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Winfree v. South Central Regional Jail

United States District Court, S.D. West Virginia, Charleston

January 16, 2018

SHAWN P. WINFREE, Plaintiff,
v.
SOUTH CENTRAL REGIONAL JAIL, et al., Defendants.

          PROPOSED FINDINGS AND RECOMMENDATION

          DWANE L. TINSLEY UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE

         This matter is assigned to the Honorable Thomas E. Johnston, Chief United States District Judge. Pursuant to a Standing Order (ECF No. 4), this matter was referred to the undersigned United States Magistrate Judge for submission of proposed findings and a recommendation for disposition, pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(B). Pending before the court are the following motions: a Motion to Dismiss filed by defendants Roop and the South Central Regional Jail (hereinafter “the Regional Jail Defendants”) (ECF No. 16); a Motion to Dismiss filed by defendants PrimeCare Medical, Inc. and Nurse Shawanna (hereinafter “the PrimeCare Defendants”); and a Motion to Dismiss for Failure to Prosecute filed by the Regional Jail Defendants (ECF No. 22), in which the PrimeCare Defendants have moved to join (ECF No. 24).

         PROCEDURAL HISTORY

         On July 14, 2016, the plaintiff filed a Complaint (ECF No. 2), alleging that Officer Roop, a correctional officer at the South Central Regional Jail (“SCRJ”), and Nurse Shawanna, an employee of PrimeCare Medical, Inc., the contracted medical provider at the SCRJ, shared his medical information with other inmates on his section, after he was falsely diagnosed with Hepatitis B. (ECF No. 2 at 4-5). Specifically, the plaintiff alleges that, on June 9, 2016, he was moved to a lockdown section of the SCRJ per PrimeCare Medical Inc.'s directive. While housed in the lockdown section, he asked Officer Roop why he had been placed there, and Roop allegedly stated that it was because he had tested positive for Hepatitis B. (Id.) This disclosure was allegedly overheard by, or made to, an inmate in a nearby cell, and such disclosure was allegedly repeated by Nurse Shawanna (who, according to her Motion to Dismiss, is Shawanna Bradshaw) while she was dispensing medication in that section. (Id. at 5). The plaintiff further alleges that these disclosures caused him “issues with every inmate in the section.” (Id. at 4). The Complaint seeks the following relief:

I'm asking for compensation for pain & suffering, mental anguish, deplumation [sic; defamation] of character, slander. Because I had gotten into fights cause of what these staff caused me and now have to be housed in a PC section where I'm in a cell 23 hours a day. And my hippa [sic; HIPAA] law rights was violated. When I had sent grievances to the medical administrator and she told me she'd be down to the section to speak with me over this matter and never did. And when I had medical have bloodwork and labs re-drawn they came back negative and the chronic care doctor said I never had it to begin with and he wasn't the one that posted the note saying I did or ever had it. So that's medical mile practice [sic; malpractice] on PrimeCare Medical staff and for all of the issues they caused me!

(Id. at 5-6).

         According to the docket sheet, the plaintiff was subsequently transferred to the Western Regional Jail (“WRJ”). On April 4, 2017, the undersigned entered an Order granting the plaintiff's Application to Proceed Without Prepayment of Fees and Costs and directed that service of process be attempted on the defendants by certified mail, return receipt requested, with delivery restricted to the addressee. (ECF No. 10). However, all of the summonses were signed for by a “Billy Hinamon.” (ECF Nos. 12-15). On April 21, 2017, the Regional Jail Defendants filed their initial Motion to Dismiss (ECF No. 16) and a Memorandum of Law in support thereof (ECF No. 17). On May 1, 2017, the PrimeCare Defendants filed their initial Motion to Dismiss (ECF No. 19) and Memorandum of Law in support thereof (ECF No. 20).

         As noted on the docket sheet, however, on April 27, 2017, the copy of the undersigned's April 4, 2017 Order that had been mailed to the plaintiff at the WRJ was returned as undeliverable, stating “no longer in this facility.” (ECF No. 18). A search of the inmate locators on the websites of the West Virginia Regional Jail and Correctional Facilities Authority and the West Virginia Division of Corrections was also fruitless, indicating that the plaintiff was not in the custody of either state agency. Furthermore, the plaintiff has not provided updated contact information to the court and defendants as required by Local Rule 83.3 of the Local Rules of Civil Procedure for the United States District Court for the Southern District of West Virginia. Thus, his whereabouts are unknown.

         On November 14, 2017, the Regional Jail Defendants filed a second Motion to Dismiss (ECF No. 22) and Memorandum of Law (ECF No. 23), requesting that the presiding District Judge dismiss this civil action, pursuant to Rule 41(b) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, for failure to prosecute this matter. On November 15, 2017, the PrimeCare Defendants filed a Motion for Joinder in the Regional Jail Defendants' Motion to Dismiss for Failure to Prosecute (ECF No. 24).

         ANALYSIS

         A. This matter should be dismissed for failure to prosecute.

         Rule 41(b) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure provides for the dismissal of an action for the plaintiff's failure to prosecute or to comply with the court's rules or orders. See Link v. Wabash R. Co., 370 U.S. 626, 629 (1962) (“The authority of a federal trial court to dismiss a plaintiff's action with prejudice because of his failure to prosecute cannot seriously be doubted.”); see also McCargo v. Hedrick, 545 F.2d 393 (4th Cir. 1976). However, in determining whether such a harsh sanction is appropriate, the court must balance the following factors: (1) the degree of personal responsibility on the part of the plaintiff; (2) the amount of prejudice to the defendant caused by the delay in prosecution; (3) the presence or absence of a history of plaintiff deliberately proceeding in a dilatory fashion; and (4) the effectiveness of sanctions less drastic than dismissal. Davis v. Williams, 588 F.2d 69, 70 (4th Cir. 1978).

         It was the plaintiff's responsibility to notify the court of his release from custody and to provide updated contact information, which he failed to do, and he has not communicated in any way concerning this case for over a year. Thus, it appears that the plaintiff no longer wishes to pursue this matter and he is wholly responsible for the inability of this matter to progress. Additionally, because the court and the parties have no way of locating the plaintiff, the defendants are greatly prejudiced in their ability to defend this matter. Thus, dismissal appears to be the only appropriate sanction.

         Accordingly, the undersigned proposes that the presiding District Judge FIND that the plaintiff has wholly ...


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