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Lattisaw v. Ross

United States District Court, D. Maryland, Southern Division

September 21, 2017

CHARLES WILLIAM LATTISAW, JR. #444-499, Plaintiff,
v.
C.O. ERIC ROSS, [1] CHARLES COUNTY SHERIFF TROY BERRY, CHARLES COUNTY DETENTION CENTER DIRECTOR CAPTAIN RICE, CHARLES COUNTY GOVERNMENT, CHARLES COUNTY DETETION CENTER, Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          GEORGE J. HAZEL, UNITED STATES DISTRICT .JUDGE

         Plaintiff Charles William Lattisaw. Jr.. a prisoner confined at Jessup Correctional Institution, has filed a self-represented civil rights action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. ij 1983.[2] As amended by consolidation.[3] the Complaint seeks $5 million in damages against Charles County Detention Center ("Detention Center") Officer Eric Ross. Director Captain Rice. Charles County Sheriff Troy Berry, and Charles County. Maryland.

         Pending is a Motion to Dismiss or. Alternatively, for Summary Judgment filed on behalf of Ross. Rice. Berry and Charles County, [4] ECF No. 17. and Lattisaw's Response. ECF No. 22. No hearing is needed to resolve the issues raised. See Loc. R. 105.6 (D. Md. 2016). For the following reasons. Defendants" Motion will be granted.

         I. BACKGROUND

         A. Lattisaw's Allegations[5]

         Lattisaw claims that on February 28. 2014. he was "assaulted in various ways (physically, sexually, verbally) by CO Ross." ECF No. 1 at 5.[6] Lattisaw states that Ross turned the lights and water on and off in the shower area. When Lattisaw stepped out of the shower to ask Ross to stop playing with the controls. Ross "stuck up his middle finger" and laughed at him. Id. Lattisaw resumed his shower and Ross continued to turn the water and lights on and off. Lattisaw was struck with "exceedingly hot" water that burned his "back, neck and butt." and as he hurried out of the shower, he tripped and fell in front of "15-20 other inmates" who frightened him by making "sexual remarks" toward him. Id. Lattisaw contends Ross's conduct constitutes "abuse and negligence." and that Ross ignored his requests for medical treatment and left Lattisaw on the floor in pain. Id. at 6. Lattisaw states another officer heard his cries for help and escorted him to the medical area. Id. Lattisaw asked Sgt. Irby to review the security camera to verify the incident, which was witnessed by other inmates. Id. Lattisaw claims he continues to suffer "[d]epression. anxiety, nightmares, fear and emotional [instability" because of the incident. Id.

         B. Defendants1 Responses

         Ross contends that the incident that resulted in Lattisaw's fall was an accident. Lattisaw was not denied medical care and in any event was not sexually assaulted or otherwise injured, and that the video of the incident was overwritten after review because it did not reveal any wrongdoing.

         Ross has submitted an affidavit detailing the layout of the Men's Classification Unit ("MCU") where the incident occurred and explaining his actions on the day of the incident. ECF No. 17-4. The MCU is a two-tiered unit with 24 cells with a common area and a shower on each tier. Id. ¶ 3. Two officers are typically assigned to the MCU. one to the first floor control room and the other to the desk just outside the control room. Id. ¶ 4. From the main screen of the computer in the control room, an officer can control various operations in the MCU. including the opening and closing of cell doors, lights, and water to the showers. Id. ¶ 5. There is a speci Ik-button that controls the lights to the shower on both the first and second floors. Id. ¶ 6. A separate mouse-activated button controls the water to the showers. This button does not control the water flow from the shower head, but simply acts to turn the water lines running to the showers on and off. Id. ¶ 7. An officer cannot control the temperature of the water in the showers from the control room; the temperature is controlled at the water heaters. Id. ¶ 8. Because the mouse must be clicked to turn the lights on and off and also to turn the water to the showers on and off. the lights and water cannot be turned on and off simultaneously. Id. ¶ 9.

         The shower area on the first floor includes an area that has a toilet, sink, and bench as well as a shower stall. ECF No. 17-4 ¶ 10. The shower stall is separated from the toilet area by a shower curtain. Id. There is a lip that inmates must step over to enter the shower that prevents water from flowing into the toilet area. Similarly, there is a lip in the entrance to the toilet area that prevents water from flowing out into the common area. Id. ¶ 10.

         Water will not flow from the shower head until the corrections officer in the control room has turned the water to the showers on. The showers are not automatically activated when the shower button is pressed on the computer in the control room. Instead, the shower heads are activated only when an inmate presses a button located below the shower head itself. When an inmate presses the button, the water turns on for approximately twenty seconds. Consequently, inmates have to continuously press the button during their showers. Id. ¶ 12. If the water to the showers is turned off in the control room while water is flowing from the shower head, the water will stop flowing. Id. ¶ 13. Water will not automatically flow from the shower head when the water is turned back on in the control room. Once the water has been turned back on in the control room, an inmate must press the button below the shower head to turn the water back on for an additional twenty seconds. Id. Neither inmates, nor the corrections officer in the control room, have control over the temperature of the water that comes from the shower head. Id. ¶ 14.

         Inmates assigned to the MCU are in their cells for approximately twenty-two hours a day and are allowed into the common area twice a day. for one hour at a time, once during the morning shift (7:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m.) and once during the evening shift (3:00 p.m. to 11:00 p.m.). Id. ¶ 15. Inmates are allowed to use either of the two showers while out of their cells. The only restriction is that inmates cannot take a shower during the morning shift until the showers have been cleaned and inspected by a corrections officer. Id.

         On February 28. 2014. Ross was assigned to the Control Room in the MCU when Lattisaw and fellow inmate Mark Glower decided to take showers. Id. ¶ 16. Lattisaw was in the shower on the first floor and Clower was in the shower on the second floor. Id. After several minutes, Ross told Clower to finish his shower because he was scheduled to be taken to the medical unit. Id. ¶ 17: ECF No. 17-3 at 118. When Clower ignored Ross's order. Ross turned off the tights to the shower areas first, followed by the water to the showers, then turned each back on. in roughly three second intervals, repeating the process three additional times over a two minute period, ECF No. 17-4 ¶¶ 17-18. Lattisaw was still in the first floor shower while this was occurring, Id.

         Ross avers that his decision to turn the lights and water off and on was based solely upon the need to get Clower to the medical unit, and Lattisaw's presence in the shower did not factor into this decision. Id. ¶ 19. After Ross stopped turning the lights and water on and off, he learned that Lattisaw was complaining of injury. Id.v 20. Ross did not say anything to Lattisaw during or after the incident. Id.

         Lattisaw was transported by Corporal Fagnani to the medical unit, id. T 21. where he "stated he fell in the shower and also stated the water in the shower was hot." ECF No. 17-3 at 251. Nothing in the record suggests that he complained to medical staff about being sexually assaulted. Id. Staff checked Lattisaw's vitals. Id. The medical records do not include any reference to Lattisaw sustaining burns on his body or to other obvious injury caused by his alleged ...


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