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Younger v. State

United States District Court, D. Maryland

August 22, 2017

KEVIN YOUNGER, Plaintiff
v.
STATE OF MARYLAND, et al., Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          Richard D. Bennett, United States District Judge

         Plaintiff Kevin Younger (“Plaintiff” or “Younger”), “a prisoner in the Maryland Division of Correction housed at the Maryland Reception, Diagnostic & Classification Center (“MRDCC”), ” has brought this action against the State of Maryland, current Secretary of the Maryland Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services (“DPSCS”) Stephen T. Moyer (“Secretary Moyer”), in his official capacity[1], and former MRDCC Warden Tyrone Crowder (“Crowder”)[2] (collectively the “State Defendants”); MRDCC “supervisory correctional officers[s]” Pamela Dixon (“Dixon”), Wallace Singletary (“Singletary”), and Neil Dupree (“Dupree”); and MRDCC “correctional officer[s]” Jemiah Green (“Green”), Richard Hanna (“Hanna”), and Kwasi Ramsey (“Ramsey”). Compl., ¶¶ 110, ECF No. 1. Younger alleges violations of his rights under the Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution, pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 (Count One)[3]; Excessive Force, in violation of Article 24 of the Maryland Declaration of Rights (Count Two); Cruel and Unusual Punishment, in violation of Articles 16 and 25 of the Maryland Declaration of Rights (Count Three);[4] Battery (Count Five); Intentional Infliction of Emotional Distress (Count Six); Conspiracy (Count Seven); Negligent Hiring, Training, and Supervision (Count Eight); Gross Negligence (Count Nine); and Respondeat Superior (Count Ten)[5], in connection with his alleged “assault[ ] and beating” by correctional officers Green, Hanna, and Ramsey on September 30, 2013. Id. ¶¶ 37, 100-193.[6]

         Currently pending before this Court are the State Defendants' Motion to Dismiss or, in the alternative, for Summary Judgment (ECF No. 46) and Defendants Dupree and Singletary's Motion to Dismiss or, in the alternative, for Summary Judgment (ECF No. 60).[7]This Court has reviewed the parties' submissions, and no hearing is necessary. See Local Rule 105.6 (D. Md. 2016). For the reasons stated herein, the State Defendants' Motion to Dismiss (ECF No. 46) is GRANTED as to Younger's claims against the State of Maryland in Counts Two, Three, Eight, and Ten of the Complaint and Younger's claims against Secretary Moyer, in both his individual and official capacities, in Counts One and Eight of the Complaint, pursuant to Rules 12(b)(1) and 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure.[8]The State Defendants' Motion to Dismiss (ECF No. 46) is DENIED as to Younger's claims against Crowder in Counts One, Two, Three, Five, Six, Seven, Eight, and Nine of the Complaint, and Dupree and Singletary's Motion to Dismiss (ECF No. 60) is also DENIED as to Younger's claims against them in Counts One, Two, Three, Five, Six, Seven, Eight, and Nine of the Complaint. Additionally, the State Defendants' Motion to Dismiss (ECF No. 46) and Defendants Dupree and Singletary's Motion to Dismiss (ECF No. 60) are both DENIED as to Younger's Conspiracy claim (Count Seven). Therefore, Defendants State of Maryland and Secretary Moyer, in both his individual and official capacities, are DISMISSED from this action. All other claims against the additional Defendants remain.

         BACKGROUND

         At the motion to dismiss stage, this Court accepts as true the facts alleged in the Plaintiff's Complaint. See Aziz v. Alcolac, Inc., 658 F.3d 388, 390 (4th Cir. 2011). Plaintiff Kevin Younger (“Plaintiff” or “Younger”) is “a prisoner in the Maryland Division of Correction housed at the Maryland Reception, Diagnostic & Classification Center (“MRDCC”).” Compl., ¶ 1, ECF No. 1. “On the evening of September 29, 2013, [Younger] . . . witnessed a fight between two inmates and a correctional officer in which the correctional officer was seriously injured.” Id. ¶ 18. Although Younger was not involved in the fight and had “no history of disciplinary infractions at that time, ” he was removed from general housing and transferred to “various other cells in MRDCC” with “the two inmates who participated in the confrontation” and “at least two other prisoners.” Id. ¶¶ 18-21.

         On the morning of September 30, 2013, Younger alleges that Wallace Singletary (“Singletary”), a “supervisory correctional officer” at MRDCC, ordered Neil Dupree (“Dupree”), also a “supervisory correctional officer, ” to “print out photographs of the injured correctional officer so that they could be shown to the incoming correctional officers before they began their daily shifts.” Id. ¶ 24. He claims that former MRDCC Warden Tyrone Crowder (“Crowder”) and Dupree displayed the photographs to correctional officers at that morning's “roll call, ” “effectively sanction[ing] a retaliatory attack against the five prisoners, including [Younger], who they believed were involved in the previous day's altercation, ” and that Crowder specifically “admonished the correctional officers for their handling of the altercation on the prior day, calling them ‘soft' and stating that they ‘should [have] beat the inmates' who were allegedly involved in the fight.” Id. ¶¶ 25-32.

         Younger claims that correctional officers Jemiah Green (“Green”), Richard Hanna (“Hanna”), and Kwasi Ramsey (“Ramsey”) were present at that roll call, that they were well-known for their “violent enforcement” of prison policies, and that Crowder, Singletary, Dupree, and the Secretary of the Maryland Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services were all well aware of “previous use of force complaints” against them. Id. ¶¶ 34-35; 87-91. Following the roll call, he alleges that Green, Hanna, and Ramsey “sought to exact revenge on the five prisoners, including [Younger]” and “systematically moved about MRDCC . . . brutally assaulting and beating” each one of them, including Younger. Id. ¶¶ 36-37. Younger alleges that around 7:00 a.m. on September 30, 2013, Green, Hanna, and Ramsey “entered [his] cell, grabbing [him] by his shirt and legs, and throwing him from the top bunk onto the concrete floor, ” then proceeded to “strik[e] him on his head, face, and body, with handcuffs, radios, and keys . . . kick[ing] and stomp[ing] [him] as he lay defenseless on the ground.” Id. ¶¶ 42-44. Younger claims that “supervisory correctional officer” Pamela Dixon (“Dixon”) “was seated at the sergeant's desk at the end of the tier . . . in plain view from [his] cell” during the beating. Id. ¶ 50. Younger alleges that the officers “left [him] in a pool of blood on the concrete floor of his cell” and proceeded to beat each of the other prisoners whose photographs were displayed in the same way. Id. ¶¶ 48-49, 56.

         Younger contends that Green eventually returned to transport him to the medical unit and ordered him to write on an Incident Report Form “that he sustained his injuries by falling from his bunk bed.” Id. ¶¶ 53-54. He claims that Dupree, “[a]s the only supervisory lieutenant, ” responded to the “medical alerts” for all five prisoners following the beatings and “observed correctional officers bringing [Younger] down the stairs toward the medical unit.” Id. ¶ 61-62. Younger alleges that “Dupree asked [ ] Ramsey what had happened” and accepted his explanation that Younger “fell . . . despite [his] injuries being markedly inconsistent with the asserted explanation, ” and that Dupree further “failed to seek emergency medical attention, . . . launch an investigation into the five prisoners' injuries, . . . [or] interview [Younger].” Id. ¶¶ 63-67. Younger contends that “[t]he assault and beating of the five prisoners . . . as a form of discipline, was consistent with the culture of MRDCC under [ ] Crowder's leadership.” Id. ¶ 69.

         An Internal Investigation Division (“IID”) report ultimately concluded that “on the morning of September 30, 2013 . . . Ramsey, Green, and Hanna . . . [did assault] the prisoners, including [Younger], who they believed were involved in the fight on the previous evening with the correctional officer.” Id. ¶ 80. “Crowder is no longer the Warden of MRDCC following the assault on the five prisoners, ” and Ramsey, Green, and Hanna have been criminally indicted. Id. ¶¶ 82-83. “On May 6, 2015, [ ] Hanna plead guilty to conspiracy to commit first degree assault on the five prisoners, including [Younger], ” and a jury found Green and Ramsey “guilty of second degree assault and misconduct in office for the assaults.” Id. ¶¶ 85-86. Younger has now brought this civil action against the State of Maryland, Secretary Moyer, and Crowder (collectively the “State Defendants”); “supervisory correctional officers[s]” Dixon, Singletary, and Dupree; and “correctional officer[s]” Green, Hanna, and Ramsey, alleging violations of his rights under the United States Constitution and the Maryland Declaration of Rights as well as various Maryland tort law claims.

         STANDARD OF REVIEW

         I. Motion to Dismiss Under Rule 12(b)(1) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure

         A motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(1) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure for lack of subject matter jurisdiction challenges a court's authority to hear the matter brought by a complaint. See Davis v. Thompson, 367 F.Supp.2d 792, 799 (D. Md. 2005). This challenge under Rule 12(b)(1) may proceed either as a facial challenge, asserting that the allegations in the complaint are insufficient to establish subject matter jurisdiction, or a factual challenge, asserting “that the jurisdictional allegations of the complaint [are] not true.” Kerns v. United States, 585 F.3d 187, 192 (4th Cir. 2009) (citation omitted). With respect to a facial challenge, a court will grant a motion to dismiss for lack of subject matter jurisdiction “where a claim fails to allege facts upon which the court may base jurisdiction.” Davis, 367 F.Supp.2d at 799. Where the challenge is factual, “the district court is entitled to decide disputed issues of fact with respect to subject matter jurisdiction.” Kerns, 585 F.3d at 192. As this Court has explained in Dennard v. Towson Univ., 62 F.Supp.3d 446, 449 (D. Md. 2014), “[a]n assertion of governmental immunity is properly addressed under Rule 12(b)(1).” (citing Smith v. WMATA, 290 F.3d 201, 205 (4th Cir. 2002)). A plaintiff carries the burden of establishing subject matter jurisdiction. Lovern v. Edwards, 190 F.3d 648, 654 (4th Cir. 1999).

          II. Motion to Dismiss Under Rule 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure

          Under Rule 8(a)(2) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, 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). Rule 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure authorizes the dismissal of a complaint if it fails to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. The purpose of Rule 12(b)(6) 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.” Presley v. City of Charlottesville, 464 F.3d 480, 483 (4th Cir. 2006). The United States Supreme Court's recent opinions in Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544 (2007), and Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662 (2009), “require that complaints in civil actions be alleged with greater specificity than previously was required.” Walters v. McMahen, 684 F.3d 435, 439 (4th Cir. 2012) (citation omitted). In Twombly, the Supreme Court articulated “[t]wo working principles” that courts must employ when ruling on Rule 12(b)(6) motions to dismiss. Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678. First, while a court must accept as true all the factual allegations contained in the complaint, legal conclusions drawn from those facts are not afforded such deference. Id. (stating that “[t]hreadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action, supported by mere conclusory statements, do not suffice” to plead a claim); see also Wag More Dogs, LLC v. Cozart, 680 F.3d 359, 365 (4th Cir. 2012) (“Although we are constrained to take the facts in the light most favorable to the plaintiff, we need not accept legal conclusions couched as facts or unwarranted inferences, unreasonable conclusions, or arguments.” (internal quotation marks omitted)). Second, a complaint must be dismissed if it does not allege “a plausible claim for relief.” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 679.

         ANALYSIS

          I. The State Defendants' Motion to Dismiss (ECF No. 46)

         A. The State of Maryland

         Although Plaintiff Younger has brought claims against the State of Maryland for Excessive Force, in violation of Article 24 of the Maryland Declaration of Rights (Count Two); Cruel and Unusual Punishment, in violation of Articles 16 and 25 of the Maryland Declaration of Rights (Count Three); Negligent Hiring, Training, and Supervision (Count Eight); and Respondeat Superior (Count Ten), Younger now ...


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