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Toomer v. BCDC

United States District Court, D. Maryland

September 18, 2014

DERRICK TOOMER
v.
BCDC, et al.

MEMORANDUM OPINION

DEBORAH K. CHASANOW, District Judge.

On January 6, 2012, Plaintiff Derrick Toomer filed a complaint alleging prisoner civil rights violations pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Defendants subsequently moved to dismiss or for summary judgment (ECF Nos. 24 & 56). The undersigned issued a memorandum opinion and order granting summary judgment on all of Plaintiff's claims for failure to exhaust his administrative remedies. Plaintiff appealed to the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit, which affirmed in part, vacated in part, and remanded to allow consideration of Defendants' alternative grounds for seeking dismissal or summary judgment and any further proceedings that may be appropriate. (ECF No. 76-1). The relevant issues have been briefed and the court now rules pursuant to Local Rule 105.6, no hearing being deemed necessary. For the reasons that follow, the motion to dismiss or for summary judgment filed by Defendants France, Fernandez, and Oliver will be granted. The motion to dismiss or for summary judgment filed by Defendant Willies will be denied.

I. Background

A. Factual Background

Plaintiff Derrick Toomer is a former pre-trial detainee at the Baltimore City Detention Center ("BCDC"), who was attacked by another inmate at BCDC while he was housed in protective custody in April 2010.[1] According to Plaintiff, in March 2009, his son was involved in a jail house murder of an affiliate of the Black Guerrilla Family ("BGF") gang. (ECF No. 33, at 1). Plaintiff alleges that, consequently, he was assaulted by other inmates in 2009 and later housed in protective custody at BCDC. Plaintiff asserts that on April 30, 2010, while BCDC was on lock down, Defendant James Willies, a correctional officer at BCDC, allowed an inmate - later identified as Todd Holloway - out of his cell onto Plaintiff's tier and into his cell, where he was sleeping. (ECF No. 7, at 5). Plaintiff avers that he was stabbed in his face, hand, and arm, and that Officer Willies subsequently escorted the attacker off Plaintiff's tier, back onto his own tier and into his cell. ( Id. ). Plaintiff alleges that BGF orchestrated the attack in retaliation for his son's involvement in the murder of a BGF affiliate, and correctional staff and supervisors at BCDC failed to protect him. Plaintiff received medical care immediately following the attack. Plaintiff contends that as a consequence of the attack, he has undergone reconstructive surgery and sees a specialist regarding continued problems with his hand.

B. Procedural Background

On January 6, 2012, Plaintiff filed a complaint against Defendants BCDC and Warden Gwendolyn Oliver (ECF No. 1), but later amended the complaint, naming as additional defendants Commissioner Wendell France, Assistant Warden Michael Fernandez, and Correctional Officers James Willies and Bola Ayeni. The complaint alleges a failure to protect claim pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, premised on individual and supervisory liability. (ECF No. 7). In the initial complaint, Plaintiff sought as damages $40 million and disability benefits for life. (ECF No. 1). Plaintiff filed a supplement to his complaint on February 17, 2012, in which he sought ten million dollars against each Defendant, "in punitive and compensatory damages" and disability for life. (ECF No. 7, at 3). Then, on May 2, 2012, Plaintiff filed an amended complaint, in which he purported to explain the bases for his claims against Defendants France, Oliver, and Fernandez. (ECF No. 22).

Defendants France, Fernandez, and Oliver moved to dismiss or for summary judgment on June 22, 2012. (ECF No. 24). Defendants Willies and Ayeni moved to dismiss or for summary judgment on January 2, 2013. (ECF No. 56).[2] Plaintiff opposed the motions and filed multiple supplements to his opposition and correspondence related to amending his pleadings. (ECF Nos. 31, 32, 33, 34, 43, 54, 55, 58, 64). Defendants France, Fernandez, and Oliver filed a reply brief in support of their motion. (ECF No. 38).

By memorandum opinion and order dated February 26, 2013, the undersigned granted summary judgment, holding that Plaintiff failed to exhaust his administrative remedies as to prior attacks in 2009 and the attack in April 2010. (ECF Nos. 68 & 69). Plaintiff appealed the ruling, and the Fourth Circuit affirmed in part and vacated in part:

Although it is clear from the record that Toomer did not exhaust his administrative remedies regarding the May and September 2009 attacks and his claim that prison officials failed to comply with the hospital's discharge instructions, we conclude that the district court erred by granting Defendants' motions for summary judgment based on Toomer's failure to exhaust his administrative remedies regarding the April 2010 attack. Toomer v. BCDC, 537 F.Appx. 204, 206 (4th Cir. 2013). Thus, the case was remanded to "allow the district court to consider Defendants' alternative grounds for summary judgment and for any further proceedings that may be appropriate." Id. at 207.

Subsequently, Plaintiff moved for appointment of counsel (ECF No. 78), which was granted (ECF No. 82). Pro bono counsel was then appointed. (ECF No. 83). On November 21, 2013, Plaintiff's counsel filed correspondence requesting an opportunity to provide supplemental briefing in opposition to Defendants' motions to dismiss or for summary judgment. (ECF No. 85). The undersigned approved the request. (ECF No. 86). Plaintiff filed a supplemental opposition on December 18, 2013 (ECF No. 88), and Defendants submitted a reply brief on January 27, 2014 (ECF No. 90).[3]

II. Standard of Review

Defendants' motions will be construed as motions to dismiss.[4] The purpose of a motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6) is to test the sufficiency of the complaint. Presley v. City of Charlottesville, 464 F.3d 480, 483 (4th Cir. 2006). A plaintiff's complaint need only satisfy the standard of Rule 8(a), which requires a "short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief." Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2). "Rule 8(a)(2) still requires a showing, ' rather than a blanket assertion, of entitlement to relief." Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 556 (2007). That showing must consist of more than "a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action" or "naked assertion[s] devoid of further factual enhancement." Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (internal citations omitted).

At this stage, all well-pleaded allegations in a complaint must be considered as true, Albright v. Oliver, 510 U.S. 266, 268 (1994), and all factual allegations must be construed in the light most favorable to the plaintiff. See Harrison v. Westinghouse Savannah River Co., 176 F.3d 776, 783 (4th Cir. 1999) ( citing Mylan Labs., Inc. v. Matkari, 7 F.3d 1130, 1134 (4th Cir. 1993)). In evaluating the complaint, unsupported legal allegations need not be accepted. Revene v. Charles Cnty. Comm'rs, 882 F.2d 870, 873 (4th Cir. 1989). Legal conclusions couched as factual allegations are insufficient, Iqbal, 556 U.S. the allegations, however. Consequently, the motions will be treated as ...


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