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Shields v. Prince George's County

United States District Court, D. Maryland, Southern Division

September 1, 2016

REGINA SHIELD, Plaintiff,
v.
PRINCE GEORGE'S COUNTY, et al., Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          GEORGE J. HAZEL UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         Plaintiff Regina Shields ("Plaintiff'), individually and as the personal representative of the Estate of Samuel Shields ("Shields"), [1] has previously filed an Amended Complaint against Prince George's County, Corporal Chandler Hines, Private First Class Andrew Jackson, Private First Class Erik Wood, Private First Class Keith Funderburk (collectively, the "County Defendants",, and Corizon, Inc. ("Corizon",, alleging seventy-four counts, including violations of Shields' civil rights, pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. See ECF No. 41. This Memorandum Opinion and accompanying Order address Plaintiffs Motion for Leave to File a Second Amended Complain,, ECF No. 52, Defendant Corizon's Motion to Strike Declaration, ECF No. 53, Defendant Prince George's County's Motion for Bifurcation and Stay of Discovery, ECF No. 43, and Defendant Corizon's Motion to Dismiss Amended Complaint, ECF No. 42. A hearing on the motions was conducted on June 22, 2016. See Loc. R. 105.6 (D. Md. 2014). For the reasons stated below, Plaintiffs Motion for Leave to File a Second Amended Complaint is GRANTED in part and DENIED in part, Defendant Prince George's County's Motion for Bifurcation and Stay of Discovery is DENIED, Defendant Corizon's Motion to Strike is DENIED, as moot[2], and Defendant Corizon's Motion to Dismiss is GRANTED in part and DENIED in part.

         I. BACKGROUND [3]

         On June 17, 2014, at approximately 11:45am, Shields boarded a Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority ("WMATA") bus at ¶ 00 Addison Road in Seat Pleasant, Maryland. ECF No. 52-1 ¶ 44. Upon discovering that he had not paid the fare, WMATA personnel ordered him to payor exit the bus. Id. ¶ 45. Two WMATA transit officers then physically removed Shields from the bus and ordered him to place his hands behind his back. Id. ¶ 46. Shields made a fist with both hands, folded his arms underneath his chest and laid down on the ground. Id. ¶ 47. Shields was then transported by WMATA transit officers to the Prince George's County Detention Center ("Detention Center") in Upper Marlboro, Maryland for processing. Id. ¶ 48. At the Detention Center, one of the WMATA transit officers informed Corporals Marcus Evans, Jessica White and Tyrone Duckett that Shields had been disorderly and combative while also noting that Shields was not under the influence of alcohol or drugs. Id. ¶ 51-52.

         While in the processing area, Shields would not remain in his seat and began loudly yelling and singing in a language Corporal White could not understand. Id. ¶ 53. As a result of this strange behavior, Shields, who was already partially restrained, was placed in full restraints. Id. ¶ 55. A search of Shields was conducted and his property was inventoried, which included documents from the Social Security Administration, prescription medication, additional prescription information, a Smart trip fare card, credit cards and other personal items. Id. ¶¶ 56-57. The Detention Center was also provided with information concerning his medical history, including that Shields was asthmatic. Id. ¶ 61. No doctor or nurse was summoned to examine Shields. Id. ¶ 63. After being fingerprinted, Shields, still in full restraints, was placed in an isolation cell. Id. ¶ 65.

         At approximately 4:20pm and again at 7:01 pm, "Nurse Victoria, " a Corizon employee, reported to the processing area, where Shields was being held, to interview detainees. Id. ¶ 66. The Second Amended Complaint alleges that "based on Officer Roger's statements to [Corporals] Evans, White and Duckett and Samuel Shields' strange and bizarre behavior, Defendants Prince George's County and Corizon were fully aware from the time that Samuel Shields entered the Detention Center he suffered from a mental health disorder." Id. ¶ 67. It is further alleged that "Nurse Victoria and other members of the Corizon medical staff who interviewed detainees in the processing area including Samuel Shields were aware that he was suffering from a mental health disorder." Id. ¶ 68.

         After being held in an isolation cell in full restraints for more than seven hours, Shields was escorted to appear before the Court Commissioner where bond was set on the charge of obstruction and hindering. Id. ¶¶ 69-70. Around 9:48pm, Shields, who was no longer in full restraints but had not received his medication, once again displayed signs of unusual behavior and spoke in a loud voice. Id. ¶ 79. Numerous officers observed the bizarre behavior but did not call the medical unit. Id. ¶¶ 82-83. Instead, Sergeant Burr called the Emergency Response Team ("ERT") for assistance and instructed that Shields be escorted to the disciplinary unit. Id. ¶¶ 84, 87. Despite the lack of any aggressive or combative behavior from Shields, the ERT members approached Shields from behind and forcibly bent his arms behind his back to place the handcuffs around his wrists. Id. ¶¶ 91-92. Shields' arms were pulled from behind his back and forcibly pushed upward, which caused him to scream in pain. Id. ¶¶ 96-97. At all times, Shields appeared to be confused. Id. ¶ 93. Shields was then escorted to the male strip search room by Defendants Wood and Funderburk. Id. ¶ 99. Outside of the strip search room, various ERT members, including Defendants Wood, Hines, Funderburk, and Jackson, used joint locks and struck Shields with their knees, hitting his common personal nerve, and used closed fist strikes to his femoral artery to get him inside the room. Id. ¶101. Once inside the strip search room, Shields was pushed to the ground, while handcuffed, and called a "stupid motherfucker." Id. ¶¶ 104-05. He was severely and repeatedly beaten inside the strip search room. Id. ¶¶ 106-107. Defendant Hines can be seen on a video spraying OC spray into the strip search room, followed by sounds of coughing and sneezing. Id. ¶ 127. OC spray creates a risk of death for individuals who are asthmatic, taking other drugs or subjected to restraining techniques that restrict the breathing passages. Id. ¶ 125. ERT members then resumed beating Shields as he said "do not kill me." Id. ¶130. After additional beating, there is an extended period of silence on the video and Defendant Sergeant Emmanuel Odion[4] requests a broadcast of "signal 89."Id. ¶¶ 129, 134.

         The silence ends when Defendant Wood "suddenly and excitingly" exits the strip search room and asks for the "breathing thing." Id. ¶147. Chest compressions were eventually started. Id. ¶ 148. Minutes later, Corizon employees, Defendants Nurse Amadou and Nurse Adebayo[5] ("Corizon Nurses"), reported to the strip search room area to provide medical attention. Id. ¶ 151. The Second Amended Complaint alleges that the Corizon Nurses failed to take control of the management of Shields' life-threatening medical emergency. Id. 152-153. The Second Amended Complaint also alleges that the Corizon Nurses "failed to take into consideration the bystander effect, specifically, they failed to direct the numerous correctional officers standing around Samuel Shields to clear the area to avoid any impediment to administering medical attention to Samuel Shields' life-threatening medical emergency""Id. ¶ 154. Additionally, a Corizon Nurse slapped Shields and appeared to check his pulse but failed to check his airway for an obstruction, never checked his oxygen level, failed to properly administer the "Ambo bag" consistent with medically prescribed standards, pumped air faster than what would be consistent with normal breathing, and never performed any chest compressions. Id. ¶¶ 157-164.

         At 10:24pm, a Corizon Nurse left to retrieve an oxygen tank and, three minutes later, returned with one. Id. ¶ 165. Meanwhile, a video depicts CPR being performed on Shields in a manner that does not conform to the standards set forth by the American Heart Association. Id. ¶ 166. At 10:27pm, a Corizon Nurse attempted to use the automated external defibrillator ("AED") but did not receive a response from Shields Id. ¶ 167. According to the Second Amended Complaint, "the Corizon nurse did not properly or timely utilize the AED on Samuel Shields and her actions did not conform to the American Heart Association's standard, specifically to utilize the AED if the person has not begun moving after five CPR cycles, a period of approximately two minutes." Id. ¶ 169. It is alleged that more than a series of five chest compressions and more than two minutes passed before the AED was activated. Id. ¶¶ 168 and 170. The ERT members continued chest compressions but the Corizon Nurse never utilized the AED a second time. Id. ¶ 173. At 10:32pm, EMS personnel arrived and took over efforts to revive Shields Id. ¶ 175. He was transported to Southern Maryland Hospital Center where he was pronounced dead approximately one hour after arrival. Id. ¶ 185.

         Shields suffered from medical and emotional disabilities and was receiving Social Security and Supplemental Security Income aid and services due to those disabilities at the time of his death. Id. ¶¶ 41-42.

         Plaintiff filed the original Complaint on June 12, 2015, ECF No.,, and filed a Consent Motion for Leave to file an Amended Complaint on November 9, 2015, ECF No. 35, which was granted on November 25, 2015, ECF Nos. 39 and 41. The County Defendants filed their Answer on November 20, 205,, ECF No. 37, and Corizon filed its Motion to Dismiss the Amended Complaint on December 14, 2015, ECF No. 42. Plaintiff has now filed a Motion for Leave to File a Second Amended Complain.. ECF No. 52. The County Defendants consent to Plaintiffs Motion for Leave to File, ECF No. 58, and Corizon opposes, ECF No. 62. The County Defendants' have also filed a Motion for Bifurcation and Stay of Discovery. ECF No. 43.

         II. DISCUSSION

         A. Motion for Bifurcation and Stay of Discovery (ECF No. 43)

         Defendant Prince George's County seeks to bifurcate claims brought against the individual officers from claims brought against Prince George's County and stay discovery against Prince George's County pending resolution of the claims against the officers. ECF No. 43. Pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 42(b), district courts may order a separate trial of "one or more separate issues, claims, crossclaims, counterclaim,, or third-party claims" for "convenience, to avoid prejudice, or to expedite and economize." Fed.R.Civ.P. 42(b). In deciding whether to bifurcate, courts have broad discretion. Dixon v. CSX Tramp., Inc., 990 F.2d 1440, 1443 (4th Cir.), cert denied, 510 U.S. 915, 114 S.Ct. 305 (1993). Although the determination of whether bifurcation is appropriate is fact specific, the Court often "orders bifurcation in g 1983 cases where, as here, a plaintiff has asserted claims against individual government employees as well as the municipal entity that employs and supervises those individuals." Dodson v. Prince George's Cty., No. GJH-13-02916, 2014 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 134999, at *3-4 (D. Md. Sept. 25, 2014) (citations omitted). While "'complex' issues may justify bifurcation, separating issues for trial 'is not to be routinely ordered.'" Wood v. Walton, No. WDQ-09-3398, 2012 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 174738, at *12 (D. Md. Dec. 7, 2012) (citations omitted).

         Notably, the reason courts frequently order bifurcation in 9 1983 cases is that 9 1983 cases do not permit vicarious liability under a respondeat superior theory; meaning that while the establishment of the actively involved officers' liability must precede a finding of liability of the non-active employer, it does not, without more, establish liability on the part of the employer. See, e.g., Marryshow v. Bladensburg, 139 F.R.D. 318, 319 (D. Md. 1991) (allowing bifurcation in a 1983 case because "to hold the inactive Defendants liable, Plaintiff must first establish at least one active Defendant violated his constitutional rights"). In such cases, if a plaintiff prevails in establishing a claim against one or more of the active defendants, he then ""must establish that the actions of the active Defendants subjecting him to Section 1983 liability were proximately caused by a custom, practice or policy of an inactive Defendant' - the County." Dawson v. Prince George's Cty., 896 F.Supp. 537, 540 (D. Md. 1995) (quoting Marryshow v. Bladensburg, 139 F.R.D. 318 (D. Md. 1991)). Thus, if a Court bifurcates a 9 1983 claim and the officers are determined not to be liable, the resources devoted to discovery and trial of the municipality are conserved.

         Here, Plaintiff has brought 9 1983 claims against Prince George's County but has also alleged a number of additional claims against Prince George's County that are based on a theory of vicarious liability. When a plaintiff brings vicarious liability claims against a defendant employer, the employer "is not simply an 'inactive defendant'' liable only if Plaintiff can first prove that [the employee] violated [his] constitutional right." Treadwell v. Prince George's Cty. Health Dep't No. DKC 13-0063, 2014 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 96862 at *14 (D. Md. July 14, 2014.. Tims, bifurcation does not conserve the resources of the Court or the parties because the defendant employer "would have to defend itself at trial on the vicarious liability claims even if a separate trial were held for the Monell and negligent training and supervision claims." Devito v. Barrant, No. 03-CV-1927, 2005 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 22444, at *37 (E.D.N.Y. Aug. 23, 2005) (denying defendant's motion to bifurcate); see also Treadwel,, 2014 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 96862 (D. Md. July 14, 2014) (denying defendant's motion to bifurcate because plaintiff also brought a vicarious liability claim under Title VII). Because Plaintiff has brought numerous claims alleging vicarious liability against Prince George's County, Prince George's County's Motion for Bifurcation and Stay of Discovery is Denied.[6]

         B. Motion for Leave to File Second Amended Complaint (ECF No. 52)

         Plaintiff seeks leave to file a Second Amended Complaint to "include additional defendants and claims based on the parties involved in the events, " and to include additional facts that were developed "as a result of consultants viewing the video/audio recording of the incident." ECF No. 52 at 2. The County Defendants consent to Plaintiff's Motion for Leave to Amend, ECF No. 58, while Defendant Corizon opposes the motion, ECF No. 62. In the proposed Second Amended Complain,, Plaintiff asserts that the Corizon Nurses, who were not named in previous complaints, and Corizon violated Shields' Eighth and Fourteenth Amendment rights pursuant to 42 U.S.C. g 1983 (Counts V and VI, respectively) and that Corizon also violated Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act ("ADA") (Count VIII), ECF No. 52-1.

         Courts may "freely give leave [to amend] when justice so requires." Fed.R.Civ.P. 15(a)(2). "A motion to amend should be denied only where it would be prejudicial, there has been bad faith, or the amendment would be futile." Nourison Rug Corp. v. Parvizian, 535 F.3d 295, 298 (4th Cir. 2008) (citations omitted). But "'if the underlying facts or circumstance's relied upon by a plaintiff may be a proper subject of relief and the plaintiff moves to amend, the Court should grant the motion to give the plaintiff 'opportunity to test his claim on the merits."" Crump v. Montgomery Cry. Bd of Educ, No. PWG-12-3378, 2013 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 153310, at *12 (D. Md. Oct. 25, 2013) (internal citation omitted). Corizon has not argued, and the Court does not find, that a Second Amended Complaint would be prejudicial or is in bad faith.[7] Thus, the issue for the Court is whether the proposed amendment is futile.

         "A proposed amendment is considered futile if it cannot withstand a motion to dismiss."[8]Glass v. Ryder Integrated Logistic Corp., JKB-15-3501; 2016 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 32126 at *3, (D. Md. March 14, 2016) (citing Perkins v. United States,55 F.3d 910, 917 (4th Cir. 1995). When deciding a motion to dismiss, a court "must accept as true all of the factual allegations contained in the complain,, " and "draw all reasonable inferences [from those facts] in favor of the plaintiff." E./. du Pont de Nemours & Co. v. Kalan Indus., Inc.,637 F.3d 435, 440 (4th Cir. 2011) (citations and internal quotation marks omitted). Pursuant to 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). To survive a motion to dismiss invoking Rule 12(b)(6), "a complaint must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, 'to ...


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