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Bellard v. Barrera

United States District Court, D. Maryland

May 11, 2017

DAVID BELLARD, #428-757, Plaintiff


          Ellen L. Hollander United States District Judge.

         In this civil rights action filed pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, plaintiff Darrell Bellard complains about inadequate medical care at North Branch Correctional Institution (“NBCI”). ECF 1. According to plaintiff, contractual medical personnel have subjected him to cruel and unusual punishment, in violation of the Eighth Amendment.

         In particular, plaintiff alleges that he is blind in one eye, suffers from eye muscle decay in the other eye, the “eye doctor” visited him on three occasions but never examined him, and defendants have failed to provide him with eyeglasses. As a result, plaintiff asserts that he suffers from dizziness, insomnia, and headaches, has difficulty eating and using his hands, has lost his sense of direction, and has fallen on occasion. Bellard also states he is not being treated for his chest and back pain. ECF 1 at 8-12.[2] He seeks injunctive relief mandating that he receive eyeglasses as well as compensatory and punitive damages. ECF 1 at 12.

         In response to the Complaint, defendants Robustiano Barrera, M.D.; William Beeman, R.N.; Mahboob Ashraf, M.D.; and Krista Bilak, R.N.P. (collectively, the “Medical Defendants”) have moved to dismiss the Complaint or, in the alternative, for summary judgment, as supplemented. ECF 8; ECF 11. The motion is supported by a memorandum (ECF 8-1) (collectively, “Motion”) and several exhibits.

         Pursuant to the dictates of Roseboro v. Garrison, 528 F.2d 309 (4th Cir. 1975), the Clerk informed Bellard on December 6, 2016, that defendants had filed a dispositive motion; that he had seventeen days in which to file written opposition to the motion; and that if he failed to respond, summary judgment could be entered against him without further notice. ECF 9. Thereafter, on December 16, 2016, Bellard requested an opportunity to amend his “original application for the suit.” ECF 10.

         Months later, on April 20, 2017, plaintiff filed an Amended Complaint. ECF 13. He alleged denial of medical care based on denial of a wheelchair and cane, lack of assignment to a medical or special cell, limitation as to the amount of Ultram prescribed daily for orthopedic pain, failure to treat his hip and knee arthritis, failure to provide accommodations for his disabilities, and failure to address digestive problems caused by gunshot wounds to the abdomen. 3-5. According to plaintiff, his needs for effective pain management and health care were met when he was previously incarcerated at Western Correctional Institution (“WCI”), but they are not being met at NBCI.[3]

         Under Fed.R.Civ.P. 15(a)(1) (A) and (B), a party may amend his pleading once as a matter of course within 21 days after service of the pleading or 21 days after service of a responsive pleading, whichever is earlier. In all other cases, amendment is permitted only with the opposing party's written consent or leave of court. The Amended Complaint was not filed within 21 days of the filing of the Motion. Nor did defendants consent to the amendment, which substantially expands Bellard's medical complaint from eye problems to a plethora of unrelated medical conditions.

         Bellard may file a new complaint with regard to his other ailments. But, I shall deny his request to amend his Complaint in this case, which would add a host of unrelated issues to this lawsuit.

         The Medical Defendants' dispositive motion, construed as a motion for summary judgment, is ripe for disposition. No hearing is necessary to resolve it. See Local Rule 105.6 (D. Md. 2016). For the reasons outlined below, I will grant defendants' Motion.

         I. Standard of Review

         The Medical Defendants' Motion is styled as a motion to dismiss under Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6) or, in the alternative, for summary judgment under Fed.R.Civ.P. 56. A motion styled in this manner implicates the court's discretion under Rule 12(d) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. See Kensington Vol. Fire Dept., Inc. v. Montgomery County, 788 F.Supp.2d 431, 436-37 (D. Md. 2011). Ordinarily, a court “is not to consider matters outside the pleadings or resolve factual disputes when ruling on a motion to dismiss.” Bosiger v. U.S. Airways, 510 F.3d 442, 450 (4th Cir. 2007). However, under Rule 12(b)(6), a court, in its discretion, may consider matters outside of the pleadings, pursuant to Rule 12(d). If the court does so, “the motion must be treated as one for summary judgment under Rule 56, ” and “[a]ll parties must be given a reasonable opportunity to present all the material that is pertinent to the motion.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(d). When, as here, the movant expressly captions its motion “in the alternative, ” as one to dismiss or for summary judgment, and submits matters outside the pleadings for the court's consideration, the parties are deemed to be on notice that conversion under Rule 12(d) may occur; the court “does not have an obligation to notify parties of the obvious.” Laughlin v. Metro. Wash. Airports Auth., 149 F.3d 253, 261 (4th Cir. 1998).[4]

         A district judge has “complete discretion to determine whether or not to accept the submission of any material beyond the pleadings that is offered in conjunction with a Rule 12(b)(6) motion and rely on it, thereby converting the motion, or to reject it or simply not consider it.” 5C Wright & Miller, Federal Practice & Procedure § 1366, at 159 (3d ed. 2004, 2011 Supp.). This discretion “should be exercised with great caution and attention to the parties' procedural rights.” Id. at 149. In general, courts are guided by whether consideration of extraneous material “is likely to facilitate the disposition of the action, ” and “whether discovery prior to the utilization of the summary judgment procedure” is necessary. Id. at 165-67.

         Ordinarily, summary judgment is inappropriate “where the parties have not had an opportunity for reasonable discovery.” E.I. du Pont De Nemours and Co. v. Kolon Industries, Inc., 637 F.3d 435, 448-49 (4th Cir. 2011). However, “the party opposing summary judgment 'cannot complain that summary judgment was granted without discovery unless that party has made an attempt to oppose the motion on the grounds that more time was needed for discovery.'” Harrods Ltd. v. Sixty Internet Domain Names, 302 F.3d 214, 244 (4th Cir. 2002) (quoting Evans v. Techs. Applications & Serv. Co., 80 F.3d 954, 961 (4th Cir. 1996)). To raise adequately the issue that discovery is needed, the non-movant typically must file an affidavit or declaration pursuant to Rule 56(d) (formerly Rule 56(f)), explaining why, “for specified reasons, it cannot present facts essential to justify its opposition, ” without needed discovery. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(d); see Harrods, 302 F.3d at 244-45 (discussing affidavit requirement of former Rule 56(f)).

         “[T]o justify a denial of summary judgment on the grounds that additional discovery is necessary, the facts identified in a Rule 56 affidavit must be 'essential to [the] opposition.'” Scott v. Nuvell Fin. Servs., LLC, 789 F.Supp.2d 637, 641 (D. Md. 2011) (alteration in original) (citation omitted). A nonmoving party's Rule 56(d) request for additional discovery is properly denied “where the additional evidence sought for discovery would not have by itself created a genuine issue of material fact sufficient to defeat summary judgment.” Strag v. Bd. of Trs., Craven Cmty. Coll., 55 F.3d 943, 954 (4th Cir. 1995); see Amirmokri v. Abraham, 437 F.Supp.2d 414, 420 (D. Md. 2006), aff'd, 266 F. App'x. 274 (4th Cir.), cert. denied, 555 U.S. 885 (2008).

         If a nonmoving party believes that further discovery is necessary before consideration of summary judgment, the party who fails to file a Rule 56(d) affidavit does so at his peril, because “'the failure to file an affidavit …is itself sufficient grounds to reject a claim that the opportunity for discovery was inadequate.'” Harrods, 302 F.3d at 244 (citations omitted). But, the non-moving party's failure to file a Rule 56(d) affidavit cannot obligate a court to issue a summary judgment ruling that is obviously premature. Although the Fourth Circuit has placed “'great weight'” on the Rule 56(d) affidavit, and has said that a mere “'reference to Rule 56(f) [now Rule 56(d)] and the need for additional discovery in a memorandum of law in opposition to a motion for summary judgment is not an adequate substitute for [an] affidavit, '” the appellate court has “not always insisted” on a Rule 56(d) affidavit. Id. (internal citations omitted). According to the Fourth Circuit, failure to file an affidavit may be excused “if the nonmoving party has adequately informed the district court that the motion is premature and that more discovery is necessary, ” and the “nonmoving party's objections before the district court 'served as the functional equivalent of an affidavit.'” Id. at 244-45 (internal citations omitted).

         Plaintiff has not filed an affidavit under Rule 56(d). Moreover, I am satisfied that it is appropriate to address the Motion as one for summary judgment, ...

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