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Wooten v. The United States Bureau of Prisons

United States District Court, D. Maryland

February 28, 2018

THOMAS WILLIAM WOOTEN, Plaintiff
v.
THE UNITED STATES BUREAU OF PRISONS, et al., Defendants

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          George L. Russell, III United States District Judge

         THIS MATTER is before the Court on Defendants, the United States Bureau of Prisons, F.C.I. Cumberland, Jane Doe Staff Member, and John Doe Staff Member's Motion to Dismiss or, in the Alternative, Motion for Summary Judgment (ECF No. 8). The Motion is ripe for disposition, and no hearing is necessary. See Local Rule 105.6 (D.Md. 2016). For the reasons outlined below, the Court will grant Defendants' Motion.

         I. BACKGROUND

         Plaintiff Thomas William Wooten is a federal inmate presently housed at the Federal Correctional Institution (“FCI”)-Allenwood, in White Deer, Pennsylvania. Wooten alleges that in October of 2014, while designated to FCI-Cumberland, he underwent a pacemaker implantation at the Western Maryland Regional Medical Center, and was forced by prison officials to leave the hospital earlier than his surgeon advised. (Am. Compl. ¶¶ 1, 9, 10, 11, ECF No. 3-1). He pleads that the surgeon recommended he remain in the hospital for 72 hours after his surgery and that the failure to follow the surgeon's orders resulted in his suffering complications and necessitating additional surgery. (Id. at 3-4).

         Howard Williams, Legal Assistant at the Mid-Atlantic Regional Office of the Federal Bureau of Prisons, reviewed BOP's computerized inmate records. (Williams Decl. ¶ 3, ECF No. 8-2). Upon review, Wooten has never filed any administrative remedies while housed in the BOP. (Id. ¶ 4). Nor has Wooten filed any administrative tort claims. (Id. ¶ 5).

         On November 28, 2016, Wooten filed an Amended Complaint that raised claims of personal injury arising after the October, 2014, implantation of a cardiac pacemaker. (Am. Compl.). Wooten alleges that Defendants were deliberately indifferent to his serious medical needs in violation of the Eighth Amendment and filed the Complaint under Bivens v. Six Unknown Named Agents of the Federal Bureau of Narcotics, 403 U.S. 388 (1971).[1] (Id.). He seeks compensatory damages. (Id.).

         II. DISCUSSION

         A. Standard of Review

         1. Motion to Dismiss

         “The purpose of a Rule 12(b)(6) motion is to test the sufficiency of a complaint, ” not to “resolve contests surrounding the facts, the merits of a claim, or the applicability of defenses.” King v. Rubenstein, 825 F.3d 206, 214 (4th Cir. 2016) (quoting Edwards v. City of Goldsboro, 178 F.3d 231, 243-44 (4th Cir. 1999)). A complaint fails to state a claim if it does not contain “a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief, ” Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2), or does not “state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face, ” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (quoting Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007)). A claim is facially plausible “when the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged.” Id. (citing Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556). “Threadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action, supported by mere conclusory statements, do not suffice.” Id. (citing Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555). Though the plaintiff is not required to forecast evidence to prove the elements of the claim, the complaint must allege sufficient facts to establish each element. Goss v. Bank of Am., N.A., 917 F.Supp.2d 445, 449 (D.Md. 2013) (quoting Walters v. McMahen, 684 F.3d 435, 439 (4th Cir. 2012)), aff'd sub nom., Goss v. Bank of Am., NA, 546 F.App'x 165 (4th Cir. 2013).

         In considering a Rule 12(b)(6) motion, a court must examine the complaint as a whole, consider the factual allegations in the complaint as true, and construe the factual allegations in the light most favorable to the plaintiff. Albright v. Oliver, 510 U.S. 266, 268 (1994); Lambeth v. Bd. of Comm'rs of Davidson Cty., 407 F.3d 266, 268 (4th Cir. 2005) (citing Scheuer v. Rhodes, 416 U.S. 232, 236 (1974)). But, the court need not accept unsupported or conclusory factual allegations devoid of any reference to actual events, United Black Firefighters v. Hirst, 604 F.2d 844, 847 (4th Cir. 1979), or legal conclusions couched as factual allegations, Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678.

         Wooten filed his Amended Complaint pro se. Pro se pleadings are liberally construed and held to a less stringent standard than pleadings drafted by lawyers. Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 94 (2007) (quoting Estelle v. Gamble, 429 U.S. 97, 106 (1976)); accord Brown v. N.C. Dep't of Corr., 612 F.3d 720, 722 (4th Cir. 2010). Pro se complaints are entitled to special care to determine whether any possible set of facts would entitle the plaintiff to relief. Hughes v. Rowe, 449 U.S. 5, 9-10 (1980). But even a pro se complaint must be dismissed if it does not allege “a plausible claim for relief.” Forquer v. Schlee, No. RDB-12-969, 2012 WL 6087491, at *3 (D.Md. Dec. 4, 2012) (citation and internal quotation marks omitted).

         2. Conversion to a Motion for Summary Judgment

         In this case, Defendants filed a Motion to Dismiss, or in the Alternative, for Summary Judgment. (ECF No. 8). A motion styled as a motion to dismiss or, in the alternative, for summary judgment implicates the Court's discretion under Rule 12(d). See Kensington Vol. Fire Dept., Inc. v. Montgomery Cty., 788 F.Supp.2d 431, 436-37 (D.Md. 2011), aff'd sub nom. Kensington Volunteer Fire Dep't, Inc. v. Montgomery Cty., 684 F.3d 462 (4th Cir. 2012). This Rule provides that when “matters outside the pleadings are ...


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