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Copeland v. Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services

United States District Court, D. Maryland

November 8, 2017



          James K. Bredar Chief Judge

         Darrell Copeland, a former prisoner, filed this self-represented civil rights action against the Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services (DPSCS); Deyena Corcoran, DPSCS Commissioner; Denise Gelsinger, Warden of Western Correctional Institution (WCI);[1]Lieutenant Smith, an officer at WCI; Dennis Martin, a nurse at WCI; and the Superintendent of the Psychology Department at WCI, whom Plaintiff names John Doe. ECF No. 1. Except for DPSCS, Plaintiff brought suit against all Defendants in their official and individual capacities. ECF No. 1 at 3.

         The Defendants have filed Motions to Dismiss or, in the Alternative, Motions for Summary Judgment. ECF Nos. 26 (Defendant Martin's Motion); ECF No. 30 (Motion from Defendants DPSCS, Corcoran, Gelsinger, and Smith).[2] Plaintiff filed a Response in Opposition to one of the Motions to Dismiss. ECF No. 32 (responding to ECF No. 30). The matter is now ripe for review. No hearing is necessary to resolve the motion. See Local Rule 105.6 (D. Md. 2016). For the reasons that follow, the court DISMISSES Defendant Doe and GRANTS Defendant Martin's Motion to Dismiss. As to the remaining Defendants' motion, the court GRANTS the Motion to Dismiss as to DPSCS, Corcoran, and Gelsinger, and GRANTS the Alternative Motion for Summary Judgment as to Defendant Smith.

         I. Complaint Allegations

         Plaintiff filed a verified complaint alleging that:

On February 17, 2016, Defendant Lt. Smith, along with four other officers, placed me in a cell, cell B2, in Housing Unit 4 pending an adjustment hearing; the cell was heavily infested with ants and rodents; feces covered the floors and walls; I was never giv[en] a mattr[e]ss and was forced to sleep on the floor for 48 hours which worsened my preexisting back injury, causing me severe back spasms for several weeks. Though I was prescribed medical treatment in the form of 500 mg Rob[a]xin, on 2/17/2016 the nurse on the 4 to 12 shift denied me medical treatment and all other medical treatment there after.

ECF No. 1 at 3 (some capitalization altered). Plaintiff asserted that this treatment constituted cruel and unusual punishment and deliberate indifference to his medical needs in violation of the Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments. ECF No. 1 at 3.

         In a declaration that attached to his complaint, Plaintiff stated:

On 2-17-16 I was placed in cell 4-B-2 with no clothes except for my boxers, socks, and a tank top even though the cell was cold with minimal heat. There were feces stains throughout the cell, ants were in abundance along the cracks of the floor and the wall where I had to stay close in order to benefit from the little bit of heat present in the cell. At meal times John Doe officers would throw my food on the floor of the dirty cell. The food would be in a brown paper bag that was often wet from the contents within it which would cause some of the contents to rip through the bag and spill onto the floor. I was also deprived of my medication for my back pains, migra[i]nes and rhinitis for 24 hours even though I wasn't given a mattress, jumpsuit or basic hyg[i]ene necessities. I made several attempts to make the John Doe officers that passed by the cell aware of my conditions and the conditions of the cell but I was ignored.
. . .
Defendants Lt. Smith and other John Doe officers violated my Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments to Freedom from Cruel and Unusual Punishment[.]
Defendants Corcoran and Gelsinger violated my 8th and 14th Amendments to Freedom from Cruel and Unusual punishment by failing to hold accountable defendants John Doe and Lt. Smith and instigating their behavior.

ECF No. 1-4.

         On March 17, 2016, nearly a month after his 48-hour placement in cell 4B2 ended, Plaintiff filed an administrative grievance concerning the cell condition, lack of mattress, and missed dosage of Robaxin. ECF No. 1-2 at 1-2. Defendant Gelsinger dismissed Plaintiff's grievance, stating:

Further investigation has revealed that you were placed in cell 4B2 on Staff Alert Status due to your disruptive activities while at RCI and circumstances surrounding your transfer. You were given basic clothing, jumpsuit, and a mattress. Cells are cleaned numerous times per week when inmates are not occupying the cell to ensure cleanliness. You were moved from 4B2 on 2/19/16, at which time you were seen by medical and reported no injuries or issues. You have been unable to provide substantial evidence to show that you were treated unprofessionally in any manner. No further actions will be taken at this time.

ECF No. 1-2 at 1. Plaintiff appealed the denial of his administrative grievance, and Defendant Corcoran dismissed the appeal. ECF No. 1-2 at 3-5.

         II. Defendants' Responses

         Defendant Martin filed a Motion to Dismiss or, in the Alternative, Motion for Summary Judgment. ECF No. 26. Martin argued that Plaintiff failed to allege that Martin was involved in placing Plaintiff in cell 4B2 and that “it is entirely unclear whether Plaintiff's allegations of being denied medication are even directed at this Defendant.” ECF No. 26-1 at 2. Further, Martin noted that Plaintiff's administrative requests submitted in connection with this claim and filed with Plaintiff's complaint alleged that Plaintiff was denied medication even though he had “informed Jane Doe that [he] was to get them.” ECF No. 1-2 at 2. Thus, Martin contends that Plaintiff's reference to Jane Doe “establishes that the nurse who Plaintiff alleges denied him treatment was female, unlike [Martin] who is male.” ECF No. 26-1 at 2. Although warned of the possible consequences for failing to do so, ECF No. 27, Plaintiff did not respond to Martin's Motion.

         Following Martin's motion, Defendants DPSCS, Corcoran, Gelsinger, and Smith jointly filed a Motion to Dismiss or, in the Alternative, Motion for Summary Judgment. ECF No. 30. Defendants DPSCS, Corcoran, and Gelsinger argued that they are entitled to dismissal because they did not personally participate in the alleged wrongs and Plaintiff failed to sufficiently plead supervisory liability under § 1983. ECF No. 30-1 at 9-12. Smith contends that the conditions of Plaintiff's confinement were not objectively serious enough to amount to a constitutional violation. ECF No. 30-1 at 13-15. Further, Smith argues that he lacked the requisite mental state and that Plaintiff's allegations are largely unrelated to Smith himself. ECF No. 30-1 at 15-17.

         III. ...

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