United States District Court, D. Maryland
Richard D. Bennett United States District Judge.
Bonnie Taylor (“Plaintiff” or
“Taylor”), brings this action against Defendants
Board of County Commissioners for Somerset County,
Maryland (“Somerset County”), Louis
Hickman (“Hickman”), County Council of Dorchester
County (“Dorchester County”), Steve Mills
(“Mills”), State of Maryland (“the
State”) and Carroll Parrish (“Parrish”),
alleging negligence under Maryland law (Counts I-III), a
violation of her rights under the Eighth Amendment of the
United States Constitution, U.S. Const. amend. VIII (Count
IV), and a violation of her rights under Article 25 of the
Maryland Declaration of Rights (Count V). Specifically,
Plaintiff claims that Wardens Hickman, Mills, and Parrish
deliberately delayed her access to adequate medical treatment
for her injured wrist during her periods of incarceration at
the Somerset County Detention Center, the Dorchester County
Detention Center, and the Maryland Correctional Institute for
Women. Furthermore, she alleges that Hickman, Mills and
Parrish acted in accordance with and in furtherance of an
alleged improper policy or custom to violate inmates’
Eighth Amendment rights.
pending are Defendants Hickman and Somerset County’s
Motion to Dismiss (ECF No. 15); Defendants Mills and
Dorchester County’s Motion to Dismiss (ECF No. 17);
Defendants Parrish and the State’s Motion to Dismiss
(ECF No. 25); and Plaintiff’s Motion to Show
Substantial Compliance with the Maryland Tort Claims Act
(“MTCA”) and Good Cause to Waive the Notice
Requirement of the Local Government Tort Claims Act
(“LGTCA”) (ECF No. 31). The parties’
submissions have been reviewed, and a hearing on the pending
Motions was held on July 8, 2016.
reasons that follow, Defendants Hickman and Somerset
County’s Motion to Dismiss (ECF No. 15) is GRANTED IN
PART and DENIED IN PART; Defendants Mills and Dorchester
County’s Motion to Dismiss (ECF No. 17) is GRANTED IN
PART and DENIED IN PART; Defendants Parrish and the
State’s Motion to Dismiss (ECF No. 25) is GRANTED IN
PART and DENIED IN PART; and Plaintiff’s Motion to Show
Substantial Compliance with the MTCA and Good Cause to Waive
the Notice Requirement of the LGTCA (ECF No. 31) is
DENIED. Specifically, all claims against the State
of Maryland are DISMISSED WITH PREJUDICE; all state law
claims (Counts I, II, and V) against Somerset County,
Dorchester County, Hickman, and Mills are DISMISSED WITH
PREJUDICE; the claims against Somerset and Dorchester
Counties with respect to an unconstitutional policy or
custom are DISMISSED WITHOUT PREJUDICE; all
claims (Counts III, IV, and V) remain pending against Warden
Parrish in his individual capacity; and the Eighth Amendment
claim (Count IV) remains pending against Hickman and Mills in
their individual capacities.
Court accepts as true the facts alleged in the
plaintiff’s complaint. See Aziz v. Alcolac,
Inc., 658 F.3d 388, 390 (4th Cir. 2011). On July 31,
2012, Taylor was arrested in Ocean City, Maryland for
violation of probation for not reporting a change of address.
Compl. ¶ 20, ECF No. 2. Subsequently, she was
incarcerated at the Somerset County Detention Center, where
Hickman served as warden. Id. ¶¶ 21-22. On
August 31, 2012 Taylor, while an inmate at Somerset County
Detention Center, fell and injured her left wrist.
Id. ¶ 23. Following the injury, Taylor was
taken to Peninsula Regional Medical Center (PRMC), where she
was found to have a comminuted intra-articular distal radius
fracture with angulation and dorsal displacement.
Id. ¶ 24. Accordingly, PRMC performed a closed
reduction of the fracture and told Taylor to follow up with
an orthopedic surgeon in five to seven days. Id.
September 5, 2012 Taylor saw Dr. Richard Kang at Peninsula
Orthopedics. Id. ¶ 25. Dr. Kang concluded that
the fracture was in an acceptable position and chose not to
perform surgery. Id. He instructed her to return in
one week for follow-up. Id. On September 12, 2012
Taylor saw Dr. Kang for another appointment. Id.
¶ 26. At the check up, Dr. Kang concluded that the left
distal radius was in an unacceptable position and recommended
an open reduction internal fixation surgery. Id.
¶ 26. The prison guard from Somerset Detention Center
who had accompanied Taylor told Dr. Kang that surgery could
not be performed the next day because she was scheduled to be
transferred from Somerset Detention Center to another
facility. Id. ¶ 27.
Somerset County Detention Center did not schedule Taylor for
surgery. Id. ¶ 28. Instead, on September 13,
2012, Hickman transferred her to the Dorchester County
Detention Center, where Mills served as Warden. Id.
¶¶ 27, 29, 30. The Dorchester County Detention
Center did not schedule Taylor for an appointment with any
orthopedic surgeon. Id. ¶ 31. Accordingly, she
did not have surgery to mend her injured wrist while
incarcerated at Dorchester Detention Center. Id.
point between September 18, 2012 and September 21, 2012, the
Dorchester County Detention Center transferred Taylor to the
Maryland Correctional Institute for Women
(“MCI-W”) in Jessup, Maryland. Id.
¶ 32. Carroll Parrish served as the Warden at MCI-W.
Id. ¶ 33. On September 21, 2012 Taylor had an
intake exam at the facility. Id. ¶ 35. The
intake revealed that she had a left wrist fracture and that
orthopedic follow-up was requested. Id. Finally, on
October 9, 2012 Dr. Lawrence Manning saw Taylor for her first
follow-up since Dr. Kang recommended surgery. Id.
¶ 36. Dr. Manning noted that Taylor’s wrist had
become deformed and that her fracture had healed improperly,
causing a shortening of the radius. Id. ¶ 37.
He recommended physical therapy, but not surgery.
April 19, 2013 Taylor saw Dr. Ashok Krishnaswamy, her first
visit with an orthopedic surgeon since her visit with Dr.
Manning in October. Id. ¶ 38. Dr. Krishnaswamy
recommended reconstructive surgery on Taylor’s left
wrist. Id. On October 10, 2013-more than one year
after Taylor’s initial injury-he performed that surgery
at Bon Secours Hospital. Id.
subsequently filed suit in the Circuit Court for Anne Arundel
County bringing five counts against all defendants:
negligence under Maryland law (Counts I-III); a violation of
her Eighth Amendment rights pursuant to 41 U.S.C. § 1983
(Count IV); and a violation of her rights protected by
Article 25 of the Maryland Declaration of Rights (Count V).
Defendants timely removed the action to this Court on
February 5, 2016. Joint Notice of Removal, ECF No. 1. All
Defendants then moved to dismiss the Complaint (ECF Nos. 15,
17, 25). In partial response to the Defendant’s
Motions, Taylor has filed a Motion to Show Substantial
Compliance with the MTCA and Good Cause to Waive the Notice
Requirement of the LGTCA (ECF No. 31). This Court held a
hearing on the pending Motions on July 8, 2016.
Rule 8(a)(2) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, 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). Rule 12(b)(6) of the
Federal Rules of Civil Procedure authorizes the dismissal of
a complaint if it fails to state a claim upon which relief
can be granted. The purpose of Rule 12(b)(6) 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).
Supreme Court’s recent opinions in Bell Atlantic
Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544 (2007), and Ashcroft
v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662 (2009), “require that
complaints in civil actions be alleged with greater
specificity than previously was required.” Walters
v. McMahen, 684 F.3d 435, 439 (4th Cir. 2012) (citation
omitted). In Twombly, the Supreme Court articulated
“[t]wo working principles” that courts must
employ when ruling on Rule 12(b)(6) motions to dismiss.
Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678. First, while a court must
accept as true all the factual allegations contained in the
complaint, legal conclusions drawn from those facts are not
afforded such deference. Id. (stating that
“[t]hreadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of
action, supported by mere conclusory statements, do not
suffice” to plead a claim); see also Wag More Dogs,
LLC v. Cozart, 680 F.3d 359, 365 (4th Cir. 2012)
(“Although we are constrained to take the facts in the
light most favorable to the plaintiff, we need not accept
legal conclusions couched as facts or unwarranted inferences,
unreasonable conclusions, or arguments.” (internal
quotation marks omitted)).
a complaint must be dismissed if it does not allege “a
plausible claim for relief.” Iqbal, 556 U.S.
at 679. While the plausibility requirement does not impose a
“probability requirement, ” Twombly, 550
U.S. at 556, “[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 678; see also Robertson v. Sea Pines Real Estate
Cos., 679 F.3d 278, 291 (4th Cir. 2012) (“A
complaint need not make a case against a defendant or
forecast evidence sufficient to prove an
element of the claim. It need only allege facts
sufficient to state elements of the claim.”
(emphasis in original) (internal quotation marks and citation
omitted)). In making this assessment, a court must
“draw on its judicial experience and common
sense” to determine whether the pleader has stated a
plausible claim for relief. Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 679.
“At bottom, a plaintiff must nudge [its] claims across
the line from conceivable to plausible to resist
dismissal.” Wag More Dogs, LLC, 680 F.3d at
365 (internal quotation marks omitted).
State of Maryland
Counts III and V
Counts III and V, Taylor asserts two claims against the State
of Maryland: negligence (Count III), and a violation of
Articles 25 of the Maryland Declaration of Rights (Count V).
In Maryland, the common law doctrine of sovereign immunity
prohibits plaintiffs from bringing tort actions against the
State absent specific legislative consent to suit.
Dep’t of Natural Res. v. Welsh, 521 A.2d 313,
315 (Md. 1986). A plaintiff may assert a common law or state
constitutional tort claim against the State of Maryland or
one of its agencies only if he first complies with the notice
requirements of the Maryland Tort Claims Act
(“MTCA”), Md. Code Ann., State Gov't
§§ 12-101, et seq., which provides a
limited waiver of state sovereign immunity. As the Maryland
Court of Appeals has explained, “notice under the MTCA
plays an integral part . . . in the invocation of waiver of
the State's sovereign immunity.” Barbre v.
Pope, 935 A.2d 699, 710 (Md. 2007). The MTCA thus
commands a plaintiff to provide written notice to the State
Treasurer or its designees within one year of the alleged
injury. Id. Such notice is designed to
“afford[ ] the State the opportunity to investigate the
claims while the facts are fresh and memories vivid, and,
where appropriate, settle them at the earliest possible
time.” Haupt v. State, 667 A.2d 179, 183 (Md.
1995). As such, the notice requirement is “strictly
enforced.” McDaniel v. Maryland, Civ. A. No.
RDB-10-0189, 2010 WL 3260007, at *3 (D. Md. Aug. 18, 2010).
preliminary matter, Taylor concedes that she “did not
strictly comply with the notice requirements” of the
MTCA. Pl.’s Mot. to Show Substantial Compliance 4, ECF
No. 31. Instead, she argues that she substantially complied
with these requirements by (1) sending a Request for
Administrative Remedy form to Parrish; and (2) outlining her
claim in a letter to the Inmate Grievance Office. She argues
that these actions satisfied the purposes of the MTCA by
alerting the State of her allegations and thereby allowing a
timely investigation of her claims.
Maryland courts recognize a substantial compliance exception
to the MTCA, the doctrine is “narrowly
construed.” Royster v. Gahler, Civ. A. No.
ELH-15-1843, 2015 WL 9582977, at *11 (D. Md. Dec. 31, 2015)
(quoting McDaniel, 2010 WL 3260007, at *4). Indeed,
“the doctrine of substantial compliance . . . is not
license to ignore the clear mandate of the MTCA."
Chinwuba v. Larsen, 790 A.2d 83, 98 (Md. Ct. Spec.
App. 2002), rev’d on other grounds, 832 A.2d
193 (Md. 2003). A plaintiff may substantially comply with the
notice requirements of the MTCA by providing notice that,
although technically deficient, nevertheless serves the
purpose of the statute. Conaway v. State, 600 A.2d
1133, 1137-38 (Md. 1992). In Conaway, the Court of
Appeals explained that the purposes of the MTCA notice
provisions are satisfied “when the State has requisite
and timely notice of the facts and circumstances of the
incident giving rise to the claim.” Id. at
246. (quoting Radtke v. City of Milwaukee, 342
N.W.2d 435, 438 (Wis. 1984). The doctrine of substantial
compliance, however, “has no application to an outright
failure to comply.” Royster v. Gahler, 2015 WL
9582977, at *9 (quoting Simpson v. Moore, 592 A.2d
1090, 1096 (Md. 1989)).
relies on Conaway and Paulone v. City of
Frederick, 718 F.Supp.2d 626 (D. Md. 2010), to support
her argument that her correspondence with Parrish and the
Inmate Grievance Office constitute substantial compliance
with the MTCA. Yet, neither case counsels such a conclusion.
Rather, Conaway and Paulone stand only for
the proposition that minor infirmities within the content of
timely notice sent to the State Treasurer will not vitiate a
claim against the State. In Conaway, a plaintiff
injured at the Maryland Division of Correction Brockbridge
facility in Jessup sent written notice of his injury to the
State Treasurer within the MTCA’s notice period, but
omitted a demand for specific damages. Conaway, 600
A.2d at 1134. The Court of Appeals held that, although the
content of the plaintiff’s notice to the Treasurer did
not literally comply with the notice requirements of the
MTCA, it nevertheless substantially complied with the
requirements because it “provided the State with
sufficient written notice of the circumstances of the
underlying incident to enable it to investigate the claim and
respond either by settlement or defense.” Id.
at 1140 (internal quotation marks omitted). Likewise, this
Court in Paulone concluded that a plaintiff who had
sent a letter to the State Treasurer within the statutory
notice period, but without explicitly stating claims against
the State for negligent training and supervision,
substantially complied with the MTCA. Paulone, 718
F.Supp.2d at 637. This Court reasoned that her letter’s
lengthy explanation of her allegations against the State