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Hart v. Ottey

United States District Court, D. Maryland

July 21, 2016

NATHANIEL LEKAI HART, Plaintiff,
v.
COLIN OTTEY, M.D., et al., Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          George L. Russell, III United States District Judge.

         THIS MATTER is before the Court on Defendant Lieutenant T. Sawyers’s Motion to Dismiss or, in the Alternative, Motion for Summary Judgment (ECF No. 9) and Defendants’, Colin Ottey, M.D., Krista Swan, R.N., Jennifer Bradfield, R.N., and Wexford Health Sources, Inc. (collectively, the “Medical Defendants”), Motion to Dismiss or, in the Alternative, Motion for Summary Judgment (ECF No. 21). The Motions are ripe for disposition. Having reviewed the Motions and supporting documents, the Court finds no hearing necessary. See Local Rule 105.6 (D.Md. 2016). For the reasons stated below, the Court will grant the Motions.

         I. BACKGROUND

         Plaintiff Nathaniel Lekai Hart was an inmate incarcerated at North Branch Correctional Institution (“NBCI”) in Cumberland, Maryland. He claims that, in January of 2015, the NBCI staff refused to give him a monthly commissary welfare bag for indigent inmates. The bag contains hygiene items such as toothpaste and soap. During the month of December 2014, he had less than four dollars in his prison account and could not afford to purchase these items. Hart asserts without these items, he was unable to wash himself appropriately. On January 27, 2015, Hart filed an administrative remedy procedure request (“ARP”) raising this issue.

         Additionally, Hart alleges that he has suffered from lower back pain since April 2013, but during 2014, he was denied adequate medical treatment. He alleges medical staff waited many months before ordering an x-ray to assess the problem, and he suffered “insurmountable pain.” (ECF No. 4). He claims medical providers ignored the many sick call requests he submitted concerning his back pain throughout the year. Id.

         On July 13, 2015, Hart initiated this action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 (2012), alleging Defendants violated his rights under the Eighth Amendment of the United States Constitution. (ECF No. 1). On December 7, 2015, Sawyer filed his Motion to Dismiss or, in the Alternative, Motion for Summary Judgment. (ECF No. 9). On December 30, 2015, Hart filed a Response to the Motion. (ECF No. 13). On April 7, 2016, the Medical Defendants filed a Motion to Dismiss or, in the Alternative, Motion for Summary Judgment. (ECF No. 21). Hart filed a Response to the Motion on April 18, 2016 (ECF No. 23), and the Medical Defendants filed a Reply on April 25, 2016 (ECF No. 25).

         II. DISCUSSION

         A. Standard of Review

         A complaint fails to state a claim if it does not contain “a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief, ” Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2), or does not state “a plausible claim for relief.” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 679 (2009) (citing Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 556 (2007)). “Threadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action, supported by mere conclusory statements, do not suffice.” Id. at 678 (citing Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555). Though the plaintiff is not required to forecast evidence to prove the elements of the claim, the complaint must allege sufficient facts to establish each element. Goss v. Bank of Am., N.A., 917 F.Supp.2d 445, 449 (D.Md. 2013) (quoting Walters v. McMahen, 684 F.3d 435, 439 (4th Cir. 2012)), aff’d sub nom. Goss v. Bank of Am., NA, 546 F.App’x 165 (4th Cir. 2013).

         Pro se pleadings, however, are liberally construed and held to a less stringent standard than pleadings drafted by lawyers. Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 94 (2007) (citing Estelle v. Gamble, 429 U.S. 97, 106 (1976)); accord Brown v. N.C. Dep’t of Corr., 612 F.3d 720, 722 (4th Cir. 2010). In considering a Rule 12(b)(6) motion, the court must construe the complaint in the light most favorable to the plaintiff, read the complaint as a whole, and take the facts asserted therein as true. 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)).

         “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) (quoting Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(d)). Under Rule 56(a), the Court must grant summary judgment if the moving party demonstrates there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.

         In reviewing a motion for summary judgment, the Court must draw all justifiable inferences in the non-moving party’s favor. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 255 (1986) (citing Adickes v. S.H. Kress & Co., 398 U.S. 144, 158-59 (1970)). Once a motion for summary judgment is properly made and supported, the opposing party has the burden of showing that a genuine dispute exists. Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 586-87 (1986). “[T]he mere existence of some alleged factual dispute between the parties will not defeat an otherwise properly supported motion for summary judgment; the requirement is that there be no genuine issue of material fact.” Anderson, 477 U.S. at 247-48.

         A “material fact” is one that might affect the outcome of a party’s case. Id. at 248; see JKC Holding Co. v. Wash. Sports Ventures, Inc., 264 F.3d 459, 465 (4th Cir. 2001) (citing Hooven-Lewis v. Caldera, 249 F.3d 259, 265 (4th Cir. 2001)). Whether a fact is considered to be “material” is determined by the substantive law, and “[o]nly disputes over facts that might affect the outcome of the suit under the governing law will properly preclude the entry of summary judgment.” Anderson, 477 U.S. at 248; accord Hooven-Lewis, 249 F.3d at 265.

         “A party opposing a properly supported motion for summary judgment ‘may not rest upon the mere allegations or denials of [his] pleadings, ’ but rather must ‘set forth specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial.’” Bouchat v. Balt. Ravens Football Club, Inc., 346 F.3d 514, 525 (4th Cir. 2003) (alteration in original) (quoting Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(e)). The court should “view the evidence in the light most favorable to . . . the nonmovant, and draw all inferences in [his] favor without weighing the evidence or assessing the witness’ credibility.” Dennis v. Columbia Colleton Med. Ctr., Inc., 290 F.3d 639, 644-45 (4th Cir. 2002). The court must, however, also abide by the “affirmative ...


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