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Jones v. Shearin

United States District Court, D. Maryland

July 14, 2016



          DEBORAH K. CHASANOW United States District Judge

         Presently pending and ready for resolution in this civil rights case is a motion to dismiss or, in the alternative, for summary judgment filed by Defendants Bobby P. Shearin, Frank B. Bishop, Jr., and Paul Pennington (collectively, the “Defendants”). (ECF No. 25).[1] The issues have been briefed, and the court now rules, no hearing being deemed necessary. Local Rule 105.6. For the following reasons, Defendants’ motion to dismiss will be granted.

         I. Background

         A. Factual Background

         Unless otherwise noted, the facts outlined here are construed in the light most favorable to Plaintiff Thomas Jones (“Plaintiff”), the nonmoving party. Plaintiff was incarcerated at the North Branch Correctional Institution (“NBCI”) in Cumberland, Maryland. Specifically, Plaintiff was housed in the D-wing housing unit #2. Plaintiff alleges that in early February 2012, Defendants collectively decided to move Plaintiff to the B-wing housing unit #2. (ECF No. 1 ¶ 9). Plaintiff packed his belongings and met Correctional Officer Connors in the B-Wing. According to Plaintiff, Officer Connors “ordered him to move into cell #19 on the top bunk.” (Id. ¶ 11). Plaintiff requested the bottom bunk, explaining to Officer Connors that “being placed on the top bunk[] would place him in danger due to his serious medical condition. Plaintiff simply ask[ed] permission to take the bottom bunk to avoid being injured if he became ill from a seizure.” (Id. ¶ 12). Plaintiff also showed Officer Connors his I.D. card, which “clearly indicated ‘seizure patient.’ This I.D. card was produced and provided by [the Division of Correction]. [Officer] Connors examined the I.D. card but ignored Plaintiff’s reasonable requests, and again ordered him to take the top bunk.” (Id. ¶ 13). If Plaintiff did not comply, she advised, he would be subject to “disciplinary adjustment.” (Id. ¶ 14). Plaintiff took the top bunk.

         On February 22, 2012, Plaintiff experienced a seizure while sleeping and fell from the top bunk to the floor. He sustained “several fractured bones in the areas of his hip and face.” (Id. ¶ 16). Plaintiff underwent three surgeries and may require further treatment. He alleges that, due to his fall, he has “suffered severe physical pain, disfigurement, and emotional pain.” (Id. ¶ 18). At the time of Plaintiff’s injury, Defendant Shearin was the Warden of NBCI. Defendant Bishop served as the Chief of Security, and Defendant Pennington was the Manager of housing unit #2. According to Plaintiff, Defendants were aware that he suffered from seizures, especially while asleep. (Id. ¶ 22).

         B. Procedural Background

         Plaintiff, represented by counsel, filed the complaint against Defendants and Officer Connors on February 20, 2015. (ECF No. 1). Plaintiff asserts one claim under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 that Defendants violated his rights secured by the Eighth Amendment to the United States Constitution. According to Plaintiff, “despite having full knowledge of [his] illness and/or disease, Defendants were deliberately indifferent and disregarded the potential danger by failing to take reasonable measures and not providing a cell that would allow Plaintiff to sleep on a bottom bunk.” (Id. ¶ 23). He seeks $200, 000.00 in compensatory and punitive damages. Defendants moved to dismiss or, in the alternative, for summary judgment on February 19, 2016. (ECF No. 25). Plaintiff responded in opposition. (ECF No. 28).

         II. Standard of Review

         As noted, Defendants styled their motion 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. Defendants have attached inmate health records, an Administrative Remedy Procedure (“ARP”) index report, and daily events logs from February 22, 2012, and the two days thereafter. (See ECF No. 25-2). Responding in opposition, Plaintiff also attached extraneous materials, including additional inmate health records, Plaintiff’s ARP request and appeal to the Inmate Grievance Office (“IGO”), and a record of a disciplinary hearing at which Plaintiff was cleared of the charged violations. (See ECF No. 28-2).

         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). If the court does consider matters outside the pleadings, “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); see also Finley Lines Joint Protective Bd. Unit 200 v. Norfolk S. Corp., 109 F.3d 993, 997 (4th Cir. 1997) (“[A] Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss supported by extraneous materials cannot be regarded as one for summary judgment until the district court acts to convert the motion by indicating that it will not exclude from its consideration of the motion the supporting extraneous materials.”). Plaintiff received notice of potential consideration under the summary judgment standard by virtue of the motion filed by Defendants. See Laughlin v. Metro. Wash. Airports Auth., 149 F.3d 253, 261 (4th Cir. 1998); Warner v. Quilo, No. ELH-12-248, 2012 WL 3065358, at *2 (D.Md. July 26, 2012) (“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[.]”). Here, however, because the claims against the moving Defendants will be dismissed under Rule 12(b)(6), it is generally not necessary to evaluate the summary judgment motion. Defendants’ exhaustion argument will be discussed below. See infra Part IV.

         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 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, 555 n.3 (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, the court need not accept unsupported legal allegations. 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. at 678, as are conclusory factual allegations without any reference to actual events. United Black Firefighters v. Hirst, 604 F.2d 844, 847 (4th Cir. 1979); see also Francis v. Giacomelli, 588 F.3d 186, 192 (4th Cir. 2009).

         III. Plaintiff’s § 1983 Claim Against the Moving Defendants

         Defendants argue that Plaintiff’s § 1983 claim is subject to dismissal for failure to demonstrate a violation of the Eighth Amendment, lack of supervisory liability, sovereign ...

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