United States District Court, D. Maryland
RALPH N. GATHERIGHT, JR. #562112, Plaintiff,
MARYLAND CORRECTIONAL TRAINING CENTER, et al., Defendants
GEORGE L. RUSSELL, III, District Judge.
Plaintiff Ralph N. Gatheright, Jr., is suing Defendants pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1983, raising claims premised on an incident that occurred on January 22, 2013, while he was incarcerated at the Maryland Correctional Training Center ("MCTC"). Gatheright alleges Defendants subjected him to excessive force and denied him access to medical treatment for his resulting injuries. For relief, he requests compensatory and punitive damages of $100, 000. ECF No. 9, p. 6.
Defendants MCTC, Officer Justin Fisher, Officer Joseph Garlitz, Sgt. Paul Lawhorne, and Sgt. Todd Ricker, responded to the Complaint with a Motion to Dismiss, or in the Alternative, Motion for Summary Judgment (ECF No. 17), accompanied by exhibits and affidavits. Plaintiff opposes the Motion. ECF No. 23. Upon review of the pleadings, exhibits, and applicable case law, the Court finds no hearing necessary. See Local Rule 105.6 (D. Md. 2014). For the reasons discussed in more detail below, MCTC will be dismissed as a party in this proceeding and summary judgment will be entered in favor of the remaining Defendants.
Gatheright alleges Ricker, Lawhorne, Fisher, and Garlitz assaulted him on January 22, 2013, by beating his hands with a master lock and canisters of pepper spray after he refused to remove his hands from the feed slot in his cell door. Gatheright was demanding to speak with Captain Woods about food and medical issues and refused to remove his arm from the slot so that it could be secured, despite being ordered to do so. Gatheright alleges the officers tried to force his arm and a struggle ensued. ECF No. 1, p. 4; ECF No. 9.
He further alleges Ricker ordered the other officers to hit Gatheright's hands with the master lock used to secure the slot. ECF No. 1, p. 7. Then Fisher and Ricker hit him repeatedly with pepper spray canisters and slam his hands in the feed slot. Id . Once Ricker realized Gatheright had scrapes, cuts, and bruises on his hands and was not going to remove them from the slot, however, Ricker ordered the officers to stop using force. Id . Ricker then tried reasoning with Gatheright by promising to arrange for Captain Woods to speak to him. Gatheright then withdrew his hands and the slot was secured. Id.
Several minutes after the incident, Gatheright alleges he requested medical treatment. Nevertheless, Gatheright asserts that he neither spoke with Captain Woods nor received medical attention. Three days later, on January 25, 2013, Gatheright was taken to the medical unit where he provided a statement concerning how he sustains the injuries to his hands. Photos of his injuries were taken. Id.
Defendants' version of the incident varies significantly. In support of their dispositive Motion, Defendants have filed a number of exhibits including affidavits executed by the correction officers, the decision of the hearing officer finding Gatheright guilty of rule violations arising from the incident, the Internal Investigation Unit ("IIU") report of the incident, Gatheright's medical records, and copies of Gatheright's pertinent Administrative Remedy Procedure ("ARP") requests.
Defendants assert that Garlitz was in the process of collecting food trays in Housing Unit 5, A Tier when Gatheright refused to remove his arm from the feed slot. Garlitz asked Gatheright to put his arm back in the cell. Gatheright refused and demanded to speak with Captain Wood. Garlitz then gave Gatheright a direct order to remove his hands from the slot. Gatheright refused again and began to kick his cell door. Garlitz then gave Gatheright a second direct order to remove his hands, and again he refused and began to incite unrest on the tier by yelling "Fuck you we are going to war"... "burn this tier down" and "tell B-tier to set the tier on fire." The other inmates also began to yell and kick their cell doors.
A spit shield was placed in front of Gatheright's cell door. Gatheright started punching the spit shield and knocked it over. Garlitz went to Gatheright's cell to reset the spit shield and noticed Gatheright had cuts on his hand from punching the shield. After the spit shield was removed, Ricker ordered Gatheright to remove his hand from the slot so he could be placed in handcuffs and taken to the dispensary for medical treatment. Gatheright, however, refused medical treatment and refused to remove his hand from the slot until he spoke to Captain Wood. Ricker told Gatheright that he would tell Captain Wood Gatheright wanted to see him. Gatheright finally withdrew his hand from the slot without further incident, and Captain Wood was contacted.
Defendants assert that at no time did they force Gatheright's arm or struggle with him in an effort to secure the feed slot. Further, Defendants aver they were never ordered to hit Gatheright's hands with a master lock or slam them in the feed slot.
As a result of the incident, Gatheright was charged with violating institutional rule numbers 104 (use of threatening language), 116 (misuse, tampering with, damaging, destruction, or unauthorized possession of security equipment, tools, etc.), 312 (interfering with or resisting the duties of staff), 405 (any exhibition, demonstration, or conveyance of insolence, disrespect, or vulgar language), and 408 (misuse, alteration, tampering with, damaging or destruction of any property, tool, or equipment to include possession of any property in a hazardous condition). ECF No. 17, Ex. 2, p. 3. At the adjustment hearing held on January 31, 2013, Gatheright pled not guilty to the charges. Id.p. 7. The hearing officer determined Gatheright was guilty of the rule violations, and noted his poor adjustment history. Gatheright received 250 days of disciplinary segregation and 120 good conduct credits were revoked. Id.p. 9. The Warden affirmed the decision on February 14, 2013.
On January 31, 2013, Gatheright filed an ARP alleging that he was assaulted by Ricker, Fisher, Lawhorne, and Garlitz and was denied medical care. ECF No. 17, Ex. 8, p. 4. Lieutenant Dewayne Draper investigated the incident and found no evidence to support Gatheright's allegations. Id.p. 22. Draper's IIU report was forwarded to the Washington County States Attorney's Office for review.
On January 25, 2013, Rebecca Barnhart, R.N. examined Gatheright for complaints of hand and knuckle pain. Gatheright reported to Barnhart that his hands were injured when he refused to put them back through the feed slot as requested. Id . Barnhart noted several small abrasions on Gatheright's hands and his left wrist with swelling over his left third phalangeal joint. She further noted difficulty with bending the right pinky finger. Id . She assessed Gatheright's comfort ...