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Tweh v. Green

United States District Court, Fourth Circuit

August 16, 2013

THOMAS N. TWEH, #366680 Plaintiff,
MR. ROBERT GREEN, et al. Defendants.


GEORGE L. RUSSELL, III, District Judge.

Plaintiff Thomas N. Tweh ("Tweh") filed the above-captioned Complaint pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Defendants Robert Green, Captain Harold Payne, Corporal Rafiq A. Muhammad, Sergeant Michael Tate, and Anthony Sturgess (the "County Defendants"), by their attorney, filed a Motion to Dismiss, or in the Alternative for Summary Judgment. (ECF No. 13). Plaintiff has responded.[1] (ECF No. 35). After review of the papers 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 dispositive motion will be GRANTED.


Tweh, an inmate currently confined at the Roxbury Correctional Institution, filed the instant Complaint alleging that he was denied adequate medical care and subjected to excessive force while housed at the Montgomery County Correctional Facility ("MCCF"). Plaintiff alleges that Warden Robert Green ("Green") was negligent in failing to properly supervise the employees of MCCF. Compl. ¶ 1, ECF No. 1.

Plaintiff states that he had medical authorization to be double handcuffed. He alleges that Sergeant Michael Tate ("Sgt. Tate") violated the policy of MCCF in failing to verify that Plaintiff was authorized to be so handcuffed. Plaintiff states that Sgt. Tate observed Plaintiff was in pain from the use of a single set of handcuffs on September 24, 2010, but "scold[ed] him stating, It was your fault for forgetting your authorization and you would have to suffer for it.'" Plaintiff states that as a result of Sgt. Tate's action he suffered damage to both shoulders. Id . ¶ 2.

Plaintiff further alleges that on October 10, 2010, Sgt. Tate began harassing and intimidating him by having other officers wake him on four occasions in October and November 2010, at 2:00 a.m. which deprived him of needed sleep. Plaintiff further alleges that on November 22, 2010, Sgt. Tate verbally harassed him with unspecified abusive language and subjected him to intimidation. Plaintiff alleges this occurred in retaliation for his having filed a grievance against Sgt. Tate for the September 24, 2010 handcuffing incident. Id.

Plaintiff alleges that Captain Harold Payne ("Cpt. Payne") failed to investigate Plaintiff's complaints regarding Sgt. Tate. Plaintiff states that despite Cpt. Payne's assurances, he failed to prevent similar incidences regarding double handcuffing from occurring. Id . ¶ 3.

Plaintiff alleges Corporal Rafiq A. Muhammad ("Cpl. Muhammad") "wrote a malicious disciplinary report" against him on July 30, 2010. Plaintiff also alleges that Cpl. Muhammad denied him medical care by refusing to double handcuff Plaintiff on that date so he could be transported to an outside medical appointment. Id . ¶ 5.

Plaintiff alleges that on December 6, 2010, Sgt. Jeffers threatened him for refusing to be handcuffed in the back. Plaintiff alleges that Sgt. Jeffers should have known that he had authorization for alternative handcuffing. He claims that his property, including the alternative handcuffing authorization, was taken from him while he was on segregation. Plaintiff states that Sgt. Jeffers "threatened to call the goon squad to rough him up" before he attempted to verify Plaintiff's medical authorization for alternative handcuffing. Plaintiff states that "the officer at the desk eventually called medical after over 5 minutes of pleading with Sgt. Jeffers to verify that he had a handcuffing authorization." Id . ¶ 4.

Plaintiff alleges that he spoke with Mr. Anthony Sturgess (Sturgess) on three occasions in September and October, 2010. He states that Sturgess told him that he "knew what [Plaintiff] was trying to do" and he "would be ready for [Plaintiff] when the time comes..." Id . ¶ 6. Plaintiff alleges that Sturgess had the ability to resolve Plaintiff's medical complaints but failed to do so advising Plaintiff that he was not obligated to follow the recommendations of the surgeon. Plaintiff further alleges that Sturgess advised him that he was scheduled to see an orthopedic surgeon for his shoulder injury but that never occurred.[2] Id.

Defendants' version of events offer additional information. During the time at issue, MCCF was implementing a not yet fully functional computer program which would allow staff to verify medical authorizations. Def.'s Motion to Dismiss Ex. 3. at 1, ECF 13. As such, the practice in place required inmates to be in possession of their medical authorization indicating a need for alternative cuffing. If the inmate failed to possess the authorization he would be denied the alternative cuffing. Id., Ex. 3 and 4. That policy was provided to Plaintiff and contains mandatory language advising the inmate of the necessity of possessing the authorization for the authorization to be effective. Id . MCCF inmates who are being transferred to outside appointments are handcuffed by Montgomery County Sheriff's deputies rather than by MCCF correctional staff. The Sheriff's Office policy is to use a single set of handcuffs behind the back. Id., Exs. 1-3.

On July 30, 2010, Plaintiff was scheduled for an outside medical appointment. Id., Ex. 2. Cpl. Muhammad escorted Plaintiff, without handcuffs, to Processing for transport by sheriff's deputies. Id . The deputies had conducted a pat-down search of Plaintiff and attempted to handcuff Plaintiff with one set of handcuffs when Plaintiff refused to comply with the orders. Plaintiff stated he was refusing to be handcuffed because he had a medical authorization to be handcuffed in front. Plaintiff did not have the authorization with him and the medical unit was contacted in order to verify Plaintiff's statement. Medical staff indicated there was no order permitting Plaintiff to be handcuffed in front. The deputies advised Plaintiff that he would not be transported unless he was handcuffed behind his back. Plaintiff refused to be handcuffed in back and the deputies refused to transport him. Cpl. Muhammad filled out an adjustment report detailing the exchange and charging Plaintiff with a rule infraction for refusing to follow direction from MCCF staff and sheriff's deputies. Id . Plaintiff received a hearing on the infraction and was found not guilty of the charge. Id., Ex. 3.

On September 24, 2010, Sgt. Tate was working in the Traffic Office in the Processing area of MCCF, coordinating the transportation of MCCF inmates to the custody of the Montgomery County's Sheriff's Office. Id . Ex. 1. Sgt. Tate heard a commotion in the Processing area. He came out of the Traffic Office and observed Plaintiff refusing to be handcuffed by sheriff's deputies. Id . Sgt. Tate instructed Plaintiff to comply with the deputy. Plaintiff responded that, for medical reasons, he needed two sets of handcuffs. Sgt. Tate asked whether Plaintiff had the medical authorization slip. Plaintiff responded, "No, but it hasn't been a problem before!" Id . Sgt. Tate informed Plaintiff he was required to be in possession of his paperwork but he would call medical to verify the authorization. Approximately five minutes after contacting the medical unit, Sgt. Tate received verification that Plaintiff had authorization to use two sets of handcuffs. When Sgt. Tate exited the Traffic Office to confer with the sheriff's deputies, he was advised that the matter had been taken care of. Sgt. Tate saw Plaintiff walking out of Processing to board the transport van along with other inmates but did not notice whether Plaintiff was single or double cuffed. Id . Sgt. Tate avers that he was not responsible for handcuffing Plaintiff and in fact did not handcuff Plaintiff. Id.

Sturgess is the Health Services Administrator with MCCF. Id., Ex. 6. He is a registered nurse and family nurse practitioner. Id . Plaintiff was incarcerated at MCCF from March 18, 2010 to December 22, 2010. MCCF is staffed with nurses who are county employees. MCCF contracts with physicians to provide inmates on-site medical care, treatment, diagnostics, and oversight of MCCF non-physician medical staff. Independently contracted physicians have authority to review, accept, reject, or modify recommendations of ...

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