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McFadden v. Barton

United States District Court, D. Maryland

May 29, 2018



          Ellen L. Hollander United States District Judge.

         Plaintiff Marcus Allen McFadden, who is self represented, is a state inmate incarcerated at North Branch Correctional Institution. He filed suit pursuant to 42 U.S.C. §1983, claiming that during the time he was incarcerated at the Maryland Correctional Institution-Hagerstown (MCI-H), defendants used excessive force against him and deprived him of adequate medical care, in violation of his rights under the Eighth Amendment.[1] ECF 1. He also asserts that institutional procedures were not followed. Id. Defendants, Correctional Officers Scott Barton, Shane Boggs, and David Hoffman, [2] have filed a Motion to Dismiss or, in the Alternative, Motion for Summary Judgment (ECF 12), along with a legal memorandum (ECF 12-1) (collectively, the “Motion”). In support of the Motion, defendants have submitted declarations (ECF 12-4, ECF 12-5, ECF 12-6, ECF 12-8, & ECF 12-9), and verified records, ECF 12-3 & ECF 12-7, including medical records. ECF 12-7.[3] McFadden has filed an opposition (ECF 17), with exhibits. ECF 17-1. Defendants did not file a reply.

         Upon review of the pleadings, exhibits, and applicable law, I find that no hearing is necessary to resolve the Motion. See Local Rule 105.6 (D. Md. 2016). For the reasons that follow, defendants' Motion, construed as a motion for summary judgment, shall be granted.


         A. McFadden's Allegations

         McFadden alleges that he was assaulted by defendants on March 2, 2017. On that day, inmates in the disciplinary segregation unit where McFadden was housed were being given the opportunity to take their showers. McFadden asserts that he was not provided a shower because he “allegedly” covered his cell window McFadden claims that he put his “arm on the door slot and asked to speak to a[n] OIC [officer in charge] or shift supervisor before closing [the] slot.” ECF 1 at 2-3. Officer Hoffman then directed McFadden to close the slot and told him that he was not going to see anybody. Id. McFadden acknowledges that he “continue[d] to have [his] arm on the slot.” Id. at 3. According to McFadden, Hoffman “[re]peatedly took his right knee and slammed [plaintiff's] arms in the slot and then released a burst of mace . . . .” Id. McFadden asked to see a shift supervisor.

         Officer Barton arrived. The officers radioed the control center to open the cell occupied by McFadden and his cellmate, Johnny Sinkler. McFadden alleges that Barton entered the cell, “releasing vicious blows to the left side of [his] face.” Id. Meanwhile, Hoffman restrained Sinkler. Officer Boggs arrived to assist Barton “and released punches to [plaintiff's] mouth which caused bleeding.” Id. McFadden alleges that while he lay face down in cuffs, he was threatened and racial slurs were made. As Barton and Boggs removed McFadden from his cell, Hoffman “released a vicious heavy knee to the whole left side of [plaintiff's] face, which caused bruising and nerve damage to [his] left eye.” ECF 1 at 3. Afterwards, McFadden was taken to speak to Sergeant Khan and Lieutenant Whiteside.[4] McFadden alleges that during this conversation he was told that if he sought medical attention, he would receive a rule infraction. Id. Further, they told McFadden that “‘Sgt. Khan made a mistake for opening [plaintiff's] cell and they had to come up with a good lie to saves [sic] their assess [sic].'” Id.; see also ECF 17 at 4. Lt. Whiteside promised McFadden he would not be charged with assaulting the officers. Id.

         McFadden was escorted to the medical unit and photographs were taken. Id. Medical personnel evaluated plaintiff for an injury to his left eye and a “busted mouth.” Id. [5] McFadden claims he did not receive proper treatment for his left eye injury. He alleges that his vision is blurred and he suffers constant eye pain. Id. at 4.

         McFadden was served with notice of rule infractions for assaulting the officers on March 2, 2017, and for covering his cell window. Id. at 3-4. He avers that proper procedures were not followed during the incident. Id. Specifically, he asserts that before his cell door was opened, a shift supervisor should have been called and the incident should have been recorded. Id. McFadden requests monetary damages against each defendant as redress. Id.

         B. Defendants' Response

         Defendants Boggs, Hoffman, and Barton deny McFadden's allegations in their declarations. ECF 12-4 (Boggs); ECF 12-5 (Hoffman); ECF 12-6 (Barton). They also deny that any chemical agents were used against McFadden before or during the incident on March 2, 2017. Id. They also deny making racial slurs. Id. Further, defendants state they did not observe other officers use a chemical agent on McFadden or make racial slurs. Id. And, defendants deny interfering with or delaying McFadden's medical care. Id. Hoffman states that he was not involved in the physical altercation with McFadden because his actions focused on restraining Sinkler. ECF 7-5.

         Defendants assert that “the contents of the Use of Force Incident Report and the Notice of Inmate Rule Violation which are dated March 2, 2017 about events surrounding” their contact with McFadden are “true and accurate.” ECF 12-4, ECF 12-5, ECF 12-6. Defendants have also filed verified copies of the Serious Incident Report, ECF 12-3 at 5-7; Use of Force Report, ECF 12-3 at 8-22; and Notice of Inmate Disciplinary Hearing, ECF 12-3 at 23-28. Several of the reports were made soon after the incident.

         Much of the information below is gleaned from the exhibits.

         On the date in question, Barton and Hoffman offered showers to inmates on the segregation tier. At approximately 9:20 a.m., they approached McFadden's cell. Barton observed the cell door window was covered with paper. ECF 12-3 at 7 (Serious Incident Report of Todd Young); id. at 9 (Boggs' Narrative, Use of Force Report); id. at 11 (Investigative Report); id. at 12 (Boggs' Use of Force Incident Report); id. at 14 (Barton's Use of Force Report). Barton asked McFadden and Sinkler to remove the paper and inquired whether they wanted showers. Neither inmate responded. Id. at 7, 9, 11. Barton then informed McFadden and Sinkler that covering the window jeopardized their safety and institutional security and that refusal to remove the cover would result in an adjustment report. Id. Nevertheless, the inmates did not remove the window covering. Barton then ordered the inmates to remove the paper from the window. Id. Again, there was no response. Barton called on his radio to open the cell door to check on the inmates' welfare. Id.

         Once the door opened, McFadden attempted to step out of the cell, but Barton ordered him to step back into the cell. Barton extended his arm to prevent McFadden from exiting. McFadden grabbed Barton's arm, pulled him into the cell, and “threw several closed fist punches” to Barton's face. Id. Barton reported that McFadden landed two punches on Barton's left check, directly below his eye, causing swelling and redness for approximately one hour. Id. at 14.

         Officer Boggs “heard a commotion” and went to the scene. ECF 12-3 at 12. Boggs reported that McFadden threw punches to his face, as well. Id. Hoffman attempted to handcuff Sinkler, who initially resisted and then complied. Id. at 11. McFadden was placed on the ground to gain control. Id. Barton handcuffed McFadden, id., and other officers escorted McFadden from the area. Id. at 11.

         Officer R. Sartin promptly escorted plaintiff to see medical personnel. ECF 12-9 at 2. Sartin photographed McFadden at approximately 9:40 a.m. ECF 12-3 at 18. At approximately 9:30 a.m., Officer R. Wigfield, III photographed Barton, Boggs, and Hoffman. Id. at 20-22.

         Kim Morrison, R.N., evaluated McFadden after the incident, at approximately 10:12 a.m. ECF 12-7 at 2. Morrison observed that McFadden walked without assistance or signs of distress. Morrison observed a bruise on McFadden's upper left cheek near his eye, measuring approximately 3 cm x 2 cm. McFadden denied having other concerns. Id. McFadden offered no statement about the assault. Id.

         Lieutenant Brian Whiteside avers in his Declaration (ECF 12-9) that he had a brief conversation with McFadden at approximately 9:30 a.m. on March 2, 2017, to find out his view of the incident. Id. at 1. Whiteside denies telling McFadden that “he would only receive an infraction if he sought medical attention.” Id. at 2. Further, Whiteside denies that he told McFadden that Barton, Boggs, and Hoffman had to lie to cover up their actions. Id. And, Whiteside denies offering to withhold assault charges against McFadden in exchange for McFadden's promise not to press charges against Barton, Boggs, and Hoffman. Id. Whiteside notes that he agreed with and approved the decision to charge McFadden with rule violations based on the incident of March 2, 2017. Id. Whiteside denies that he hindered or delayed McFadden's medical treatment. Id.

         McFadden and Sinkler declined to be interviewed about the incident or to provide statements. ECF 12-3 at 11. Following a Use of Force Investigation, the investigator, Cheryl Williams, submitted a summary to Ronald Brezler, Chief of Security, concluding that the force used was “justified and applied in good faith to gain control of the situation and to keep the incident from escalating . . . .” ECF 12-3 at 11.

         On March 3, 2017, Ronald B. Brezler, MCI-H Chief of Security, determined after reviewing the Serious Incident and Use of Force Reports completed after the incident of March 2, 2017, that the amount of force accorded “with established directives and policies. However, the decision to enter the cell was made without notifying a supervisor or with the appropriate amount of back-up.” ECF 12-3 at 4; s ...

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