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Roble v. United States Government

United States District Court, D. Maryland

February 22, 2018



          Date Paula Xinis United States District Judge

         Pending is this personal injury action filed by Mohammed S. Roble in connection with an accident involving a Federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP) bus and a tractor-trailer truck (“the truck”). Roble, a passenger on the BOP bus, brings claims under the Federal Tort Claims Act (“FTCA”), 28 U.S.C. § 2671, et. seq., the Maryland Tort Claims Act, and Maryland common law. Roble also alleges that the BOP was deliberately indifferent to his safety during transport, giving rise to an independent claim under Bivens v. Six Unknown Named Agents of the Federal Bureau of Narcotics, 403 U.S. 388 (1971).[1] ECF No. 1 at 1; ECF 1-1 at 1, 2. He seeks compensatory damages and an order requiring the installation of seat belts in prison transports. Id.

         The BOP moved to dismiss or, in the alternative, for summary judgment to be granted in its favor. ECF No. 12. Roble responded, [2] to which the BOP timely replied. The matter is ready for disposition, and no hearing is necessary. See Loc. R. 105.6. (D. Md. 2016). For the following reasons, BOP's motion to dismiss or in the alternative for summary judgment (ECF No. 12) is granted.[3]

         I. BACKGROUND

         The following facts are taken from Roble's Complaint and the BOP's prison and medical records.[4] Roble is a federal inmate housed at the Federal Correctional Institution (“FCI”)-Fort Dix, in Fort Dix, New Jersey. On November 5, 2014, while incarcerated in the Federal Detention Center located in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Roble was being transported via BOP bus. Id. at 2-3; ECF 14-1 at 4. Although Roble was restrained by cuffs and shackles, the bus did not have any seat belts. Id. at 3.

         During transport, the bus was stopped in traffic and the truck hit the bus from behind. ECF No. 12-5. Although Roble claims that the bus driver was speeding and otherwise driving recklessly, the Maryland State Police Vehicle Crash Report determined that the truck had “failed to control speed and following distance and rear ended” the bus. ECF No. 14-1 at 33. In other words, Maryland State Police concluded that the truck, not the stopped bus, was at fault. Id. at 34.

         Upon impact, Roble asserts that he was thrown and hit the seat in front of him, injuring his face, forehead, knees and back. Id. After the accident, Roble was immediately transported to the Emergency Room at the Franklin Square Medical Center. Id. at 5. Roble reported knee pain to hospital staff. ECF No. 14-1, at 42, 48. The medical center treated and released Roble without any medication prescription, but with direction to follow up with a medical provider if necessary. Id. at 43, 46, 50.

         Roble was then placed on a different BOP bus which, according to Roble, did not have any seat belts either. Roble claims that persons within the custody of the BOP are transported across the country in buses owned by the United States Government and operated by the BOP, and that none of the buses have seat belts for prisoners.

         Roble arrived at FCC Petersburg the day after the bus accident. ECF No. 12-4 at 10. During the medical assessment at Petersburg, Roble did not report any specific injuries arising from the bus accident. ECF No. 14-1 at 85-89. Nor did he complain of any pain or complications from the accident during three subsequent medical evaluations in the following month. ECF No. 12-4 at 9-10, 14-1 at 80-84 (12/1/2014); ECF No. 14-1 at 75-79 (12/3/2014); ECF 14-1 at 70-74 (12/4/2014).

         From December, 2014 to January, 2015, Roble was incarcerated at FCI Berlin in New Jersey. ECF No. 1 at 6. Roble asserts that he told FCI Berlin medical staff that he was in pain from the bus accident but nothing was done. The records from FCI Berlin, however, reflect that he was treated at the mental health and chronic clinics throughout 2015. ECF No. 14-1, 161-205. Records from those visits reflect that Roble denied any painful conditions and did not report any injuries from the motor vehicle accident. Id. Roble also notes that he spent ten months at the D.C. Jail in 2015, where he was advised that his right knee injury may be permanent. ECF No. 1-3.

         On June 13, 2016, Roble told an FCI Berlin medical provider that the “bump on his left forehead” was from the 2014 bus accident. ECF No. 14-2, at 230-231. The next month during transport to FCI-Fort Dix, Roble received three medical evaluations. At each, he denied experiencing any painful conditions and did not report any injuries. ECF No. 14-1 at 247-250 (7/14/16); at 242-245 (7/15/16); at 237-240 (7/19/16). Roble did report the lump on his forehead to one evaluator on July 25, 2016, again attributing it to the bus accident. ECF No. 14-1 at 216.

         Roble at some point was referred for an x-ray on his knee while housed at Fort Dix. The x-ray was taken on September 27, 2016, and showed no signs of fracture or misalignment. Rather, Roble was diagnosed with suprapatellar joint effusion. Id. at 211, 312-313; ECF No. 1-4 at 9.[5] Roble was evaluated again on October 6, 2016, during which he reported right knee pain and swelling after exercise. Roble also attributed these symptoms to injuries sustained in the bus accident almost two years before. ECF Nos, 1-4 at 3, 14-1 at 211. Thereafter, aside from a January 2017 medical visit where Roble was prescribed Ibuprofen, Roble had not sought further medical treatment. Id.

         Roble avers that he filed an administrative claim on January 25, 2016, for the personal injuries sustained during the bus accident. The claim was denied on July 19, 2016. ECF No. 1 at 8; ECF No. 1-5 (claim form); ECF No. 1-6 (denial of claim). Roble did not file any similar administrative claims for the BOP's alleged Bivens violations, despite the BOP having previously provided to Roble information describing the administrative claim process. ECF 12-4 at 3-4, ¶¶13 & 14; ECF 12-4 at 12, 14-15. ECF 24-2 at 1-4.

         II. ...

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