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Hart v. Shearin

United States District Court, D. Maryland

June 24, 2016

NATHANIEL LEKAI HART, Plaintiff,
v.
BOBBY SHEARIN, et al., Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          GEORGE L. RUSSELL, III UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         THIS MATTER is before the Court on pro se Plaintiff Nathaniel Lekai Hart’s Motion for Leave to File an Amended Complaint (ECF No. 16). Also pending before the Court are three motions from Defendants: (1) Bobby Shearin’s, former Warden at North Branch Correctional Institution (“NBCI”), Keith Arnold’s, Former Chief of Security at NBCI, and Correctional Officer Sergeant Gregory Forney’s (collectively the “State Defendants”) Motion to Dismiss or, in the Alternative, Motion for Summary Judgment (ECF No. 12); Wexford Health Sources, Inc.’s (“Wexford”) Motion to Dismiss (ECF No. 14); and (3) Kristi Cortez, R.N.’s (“Nurse Cortez”) and Colin Ottey, M.D.’s (Dr. Ottey”) (collectively the “Medical Defendants”) Motion to Dismiss (ECF No. 21). Having considered the Motions and supporting documents, the Court finds no hearing is necessary. See Local Rule 105.6 (D.Md. 2014). For the reasons outlined below, the Court will grant Defendants’ Motions and grant in part and deny without prejudice in part Hart’s Motion.

         I. BACKGROUND

         A. Hart’s Allegations

         Hart, who is an inmate in the custody of the Maryland Division of Correction, is incarcerated at NBCI. Hart alleges Defendants failed to protect him from a serious risk of harm by housing him with a cellmate, Donte Green, who was infected with Hepatitis C. (ECF No. 1). Hart asserts he was exposed to the virus because he was bitten numerous times by Green in November 2013. (Id.). Hart maintains “prison officials should have never housed an infected person together with a non-infectious person.” (Id. at 3). He seeks $2 million in damages. (Id.).

         B. Medical and Institutional Records

         The State Defendants have filed verified and uncontroverted copies of Hart’s institutional and medical records. Hart described the alleged assault in an Inmate Statement (ECF No. 12-4). According to his Statement, Hart was exercising when Green physically interfered with Hart’s movement. (Id.). Hart asked Green to move so that he could continue exercising, but Green refused. (Id.). Green then charged at Hart and attacked him by repeatedly punching, biting, and choking him. (Id.). Hart sustained multiple bite marks, abrasions, and a chipped tooth. (Id.).

         Nurse Cortez treated Hart for his injuries on November 7, 2013. (ECF No. 12-7). Hart reported to Nurse Cortez that five days prior, his cell mate choked him, bit him multiple times, and stabbed him with a pen. (Id.). Cortez observed superficial scratches on Hart’s left middle finger, one bite on his right wrist, two bites on his right inner thigh near the groin, and a chipped tooth. (Id.). The bite wounds were scabbed over and were healing well. (Id.). Cortez indicated she would refer Hart for further medical evaluation and a dental assessment. (Id.). Hart was tested for Hepatitis C on December 16, 2013; the results were negative. (ECF No. 12-9).

         C. Procedural History

         Hart filed his Complaint on July 13, 2015. (ECF No. 1). The State Defendants filed their unopposed Motion to Dismiss or, in the Alternative, Motion for Summary Judgment on December 1, 2015 (ECF No. 12), and Wexford filed its unopposed Motion to Dismiss on December 20, 2015 (ECF No. 14). Hart filed his unopposed Motion for Leave to File an Amended Complaint on December 24, 2015. (ECF No. 16). Finally, the Medical Defendants filed their unopposed[1] Motion to Dismiss on March 31, 2016. (ECF No. 21).

         II. DISCUSSION

         A. Eighth Amendment Standard

         Although Hart does not identify any specific causes of action, the Court will construe his Complaint as raising a § 1983 claim for violation of the Eighth Amendment to the United States Constitution stemming from Defendants’ failure to protect Hart from violence committed by his cellmate. See Farmer v. Brennan, 511 U.S. 825, 832–33 (1994) (explaining that the Eighth Amendment’s prohibition on cruel and unusual punishment imposes a duty on prison officials to protect prisoners from violence at the hands of other prisoners).

         To establish an Eighth Amendment violation based on the failure to prevent harm to a prisoner, the prisoner must demonstrate two elements: (1) the prisoner “is incarcerated under conditions posing a substantial risk of serious harm;” and (2) a prison official acted in “deliberate indifference” to the substantial risk of serious harm. Farmer v. Brennan, 511 U.S. 825, 834 (1994). A court assesses the first element using an objective standard and the second using a subjective standard. See id. at 834, 837. A prison official acts in deliberate indifference when he has actual knowledge that a prisoner “faces[s] a substantial risk of serious harm and disregards that risk by failing to take reasonable measures to abate it.” Id. at 847. Constructive knowledge ...


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