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Byers v. Crowder

United States District Court, D. Maryland

June 7, 2017

STEVEN BYERS, #414-073 Plaintiff


          George L. Russell, III, United States District Judge

         Steven Byers, a Maryland Division of Correction (“DOC”) prisoner housed at Eastern Correctional Institution (“ECI”) in Westover, Maryland, filed a civil rights complaint under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, seeking money damages against Tyrone Crowder, the former warden of the Maryland Reception Diagnostic Classification Center (“MRDCC”), [1] and Correctional Officer Michael G. Williams. (ECF No. 1). Byers alleges that while he was confined at MRDCC, Defendants were deliberately indifferent to his safety, resulting in an attack on May 29, 2013 in which his cellmate injured him. (Id.). Defendants filed a Motion to Dismiss or, in the Alternative, Motion for Summary Judgment (ECF No. 16), and Byers filed a Response. (ECF No. 21). No hearing is necessary. See Local Rule 105.6 (D. Md. 2016). For the reasons that follow, Defendants' Motion, construed as a Motion for Summary Judgment, will be granted.

         I. BACKGROUND

         Byers alleges that around 9:30 a.m. on May 29, 2013, while Defendant Williams was distributing breakfast trays on the cellblock, Maurice Richardson began arguing with Byers concerning the cleanliness of their cell. (Compl. at 4-5, ECF No. 1). Byers turned to put his tray down and Richardson jumped on his back, biting Byers's head. (Id.). Byers states that Williams did not deploy pepper spray toward Richardson or otherwise attempt to protect Byers. (Id.). Instead, Williams closed the cell door and called for officer assistance. (Id.). As a result, Byers had to defend himself until more officers responded to the incident, and sustained two cuts on his hands in addition to the bite on his scalp. (Id.). Byers was not charged with an institutional infraction as a result of the incident. (ECF No. 21).

         Byers states that both men were bleeding, and that Richardson was infected with HIV. (ECF No. 1-1 at 2). Byers suffered emotional distress for a year, until blood tests revealed that he had not been infected by Richardson's blood. (ECF No. 21 at 2; ECF 21-1 at 8 n.1).[2]

         It is undisputed that Richardson was assigned to the cell on May 19, 2013 on “house alone” status. (ECF No. 1-1 at 13, Inmate History Report). Inmates are given such a status when they have certain medical conditions and when the safety and security of other inmates is threatened. (ECF No. 21-1 ¶ 8). It is further undisputed, and supported by the findings of the Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”), that Richardson “had some issues relating to his mental stability” and that “the DOC was aware at the time it assigned . . . Richardson as [Byers'] cell mate that . . . Richardson had exhibited behaviors that made sharing a cell difficult for other inmates.” (ECF No. 21-1 at 9). Byers described Richardson as an individual who “cleans his cell all day, ” “washing the floors and talking to himself, ” (ECF No. 16-3 at 4), and asserts that housing him with Richardson amounted to a violation of the Eighth Amendment. (Compl. at 5).


         A. Standard of Review

         1. Motion to Dismiss

         A complaint fails to state a claim if it does not contain “a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief, ” Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2), or does not state “a plausible claim for relief.” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (citing Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007)). “Threadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action, supported by mere conclusory statements, do not suffice.” Id. (citing Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555). Though the plaintiff is not required to forecast evidence to prove the elements of the claim, the complaint must allege sufficient facts to establish each element. Goss v. Bank of Am., N.A., 917 F.Supp.2d 445, 449 (D.Md. 2013) (quoting Walters v. McMahen, 684 F.3d 435, 439 (4th Cir. 2012)) (internal quotation marks omitted), aff'd sub nom., Goss v. Bank of Am., NA, 546 F.App'x 165 (4th Cir. 2013).

         Pro se pleadings, however, are liberally construed and held to a less stringent standard than pleadings drafted by lawyers. Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 94 (2007) (citing Estelle v. Gamble, 429 U.S. 97, 106 (1976)); accord Brown v. N.C. Dep't of Corr., 612 F.3d 720, 722 (4th Cir. 2010). In considering a Rule 12(b)(6) motion, the court must construe the complaint in the light most favorable to the plaintiff, read the complaint as a whole, and take the facts asserted therein as true. See Harrison v. Westinghouse Savannah River Co., 176 F.3d 776, 783 (4th Cir. 1999) (citing Mylan Labs., Inc. v. Matkari, 7 F.3d 1130, 1134 (4th Cir. 1993)).

         2. Motion for Summary Judgment

         “When matters outside the pleading are presented to and not excluded by the court, the 12(b)(6) motion shall be treated as one for summary judgment and disposed of as provided in Rule 56.” Laughlin v. Metro. Wash. Airports Auth., 149 F.3d 253, 260-61 (4th Cir. 1998) (quoting Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)) (internal quotation marks omitted). Under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56, the Court must grant summary judgment if the moving party demonstrates there is no genuine issue as to any material fact, and the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). Generally speaking, however, “[s]ufficient time for discovery is considered especially important when the relevant facts are exclusively in the control of the opposing party.” Harrods Ltd. v. Sixty Internet Domain Names, 302 F.3d 214, 246-47 (4th Cir. 2002) (quoting 10B Charles A. Wright, Arthur R. Miller, & Mary Kay Kane, Federal Practice & Procedure § 2741, at 419 (3d ed.1998)). A motion for summary judgment before completion of discovery can be particularly inappropriate when a case involves complex factual questions about intent and motive.

         Defendants rely on exhibits attached to their Motion. Because the Court will consider Defendants' exhibits, the Court must convert the Motion ...

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