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Reynolds v. Stouffer

United States District Court, D. Maryland

February 11, 2014

JOHN REYNOLDS, Plaintiff,
v.
J. MICHAEL STOUFFER, et al., Defendants.

MEMORANDUM OPINION

DEBORAH K. CHASANOW, District Judge.

Pending is a Motion to Dismiss or for Summary Judgment filed by Defendants Michael Stouffer, Bobby P. Shearin, and Dale Smith. ECF No. 12. Plaintiff has responded.[1] ECF Nos. 14 & 15. Upon review of papers and exhibits filed, the court finds an oral hearing in this matter unnecessary. See Local Rule 105.6 (D. Md. 2011). For the reasons stated below, the dispositive motion will be granted.

Background

Plaintiff John Reynolds, a state inmate confined at the North Branch Correctional Institution ("NBCI"), complained that he is housed on the segregation tier where windows in each cell are sealed shut, preventing proper ventilation of his cell. He indicates that on several occasions in February of 2013, while locked in his cell, he began to feel the effects of mace/pepper spray which had been deployed elsewhere in the building but which was drawn into his cell by an intake vent. Plaintiff indicates that on each occasion he advised tier officers that he was having difficulty breathing due to the pepper spray and asked for his window to be opened to allow fresh air into his cell. Plaintiff states that he was advised that the window would not be opened, the pepper spray would clear itself, and if he needed medical attention he should submit a sick call slip. ECF No. 1.

Plaintiff states that officers on the tier were also affected by the pepper spray and opened the back door to the tier so they could breathe easier. He claims that on one occasion the medication nurse wore a surgical mass during her rotation on the tier. Id.

Plaintiff states that on March 3, 2013, he learned that a water pipe burst, as a result, his dirty laundry was not collected. Later that morning an announcement was made not to drink the water. At approximately 10:00 a.m. the water in his sink and toilet were turned off. Plaintiff states that over the next several hours he requested his water be turned back on but was advised it would "be awhile." Plaintiff states that neither he nor his cellmate could hold their waste any longer and were forced to use the toilet without being able to flush it. Plaintiff indicates that the entire cell smelled of feces and urine and he could not move more than 5 feet away from the toilet. Plaintiff states that his window was not opened and he was locked in his cell with the waste for 13 hours. He states he could not eat lunch or dinner which were brought to his cell because of "the atmosphere" in his cell. 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 (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 563. 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).

B. Motion for Summary Judgment

Summary Judgment is governed by Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a) which provides that:

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.

The Supreme Court has clarified that this does not mean that any factual dispute will defeat the motion:

By its very terms, this standard provides that the mere existence of some alleged factual dispute between the parties will not defeat an otherwise properly supported motion for summary judgment; the requirement ...

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