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Anderson v. Gilpin

United States District Court, D. Maryland

February 28, 2017

JONATHAN ANDERSON Plaintiff
v.
CODY GILPIN, et al . Defendants

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          Paul W. Grimm United States District Judge

         Pending is Defendants' Motion to Dismiss, or in the Alternative, for Summary Judgment. ECF No. 31. Plaintiff was advised of his right to respond to the motion and of the consequences of failing to do so, ECF No. 32, but has not opposed the motion. The Court finds a hearing in this matter unnecessary. See Local Rule 105.6 (D. Md. 2016). Because a genuine dispute exists as to the material facts, Defendants' motion, construed as a Motion for Summary Judgment, shall be denied.

         BACKGROUND

         Plaintiff Jonathan Anderson was at all relevant times an inmate committed to the custody of the Maryland Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services (“DPSCS”) and confined at North Branch Correctional Institution (“NBCI”) in Cumberland, Maryland.[1] At NBCI, the practice of holding the feed-up slot open on a cell door is a breach in security. See Passman Decl. 1. Allowing the slot to remain open permits an inmate the opportunity to “throw what is known as a ‘correctional cocktail, ' which is a [m]ixture of liquid and human excrement.” Id. Attempts to prevent an officer from closing the slot is a violation of institutional rules. Id.

         On October 9, 2015, at approximately 9:30 a.m., Officer Cody Gilpin came to Anderson's cell to deliver his lunch tray. See Compl. 3, ECF No. 1. In his verified Complaint, Anderson alleges that, as he was retrieving the lunch tray from the cell food slot, Officer Gilpin closed the slot on his right hand. Id. Despite the food slot being partially closed, Anderson was able to maneuver his hand to release the food tray and his hand. Id. He alleges that Gilpin then smiled and stated, “I'll chop your hand off.” Id. at 4. When the events of October 9, 2015 later were investigated, Anderson reported that Gilpin closed the door on the food tray, but he did not mention that his hand was in the slot or that Gilpin made any threats. See IID Rept. 9-10.[2]

         After Anderson ate his lunch, Gilpin returned to his cell to collect the tray, and Anderson asked to speak with Sergeant Janet Puffenbarger. See IID Rept. 9; Compl. 4; Passman Decl. 1. Anderson admitted that he “put his right hand in the [food] slot to prohibit the slot from closing.” IID Rept. 9; see Passman Decl. 1. Officer Gilpin told Anderson that “the Sergeant was not going to do anything for [him], ” and ordered him to remove his hand from the slot, where Anderson was holding the tray. Compl. 4. Anderson repeated his request to see a supervisor and Gilpin walked away. Id.

         Shortly after, Gilpin returned, accompanied by Officer Nathanial Passman. Compl. 4; IID Rept. 9. Passman stated that Gilpin had asked him to assist him in collecting Anderson's food tray. Passman Decl. 1. According to Anderson, Passman threatened to pepper spray him in the face if he did not remove his hand from the tray in the slot and, before he could respond to the command, Officer Passman “shut the slot on [Anderson's] hand, ” causing injury. Compl. 4; IID Rept. 9.

         Passman recalled a different sequence of events. According to Passman, when he arrived at Anderson's cell with Gilpin, Anderson had “jammed the rubber tray in the feed slot, using it to prevent the sliding slot door from closing.” Passman Decl. 2; IID Rept. 10. Anderson was still demanding to speak with Sergeant Puffenbarger, so Passman informed Anderson he would have to be handcuffed in order to see the sergeant. Passman Decl. 2. Anderson responded with obscenities and insisted that Puffenbarger come to his cell to talk to him. Id. Passman then tried to remove the tray so that the slot could be closed, as it was against institutional rules for an inmate to keep the slot open; closing the slot would eliminate the potential security threat. See Id. He “dislodge[d] the tray by … forcefully clos[ing] the sliding slot.” Id.; IID Rept. 10. Passman asserted that Anderson's hand was not in the slot at that time; however, Anderson then “abruptly stuck his hand out, ” in an attempt “to stop [Passman] from completely securing it, ” causing the sliding slot to hit Anderson's hand upon closing. Passman Decl. 2; see IID Rept. 10; Information Report Form. Passman stated that “[he] did not see his hand in time to prevent the sliding slot from hitting it, nor did [he] do it on purpose.” Passman Decl. 2; see IID Rept. 10.

         Officer Gilpin reported that Anderson refused to remove his hand from the food slot, and therefore, Sergeant Puffenbarger ordered Anderson to be brought to her office. IID Rept. 11. When Gilpin and Passman arrived at Anderson's cell, Anderson refused to be handcuffed. Id. At some point, Passman closed the food slot on Anderson's hand; however, Gilpin did not observe how it happened. Id.

         In his Complaint, Anderson claims that, as a result of Passman closing the slot on his hand, he suffered a “severe contusion” to his hand that required immediate medical treatment. Compl. 4. He states that “there was blood everywhere on the slot” and that he “had to receive several stitches.” Id. Though he requested immediate medical attention, treatment was not provided until twenty-five minutes later. Id. at 5. During the investigation of the event, however, Anderson did not say that he immediately requested medical treatment. Rather, Anderson reported that his hand was stuck in the food slot for fifteen to twenty minutes, and it was not until Officer Jamey Durst arrived at his cell to escort him to see Sergeant Puffenbarger that the officers noticed his hand was stuck and injured, and he then was taken to the medical unit and received treatment. IID Rept. 9. He claims that he still suffers with pain in his hand and that he cannot feel his hand during cold weather. Compl. 4-5. As relief, Anderson seeks compensatory and punitive damages.[3] Id. at 3.

         According to Passman, when he saw that the door had struck Anderson's hand, he immediately pulled the slot open. Passman Decl. 2; IID Rept. 10. There was no bleeding at the time, but medical attention was offered to Anderson, which he declined. Passman Decl. 2; IID Rept. 10. Shortly after the incident, however, Officer Jamey Durst went to Anderson's cell and convinced him to have his hand looked at by medical personnel. Passman Decl. 2; IID Rept. 10. At this point, Passman “noticed that Mr. Anderson's hand was bleeding and reported it to Sgt. Puffenb[a]rger.” Passman Decl. 2.

         As a result of the incident, Anderson received a Notice of Inmate Rule Violation and a Notice of Inmate Disciplinary Hearing. At an adjustment hearing held on October 13, 2015, Anderson pled guilty to violating three rules, [4] “was administrative[ly] sanctioned and received 60 days of segregation.” IID Rept. 11.

         On October 19, 2015, Anderson submitted a Request for Administrative Remedy Procedure (“ARP”), claiming that he was assaulted by Officer Gilpin and Officer Passman, and would like to file formal charges. See IID Rept. 14. Based on the assault described in Anderson's ARP, Sergeant Chris Burton of the Internal Investigative Division (“IID”) conducted an investigation into Anderson's claim. Id. at 8. During the investigation, Burton interviewed Anderson, Officer Passman, and Officer Gilpin. Id. at 9-12. He also reviewed medical records surrounding the alleged assault and video recording from Anderson's cell. Id.

         Burton reported that Anderson had “initially submitted a written statement claiming that no assault occurred.” See Id. at 10. Anderson stated that he “wrote the statement because [the officers] promised him that he could be moved off the tier and placed into a special program.” Id. However, after a ...


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