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Edwards v. Proud

United States District Court, D. Maryland

September 25, 2017

KARL BRUCE EDWARDS, #54142-066 Plaintiff
v.
MS. PROUD, Recreation Staff Officer, MR. FULLER, Unit Staff Officer, M.S. MOUBAREK, M.D., Clinical Director, DR. S. McGANN, M.D., MR. LATHAN, ACTIVE CAPTAIN,

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          George L. Russell, III United States District Judge

         THIS MATTER is before the Court on Defendants', Shannae Proud, Mohamed Moubarek, M.D., Stephany McGann, M.D. Warden Timothy Stewart, Brent Fuller, Mark Lathrop, and the United States of America, Motion to Substitute the United States and Motion to Dismiss or, in the Alternative for Summary Judgment. (ECF No. 12). Also before the Court are Plaintiff Karl Bruce Edwards' Motion for Reconsideration of the Order Denying his Motion to Appoint Counsel, his Second Motion to Appoint Counsel, his Second Motion for Reconsideration of Appointment of Counsel and his Third Motion to Appoint Counsel. (ECF Nos. 18, 19, 20, 21). The Motions are ripe for disposition and no hearing is necessary. See Local Rule 105.6 (D. Md. 2016). For the reasons outlined below, Edwards' Motion for Reconsideration of the Order Denying his Motion to Appoint Counsel, his second Motion to Appoint Counsel, his second Motion for Reconsideration of Appointment of Counsel and his third Motion to Appoint Counsel (ECF Nos. 18, 19, 20, 21) will be denied. Defendants' Motion to Substitute, Motion to Dismiss (ECF No. 12) will be granted.

         I. BACKGROUND

         Plaintiff Edwards is an inmate at the Federal Correctional Institution in Cumberland, Maryland (“FCI-Cumberland”). Edwards alleges in the Complaint that after he tripped and hurt his ankle on February 5, 2015, at 2:24 p.m. he reported the injury to Shannae Proud, a recreation staff officer at FCI Cumberland. (Compl. at 8). Proud allegedly “disregarded” Edwards' safety and denied him immediate medical treatment. (Id. at 8). Edwards claims Proud later “fabricated” that he had refused to go to the Health Service in the injury report log. (Id. at 9). He faults Captain Mark Lathrop for failing to oversee the proper documentation of his injury. (Id.). At 7:00 p.m. that evening, Edwards reported his ankle injury to Officer Brent Fuller, who also allegedly “disregarded” his safety and denied him emergency treatment. (Id. at 8). Edwards states he was not seen by medical providers until the following day, February 6, 2015.

         Edwards pleads that he had to wait until February 10, 2015, to learn from Nurse VanMeeter that an x-ray revealed his ankle was “broken.” (Id.). On February 19, 2015, Dr. McGann informed Edwards that his left ankle was fractured, not broken, and would heal while he waited to see an orthopedist. Edwards faults McGann for failing to provide direct, timely, and proper medical treatment during this time, and Dr. Moubareck for failing to supervise his timely diagnosis and medical care. (Id. at 9). Edwards faults McGann for refusing to replace his ankle brace. Edwards alleges Moubarek confiscated his soft shoes and walking cane in retaliation for filing Administrative Remedy Procedure requests (“ARP”). (Id.). Edwards claims Warden Stewart failed to oversee safe and proper operations regarding policy and injury procedures. (Id.).

         In his pro se Complaint, he presents claims pursuant to Bivens v. Six Unknown Named Agents, 403 U.S. 388 (1971) and the Federal Tort Claims Act (“FTCA”), 28 U.S.C. §§ 1346(b), 2401(b), 2671-80. (ECF No. 1). Edwards alleges Defendants were negligent, committed medical malpractice, and denied him constitutionally adequate medical care for an ankle injury he suffered on the afternoon of February 5, 2015, after he tripped in the gym at FCI-Cumberland. As redress, Edwards seeks monetary damages in the amount of $50, 000 for his pain and suffering, as well as for “needless anxiety, depression, sleeplessness, and emotional distress.” (Compl. at 10, ECF No. 1).

         II. DISCUSSION

         A. Motion to Appoint Counsel

         A district court need not request an attorney's assistance pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §1915(e)(1) unless the case presents complex issues or exceptional circumstances. See Whisenant v. Yuam, 739 F.2d 160, 163 (4th Cir. 1984). Exceptional circumstances include a litigant who “is barely able to read or write, ” id. at 162, or clearly “has a colorable claim but lacks the capacity to present it, ” Berry v. Gutierrez, 587 F.Supp.2d 717, 723 (E.D. Va. 2008); see also Altevogt v. Kirwan, No. WDQ-11-1061, 2012 WL 135283, at *2 (D. Md. Jan. 13, 2012).

         Here, on April 4, 2017, the Court denied without prejudice Edwards' first Motion for Appointment of Counsel, noting that he had adequately presented his claims, filed an opposition to Defendants' dispositive motion, and the claims presented were not overly complex. (ECF No. 17).

         On May 8, 2017, Edwards filed a Motion for Reconsideration of the denial (ECF No. 18) and a second Motion to Appoint Counsel (ECF No. 19). In the Motion for Reconsideration, Edwards avers that subsequent to denial of his first Motion to Appoint Counsel, Defendants' filed a Reply, which he claims is an “unusual action, ” warranting appointment of counsel. (Id.). Edwards also claims that Bureau of Prisons' policy prohibits inmates from assisting each another with legal matters. (Id.). Edwards' second Motion to Appoint Counsel, Second Motion for Reconsideration, and third Motion to Appoint Counsel reiterate these assertions. (ECF Nos. 19, 20, 21).

         Motions for reconsideration of a non-final interlocutory order, as is the case here, are governed by Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 54(b) and “are not subject to the strict standards applicable to motions for reconsideration of a final judgment.” Am. Canoe Ass'n v. Murphy Farms, Inc., 326 F.3d 505, 514 (4th Cir. 2003). While the precise standard governing a motion for reconsideration of an interlocutory order is unclear, courts in this circuit look to Rule 59(e) for guidance. Butler v. Directsat USA, LLC, 307 F.R.D. 445, 449 (D. Md. 2015) (noting that courts frequently look to the standards articulated in Rules 59(a) and 60(b) “for guidance in considering such motions”). Under Rule 59(e), a district court may alter or amend a judgment: “(1) to accommodate an intervening change in controlling law; (2) to account for new evidence not available at trial; or (3) to correct a clear error of law [or] prevent manifest injustice.” U.S. ex rel. Becker v. Westinghouse Savannah River Co., 305 F.3d 284, 290 (4th Cir. 2002) (citations and internal quotation marks omitted).

         Here, Defendants' filing of a Reply is not unusual. Nor has there been an intervening change of law, new evidence, or demonstration of a need to prevent “manifest injustice.” Id. Accordingly, the Motions for Reconsideration (ECF Nos. 18, 20) will be denied. Further, Edwards has demonstrated his ability to present his claims and file an opposition in this litigation. Defendants' filing of a Reply does not render this case complex or give rise to exceptional circumstances warranting appointment of counsel. Accordingly, Edwards' Motions for Appointment of Counsel (ECF No. 19, 21) will be denied.

         B. Motion to Dismiss or, in the Alternative, for Summary Judgment

         1. Standard of Review

         Defendants moves to dismiss the Complaint under Rule 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure or, in the Alternative, under Rule 56. “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 Rule 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).

         In reviewing a motion for summary judgment, the Court views the facts in a light most favorable to the nonmovant, drawing all justifiable inferences in that party's favor. Ricci v. DeStefano, 557 U.S. 557, 586 (2009); Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 255 (1986) (citing Adickes v. S.H. Kress & Co., 398 U.S. 144, 158-59 (1970)). Summary judgment is proper when the movant demonstrates, through “particular parts of materials in the record, including depositions, documents, electronically stored information, affidavits or declarations, stipulations . . . admissions, interrogatory answers, or other materials, ” that “there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a), (c)(1)(A). Significantly, a party must be able to present the materials it cites in “a form that would be admissible in evidence, ” Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c)(3), and supporting affidavits and declarations “must be made on personal knowledge” and “set out facts that would be admissible in evidence, ” Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c)(4).

         A “material fact” is one that might affect the outcome of a party's case. Anderson, 477 U.S. at 248; see also JKC Holding Co. v. Wash. Sports Ventures, Inc., 264 F.3d 459, 465 (4th Cir. 2001) (citing Hooven-Lewis v. Caldera, 249 F.3d 259, 265 (4th Cir. 2001)). Whether a fact is considered to be “material” is determined by the substantive law, and “[o]nly disputes over facts that might affect the outcome of the suit under the governing law will properly preclude the entry of summary judgment.” Anderson, 477 U.S. at 248; accord Hooven-Lewis, 249 F.3d at 265. A “genuine” dispute concerning a “material” fact arises when the evidence is sufficient to allow a reasonable jury to return a verdict in the nonmoving party's favor. Anderson, 477 U.S. at 248. If the nonmovant has failed to make a sufficient showing on an essential element of his case where he has the burden of proof, “there can be ‘no genuine [dispute] as to any material fact, ' since a complete failure of proof concerning an essential element of the nonmoving party's case necessarily renders all other facts immaterial.” Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322-23 (1986).

         Once a motion for summary judgment is properly made and supported, the burden shifts to the nonmovant to identify evidence showing there is a genuine dispute of material fact. See Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 586- 87 (1986). The nonmovant cannot create a genuine dispute of material fact “through mere speculation or the building of one inference upon another.” Beale v. Hardy, 769 F.2d 213, 214 (4th Cir. 1985) (citation omitted).

         This Court must also abide by its affirmative obligation to prevent “factually unsupported claims and defenses” from going to trial. Drewitt v. Pratt, 999 F.2d 774, 778-79 (4th Cir. 1993) (citing Felty v. Graves-Humphreys Co., 818 F.2d 1126, 1128 (4th Cir. 1987)). If the evidence presented by the nonmovant is “merely colorable, or is not significantly probative, summary judgment may be granted.” Anderson, 477 U.S. at 249-50 (citations omitted).

         Defendants rely on exhibits attached to their dispositive Motion, which is titled in the alternative as a Motion for Summary Judgment. Consonant with Roseboro v. Garrison, 528 F.2d 309 (4th Cir. 1975), the Clerk sent notice to Edwards informing him that he may file an opposition with affidavits and exhibits in support, and he has done so. (ECF Nos. 13, 14). Accordingly, the Court ...


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