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Kamara v. Prince George's County Department of Corrections

United States District Court, D. Maryland

February 24, 2017



          Ellen L. Hollander United States District Judge.

         Zainab Kamara, the self-represented plaintiff, filed a civil rights suit against a host of defendants, pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, arising out of a seemingly unprovoked and brutal attack upon plaintiff in 2014, committed by a fellow detainee at the Prince George's County Department of Corrections (“PGCDC”).[1] ECF 1; ECF 4. In general, she alleges that the correctional defendants failed to protect her and that she was provided inadequate medical care for the injuries she sustained during the assault.

         Defendants Abu Kalokoh; Meskerem Asresahegn, M.D.; and David Ijeh, M.D. (“Medical Defendants) filed a motion to dismiss or, in the alternative, for summary judgment. ECF 30. It is supported by a memorandum (ECF 30-1) (collectively, “Medical Defendants' Motion”) and several exhibits. Defendants PGCDC; Mary Lou McDonough; Harry L. Hilton; Adedeji Adewunmi; Corporal Diamon Baker; Corporal Shayla Stewart; Private First Class Yvette Ford; and Corporal Dawn Taylor (“Correctional Defendants”) have moved for summary judgment. ECF 44.[2] Their motion is supported by a memorandum (ECF 44-1) (collectively, “Correctional Defendants' Motion”) and exhibits, including a surveillance or tier video of the assault. See ECF 44-4. Plaintiff opposes both motions. ECF 36; ECF 48; ECF 49. In sum, her contentions are similar to the allegations in her suit. The Medical Defendants filed a Reply at ECF 37, along with another exhibit. ECF 37-1.

         In a status report submitted by plaintiff on November 7, 2016 (ECF 43), plaintiff asserted that she could not download the surveillance video and thus she was unable to review it. Id. at 2-3. She asked for the “Win-Media format.” Id. at 3. By Order of February 3, 2017 (ECF 51), I directed counsel for the Correctional Defendants, within fourteen days of my Order, to provide Kamara with the opportunity to review the video. Id. In a letter of February 15, 2017 (ECF 52), counsel advised that plaintiff viewed the DVD on that date, from 11:05 a.m. to 12:25 p.m. Id. Counsel also stated that plaintiff would be furnished with another copy of the DVD, for her use. Id. In my Order (ECF 51), I gave plaintiff ten days to supplement her response after she viewed the video. She did so on February 23, 2017. See ECF 53.

         No hearing is necessary to resolve the motions. See Local Rule 105.6 (D. Md. 2016). For the reasons that follow, defendants' motions, construed as motions for summary judgment, shall be granted.

         I. Factual Background

         On November 19, 2014, while Kamara was detained at PGCDC, she was viciously attacked in the lunch room by fellow detainee Erika Sellers.[3] Plaintiff claims that she “almost lost [her] life.” ECF 1 at 3. According to plaintiff, Sellers is mentally ill and has a history of attacking other inmates. Id. Further, Kamara asserts that during the assault she twice lost consciousness, but the officers on duty during the attack, Baker, Stewart, Ford, and Taylor, failed to call for the emergency response team (“ERT”) in a “timely manner.” Id. Plaintiff also states that when Officer Stewart wanted to call the ERT, Baker, the lead officer, told Stewart to let plaintiff get “her ass bit up first . . . .” Id. In addition, plaintiff asserts that “the officers did nothing to protect [her] or assist [her], no [sic] even try to stop it, it was a total negligent . . . .” Id. Rather, the officers “were saying fight back Kamara, ” expected her to fight back, and were “cheering the fight . . . .” Id. Plaintiff also complains that it took “about fifteen mins [sic] for the ERT to come and stop it.” Id. According to Kamara, when the ERT arrived, she “was on the floor lifeless, hopeless, and helpless . . . .” Id.

         Plaintiff claims that she suffered multiple injuries, including a soft tissue head injury, and endured extreme pain. Moreover, plaintiff asserts that she “was never take [sic] to the hospital even with inter cranial fluid (CF) is coming out of [her] nose” and her “maxillary artery was open . . . .” Id. According to plaintiff, she received inadequate medical care.

         Kamara indicates that she filed criminal charges against Sellers regarding the attack but was not transported to court by the PGCDC on the date of Sellers's trial. Id. at 3-4. Because plaintiff was not present to testify, the charges against Sellers were dropped. Id. at 4. Further, plaintiff indicates that she asked for inmate grievance forms but never received them. Id. at 2-3.

         Plaintiff clarified her claims in her amendment to the complaint. See ECF 4. She asserts that she is at risk of harm and an easy target due to her background and accent. Id. at 1. Additionally, plaintiff indicates that she has sued Mary Lou McDonough as the Director of the PGCDC. According to plaintiff, McDonough was “grossly negligent” in managing the correctional officers. Plaintiff also claims that McDonough was aware of the violation of plaintiff's rights but did nothing to correct the situation. Further, she alleges that McDonough is responsible for housing mentally ill inmates with plaintiff. Id.

         Lt. Col Harry L. Hilton was the Chief of Security at the time of the assault and it was his job to insure the safety of the inmates. Plaintiff asserts that “he was very negligent” because he did not seek care for plaintiff until three days after the attack. Id.

         Kamara alleges that Abu Kaloko, Medical Administrator, did nothing “to help meet” her “medical needs . . . .” 2. She also alleges that Kaloko charged plaintiff for medication. Plaintiff states that she submitted several forms to obtain medical records but never received anything. Id.

         In addition, plaintiff complains that Meskerem Asresahegn, M.D., the facility physician, did not see her until a week after the attack. On several occasions, plaintiff requested to be transported to the hospital, because she was suffering severe pain in her back, neck, side, and suffered from headaches. Id. But, Dr. Asresahegn refused to have plaintiff transported to the hospital for a second opinion. Id.

         According to plaintiff, David Ijeh, M.D., the psychiatrist for the institution, knew that Sellers was mentally ill, with a history of attacking other inmates. However, he did nothing to prevent the episode. Id. at 2. Similarly, plaintiff states that the administration at PGCDC knew about the mental history of Sellers, yet they did nothing to prevent the attack. Id. at 4.

         According to plaintiff, Sgt. Adewunmi was the supervisor on duty at the time of the attack. Id. Plaintiff maintains that he “did nothing to prevent” this “attack.” Id. at 2.

         Further, Kamara claims that Officer D. Baker was “the lead staff on duty” on the day of the “deadly attack, ” and “[s]he did nothing to stop the attack. She was cheering” for plaintiff to fight back. Id. at 3. Nor did Baker call the ERT “on time, ” and she advised plaintiff that facility protocol did not allow her to stop the attack. Id. Plaintiff alleges that Baker did not follow facility policy and procedure to protect plaintiff and promote safety. Id.

         Officers Stewart, Ford, and Taylor were also on duty at the time of the attack and allegedly did nothing to stop the fight. Id. at 3-4. According to Kamara, Stewart encouraged her to fight back. Id. at 3. Plaintiff also states that Stewart attempted to call the ERT but was stopped by the lead officer. Id.

         Plaintiff submitted declarations from three fellow detainees who witnessed the assault. Ashley McCrae avers that when plaintiff was attacked by Sellers on November 19, 2014, four correctional officers did not protect Kamara, and the ERT was not called for “some good amount of time.” ECF 12 at 1. Helene Newsome avers that she saw Sellers attack plaintiff while the officers “were just standing their [sic] do nothing to stop the attack.” ECF 12-1 at 1. She avers that it took “almost 15 min[utes] before the ERT come to the unit . . . . Id. Further, she asserts that the staff “neglected to maintain the order and protect Kamara against the violence . . . .” Id. Jade Cooper avers that she heard the attack but did not see it. Cooper recalls that she heard an inmate screaming for Sellers to stop but officers were urging plaintiff “to fight back” as plaintiff cried for help. According to Cooper, the fight went on for about fifteen minutes before she heard the ERT team. ECF 12-2 at 1.

         Defendants do not dispute that plaintiff was spontaneously assaulted by Sellers. Corporal Diamon Garrison (formerly Diamon Baker), Corporal Shyla Stewart, Private First Class Officer Yvette Ford, and Corporal Dawn Taylor each aver that on November 19, 2014, they were assigned to Housing Unit 3 (“H-3”) at the PGCDC, where plaintiff was housed. ECF 44-3 at 2, ¶ 3 (Baker Affidavit); ECF 44-5, ¶ 3 (Stewart Affidavit); ECF 44-6, ¶ 2 (Ford Affidavit); ECF 44-7, ¶ 3 (Taylor Affidavit). As the detainees were eating lunch, they observed Sellers approach plaintiff from behind and begin hitting plaintiff with a closed fist. No loud arguing preceded the assault. ECF 44-3 at 2, ¶ 3-4; ECF 44-5, ¶ 4; ECF 44-6, ¶ 3; ECF 44-7, ¶ 4. Stewart immediately called a “Signal 80” over the radio, requesting the ERT to respond to the unit. Stewart also ordered the detainees to “lock in.” ECF 44-3 at 2-3, ¶ 5; ECF 44-5, ¶¶ 5 & 6; ECF 44-6, ¶ 4; ECF 44-7, ¶ 5. Ford and Taylor also commanded the detainees to lock in while Ford operated the control panel to secure the doors and Taylor went upstairs to make sure the detainees were secured as ordered. ECF 44-6, ¶¶ 5 & 8; ECF 44-7, ¶ 6. Baker was the first officer to approach Sellers and plaintiff, when plaintiff was on the ground. ECF 44-3 at 3, ¶ 12.

         Baker and Stewart saw Sellers kick plaintiff after plaintiff fell to the ground. ECF 44-3 at 3, ¶ 6.; ECF 44-5, ¶ 7. Both Baker and Stewart approached Sellers and commanded her to stop kicking plaintiff. Sellers briefly complied and yelled “Back the fuck up! You bitches know how I go. I will fuck ya'll up too.” ECF 44-3 at 3, ¶ 7; ECF 44-5, ¶ 8. Baker and Stewart continued to direct Sellers to stop the assault upon plaintiff, but Sellers refused to obey the commands. ECF 44-3 at 3, ¶ 9; ECF 44-5, ¶ 9. The ERT responded to the unit, quelled the situation, and escorted both detainees to the medical unit. ECF 44-3 at 3, ¶ 10; ECF 44-5, ¶ 10; ECF 44-6, ¶ 6.

         Corporal Baker, Corporal Stewart, Private First Class Ford, and Corporal Taylor averred that they had no prior reason to believe that Sellers would attack Kamara, nor was there any indication that Sellers harbored ill will towards plaintiff. ECF 44-3, ¶ 13; ECF 44-5, ¶ 12; ECF 44-6, ¶ 9; ECF 44-7, ¶ 9. Moreover, plaintiff had never expressed concern about Sellers prior to the incident. ECF 44-3, ¶ 14; ECF 44-5, ¶ 13; ECF 44-6, ¶ 10; ECF 44-7, ¶ 10. This was the first time that they saw Sellers attack plaintiff. Id. After the incident, Baker completed an incident report. ECF 44-3 at 3, ¶ 11; see ECF 44-3 at 21-22.

         Baker, Stewart, Ford, and Taylor each reviewed the surveillance video, which is discussed, infra. Each has averred that it is a fair and accurate depiction of the incident. ECF 44-3 at 3, ¶ 11; ECF 44-5, ¶ 11; ECF 44-6, ¶ 7; ECF 44-7, ¶ 8. Baker identified herself as the first officer who ran to the scene when plaintiff was already on the ground, by the pay phone. ECF 44-3 at 3 ¶ 12. Stewart identified herself as the officer behind the desk who picked up the radio to call ERT. ECF 44-5, ¶ 11. Ford identified herself as the officer behind the desk working the control panel. ECF 44-6, ¶ 7. Taylor identified herself as the officer who walked upstairs. ECF 44-7, ¶ 8.

         On the date of the incident, Adedeji Adewunmi was the Zone Commander for Zone 4, shift 2, working in a supervisory capacity. ECF 44-8, ¶ 3. He was not present on H-3 when the assault occurred. However, he heard the Signal 80 for the ERT and responded to the incident. Id. ¶ 4. When he arrived on H-3 the ERT was already there. Id. ¶ 6. After the incident Adewunmi conducted an investigation, which included review of the video footage, interviews of the correctional officers and detainees, and instructions to Baker to complete an incident/infraction report. Id. ¶ 7. As a result of the investigation, Adewunmi charged Sellers with rule violations, including Failure to Obey Orders of Staff, Threat to Staff, and Assault. Id. ¶ 8, ECF 44-8 at 5. Adewunmi also provided plaintiff with a notification of rights form and plaintiff initiated criminal charges against Sellers. Id. ¶ 9; ECF 44-7 at 7. Adewunmi maintains that he had no reason to expect such conduct by Sellers. ECF 44-8, ¶¶ 10 & 11.

         Doctor Ijeh is employed as a psychiatrist at the PGCDC. ECF 30-4, ¶ 1. He has been licensed in Maryland since 1994. Id. ¶ 3. Ijeh avers that he personally treated both plaintiff and Sellers, and “was not aware of any propensity for violence on the part of Sellerss.” Id.¶ 5. Nor was he aware that she ever had attacked other inmates. Id. Ijeh further avers that he was not aware of a risk of harm to plaintiff. Id. He also recounts plaintiff's mental health treatment while detained. ECF 30-4, ¶¶ 6-27.

         The Prince George's County Correctional Center Policy and Procedure Manual is relevant. ECF 44-3 at 8. Section D provides, in pertinent part, that where there is a disturbance in the housing unit the housing unit officer will:

1. Notify the Central Control Officer via radio or the emergency phony system;
2. Order the non-involved inmates to their cells and place them on lockdown;
3. Attempt to quell a minor disturbance (e.g. fight between inmates) by issuing verbal commands to the involved inmates;
4. Never place himself between fighting inmates but will wait for assistance from responding Emergency Response Team (ERT) officers. . . .

         The Correctional Defendants submitted as an exhibit the DVD tier video of the incident. ECF 44-4 (filed separately). The video has no sound. It is a compilation of six cameras that were in use, five of which portray different angles of the lunch area where the assault occurred. The sixth camera focuses on the location where the ERT entered the area.

         As noted, plaintiff filed a supplement (ECF 53) based on her review of the tier video. She asserts: “It was very clear [in the video] that the officers were negligent, deliberate and indifferent.” Id. at 1. I disagree.

         I reviewed the video several times. It shows that plaintiff was suddenly attacked at 10:15:57 a.m., according to the video timeline. Four female correctional officers were located behind a counter and they immediately sprang into action when the fight erupted. One correctional officer immediately got on the telephone or radio. Within ten seconds, two of the correctional officers began to move towards the altercation. By 10:16:15, those two officers and another inmate are seen next to plaintiff and Sellers. The body language of the officers suggests that the officers sought to stop the fight, although they did not attempt physically to restrain Sellers. The other guards were directing the other detainees in the area to leave.

         At 10:16:19, one of the correctional officers pulled away a detainee who was not involved in the fight, but who was standing next to the assailant. At that moment, Sellers paused. Two officers were in close proximity to Sellers. They were then joined by a third officer. It appears that the correctional officers exchanged words with Sellers from 10:16:19 to 10:16:27, during which Sellers again paused. Sellers resumed her assault on plaintiff at 10:16:27. Three correctional officers then stepped several feet away, while gesturing vigorously at Sellers. The correctional officers seemed agitated and appeared to be shouting.

         Sellers then paused again, from about 10:17:04 to 10:17:16. The officers were still pointing at Sellers, from a distance of a few feet. At around 10:17:17, the attack resumed. Two officers move towards the assailant. At 10:17:23, two of the correctional officers were still within very close range of the fight, but they did not physically attempt to subdue Sellers. At 10:17:25, six male ERT officers entered through doors onto the unit. Sellers submitted to their authority.

         The Medical Defendants submitted over 160 pages of plaintiff's medical records. See ECF 30-3.[4] The records show that plaintiff was evaluated by a nurse at 11:20 a.m. on November 19, 2014, i.e., shortly after the attack. Id. 2-3. The entry indicates that she was the “Victim of Violent Incident.” Id. at 2. Plaintiff was crying and upset. Id. She complained of head pain, and had a big knot on her forehead, but she was not found to be in acute distress. Id. at 2-3. However, her blood pressure was elevated and, as a result, she was placed on a three-day blood pressure check. Id. at 2. Plaintiff requested an x-ray of her head, nose, “sides, ” and chest. She complained of blurred vision and a headache. Id. at 4. The nurse gave plaintiff ice and Tylenol. The nurse also directed plaintiff to contact medical staff if her symptoms worsened. Id. at 3.

         The following day, November 20, 2014, plaintiff was seen by a mental health provider. They discussed the recent incident. Id. at 36. Plaintiff was oriented to time, person, place, and situation and exhibited no gross cognitive defects. She was appropriately groomed and was calm and cooperative. ECF 30-3 at 36. The diagnosis stated, id.: “Depression with psychotic features.” Id. The plan was to “continue individual therapy.” Id.

         On November 21, 2014, plaintiff was seen by a physician assistant due to her complaints of facial bruises and decreased vision. Id. at 60-61. She also complained of generalized muscle aches and tenderness. Id. Significant hair loss was noted and plaintiff's head was bruised. Id. at 60. However, her pupils were equal and reactive to light, although moderate swelling and peri-orbital discoloration was noted. Id. Plaintiff was diagnosed as suffering from facial bruises, bilateral peri-orbital edema, musculoskeletal pain, and hair loss. She was prescribed Loratadine, an antihistamine used to decrease swelling, for fourteen days. Id.

         Meskerem Asresahegn, M.D., a physician employed at PGCDC and licensed in Maryland since 1998, submitted two declarations. ECF 30-2; ECF 37-1. He first saw plaintiff on November 24, 2014, five days after her altercation with Sellers. ECF 30-2, ¶¶ 3, 5; ECF 37-1, ¶ 5. At that time, plaintiff complained of muscle pain in various areas of her body and facial swelling. She had a bruise on her forehead and hair loss. Id. However, she “did not present” with any “neurological abnormalities” indicative of a brain injury. ECF 30-2; ECF 37-1; see also ECF 30-3 at 62-65. She denied loss of consciousness, severe headaches, vomiting, or blurred vision. ECF 30-3 at 62; ECF 37-1, ¶ 5.

         X-rays were taken that day. Id. at 63. They revealed no abnormalities in plaintiff's facial bones or eye sockets. ECF 30-3 at 33; see also ECF 30-2, ¶ 8; ECF 37-1, ¶ 5. Plaintiff was prescribed non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (“NSAIDs”) and a muscle relaxer, and it was recommended that she rest and restrict her physical activity. ECF 30-2, ¶ 5; ECF 37-1, ¶ 5.

         Contrary to plaintiff's assertions (ECF 1 at 3), she “did not present with an ‘open maxillary' artery or leaking ‘cerebral fluid' on November 24, 2014 or at any other time.” ECF 30-2, ¶ 5; see ECF 37-1, ¶ 7. Moreover, Dr. Asresahegn has opined that “[t]here was no medical necessity for emergent hospital treatment or more extensive diagnostic testing.” ECF 30-2, ¶ 5; see also ECF 37-1, ΒΆ 6. He avers ...

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