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Rolph v. Richardson

United States District Court, D. Maryland

February 28, 2017

JOHN MICHAEL ROLPH, II Plaintiff
v.
DEBORAH RICHARDSON, et al . Defendants

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          Ellen L. Hollander United States District Judge

         The self-represented plaintiff, John Rolph II, filed a civil rights complaint when he was hospitalized at Spring Grove Hospital (ECF 1), and amended it when he was incarcerated as a pretrial detainee at the Baltimore County Detention Center (“BCDC”). ECF 5. Of relevance here, Rolph alleges that BCDC Warden Deborah Richardson and Program Manager Sharon Tyler, defendants, refused to provide him with a religious diet, failed to provide him with adequate medical care, and subjected him to improper conditions of confinement. See ECF 5 (Amended Complaint). Defendants have moved to dismiss or, in the alternative, for summary judgment. ECF 20 (“Motion”). Plaintiff has not opposed the motion, but was advised of his right to do so and of the potential consequences of failing to file a response to the Motion. ECF 23.

         No hearing is necessary to resolve the Motion. See Local Rule 105.6 (D. Md. 2016). For the reasons that follow, defendants' Motion shall be construed as a motion for summary judgment and shall be granted. Judgment shall be entered in favor of the defendants.

         I. Factual and Procedural History

         The original Complaint was filed by plaintiff when he was hospitalized at Spring Gove Hospital (ECF 1), and it contained two disparate claims. The first was a claim asserted by plaintiff against his father for the unauthorized sale of plaintiff's motor vehicle during plaintiff's incarceration. I dismissed that claim on March 2, 2016, because it did not state a claim under 42 U.S.C. §1983. See ECF 3; ECF 4. The second claim pertained to Spring Grove Hospital. Plaintiff alleged that he was not receiving proper medical care for multiple deteriorating and bulging discs; an anxiety disorder; a large abdominal hernia; and post-traumatic stress disorder. ECF 1 at 6 - 10. Because Spring Grove Hospital is not a “person” within the meaning of 42 U.S.C. §1983, but the allegation otherwise stated a colorable claim, plaintiff was granted 28 days to supplement the claim by naming the individual staff members allegedly responsible for the failure to provide proper care. ECF 3; ECF 4.

         Plaintiff's supplemental complaint (ECF 5) did not address the allegations regarding his medical care at Spring Grove. Rather, the supplemental complaint raised entirely new claims against the Warden and the Program Director at BCDC and did not reference the claims arising at Spring Grove. ECF 5. Therefore, the supplemental complaint is more properly viewed as an Amended Complaint under Fed. R. of Civ. Proc. 15.

         “An amended pleading ordinarily supersedes the prior pleading. The prior pleading is in effect withdrawn as to all matters not restated in the amended pleading.” Nisbet v. Van Tuyl, 224 F.2d 66, 71 (7th Cir. 1955) (citing 71 C.J.S., Pleading, § 321 at 717). Thus, the only claims addressed herein will be those raised in the Amended Complaint (ECF 5).

         II. Amended Complaint

         Plaintiff states that he arrived at BCDC on March 8, 2016, and went through the intake process the day he arrived. ECF 5 at 3. Plaintiff states he showed the nurse[1] with whom he spoke at intake “documentation that [he] converted to Judaism approximately eight months ago.” ECF 5 at 3. Further, he informed her that he was “on a kosher diet” and asked her to “enter that on the computer.” Id. He claims he showed the nurse “one of two papers” he had with him “proving [his] Jewish faith.” Id.

         Although plaintiff believes the nurse entered the information regarding his religious preference into the computer, he states that he was denied kosher meals. ECF 5 at 3. He states that from March 8, 2016 through March 14, 2016, all he had to eat was “two eggs and a bag of chips.” Id. Plaintiff claims he “wrote multiple 118s to everyone” at BCDC in an effort to obtain his religious diet. Id. Specifically, he states he wrote to “multiple shift captains, . . . the head hancho in charge of the meals, ” church services staff, and to the defendants, Program Director Sharon Tyler and Warden Deborah Richardson. Id.

         In addition to plaintiff's request for kosher meals, he informed BCDC staff in his written correspondence that he was allergic to turkey, beef by-products, white bread, and sugar. Id. Plaintiff explains that he experiences allergic reactions when exposed to these food items, causing his throat to close and producing hives on the back of his arms. Id. According to Rolph, he had to fast due to his multiple food allergies. Id.

         On March 14, 2016, Rolph received a letter from Tyler stating that he would need to provide the name of his Rabbi and synagogue in order for him to be approved for a kosher diet. ECF 5 at 3. Further, Tyler informed plaintiff that Richardson forwarded to the medical staff the information regarding plaintiff's food allergies. Id. Plaintiff responded to Tyler's letter, indicating that he had shown the intake nurse proof of his religion; that Tyler could see the paperwork he had proving his religious preference; he was “absolutely starving”; and he was invoking his “fifth amendment rights as far as the personal information she requested.” Id.

         Rolph also points out that he is “obviously new to the [Jewish] faith, ” but claims that he studies every day and feels “horrible” that he has been “forced . . . to come close to fasting totally.” ECF 5 at 5. According to plaintiff, defendants were “forcing [him] to break [his] faith by consuming their regular meals.” Id. He also points out that he had a kosher diet for the eight months that he was at Spring Grove Hospital. Id.

         In addition, plaintiff claims that when he got to BCDC he was “placed on a boat [sic] (on the floor), ” despite his having informed correctional staff that he has a prior diagnosis of a “deteriorating disc, protruding disc, bulging disc, and sciatica problems.” ECF 5 at 4. Plaintiff states that he told “the sheriff's deputy that [he] needed to be placed on a bunk (bottom) and [he] needed an extra mat for [his] back.” Id. at 3. The sheriff told Rolph that “the best [he] can do” for plaintiff was to provide him with a “boat [sic] on the floor.” Id. at 5. Plaintiff claims that his “back locked up” because he was forced to sleep on the floor. Id. at 3. After sleeping on the floor, plaintiff claims it felt as though he had a pinched nerve so he went to the medical department, where he received an x-ray. Id. at 4.

         Despite the pain plaintiff claims he experienced, he was still required to sleep on a “boat” on the floor and was simply moved to a different housing unit, which he refers to as the “crazy side.” ECF 5 at 4. When plaintiff asked to be moved to the medical housing unit, he was told he had to be cleared by psychiatry before he could be moved. Id. Plaintiff states that he “subpoenaed [his] arrest records” and discovered notations that he was psychotic and schizophrenic. Id. Plaintiff disputes those diagnoses and states that he had been cleared by Spring Grove as “100% mentally competent.” Id. at 5. But, he also states: “Please know I want to go back to Spring Grove . . . .” Id. at 4.

         Plaintiff explains that in the housing unit where he was kept (2C), “they kick on the doors all hours of the day and night and scream loudly.” ECF 5 at 4. Further, Rolph asserts that the noise causes an increase in his anxiety. Id. Plaintiff states that he had been remanded to Spring Grove on March 4, 2016, following a court appearance and a “nervous breakdown” he experienced as a result of not receiving his medication, Clonazepam.[2] Id. He explains he was sent to Spring Grove so that his medication could be straightened out; that he was much happier when he was there because a social worker was helping him to find a place to live so he could complete his sentence on home detention; and that he needs to go back to Spring Grove to get his medication corrected again. Id. He claims he should not have been removed from Spring Grove because it violated a judge's order remanding him there. Id. at 5.

         Under a heading titled “negligence” plaintiff adds that staff at BCDC were not doing enough to find him a permanent residence and had only provided him with a list of homeless shelters. ECF 5 at 5. Further, he alleges that he was having “panic attacks all day long” and a nervous breakdown, “possibly caused by not being detoxed properly off my medication.” Id. He states he was taking narcotics twice a day for eight months and “they gave [him] Librium for detox” but that he had an allergic reaction to it. Id. He adds that he had a staph infection in his nose causing it to be “swollen and bright red, ” but adds he was being sent to “see medical tomorrow.” Id. In addition, Rolph claims that he had an open wound that was caused by Dr. Sabba[3] at Spring Grove, because he ordered a larger abdominal binder, [4] causing the wound. Id.

         III. Defendants' Response

         In support of the Motion, Tyler provided an Affidavit explaining that she is the Program Manager at BCDC, and she is responsible for supervising all inmate programs, including religious services. ECF 20-2 at 1 - 2, ¶5. Further, she avers that when plaintiff was admitted to BCDC on March 8, 2016, he identified his religion as Roman Catholic. Id. at 2, ¶8; ECF 20-4; ECF 2-5.

         On March 11, 2016, Tyler received an Inmate Request Form #118 dated March 20, 2016, from plaintiff stating that he had been on kosher meals for religious reasons for the past eight months while he was confined at Spring Grove State Hospital. ECF 20-2 at 2, ¶ 9. Plaintiff stated that he needed to be placed on a kosher diet “ASAP” and also claimed he was allergic to turkey, beef byproducts, and white bread. Id. In response to plaintiff's Inmate Request Form, Tyler wrote the following on March 11, 2016, ECF 20-5:

I reviewed your file and it indicates you have reported to be Roman Catholic every time you have been admitted to BCDC; please provide me with the name of your Rabbi and congregation and once the information is confirmed you will be provided with kosher meals; and Director Richardson has forwarded your dietary allergies to medical to resolve.

See also ECF 20-2, ¶ 10.

         On March 15, 2016, Tyler received two more Inmate Request forms from plaintiff, repeating his request for kosher meals and claiming food allergies. ECF 20-2 at 2 - 3, ¶ 11. Plaintiff also threatened legal action if his request for kosher meals was not granted. Id. And, plaintiff claimed that he was “‘absolutely starving.'” Id. at 3, ¶ 12.

         Despite plaintiff's claims that he was starving, Tyler notes that plaintiff's commissary receipts indicate that as soon as he had money in his inmate account, he bought numerous packages of Ramen (beef), five beef jerky packages, tuna packages, a cinnamon roll, and an iced honey bun. Id. Tyler also notes that many kosher meals contain beef and turkey products and further notes that all of the items plaintiff purchased at the commissary are contraindicated for his stated food allergies and to a kosher diet. Id. at ¶13.

         According to Tyler, while plaintiff claimed to have documentation proving his conversion to Judaism, he never provided it to her, despite her advice that he could not receive kosher meals absent such proof. ECF 20-2 at 3, ¶ 14. Tyler further advised plaintiff that none of the meals at BCDC included pork products and that he could request and receive a vegetarian meal. Id. Tyler states that Jewish religious services are provided for inmates on the first Wednesday of each month. Id. at ¶15. Representatives from Jewish Big Brothers and Sisters and Rabbi Yanki Dinovitz are available to meet with Jewish inmates at BCDC. Id. Despite the availability of such services, plaintiff never attended the services nor did he request to meet with either Rabbi Dinovitz or a representative of the Jewish Big Brothers and Sisters. Id. at 4, ¶ 16. In light of the discrepancies between what plaintiff claimed regarding his faith and his food allergies, Tyler concluded that plaintiff did not meet the requirements to receive kosher meals and that he simply requested kosher meals because he did not want to eat the institutionally prepared meals. ECF 20-2 at 5, ¶ 20.

         Further, Tyler explains that there is an increased cost to BCDC in providing kosher meals. An institutionally-prepared meal costs $1.25 per meal. ECF 20-2 at 4, ¶ 17. However, because BCDC does not have a kosher kitchen, kosher meals must be ordered from an outside vendor at a cost of $6.28 per meal. Id. Tyler states that she is required by BCDC policy and directives to verify a request for a religious diet and either approve or deny it within seven days of receipt of the request. Id. at ¶ 18. Pursuant to that policy, Tyler denied plaintiff's request for kosher meals for multiple reasons: he indicated he was Roman Catholic on his intake statement; he failed to provide the name of his Rabbi; he failed to provide the name of his congregation; he failed to provide documentation of his conversion, which he claimed to have in his possession; he did not participate in any of the programs established for Jewish inmates; he made commissary purchases of beef products despite his claimed allergies to same; and because of the increased cost involved in providing a kosher meal. Id. at 4-5, ¶ 19.

         Bonita Cosgrove, the Medical Liaison for BCDC, investigates inmate complaints regarding medical services provided to inmates at BCDC by the contractual medical services provider, Correct Care Solutions. ECF 20-3 at 1, ¶¶ 2 - 4. In Cosgrove's Affidavit, she explains that on March 10, 2016, plaintiff informed a nurse that he was not eating because he was not receiving kosher meals. Id. at 2, ¶ 7. In response, plaintiff was advised that only program staff could approve religious diets and medical care staff were prohibited from doing so; plaintiff was notified of the proof required for a religious diet several times while at BCDC. Id.

         Although plaintiff indicated that he was allergic to turkey and beef products during his intake interview with a nurse, BCDC medical staff never received any official documentation of the allergies from an outside doctor or allergist. ECF 20-3 at 2, ¶ 8. Plaintiff did not provide the name of the physician who tested him for the allergies, despite requests for that information. Id. Cosgrove states that, absent such documentation, a notation indicating a food allergy could not be placed into his jail record. Id. Further, she notes that it is not unusual for inmates to claim food allergies simply because they do not like the institutional food. Moreover, she points out that when plaintiff was incarcerated at BCDC on July 31, 2016, he claimed an allergy to kiwi, but made no mention of an allergy to turkey or beef. Id. at 2 - 3, ¶ 9.

         With respect to plaintiff's physical and mental health issues, Cosgrove indicates that the intake nurse noted a history of gunshot wounds to plaintiff's abdominal area, right leg, and left arm as well as a history of bipolar disorder, anxiety, and schizophrenia. ECF 20-3 at 3, ¶ 10. Plaintiff reported taking Clonazepam and Seroquel, both psychotropic medications. Id. Plaintiff was referred to a ...


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