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King v. Alston

United States District Court, D. Maryland

March 5, 2018

DIANE MARIE KING, #418-706 Plaintiff


          George L. Russell, III United States District Judge

         THIS MATTER is before the Court on Defendants, Felicia Alston, Warden Margaret Chippendale, and Rudeine Dimissie's Motion to Dismiss or, in the Alternative, Motion for Summary Judgment (ECF No. 28). 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.[2]

         I. BACKGROUND [3]

         On August 19, 2015, King underwent surgery at the University of Maryland Medical System (“UMMS”) to correct achalasia, a defect in the esophagus that prevented food from readily entering the stomach, causing vomiting and nausea. (Compl. Supp. at 1, ECF No. 9).[4] Prior to discharge from the hospital, King met with a dietician to discuss the need for a soft, pureed diet, with slow reintroduction of solid foods over the course of eight weeks. (Pl.'s Opp. at 1, ECF No. 32). King alleges that Defendants provided her an improper medical diet. She states hospital personnel insisted she should be fed baby food (not pureed food) for four weeks, (Compl. Supp. at 2), and she was forced to rely on commissary food or risk starvation and malnourishment, (Pl.'s Opp. at 1-2).

         King states she “wrote a few” complaints under the Administrative Remedy Procedure (“ARP”) process after the kitchen blender broke, making it hard for dietary staff to properly puree her food, but “nothing ever[] came of it.” (Id. at 2). She complains that Chippendale refused to provide her with baby food as an alternative to pureed food, (id. at 4-5), and states that Chippendale wrote in favor of granting King early parole because “the prison couldn't or wouldn't do what was needed to be done to feed [her], ” (id. at 5). King pleads Chippendale ordered a search of her cell and seizure of commissary food, then prohibited her from ordering commissary food for several months. King states she “starved” during this time, because she only received Ensure for nourishment, a sugary drink that caused weight gain. (Id. at 3).

         In a Complaint filed July 22, 2016, King stated that she was not provided a medically-indicated diet while confined at the Maryland Correctional Institution for Women (“MCIW”).[5] King initially sought medical release from prison. (Compl. at 3, ECF No. 1). Her Complaint, construed as a civil rights action under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, was later supplemented to include unspecified damages for “negligence, infliction of emotional distress and so much more.” (Compl. Supp. at 5).

         Following initial screening (ECF No. 5), the case proceeded solely as to Defendants Chippendale, Demissie, and Alston, who have filed the Motion, as supplemented. (ECF Nos. 28 and 31). King filed an Opposition, (ECF No. 32), and Defendants filed a Reply, (ECF No. 33).[6]


         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.

         King filed her 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 ...

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