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Allen v. Barrera

United States District Court, D. Maryland

February 16, 2017

LAWRENCE KENNETH ALLEN Plaintiff
v.
DR. ROBUSTIANO BARRERA, et al. Defendants

          MEMORANDUM

          RICHARD D. BENNETT, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         In response to the above-entitled civil rights Complaint, filed pursuant to 42 U.S.C. §1983, Defendants Robustiano Barrera, [1] M.D., Mahboob Ashraf, M.D., William Beeman, R.N., and Kimberly Martin, R.N., collectively "Medical Defendants, " move to dismiss the complaint or for summary judgment (ECF 11) and Defendants Lt. Janet Puffenbarger, Sgt. Robert Werner, Sgt. Anthony Frenzel, Correctional Officer II John Beachy, Correctional Officer II Erik Shoemaker, Correctional Officer II Zachery Kifer, and Correctional Officer II Michael Van Meter, collectively "Correctional Defendants, " also move to dismiss the complaint or for summary judgment (ECF 15). After each dispositive motion was filed, Plaintiff was advised of his right to file an Opposition Response and of the consequences of failing to do so. ECF 13 and 16. Plaintiff has filed nothing further in the case. No hearing is deemed necessary for the disposition of the matters pending. See Local Rule 105.6 (D. Md. 2016). For the reasons that follow, the motion filed by Medical Defendants shall be construed as a Motion to Dismiss and shall be granted. ECF 11. The motion filed by Correctional Defendants shall be construed as a Motion for Summary Judgment[2] and shall be granted. ECF 15. The Complaint shall be dismissed as malicious and a "strike" shall be issued pursuant to the Prison Litigation Reform Act.

         Complaint Allegations

         Plaintiff Lawrence Kenneth Allen is a prisoner committed to the custody of the Maryland Division of Correction and confined at North Branch Correctional Institution ("NBCI"). Allen asserts that on July 30, 2016, he made several requests to correctional officers for ice because he has Multiple Sclerosis (MS) and the symptoms for the disease worsen when the weather is hot. Although the Complaint is not all together clear, it appears Allen claims he argued with Dr. Ashraf, Dr. Barrera, William Beeman, R.N., Kim Martin, R.N. and "security staff' about his need for ice and that during the course of this argument he was called a racial slur. ECF 1 at p. 3. Allen alleges that Lt. Puffenbarger, Sgt. Werner, and Sgt. Frenzel came to his cell, opened the security slot, and sprayed an entire can of pepper spray on Allen. He states that he almost choked to death as a result of the pepper spray. Id.

         Allen further claims that after the chemical agent was sprayed into his cell, Officer Kifer, Beachy, Shoemaker, and Van Meter came into his cell wearing gas masks and began kicking, stomping, and spitting on him. Id. Allen states that he suspects his right shoulder was dislocated. Id.

         As relief Allen seeks injunctive relief in the form of an order requiring the medical department to provide ice twice daily and to provide immediate access to physical therapy.[3] Id. In addition, Allen seeks monetary damages of $250, 000. Id.

         Standard of Review

         Motion to Dismiss

         In reviewing the complaint in light of a Motion to Dismiss pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. Proc. 12(b)(6) the court accepts all well-pleaded allegations of the complaint as true and construes the facts and reasonable inferences derived therefrom in the light most favorable to the plaintiff. Venkatraman v. REI Sys., Inc., 417 F.3d 418, 420 (4th Cir. 2005) (citing Mylan Labs., Inc. v. Matkari, 7 F.3d 1130, 1134 (4th Cir. 1993)); Ibarra v. United States, 120 F.3d 472, 473 (4th Cir. 1997). Rule 8(a)(2) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure requires only a "short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief." Migdal v. Rowe Price-Fleming Intl Inc., 248 F.3d 321, 325-26 (4th Cir. 2001); see also Swierkiewicz v. Sorema N.A., 534 U.S. 506, 513 (2002) (stating that a complaint need only satisfy the "simplified pleading standard" of Rule 8(a)).

         The Supreme Court of the United States explained a "plaintiffs obligation to provide the "grounds" of his "entitlement to relief requires more than labels and conclusions, and a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action will not do." Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007) (internal citations omitted). Nonetheless, the complaint does not need "detailed factual allegations" to survive a motion to dismiss. Id. at 555. Instead, "once a claim has been stated adequately, it may be supported by showing any set of facts consistent with the allegations in the complaint." Id. at 563. To survive a motion to dismiss, "a complaint must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to 'state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.'" Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 677-78 (2009) (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 570). "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. "But where the well-pleaded facts do not permit the court to infer more than the mere possibility of misconduct, the complaint has alleged ~ but it has not 'show[n]' -- 'that the pleader is entitled to relief.'" Id. at 679 (quoting Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2)).

         "[O]nce a claim has been stated adequately, it may be supported by showing any set of facts consistent with the allegations in the complaint." Twombly, 550 U.S. at 563 (citing Sanjuan v. Am. Bd of Psychiatry and Neurology, Inc., 40 F.3d, 247, 251 (7th Cir. 1994)) (once a claim for relief has been stated, a plaintiff 'receives the benefit of imagination, so long as the hypotheses are consistent with the complaint').

         The claims raised in the Complaint as to the Medical Defendants are, at best, speculative. Allen's MS diagnosis alone does not state an Eighth Amendment claim. He does not allege, nor does he offer any evidence to support that the Medical Defendants were informed of an objectively serious medical need which they subsequently refused to treat. There is nothing in the Complaint that even suggests that Medical Defendants have refused to otherwise treat Allen's MS, nor is there anything suggesting that providing ice is an essential element of treatment for that illness. To the extent the allegation regarding the use of a racial slur was intended to implicate any of the Medical Defendants, that alone does not state a constitutional claim. The unopposed Motion to Dismiss shall be granted.

         Summary ...


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