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Randolph v. Potter

United States District Court, D. Maryland

July 21, 2017

JUAN ALEX RANDOLPH, JR., #007737 Plaintiff


          Paul W. Grimm United States District Judge

         In this Complain,, self-represented Plaintiff Juan Alex Randolph, Jr. alleges that Defendants used excessive force and failed to protect him from harm during the time he was a pretrial detainee at the Prince Georgess County Detention Center. He also claims that Defendant Parsons threatened to beat him. Defendants Potter, Parsons, Igwe, Cusseaux, and Montgomery, [2]through counsel, move for dismissal of the Complaint and, alternatively for Summary Judgment. ECF NO.7. Defendants filed the Motion without exhibits or declarations, and it will be treated as a Motion to Dismiss. Defendants' Motion is unopposed.[3] For reasons stated herein, Defendants' Motion to Dismiss will be GRANTED IN PART AND DENIED IN PART.


         Randolph alleges that on June 14, 2016, Officers Potter and Parsons placed him in "4-point restraints, shackles and handcuffs" from 1:45 a.m. to 8:30 a.m. and refused to give him breakfast.. Compl. ¶ 1, ECF NO.1. Defendants Igwe and Montgomery came on shift at 7:00 a.m. and left the restraints on him. Randolph alleges that he passed out, and Defendants Igwe and Montgomery took him to the medical unit for treatment. Id. He claims that Officers Reed and Cusseaux attacked him.[4] Id. ¶ 2.

         Randolph also asserts that on July 11 or 12, 2016, Parsons beat him up in his cell, injuring his head and right eye. Compl. ¶ 3. He claims that Parsons said he was beating Randolph up because he had been suspended for leaving Randolph in restraints. Id. A week later Parsons threatened to beat him and said that "this time [Randolph] wont [sic] live to tell about it." Id. 4. Further, Randolph alleges that on July 21, 2016, Officers Cusseaux and Tolbert forced him to come out for recreation with inmates from whom Randolph was supposed to be kept separate. Id. ¶ 5. Randolph states that inmates Miller and McPherson attacked him in front of Cusseaux and Tolbert on the tier of the housing unit; it is unclear whether Miller and McPherson were the ones from whom he was supposed to be kept separate. Randolph alleges that Officers Cusseaux and Tolbert did nothing when McPherson chased him with a weapon. Id. ¶ 5. As relief, he seeks "compensation." Id. at 3.

         Defendants move for dismissal of the Complaint for failure to state a claim for which relief may be granted, arguing Randolph's "generalized claim" that he was placed in restraints, shackles, and handcuffs from 1:45 a.m. to 8:30 a.m., without being served breakfast, is insufficient to state a claim for excessive force against Officers Potter, Parsons, Igwe, and Montgomery. Defendants argue that Randolph's allegations against Defendants Cusseaux and Tolbert fail to satisfy the elements required to satisfy the constitutional standard of deliberate indifference claim. Further, they argue the allegation that Officer Parsons threatened to beat Randolph up fails to allege a constitutional violation.


         Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) provides for "the dismissal of a complaint if it fails to state a claim upon which relief can be granted." Velencia v. Drezhlo, No. RDB-12-237, 2012 WL 6562764, at *4 (D.Md. Dec. 13, 2012.. This rule's purpose " 'is to test the sufficiency of a complaint and not to resolve contests surrounding the facts, the merits of a claim, or the applicability of defenses." Id. (quoting Presley v. City of Charlottesville, 464 F.3d 480, 433 (4th Cir. 2006)). To that end, the Court bears in mind the requirements of Rule 8, Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544 (2007), and Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662 (2009), when considering a motion to dismiss pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6). Specifically, a complaint must contain "a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief, " Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2), and must state "a plausible claim for relief, " as "[t]hreadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action, supported by mere conclusory statements, do not suffice, " Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678-79; see Velencia, 2012 WL 6562764, at *4 (discussing standard from Iqbal and Twombly). "A claim has facial plausibility when the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged." Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 663. In considering a Motion to Dismiss, I accept as true all of the factual allegations contained in the Complain.. Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 94 (2007). I recognize that Randolph is a pro se litigant, and have accorded the Complaint liberal construction. See Gordon v. Leeke, 574 F.2d 1147, 1151 (4th Cir. 1978); Erickson, 551 U.S. 89, 94 (2007) (quoting Estelle v. Gamble, 429 U.S. 97, 106 (1976)) (noting the pleadings of a pro se plaintiff are held to a "less stringent" standard than a lawyer).


         "Due process rights of a pretrial detainee are at least as great as the Eighth Amendment protections available to the convicted prisoner." Hill v. Nicodemus, 979 F.2d 987, 991 (4th Cir. 1992) (quoting Martin v. Gentile, 849 F.2d 863, 870 (4th Cir. 1988) (emphasis removed)). The inquiry with respect to the conditions alleged "is whether those conditions amount to punishment of the detainee, " because the Due Process Clause proscribes punishment of a detainee "prior to an adjudication of guilt in accordance with due process of law." Bell v. Wolfish, 441 U.S. 520, 535 (1979). "[N]ot every inconvenience encountered during pretrial detention amounts to 'punishment' in the constitutional sense." Martin, 849 F.2d at 870 (citing Bell, 441 U.S. at 537).

         Excessive Force The Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment "protects a pretrial detainee from the use of excessive force that amounts to punishment, " Graham v. Connor, 490 U.S. 386, 395 n.l0 (1989), and is not simply "an incident of some other legitimate governmental purpose." Bell, 441 U.S. at 538. The Supreme Court held in Kingsley v. Hendrickson that "the appropriate standard for a pretrial detainees excessive force claim is solely an objective one." - U.S. --, 135 S.Ct. 2466, 2473 (2015). It is enough that a pretrial detainee show that the "force purposely or knowingly used against him was objectively unreasonable, " id, regardless of an officer's state of mind, id. at 2472 (quoted in Dilworth v. Adams, 841 F.3d 246, 255 (4th Cir. 2016); Duff .. Potter, 665 Fed.Appx. 242, 244 (4th Cir. Nov. 3, 2066)).[5] Randolph's allegation that he was placed in restraints, shackles, and handcuffs for nearly seven hours and then he passed out is sufficient to state a plausible claim of excessive force. Randolph's allegation that he was beaten by Parsons and suffered head and eye injuries also states a plausible Fourteenth Amendment claim and survives the Motion to Dismiss. But, his allegation that Officers Reed and Cusseaux attacked him, without any details about the alleged attack or the injuries he may have suffered, is insufficient to state a claim, especially given that the date is illegible, such that it does not put the defendants on notice as to when the incident occurred or what transpired. Plaintiff will be granted twenty-one days to amend to state a claim regarding this attack. If he fails to do so, his claim will be subject to dismissal under Rule 12(b)(6).

         Failure to Protect The right to be free from cruel and unusual punishment includes the right to be protected from a substantial risk of serious harm at the hands of other inmates. See Farmer v. Brennan, 511 U.S. 825 (1994); Makdessi v. Fields, 789 F.3d 126 (4th Cir. 2015). A failure-to-protect claim brought by a pretrial detainee constitutes a due process claim under the Fourteenth Amendment. The same standards apply as for an Eighth Amendment claim brought by a convicted prisoner. See, e.g., Brown v. Harris, 240 F.3d 383, 388 (4th Cir. 2001); Kamara v. Prince George's County Deptt of Corr., No. ELH-15-3952, 2017 WL 735549, at * 12 (Feb. 24, 2017) (collecting cases).

         "The Eighth Amendment's prohibition on 'cruel and unusual punishments' imposes certain basic duties on prison officials." Raynor v. Pugh, 817 F.3d 123, 127 (4th Cir. 2016) (citing Farmer, 511 U.S. at 832). These duties "include maintaining humane conditions of confinement, including the provision of adequate medical care and . . . 'reasonable measures to guarantee the safety of the inmates'' " Id. (quoting Farmer, 511 U.S. at 832). But, "not every injury suffered by a prisoner at the hands of another 'translates into constitutional liability for prison officials responsible for the victim's safety.'" Makdesi, 789 F.3d at 133 (citation omitted). "[Corrections officers have 'a duty to protect prisoners from violence at the hands of other prisoners'' for '[b]eing violently assaulted in prison is simply not part of the penalty that criminal offenders pay for their offenses against society.'" Raynor, 817 F.3d at 127 (citation omitted) (alteration in Raynor).

         To establish a constitutional violation, the prisoner must satisfy a two-part test, consisting of an objective and a subjective component. See Danser v. Stansberry, 772 F.3d 340, 346-47 (4th Cir. 2014). Objectively, the prisoner "must establish a serious deprivation of his rights in the form of a 'serious or significant physical or emotional injury, '" id. (quoting Brown v. N.C. Deptt of Corr.,612 F.3d 720, 733 (4th Cir. 2010)), or a "sufficiently imminent danger[], " Helling v. McKinney,509 U.S. 25, 34 (1993). Subjectively, a prisoner must establish that the prison official involved had "a sufficiently culpable state of mind" amounting to "deliberate indifference to inmate health or safety." Farmer, 511 U.S. at 834. To establish a culpable state of mind, there must be "evidence suggesting that the prison official had actual knowledge of an excessive risk to the [inmate's or detainees]] safety." Danser, 772 F.3d at 347. That is, there must be evidence that prison officials ...

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