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Roberts v. McKenzie

United States District Court, Fourth Circuit

June 19, 2013

McKENZIE, [1] et al., Defendants.


ALEXANDER WILLIAMS, Jr., District Judge.

Seeking damages, Plaintiff Brandon Roberts filed suit against Defendants Wilt, Dorcun, Adam, McKenzie, Stouffer, and Rowley[2] in the Circuit Court for Baltimore City, Maryland on April 25, 2012. ECF No. 2. Roberts alleged that on January 20, 2009, while he was housed at the North Branch Correctional Institution ("NBCI") on the segregation tier, Defendants McKenzie, Dorcun, Adam and Wilt used excessive force against him. He also claims his constitutional rights were violated in other respects. Id. On August 15, 2012, Defendant McKenzie removed the matter to this Court. ECF No. 1.

Defendants, by counsel, have filed a Motion to Dismiss, or in the Alternative for Summary Judgment. ECF No. 19. Plaintiff has responded.[3] ECF Nos. 21 & 23. After review of the pleadings, and applicable law, the Court determines that a hearing is unwarranted. See Local Rule 105.6 (D. Md. 2011). For the reasons that follow, the Motion to Dismiss, construed as a Motion for Summary Judgment, will be GRANTED.


Roberts, an inmate confined at ("NBCI"), alleges that on January 20, 2009, his constitutional rights were violated by Defendants Adams, Dorcun, McKenzie, Rowley, Stouffer, and Wilt. Plaintiff states that he was deprived of fresh air due to inadequate ventilation, locked windows and use of chemical agents. He also alleges he was denied medical treatments after Defendants used excessive force on him. He claims that Stouffer failed to properly train, supervise or discipline his subordinates. ECF No. 2.

Defendants' version of events is substantially different. On January 20, 2009, Plaintiff was housed on the disciplinary segregation unit at NBCI. ECF No. 19, Ex. 1. In compliance with a scheduled operation to reassign inmates in the unit, Plaintiff was reassigned from a single cell to a double cell. Id., Exs. 1-5. To effectuate his cell move, Plaintiff was restrained by being handcuffed behind his back with a tether attached, in compliance with existing protocol. Id., Exs. 2-5. The tether is used to secure inmates in their cell, in order to keep control of the inmate and permit the safe removal and retrieval of the handcuffs. Inmates place their hand in a door slot to allow removal of the handcuffs. Id. Defendants aver that Plaintiff briefly resisted the removal of his handcuffs. Id.

Defendants aver that the only physical contact used was the amount necessary to maintain control over Plaintiff and ensure his compliance with the removal of his handcuffs. Id., Ex. 2, 3, & 5. Video of Plaintiff being moved between cells, shown to Plaintiff on December 18, 2012 (ECF No. 23), supports Defendants' version of events. ECF No. 19, Ex. 6. Plaintiff disputes that the video provides a proper account of the incident. ECF No. 23. Defendants Adams, Dorcon, McKenzie and Wilt aver that they did not assault harass, provoke or intentionally intimidate Plaintiff and did not witness anyone else assault, harass, provoke or intentionally intimidate Plaintiff. ECF No. 19, Ex. 2-5. The officers aver they have been properly trained on the use of force. Id.

The January 20, 2009, use of force log records four separate incidents occurring on the disciplinary segregation tier. Id., Ex. 7. The use of chemical agents or pepper spray is recorded on the log. There is no indication in the log that any chemical or pepper agents were used during the January 20, 2009 incidents. No chemical agents or pepper spray were dispersed near Plaintiff. And the ventilation system was working property on January 20, 2009. Ids., Ex. 2-5 & 8. Windows at NBCI were sealed at that time to conserve energy during the winter months. Id., Ex. 8.

Plaintiff did not complain of any injury, pain or difficulty breathing to Defendants and the video does not show him in any distress. Id., Ex. 2-6. Plaintiff filled out a sick call slip on January 22, 2009, claiming he was suffering swelling to arms and elbows, bruising and minor cuts with pain to his wrists. He was seen by medical staff on January 28, 2009. Id., Ex. 9. The medical records record no evidence of swelling, bruises, or scratches, and it was noted that Plaintiff's respiration was normal and he was not in distress at the time of the examination. Id.

On January 11, 2009, Plaintiff requested to see psychology staff but did not provide a basis for his request. Id., Ex. 10. He was seen at the mental health unit on February 25, 2009 and expressed an intent to use physical violence against others as a method to achieve single cell status. He did not express suicidal or homicidal ideation. Id.

Standard of Review

A. Motion to Dismiss

The purpose of a motion to dismiss pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b) (6) is to test the sufficiency of the plaintiff's complaint. See Edwards v. City of Goldsboro, 178 F.3d 231, 243 (4th Cir. 1999). The dismissal for failure to state a claim upon which relief may be granted does not require defendant to establish "beyond doubt" that plaintiff can prove no set of facts in support of his claim which would entitle him to relief. See Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 561-62 (2007). Once a claim has been stated adequately, it may be supported by showing any set of facts consistent with the allegations in the complaint. Id. at 562. The court need not, however, accept unsupported legal allegations, see Revene v. Charles County Comm'rs, 882 F.2d 870, 873 (4th Cir. 1989), legal conclusions couched as factual allegations, see Papasan v. Allain, 478 U.S. 265, 286 (1986), or conclusory factual allegations devoid of any reference to actual events, see United Black Firefighters v. Hirst, 604 F.2d 844, 847 (4th Cir. 1979).

In reviewing the complaint in light of a Motion to Dismiss pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. Proc. 12(b)(6) the court accepts all well-pleaded allegations of the complaint as true and construes the facts and reasonable inferences derived therefrom in the light most favorable to the plaintiff. See Venkatraman v. REI Sys., Inc., 417 F.3d 418, 420 (4th Cir. 2005); Ibarra v. United States, 120 F.3d 472, 473 (4th Cir. 1997); Mylan Labs., Inc. v. Matkari, 7 F.3d 1130, 1134 (4th Cir. 1993). Rule 8(a)(2) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure requires only a "short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief." Migdal v. Rowe Price-Fleming Int'l Inc., 248 F.3d 321, 325-26 ...

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