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Smith v. Watkins

United States District Court, D. Maryland

February 26, 2015

SGT. E. WATKINS, et al., Defendants.


PAUL W. GRIMM, District Judge.

I. Background

On December 23, 2013, plaintiff Antoinne Lewis Smith, a former inmate at the Montgomery County Correctional Facility ("MCCF"), filed a 42 U.S.C. § 1983 civil rights complaint against MCCF, MCCF Warden Robert Green and MCCF Sergeant Watkins. He alleged that on December 9, 2013, while conducting a room check, Sergeant Watkins "punch[ed] [him] in the face and head over and over, then... pulled [his] legs from under [him] and [the] left side of [his] face hit the floor." CompI., ECF NO.1. Smith claimed that he was taken to Shady Grove Hospital, where he was treated for a fractured skull and damage to his left ear drum. Id. Smith remained in the hospital for several days.[1] Id. He seeks compensatory damages for mental and physical injuries. Id.

In his supplemental complaint, Smith provides additional information concerning the December 9, 2013 incident, which occurred around 11:00 p.m. Supp. CompI., ECF NO.8. Smith states that he was handcuffed from behind and was "being checked" by Watkins when Watkins hit and punched him in the back of the head and pulled his legs out from under him. Id. Smith states that he landed on the left side of his face causing blood to shoot from his ear. Id. He again claims that he suffered a skull fracture and burst left ear drum. Id. Smith states in some filings that he seeks $500, 000 in damages, Supp. Compl.; Compl. & Damages, ECF No.9; in others, he states that he seeks damages of $7 million. Compl.; Pl.'s Aug. 26, 2014 Mot. to Continue.

Defendants MCCF and Green have filed a motion to dismiss. ECF No. 16. Defendant Watkins has filed an answer to the complaint. ECF No. 15. Smith has filed several "motions to proceed or to continue, " which have been construed as oppositions to Defendants' motion to dismiss.[2] ECF Nos. 20, 21 & 27. The motion to dismiss may be determined on the pleadings and shall be granted without oral hearing. See Local Rule 105.6 (D. Md. 2014).

II. Standard of Review

Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) authorizes the dismissal of a complaint if it fails to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. The purpose of the rule is to "test the sufficiency of a complaint and not to resolve contests surrounding the facts, the merits of a claim, or the applicability of defenses." Presley v. City of Charlottesville, 464 F.3d 480, 483 (4th Cir. 2006)). To that end, the court bears in mind the requirements of Fed.R.Civ.P. 8, Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544 (2007), and Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662 (2009), when considering a motion to dismiss pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6). Specifically, a complaint must contain "a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief, " Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2), and must state "a plausible claim for relief, " as "[t]hreadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action, supported by mere conclusory statements, do not suffice, " Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678-79, 129 S.Ct. 1937. See Velencia v. Drezhlo, RDB-12-0237, 2012 WL 6562764, at *4 (D. Md. Dec. 13, 2012) (discussing standard from Iqbal and Twombly). "A claim has facial plausibility when the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged." Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 663, 129 S.Ct. 1937.

III. Discussion

A. Facts

This court reviews the facts and all reasonable inferences in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party, see Scott v. Harris, 550 U.S. 372, 378 (2007); Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 94 (2007), and liberally construes Smith's pleadings in light of the fact that he is self-represented. See Gordon v. Leek, 574 Fold 1147, 1151 (4th Cir. 1978). In his unverified complaint and supplemental complaint, Smith claims that he was assaulted anew by Sergeant Watkins on December 9, 2013. Smith does not raise any specific claims against the other defendants.

B. Legal Analysis

In their motion to dismiss, defendants Green and MCCF argue that no allegations are raised involving Green's personal involvement and that MCCF is not an entity subject to suit under § 1983. Defs.' Mot. ¶¶ 3-4.

Affording Smith's oppositions a generous construction, he claims that on October 21, 2013, the day after he was assaulted the first time by Watkins, he wrote Warden Green, asking to press charges against Watkins, and he filed a MCCF grievance, which "made the head of the [MCCF] Warden Robert Green aware" of the assault. Pl.'s May 8, 2014 Mot. to Proceed 1. He seemingly argues that his actions placed Green on notice of Watkins's behavior and made Green responsible in his supervisory capacity for Watkins's second assault on December 9, 2013. Id. Smith also claims that he has required medical care since his May 2014 release and cannot hear well out of his left ear. Aug. 26, 2014 Mot. to Continue.

Smith does not allege any personal involvement on the part of Warden Green. He does, however, claim that he "informed" Green of Watkins's previous use of excessive force against him by filing a request for charges and an administrative grievance remedy the day after the first incident, on October 21, 2013. Smith included Green as a defendant on the theory that Green ...

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