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Pevia v. Stouffer

United States District Court, D. Maryland

January 29, 2015

DONALD R. PEVIA, Plaintiff.
MICHAEL STOUFFER, et al., Defendants.


ELLEN L. HOLLANDER, District Judge.

Donald Pevia, the self-represented plaintiff, is a Maryland State prisoner confined at the North Branch Correctional Institution ("NBCI"). He filed suit under 42 U.S.C. ยง 1983 against the following defendants: NBCI Chief of Security Keith K. Arnold; Lt. Paul Pennington; Warden Bobby P. Shearin[1]; Lt. Dale Smith; and Commissioner Michael Stouffer. ECF 1. He alleges deliberate indifference to his medical needs and cruel and unusual punishment, in violation of the Eighth Amendment to the Constitution. ECF 1 at 5. Defendants have moved to dismiss or, in the alternative, for summary judgment. ECF 15. The motion is supported by a legal memorandum and several exhibits (collectively, the "Motion"). Plaintiff opposes the Motion. ECF 17.[2]

No hearing is necessary to resolve the Motion. See Local Rule 105.6 (D. Md. 2014). For the reasons that follow, defendants' Motion, construed as a motion for summary judgment, shall be granted.


Pevia alleges that he suffers from a shoulder injury, arthritis, and calculi in his shoulder, which necessitates his being handcuffed in front. ECF 1 at 3. Plaintiff indicates that in 2011 medical personnel provided him with an order that he be double cuffed behind his back in order to minimize the pain in his shoulder. In February 2012, this medical order was modified to provide for front handcuffing to help relieve pain in plaintiff's shoulder. Id. Plaintiff's order for front handcuffing was renewed for one year by Dr. Colin Ottey in July 2012. Id. at 4.

In September 2012, plaintiff was advised that the Warden and the Chief of Security at NBCI had "banned the practice of front cuff[ing]." Id. Thereafter, plaintiff "was forced to place his hands behind his back subjecting him to severe pain." Id. at 4. He states that he filed numerous sick calls informing medical staff of the violation of his medical orders. Id.

Plaintiff further indicates that he filed a grievance in January of 2013 complaining of the violations of his medical orders and also advised Dr. Ottey that he should inform his supervisor that prison personnel were interfering with his "medical prescriptions." Id. Plaintiff states that Dr. Ottey failed to do so. Id.

In July of 2013, plaintiff was evaluated by Dr. Joubert, who noted that "plaintiff had a very limited range of motion in his left arm." Id. Dr. Joubert ordered an x-ray, an MRI, and provided a "permanent" order for front handcuffing. Id. Plaintiff maintains that defendants continued to refuse to comply with the medical order, in violation of plaintiff's rights. Id. at 5. Moreover, he claims that other inmates are "allowed to be front cuffed and transported throughout the prison." Id.

Defendants do not dispute that plaintiff suffers from an injury to his shoulder and has been provided a medical order for front handcuffing. ECF 15-2 at 3-10 (medical records).

Defendants maintain, inter alia, that plaintiff failed to exhaust administrative remedies regarding the cuffing procedures. On January 28, 2013, plaintiff's ARP NBCI-0208-13 (complaining of the failure to comply with his order for front handcuffing) was dismissed and plaintiff failed to file an appeal to the Commissioner. ECF 15-2 at 11-15. On the same date plaintiff's ARP NBCI-0209-13 (also dealing with front handcuffing) was received and dismissed as repetitive. Id. at 16-17. Again, plaintiff did not appeal. On February 4, 2013, Pevia filed another ARP complaining of the handcuffing issue, ARP NBCI-0250-13, which was also dismissed as repetitive. Id. at 18-19. Plaintiff filed an appeal of this denial with the Commissioner. Id. at 20. The appeal was dismissed, pending resubmission. Plaintiff was directed to provide a copy of ARP NBCI-0208-13. Id. Plaintiff's ARP NBCI-2329-13, dated August 22, 2013, was also dismissed as repetitive and plaintiff failed to appeal. Id. at 21-22.

Defendants also claim that the treatment of plaintiff is legal and in accordance with NBCI policies. Through the Declaration of Major Ronald Stotler, the 7 to 3 Shift Commander at NBCI, defendants aver that NBCI is Maryland's highest security prison. Moreover, its Housing Unit 1, where plaintiff resided, contains inmates on disciplinary segregation and those who have demonstrated a propensity for violence, assaultive behavior, and an inability or unwillingness to comply with the rules and regulations of the prison system. ECF 15-3 at 1-2 (Declaration of Major Stotler).

Stotler avers that on August 30, 2012, Keith Arnold, Chief of Security at NBCI, issued a memorandum adopting strict handcuff procedures which were applied to all inmates on segregation. The directive superseded medical orders for handcuffing Housing Unit 1 inmates. Id. at 2.

Stotler recounts that, prior to the adoption of the new policy, there were several instances in Housing Unit 1 where inmates who had been cuffed in front due to medical orders "took advantage of it to assault their correctional escorts while out of their cells." ECF 15-3 at 2. Stotler explains that handcuffing in front "facilitates" an inmate's ability to attack another person because "the inmate is free to swing his arms with great force, creating a danger not only to staff but to himself, as force is used [by correctional staff] to subdue him and regain order and discipline." Id.

Arnold's memorandum regarding the new procedures provided that Housing Unit 1 inmates be cuffed behind the back when removed from their cells for short periods of time and for movement within the housing unit. Id .; see also ECF 15-2 at 15. For short movement within Housing Unit 1, inmates with medical orders for front cuffing are now cuffed behind the back, using "oversized cuffs" that have a "much longer chain between the wrists to make the cuffs more comfortable for the inmates." ECF 15-3 at 2.[3] The longer chain allows the inmates' hands to rest on their buttocks, and their arms and shoulders are not pulled backward. Id. Stotler asserts: "Cuffing behind the back makes it very difficult, if not impossible, for the inmate to assault staff by swinging his arms violently." Id. For longer periods of time, however, including escorts off the Unit, inmates are cuffed in front, using three-point restraints that "minimize the movement of the arms and hands due to the use of a waist chain and black box." Id.

Some latitude is provided to staff, however. Division of Corrections Directive 110-6, VI. C. 3 and 4 provides that inmates on disciplinary segregation "shall be handcuffed behind the back at all times during escort, " but inmates "may be handcuffed in the front" as determined by the administration on a case-by-case basis. ECF 15-3 at 3. According to Stotler, "[a] medical order for front cuffing does not supersede the decision of custody [staff]." Id. He explains: "Housing unit managers retain discretion to authorize cuffing in front in a case of an obviously serious medical condition, in which it is apparent that cuffing behind the back, even with the much longer chains, will be painful or impractical, such as in cases of post-surgery recovery...." Id.

According to Stotler, "Pevia is considered dangerous...." Id. He recounts that plaintiff has been found guilty of assaulting correctional staff as well as other inmates. ECF 15-3 at 3; see also ECF 15-2 at 23-42, 45-51, 61-86. According to defendants, the nature of plaintiff's current offense, second-degree murder and child abuse, for which he is serving a 60-year sentence, ECF 15-2 at 42, coupled with his history, necessitated his being handcuffed from behind.

For example, while previously incarcerated at Roxbury Correctional Institution on September 30, 2011, Pevia "severely slashed another inmate, Jesse James Snead." ECF 15-1 at 7 (citing ECF 15-2 at 23-40). As a result, he was elevated to maximum security and transferred to NBCI. ECF 15-1 at 7 (citing ECF 15-2 at 41). Then, on April 16, 2012, while at NBCI, he assaulted CO II Joshua Kennell. ECF 15-1 at 7 (citing ECF 15-2 at 76-86). Other violent incidents are also recounted by defendants.

Standard of Review

Defendant's motion is styled as a motion to dismiss under Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6) or, in the alternative, for summary judgment under Fed.R.Civ.P. 56. ECF No. 12. A motion styled in this manner implicates the court's discretion under Rule 12(d) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. See Kensington Vol. Fire Dept., Inc. v. Montgomery County, 788 F.Supp.2d 431, 436-37 (D. Md. 2011). Ordinarily, a court "is not to consider matters outside the pleadings or resolve factual disputes when ruling on a motion to dismiss." Bosiger v. U.S. Airways, 510 F.3d 442, 450 (4th Cir. 2007). However, under Rule 12(b)(6), a court, in its discretion, may consider matters outside of the pleadings, pursuant to Rule 12(d). If the court does so, "the motion must be treated as one for summary judgment under Rule 56, " and "[a]ll parties must be given a reasonable opportunity to present all the material that is pertinent to the motion." Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(d). When the movant expressly captions its motion "in the alternative" as one for summary judgment, and submits matters outside the pleadings for the court's consideration, the parties are deemed to be on notice that conversion under Rule 12(d) may occur; the court "does not have an obligation to notify parties of the obvious." Laughlin v. Metro. Wash. Airports Auth., 149 F.3d 253, 261 (4th Cir. 1998).[4]

As noted, in this case, plaintiff was informed of his right to respond to the motion, and was advised that it could lead to dismissal of his case. ...

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