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Stewart v. Yulzy

United States District Court, Fourth Circuit

July 30, 2013

MICHAEL P. STEWART, #291-596 Plaintiff
L. YULZY, CD 2, J. TICHNELL, CD 2, SGT. BAKER, and BOBBY P. SHEARIN, Warden. Defendants



Plaintiff Michael P. Stewart, who is self represented, filed this suit pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, raising claims with regard to an incident that occurred on June 27, 2011, at the North Branch Correctional Institution ("NBCI"), where Stewart was then incarcerated.[1]Specifically, plaintiff alleges that he was subjected to excessive force by defendants and was denied access to a medical appointment, which constituted cruel and unusual punishment under the Eighth Amendment to the Constitution. Plaintiff seeks injunctive relief requiring him to be examined by a medical specialist outside the institution and compensatory damages of $10, 000 from each defendant. ECF 1 at 5. He has also requested the appointment of counsel. See ECF 27.

Defendants, Warden Bobby Shearin and Correctional Officers Justin Yutzy, [2] Jordan Tichnell, and Sergeant Robert Baker, responded to the complaint with a Motion to Dismiss, or in the Alternative, Motion for Summary Judgment ("Motion, " ECF 21), accompanied by exhibits and affidavits. Plaintiff opposes the Motion. ECF 23, ECF 24.[3]


A. Plaintiff's Allegations

At about 6:09 p.m. on June 27, 2011, plaintiff was called to the medical unit at NBCI. When he arrived, Officers Yutzy and Tichnell informed him the medical unit was available at that time only for physical exams for inmate dietary workers. Plaintiff told both officers that he had been summoned for a medical appointment. The officers ordered plaintiff to return to his cell. Plaintiff states he promptly complied with the order. ECF 1 at 3-4.

Later that evening, at about 7:10 p.m., Yutzy and Tichnell ordered plaintiff to step out of his cell. Plaintiff avers that they "aggressively" pushed him against the wall and ordered him to place his hands behind his back. Plaintiff asserts: "It was at that moment that I brought it to the officers['] attention that I have a medical problem with fluid' and that large cuffs would be needed-and that I have medical papers to support my medical claim and problem." ECF 1 at 4.[4] Plaintiff contends that he "showed" Yutzy and Tichnell the medical order for large handcuffs and leg irons. ECF 23 at 3. According to plaintiff, Yutzy's only response was to ask plaintiff whether he was threatening Yutzy. ECF 1 at 4.

Plaintiff alleges that, "without any provocation" by him, the officers proceeded by "forcing the small (regular)" handcuffs on plaintiff's wrists, although plaintiff told them he was in pain and that the handcuffs were hurting him. Id. He explains that the officers used "5 inch handcuffs on plaintiffs [sic] 9 inch wrists, " and that it took two minutes to force the handcuffs onto plaintiff's wrists, which were swollen due to fluid retention. ECF 23 at 1, 2. Moreover, plaintiff alleges that defendants knew of the medical order for him, requiring the use of large handcuffs, yet acted in violation of the medical order. Id. at 2, 3. Plaintiff contends that he subsequently complained of pain for approximately one hour, but the officers' only response was to ask, "are you threatening us?" ECF 23 at 2. Plaintiff also called for Sergeant Baker. By the time Baker arrived, plaintiff's hands were black. Plaintiff explained his medical problem and showed his hands to Baker, who did nothing. ECF 1 at 4; ECF 23 at 2.

On June 28, 2011, plaintiff was seen by medical providers and placed on pain medication. He "must wear wrist braces for support at all times, " and was diagnosed with carpal tunnel syndrome. ECF 23 at 2. According to Stewart, a physician recently recommended that he undergo surgery to release the pressure on the median nerve of his wrist. ECF 25.[5]

B. Defendants' Response

Among the documents filed by defendants are medical assignment sheets for plaintiff. The medical assignment sheet dated July 6, 2011, directs the use of large cuffs on plaintiff's hands and ankles. ECF 21, Exhibit 2. Notably, the assignment sheet is dated after the events at issue took place. The second assignment sheet, dated September 15, 2008, was issued at the Jessup Correctional Institution, where plaintiff had been confined. It indicates that he has swollen ankles. ECF 21, Exhibit 1; see also ECF 21-1 at 2..

Defendants dispute plaintiff's account of the events on June 27, 2011. According to defendants, when Yutzy and Tichnell went to plaintiff's cell on June 27, 2011, they followed standard procedure, which calls for placing inmates in restraints during a cell search to insure officer safety. ECF 21, Exhibit 4 at ¶ 4. Because plaintiff is a large individual and requires large handcuffs, Yutzy connected two sets of hand restraints together to increase their size before placing them on plaintiff's wrists, so as to allow plaintiff more movement. ECF 21, Exhibit 4 at ¶ 4; Exhibit 5 at ¶4. After handcuffs were applied, Officer Yutzy complied with plaintiff's request to loosen them around his wrists. See id. Yutzy and Tichnell deny shoving, pushing, or using excessive force against plaintiff. ECF 21, Exhibit 4 at ¶ 4; Exhibit 5 at ¶ 4.

Baker attests that, "[u]pon the initial application of the hand restraints, Michael Stewart expressed concerns that the restraints were uncomfortable. I requested Officer Yutzy to loosen the hand restraints, which he did in my presence." ECF 21, Exhibit at ¶ 4.[6] Baker states that he observed Yutzy loosen plaintiff's handcuffs. ECF 21, Exhibit 6, at ¶ 4. According to Baker, Yutzy, and Tichnell, plaintiff did not express further complaints during the remainder of the cell search. ECF 21, Exhibit 4 at ¶ 4; Exhibit 5 at ¶ 4; Exhibit 6 at ¶ 4. ...

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