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Roberts v. Walker

United States District Court, D. Maryland

March 4, 2015

AARON B. ROBERTS, Plaintiff,
v.
COREY WALKER, et al., Defendants.

MEMORANDUM OPINION

GEORGE L. RUSSELL, Jr., District Judge.

Pending before the Court is Defendants', Roderick Sowers, Gary D. Maynard, Gregg L. Hershberger, Randy L. Watson, Assistant Warden Jacquelene A. Shank, Captain Robert Wise, Sgt. Robert Dudley, CCMS II Corey Walker, CCMS II Anna Hartle, CCMS II Kelly Easton, Major Paul Ridenour[1], Lt. Ryan Ebersole, and Lt. Brian Reed, Joseph Perry, Tina Stump, John Fountain, Scott Peterson, and Scott Oakley (collectively the "Correctional Defendants"), Motion to Dismiss or, in the Alternative, Motion for Summary Judgment (ECF No. 29) and Defendants', Doni Obitts, RN and Wexford Health Sources, Inc. (hereafter the "Medical Defendants"), Motion to Dismiss (ECF No. 42). The Motions are ripe for disposition, and no hearing is necessary. See Local Rule 105.6 (D.Md. 2014). For the reasons outlined below, the Motions will be granted.

I. BACKGROUND[2]

While housed in general population at Maryland Correctional Institution - Hagerstown ("MCI-H"), [3] on May 15, 2013, Plaintiff, Aaron B. Roberts, was found guilty of an inmate infraction and sanctioned to ninety days of disciplinary segregation. On June 28, 2013, Case Management Specialist Anna Hartle received a memorandum from the Warden's Office directing her to review Roberts's request that he be released early from disciplinary segregation. Hartle recommended that Roberts's time in disciplinary segregation be reduced and that he be returned to general population. Upon notice that he was going to be transferred to general population, Roberts reported anonymous verbal and written threats to his life from members of the Black Guerilla Family gang ("BGF"). As a result, Roberts was removed from disciplinary segregation and assigned to administrative segregation.

On December 4, 2013, the Administrative Segregation Team, responsible for reviewing the appropriate housing assignment of inmates on administrative segregation, conducted a case management assignment review. The Administrative Segregation Team included Defendants Hartle, Walker, and Ebersole. It was determined that claims concerning threats to Roberts's safety could not be substantiated. Further, an inmate on Roberts's "enemy list" was no longer housed in general population and was, therefore, no longer a threat to Roberts. As a result of its investigation, the Administrative Segregation Team recommended that Roberts be returned to general population and the Warden's office approved the transfer. Roberts was returned to general population on December 18, 2013.

Roberts alleges, immediately after being transferred to general population on December 18, 2013, he was struck on the back of the head by unknown inmates while returning to the rec hall from his evening meal, which resulted in significant injury and permanent disfigurement. Roberts reported the alleged assault to Officer James King and he was immediately escorted to the medical unit. Roberts was seen by Nurse Doni Obitts. Nurse Obitts noted a superficial scratch to the back of Roberts's head and noted that the scratch was neither bleeding nor was there swelling or redness.

An Internal Investigative Unit ("IIU") investigation was launched in response to Roberts's request for a case management investigation and inquiry into his December 18, 2013 assault. Sgt. Robert Fagan conducted an investigation into Roberts's assault. Fagan's investigation included an interview with Roberts, a review of letters prepared by Roberts, the medical report, case management records, and the rec hall video from the night of the alleged assault. Fagan found no evidence to support Roberts's claim that he was assaulted. As a result, the investigation was closed.

Roberts made a number of subsequent requests for intervention and protection from gang violence following the December 18, 2013 alleged attack. Roberts has submitted copies of letters allegedly written and sent to Defendants Easton, Maynard, Hershberger, Stump and Fountain.

Defendant Peterson, a duty officer in the Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services ("DPSCS") IIU, received correspondence from Roberts on December 19, 2013, indicating he had been threatened by fellow prisoners. Peterson conducted a "welfare check." He interviewed Roberts on December 26, 2013. Roberts could not produce threatening notes and was unable to provide the identity of any prisoners who were responsible for threatening him.

On March 10, 2014, Roberts initiated this action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. ยง 1983 (2012). He alleges Case Management staff improperly removed him from administrative segregation and transferred him to general population, placing his safety at risk. He seeks a declaratory judgment finding Defendants liable in their official and personal capacities for violations of his Eighth Amendment right to be free from cruel and unusual punishment, injunctive relief prohibiting Defendants from housing him in general population and immediately assigning him to long term protective housing, and compensatory and punitive damages in the amount of $25, 000.00 per Defendant. Roberts filed an Amended Complaint (ECF No. 11) on April 9, 2014, alleging Defendant Scott Oakley, DPSCS Director of Inmate Grievance Office ("IGO") failed to act with respect to two IGO complaints relevant to this lawsuit. On June 18, 2014, the Correctional Defendants filed their Motion to Dismiss or, in the Alternative, for Summary Judgment. On September 15, 2014, the Medical Defendants filed their Motion to Dismiss. The Motions have been fully briefed and are ripe for consideration.

II. DISCUSSION

A. Standard of Review

To survive a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss, a complaint must set forth "a claim to relief that is plausible on its face." Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (quoting Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007)). A claim is facially plausible "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 678; Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556. "In considering a motion to dismiss, the court should accept as true all well-pleaded allegations and should view the complaint in a light most favorable to the plaintiff." Mylan Labs., Inc. v. Matkari, 7 F.3d 1130, 1134 (4th Cir. 1993).

"When matters outside the pleading are presented to and not excluded by the court, the [12(b)(6)] motion shall be treated as one for summary judgment and disposed of as provided in Rule 56." Laughlin v. Metro. Wash. Airports Auth., 149 F.3d 253, 260-61 (4th Cir. 1998) (alteration in original) (quoting Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)) (internal quotation marks omitted). The United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit has articulated two requirements for proper conversion of a Rule 12(b)(6) motion. First, that the "parties be given some indication by the court that it is treating the 12(b)(6) motion as a motion for summary judgment" and, second, "that the parties first be afforded a reasonable opportunity for discovery." Greater Balt. Ctr. ...


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