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Thompson v. State

United States District Court, D. Maryland

March 16, 2018

State of Maryland, et al., Defendants


          Paul W. Grimm United States District Judge

         Plaintiff Brandon Ryan Thompson (“Plaintiff” or “Mr. Thompson”) is an inmate currently incarcerated at North Branch Correctional Institution (“NBCI”) in Cumberland, Maryland. Am. Compl. 1, ECF No. 16. He seeks redress pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 for alleged Eighth Amendment violations on May 30, 2015 by Correctional Officers Chase Dykes and Luis Santos (in both their official and personal capacities)[1] while he was incarcerated at Eastern Correctional Institution (“ECI”) in Westover, Maryland. Am. Compl. 4, 10. Defendants have filed a Motion to Dismiss or, in the Alternative, for Summary Judgment. ECF No. 27. Mr. Thompson filed a belated Opposition and Cross-Motion for Summary Judgment on February 20, 2018, ECF No. 37, more than six months after Defendants filed their Motion. As the Fourth Circuit's preference is to decide cases on the merits, see United States v. Shaffer Equip. Co., 11 F.3d 450, 462 (4th Cir. 1993), I have considered Mr. Thompson's Opposition despite it being untimely. A hearing is unnecessary. See Loc. R. 105.6. There is no genuine dispute of material fact, and Defendants are entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Defendants' motion, construed as a motion for summary judgment, will be granted and Mr. Thompson's motion for summary judgment will be denied.[2]

         Standard of Review and Evidentiary Record

         Summary judgment is proper when the moving party demonstrates, through “particular parts of materials in the record, including depositions, documents, electronically stored information, affidavits or declarations, stipulations . . ., admissions, interrogatory answers, or other materials, ” that “there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a), (c)(1)(A); see also Baldwin v. City of Greensboro, 714 F.3d 828, 833 (4th Cir. 2013). If the party seeking summary judgment demonstrates that there is no evidence to support the nonmoving party's case, the burden shifts to the nonmoving party to identify evidence that shows that a genuine dispute exists as to material facts. See Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 585-87 & n.10 (1986). The existence of only a “scintilla of evidence” is not enough to defeat a motion for summary judgment. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 251-52 (1986). Instead, the evidentiary materials submitted must show facts from which the finder of fact reasonably could find for the party opposing summary judgment. Id. A “genuine” dispute of material fact is one where the conflicting evidence creates “fair doubt”; wholly speculative assertions do not create “fair doubt.” Cox v. Cty. of Prince William, 249 F.3d 295, 299 (4th Cir. 2001); see also Miskin v. Baxter Healthcare Corp., 107 F.Supp.2d 669, 671 (D. Md. 1999). The substantive law governing the case determines what is material. See Hooven-Lewis v. Caldera, 249 F.3d 259, 265 (4th Cir. 2001). A fact that is not of consequence to the case, or is not relevant in light of the governing law, is not material. Id.; see also Fed. R. Evid. 401 (defining relevance). “In ruling on a motion for summary judgment, this Court reviews the facts and all reasonable inferences in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party.” Downing v. Balt. City Bd. of Sch. Comm'rs, No. RDB 12-1047, 2015 WL 1186430, at *1 (D. Md. Mar. 13, 2015) (citing Scott v. Harris, 550 U.S. 372, 378 (2007)).

         There is no genuine dispute of material fact if the nonmoving party fails to make a sufficient showing on an essential element of his case as to which he would have the burden of proof. See Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322-23 (1986). Therefore, on those issues for which the nonmoving party has the burden of proof, it is his responsibility to confront the summary judgment motion with an affidavit that “set[s] out facts that would be admissible in evidence” or other similar facts that could be “presented in a form that would be admissible in evidence” showing that there is a genuine issue for trial. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c)(2), (4); see also Ridgell, 2012 WL 707008, at *7; Laughlin, 149 F.2d at 260-61.

         Defendants have attached to their motion an extensive amount of evidence to include verified administrative and investigative records, Admin. R., ECF No. 27-2; IID Report, ECF No. 27-3, and eight sworn declarations from the officers involved in the alleged incidents, Mitchell Decl., ECF No. 27-4; Richardson Decl., ECF No. 27-5; Dykes Decl., ECF No. 27-6; Santos Decl., ECF No. 27-7; Arvey Decl., ECF No. 27-8; Butler Decl., ECF No. 27-9; Kiser Decl., ECF No. 27-10; Elliott Decl., ECF No. 27-11. In contrast, in his opposition and cross-motion for summary judgment, Mr. Thompson relies on his unverified complaint, excerpts from Defendants' exhibits, ECF Nos. 37-2, 37-3, 37-4, 37-5, 37-6, and a declaration from Mr. Steven Tarpley regarding possible video evidence of the incidents, [3] ECF No. 37-7. Because Plaintiff's Complaint is not verified, its factual assertions may not be considered in support of his summary judgment motion, or in opposition to Defendants' motion. See Williams v. Griffin, 952 F.2d 820, 823 (4th Cir. 1991); Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c)(1)(A); see also Abdelnaby v. Durham D & M, LLC, No. GLR-14-3905, 2017 WL 3725500, at *4 (D. Md. Aug. 29, 2017) (awarding summary judgment for the defendants, because the plaintiff could not “create a genuine dispute of material fact ‘through mere speculation, '” and “[t]hus, the Court [wa]s left with a record that [wa]s bereft of evidence supporting any of Abdelnaby's arguments”) (quoting Beale v. Hardy, 769, F.2d 213, 214 (4th Cir. 1985)).


         On May 30, 2015, when Mr. Thompson refused to comply with an order for a pat down search, Officer Mitchell ordered him to leave the recreation yard and to return to his housing unit. Mitchell Decl. ¶¶ 6; see Am. Compl. 1. He did. Mitchell Decl. ¶¶ 5-6; see Am. Compl. 1. Upon arriving at his housing unit, Mr. Thompson attempted to go to the “day room, ” Am. Compl. 1, and refused Officer Richardson's order for him to return to his cell, id.; Richardson Decl. ¶¶ 5-6. Mr. Thompson then told Officer Richardson that he wanted to speak to the officer in charge of the housing unit. Richardson Decl. ¶ 7; Am. Compl. 4. Officers Dykes and Santos, who were present, took Mr. Thompson in custody. Richardson Decl. ¶ 8; Am. Compl. 5 (stating that Officer “Dykes pulled him towards the clerks [sic] office”).

         Mr. Thompson then alleges that as Officer Dykes “was pulling [him, he] started to lose [his] footing so the Plaintiff tried to brace himself to gather his footing.” Am. Compl. 5. According to Mr. Thompson, Officer Dykes “thought [Mr. Thompson] was being noncompliant and he slammed [Mr. Thompson] against the door and then told [him] to sit down . . . .” Admin. R. 73 (emphasis added). Plaintiff alleges that Officer Dykes “slammed the plaintiff[']s face into the clerk['s] office door and used his forearm the [sic] pin plaintiff[']s head into the door.” Am. Compl. 5. Officer Dykes denies using any force against Mr. Thompson. Dykes Decl. ¶ 8.

         After Mr. Thompson refused to return to his cell in Housing Unit 3, Officer Santos began escorting him to Housing Unit 4 (the disciplinary segregation unit). Am. Compl. 5-6; Santos Decl. ¶ 4. Officer Santos stated that Mr. Thompson then “began yelling ‘I'm not going anywhere' and ‘You can't do this.'” Santos Decl. ¶ 5. As Officer Santos and Mr. Thompson headed to the doorway, Officer Arvey[4] held the door open. Id.; Am. Compl. 6. Officer Santos stated that Mr. Thompson lunged at Officer Arvey while calling her a “bitch, ” and in order to regain control, he pulled Mr. Thompson away and placed him against the wall. Santos Decl. ¶¶ 6-7. Mr. Thompson admits that he said “fuck you bitch” to Officer Arvey and alleges that then,

[w]ithout warning, defendant Santos slammed Plaintiff face into the wall and said “What did you call her.” And then proceeded to slam him to the ground causing plaintiff to lose consciousness immediately. When Plaintiff was finally able to get his full berrings [sic] back and understand what was going on, he was being escorted to Summerset Hospital.

Am. Compl. 6. According to Officer Santos, Mr. Thompson continued to make threats while on the ground and told Officer Santos “he would beat [Officer Santos's] ass and told [Officer Santos] to take his cuffs off and see if [Officer Santos] was tuff [sic].” Notice of Inmate Rule Violation, Admin. R. 32. At this point, a “signal 13 call” was broadcast over the ECI radio frequency. See Mitchell Decl. ¶ 9; Dykes Decl. ¶ 6; Santos Decl. ¶ 8; Butler Decl. ¶ 4. A signal 13 call means that “staff is under imminent threat and/or assault.” Kiser Decl. ¶ 4; see also Santos Decl. ¶ 8; Butler Decl. ¶ 4. Captain Kiser and Officers Mitchell, Dykes, and Butler responded to the call. See Kiser Decl. ¶¶ 4-5; Santos Decl. ¶ 8; Butler Decl. ¶ 4.

         Captain Eric Kiser stated that he “observed COII Santos on the ground with Mr. Thompson, ” and that he ordered Officer Santos to report to medical after instructing Officers Butler and Mitchell to take custody of Mr. Thompson. Kiser Decl. ¶ 5. He also stated that he “gave several direct orders to Mr. Thompson to stop resisting and comply. Mr. Thompson continuously refused to comply. [He] instructed COII Chase Dykes to retrieve leg irons from Housing Unit 3 and place them on Mr. Thompson.” Id. ¶ 6.

         Nurse Susan Johnson then arrived with a wheelchair and escorted Mr. Thompson to Housing Unit 4 where she conducted a medical evaluation. Id. ¶ 7. Nurse Johnson's medical notes reflect that Mr. Thompson had an abrasion to his cheek, was bleeding minimally, and had a small contusion on his forehead. Admin. R. 3. The administrative record indicates that when Nurse Johnson arrived, Mr. Thompson's “breathing was normal and not labored but he was not responding to voice commands.” Id. at 2; see also id. at 16 (“Thompson would not respond to voice nor obey commands from medical staff.”); IID Report 7 (Nurse Johnsons “noted that his breathing was easy and unlabored. He refused to respond to her voice or obey commands.”). He was then transported in the wheelchair to West Dispensary where the medical department ...

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