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Murphy v. Soltas

United States District Court, D. Maryland, Southern Division

March 16, 2018

EDDIE MURPHY, #306651, Plaintiff,



         Pending before the Court is Plaintiff Eddie Murphy's pro se Complaint filed pursuant to 42 U.S.C. §1983. ECF No. 1 at 9. Murphy claims Defendants used excessive force against him, retaliated against him for filing an action in this Court, failed to protect him from harm, and subjected him to unconstitutional conditions during the time he was an inmate at North Branch Correctional Institution in Cumberland, Maryland. Lt. Walter Iser, Lt. William Gillum, former Lt. Bradley Wilt, CO. II Nicholas Soltas, CO. II John Portmess, CO. II Craig Sauter, CO. II Ronald Saville, CO. II Jason Frantz, and former CO. II Christopher Ortt (collectively the "State Defendants"), by their counsel, filed a Motion to Dismiss or, in the Alternative, Motion for Summary Judgment. ECF No. 43.[2]Murphy was provided an opportunity to respond with materials in support of his claims and granted an extension of time to do so, ECF Nos. 44, 48, 50, but he did not file a Response.

         Murphy's claims against the State Defendants are ready for adjudication. No hearing is required. See Local Rule 105.6 (D. Md. 2016). For reasons to follow, the State Defendants' Motion to Dismiss, or in the Alternative, Motion for Summary Judgment, ECF No. 43, will be treated as a Motion for Summary Judgment, and granted.

         I. BACKGROUND

         A. Procedural History

         Murphy filed the instant action against the State Defendants and two Medical Defendants on September 2, 2016.[3] ECF No. 1. On September 8, 2017, the Court granted Medical Defendants Krissi Cortez and Greg Flury's Motion to Dismiss or, in the Alternative, Motion for Summary Judgment and denied their Motion for Attorney's Fees and Costs without prejudice to refiling upon disposition of the State Defendants' claims. ECF No. 50.[4]

         The Court incorporates here the facts and standard of review set forth in its September 8, 2017 Memorandum Opinion. ECF No. 49.

         B. Murphy's Allegations

         Murphy alleges that on September 25, 2013, Officer Ortt ordered him to "cuff up" for an escort. ECF No. 1 at 2. Ortt allegedly threatened Murphy that he could not "get away from [Ortt], " a statement purportedly made in retaliation for filing suit against other correct:onal staff in Murphy v. Rounds, etctl., Civil Action No. WDQ-13-2480 (D. Md. 2014). Id. Murphy claims that he has a history of anxiety and depression, and that the encounter with Ortt made aim anxious as he did not feel safe, so he requested to see a mental health care provider. la Officers Ortt and Portmess denied his request. Murphy then observed Lt. Wilt and an extraction team standing to the right side of his cell wearing protective gear, initially out of his view so that he could not see them. ECF No. 1 at 2-3.[5] Murphy assumed Wilt was about to deploy pepper spray into the cell, and asked Wilt if he could see his mental health provider. Id. at 3. At the same time, Murphy started to place his mattress in front of the cell door. Id. This action "backfired, " because instead of having a mental health provider "coax him out, " Wilt "aimed to punish him" and administered pepper spray into the cell. Id.

         Murphy was taken from his cell for a medical evaluation, then "forced" to remove his clothing and tennis shoes, given a smock, forced to walk barefoot to the shower, and placed in a shower "for about two seconds" and then pulled out of the shower. ECF No. 1 ¶ 6. This, he alleges, caused the pepper spray to trickle down and spread instead of providing any relief. Id. Murphy claims he told Wilt the shower was inadequate, but Wilt refused to allow him a proper decontamination shower. Id. Murphy claims Wilt's actions amounted to a wanton infliction of pain. Id. Murphy states that he was subsequently placed in a "strip cell" for seven days where he was in pain from the burning caused by the pepper spray. ECF No. 1 at 3 ¶ 7. enemy list on OBSCIS." Id. The note continues that "[documentation from other psych staff on 2/26/13 and 3/1/13 also indicates Intell was previously informed of inmate's gang/safety concerns." Id. Murphy claims that he was tied up and beaten by his cellmate, but Defendants covered up the incident by saying that it was staged. ECF No. 1 ¶ 15.

         Murphy alleges that he became more depressed and disturbed as a result of the excessive force incident. He faults Defendants for failing to explain why they did not call mental health staff prior to the cell extraction, causing him to feel "trapped." ECF No. 1 ¶¶ 16-17.

         As relief, he asks for compensatory and punitive damages of $500, 000 against each Defendant. ECF No. 1 ¶ 21.


         The State Defendants' motion is styled as a Motion to Dismiss, or in the Alternative, for Summary Judgment. ECF No. 20 at 1. If the Court considers materials outside the pleadings, as the Court does here, the Court must treat a motion to dismiss as one for summary judgment. Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(d). When the Court treats a motion to dismiss as a motion for summary judgment, "[a]ll parties must be given a reasonable opportunity to present all the material that is pertinent to the motion." Id; see also Laughlin v. Metropolitan Wash. Airports Auth., 149 F.3d 253, 260-61 (4th Cir. 1998). Furthermore, the Court may grant a motion for summary judgment before the commencement of discovery. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(a) (stating that the court "shall grant summary judgment if the movant shows that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact" without distinguishing pre-or post-discovery).

         Summary judgment is appropriate if "materials in the record, including depositions, documents, electronically stored information, affidavits or declarations, stipulations .... admissions, interrogatory answers, or other materials, " Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c), show 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); see also Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322 (1986). The party moving for summary judgment bears the burden of demonstrating that no genuine dispute exists as to material facts. Pulliam Inv. Co. v. Cameo Props., 810 F.2d 1282, 1286 (4th Cir. 1987). If the moving party demonstrates that there is no evidence to support the nonmoving party's case, the burden shifts to the nonmoving party to identify specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial. See Celotex, 477 U.S. at 322-23. A material fact is one that "might affect the outcome of the suit under the governing law." Spriggs v. Diamond Auto Glass, 242 F.3d 179, 183 (4th Cir. 2001) (quoting Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986)). A dispute of material fact is only "genuine" if sufficient evidence favoring the nonmoving party exists for the trier of fact to return a verdict for that party. Anderson, 477 U.S. at 248. However, the nonmoving party "cannot create a genuine issue of material fact through mere speculation or the building of one inference upon another." Beale v. Hardy, 769 F.2d 213, 214 (4th Cir. 1986). When ruling on a motion for summary judgment, "[t]he evidence of the non-movant is to be believed, and all justifiable inferences are to be drawn in his favor." Anderson, 477 U.S. at 255. Murphy was provided notice of the State Defendants' filing of exhibits and affidavits to support the Motion for Summary Judgment and has not responded. ECF No. 44.


         In support of their dispositive motion, the State Defendants have filed verified evidence including a high-definition first-person recording of Murphy's cell extraction, declarations from correctional officers, and his prison records. ECF No. 43. Because Murphy was provided an opportunity to respond with exhibits and declarations, ECF No. 44, the Court will treat Defendants' Motion as one for summary judgment.

         A. Use of ...

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