. The court has reviewed Plaintiff’s objections and finds that they are without merit. The
court overrules Plaintiff’s objections and adopts and incorporates by reference the Report and
Recommendation [ECF No. 53] of the Magistrate Judge, except that the Court respectfully declines
to adopt the portion of the Report and Recommendation that recommends granting summary
judgment with respect to any alleged state law claims. Instead, the Court declines to exercise
jurisdiction over any alleged state law claims.
Plaintiff does not appear to make a claim of deliberate indifference with regard to the medical
treatment he received for his urinary complaints to the extent those are separate from his hernia complaints.
In fact, in the first sentence of his objections to the R&R, Plaintiff states that he filed this action alleging
“deliberate indifference to his serious medical needs regarding a hernia on his navel.” [Plaintiff’s
Objections, ECF No. 58]. To the extent Plaintiff alleges a separate deliberate indifference claim regarding
the treatment of his urinary problems, Plaintiff has failed to establish that Defendants were deliberately
indifferent to his urinary problems in that Plaintiff received reasonable care including a prescription for
In light of the Court’s finding that Plaintiff has failed to set forth sufficient facts to create a
genuine issue of material fact as to whether Defendants knew of and disregarded Plaintiff’s serious medical
needs, it is not necessary to address supervisory liability or Defendants’ claims of qualified immunity.
Accordingly, Defendants’ [ECF No. 33] motion for summary judgment is GRANTED and
the Plaintiff’s claims brought under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 are hereby DISMISSED with prejudice.
Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1367(c), Plaintiff’s state law claims, if any, are DISMISSED without
prejudice for lack of subject matter jurisdiction.4
IT IS SO ORDERED.
February 14, 2017
Florence, South Carolina
s/ R. Bryan Harwell
R. Bryan Harwell
United States District Judge
Under 28 U.S.C. § 1367(d), the period of limitations on Plaintiff’s state law claims “shall be
tolled while the claim is pending [in this court] and for a period of 30 days after it is dismissed unless State
law provides for a longer tolling period.” 18 U.S.C. § 1367(d).
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