United States District Court, D. Maryland
L. Hollander United States District Judge
Brown, the self-represented plaintiff, is a State inmate
currently confined at the North Branch Correctional
Institution (“NBCI”) in Cumberland, Maryland. On
November 22, 2016, he filed a civil rights suit against NBCI
Correctional Officers Sharon Skelly, Joshua Tart, and Justin
Adams. ECF 1. He alleges, inter alia, a violation of
the Eighth Amendment, on the ground that the defendants
“interfere[d] with the medical care” that had
been ordered for him. Id. at 4. Brown seeks
injunctive relief as well as compensatory and punitive
damages. Id. at 3, 9.
have moved to dismiss or, in the alternative, for summary
judgment. ECF 13. The motion is supported by a Memorandum
(ECF 13-1) (collectively, the “Motion”) and
exhibits, including declarations and medical records. ECF
13-2 to ECF 13-7. Brown opposes the Motion (ECF 19), and has
filed a memorandum (ECF 19-1) (collectively,
“Opposition”) and exhibits. ECF 19-2 to ECF 19-5.
Defendants have replied (ECF 21, “Reply”) and
submitted another declaration. ECF 21-1.
hearing is necessary to resolve the Motion. See
Local Rule 105.6 (D. Md. 2016). For the reasons that follow,
defendants' Motion, construed as a motion for summary
judgment, shall be denied.
complains that he suffers from scoliosis of the lumbar spine
and degenerative changes to the thoracic and lumbar regions
of the spine. Due to his conditions, on February 18, 2014, a
prison physician issued a medical assignment order directing
that plaintiff be provided with a bottom bunk. ECF 1 at 3, 4.
He states that the conditions cause him to experience
symptoms such as spasms and acute pain. Brown alleges that
this medical order was disregarded, and in May and June of
2014, he was required, on multiple occasions, to move to
other cells, where he was assigned to a top bunk. He contends
that he informed Correctional Officers Sharon Skelly, Joshua
Tart, and Justin Adams of the physician's order, but they
did not contact medical personnel to verify his medical
status and viewed his comments as “bulls-t.”
Brown asserts that on June 11, 2014, he fell as he was
attempting to move from the top bunk and required emergency
care at an area hospital. Id. at 5-8.
indicate that “bottom bunks are highly sought after by
inmates, ” because inmates “consider bottom bunk
assignments as optimal for reasons of comfort and relative
freedom of movement.” ECF 13-2 (Decl. of William
Beeman, NBCI's Assistant Director of Nursing),
¶¶ 2, 5. They affirm that they became aware of a
practice of NBCI inmates forging Medical Housing Assignment
Forms to obtain bottom bunk assignments. ECF 13-2 (Beeman
Decl.); ECF 13-3 (Skelly Decl.); ECF 13-4 (Tart Decl.); ECF
13-5 (Adams Decl.). Further, they maintain that NBCI inmates
so frequently forged orders for medical assignments to bottom
bunks that, in November of 2011, the Medical Department began
to affix an embossed seal on their orders to distinguish
authentic orders from inmate forgeries. ECF 13-2, ¶ 5.
William Beeman, the Assistant Director of Nursing at NBCI,
avers that Brown's medical assignment order of March 14,
2014, does not have the embossed seal. ECF 13-2, ¶ 8;
see also ECF 13-2 at 4 (Housing Assignment).
acknowledge that they escort inmates to their assigned cells,
but they claim that they lack authority to assign inmates to
particular cells or bunks. Moreover, they deny that they
intentionally interfered with, denied, delayed contradicted,
or hindered the implementation of any valid medical order for
Brown to be assigned to a bottom bunk. ECF 13-3; ECF 13-4;
to defendants, on November 21, 2013, while Brown was housed
at NBCI, he was moved from a bottom bunk to a top bunk. ECF
13-6 (Decl. of CO II Kevin Gurtler), at 6. Fourteen days
later, on December 5, 2013, Brown submitted a sick-call
request, reporting that on December 4, 2013, he fell when he
“jumped” down from the top bunk and then slipped
in water on the floor and hit his “Butt Bone on the
toilet.” ECF 13-7 (medical records), at 2. On December
8, 2013, Brown was seen by Registered Nurse
(“RN”) Carla Buck, who prescribed Motrin.
Id. at 14. He declined to be seen on December 11,
2013. Id. at 16. On December 24, 2013, Brown was
seen by RN Kristi Cortez for complaints related to seasonal
allergies, as well as back and right leg discomfort
attributable to his fall on December 4, 2013. Id. at
17-2, 19. Brown was provided with a muscle rub. Id.
was seen by Colin Ottey, M.D., for an urgent care visit on
February 14, 2014, claiming he fell from the top bunk on that
date. Id. at 20. He complained of pain in his
mid-lower back and reported no sensation in his lower
extremities. He was admitted to the infirmary and radial
examinations of the lumbar spine, sacrum, and coccyx were
ordered. Id. at 20-27. Brown filed a sick-call slip
on March 6, 2014, again complaining of lower back and tail
bone pain, with severe spasms in his left leg since he fell
from his bunk on February 14, 2014. Id. at 7.
Another sick-call slip was submitted on March 15, 2014.
Id. at 8.
11, 2014, Brown was apparently found on the floor of his cell
“with an observed fall.” Id. at 30. He
was seen by a nurse, placed in a cervical collar on a back
board, and transported to a hospital, where he was examined
and CT and MRI tests (spinal cord) were conducted. The CT
report was negative for fracture and the MRI report was
negative for fracture of the spine. No contusion or hematoma
was observed Brown was able to stand and take several steps;
no leg weakness was detected. ECF 13-7 at 30-38. He was
transported back to the prison infirmary, where he was seen
by RN Schultz on June 12, 2014. Brown denied numbness or
tingling of his extremities and related that he was climbing
down off the top bunk when he slipped and fell and hit his
back on a chair. Id. at 39-41. He was released from
the infirmary to general population that same date.
Id. at 42.
was seen by Ava Joubert, M.D. on June 16, 2014, requesting
the continuation of his Baclofen and his assignment to a
bottom bunk. The musculoskeletal examination was normal.
Baclofen and Ibuprofen were to be continued until June 26,
2014, and Brown was given a written regimen sheet for back
exercise. Id. at 45-46. When Brown was seen by Nurse
Practitioner Janette Clark on July 22, 2014, for his
complaint of back pain and request for a medical assignment,
Clark found the back pain condition to be stable, as Brown
indicated that he could walk up and down the stairs,
exercise, kneel, put on socks and shoes, walk an unlimited
distance, and perform daily activities of daily living. Clark
found no indication for bottom bunk status. Id. at
Brown's Opposition, supported by his own Affidavit and
exhibits, Brown claims that he was assigned bottom bunk
housing status by Dr. Ottey initially on February 14, 2014,
due to his scoliosis and degenerative back disease. ECF 19-1
at 2, 3. He contends he was issued an authentic medical
housing assignment and this was acknowledged in the
defendants' own exhibits. Id. at 1. The bunk
assignment was renewed by Dr. Ottey on March 14, 2014.
Id. at 2. Brown has provided two copies of the
medical order of March 14, 2014, in an apparent effort to
show that the physician's order was properly embossed.
maintains that he informed and showed the correctional
officers the physician's order and his medical status and
that at no time did the defendants take action to determine
if the medical assignment order (which was embossed) was
falsified or forged. Moreover, he asserts that he was never
accused of fraudulently forging a medical assignment nor
adjudicated of doing so. ECF 19-1 at 2, 3.
Brown contends that none of the defendants followed
prescribed protocol relevant to verifying a prisoner's
medical status as to housing assignments, and the
correctional officers substituted their own
“unqualified opinion as to [his] need for the special
housing assignment.” Id. Brown maintains that
Ottey's medical order, which was validated by his
administrative remedy procedure grievance and the decision of
the Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”), was subject
to “callous disregard” by defendants, resulting
in his fall from his top bunk and his transportation to a
hospital emergency room. ECF 19-1 at 3; see ECF
19-3; ECF 19-5.
Brown takes issue with the defendants' asseverations that
his medical order was authentic because it was not embossed,
stating that “if a photocopy of the document is made
the ridges of an embossed seal would not show as much.”
ECF 19-1 at ...