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Thomas v. Sgt. Oliver

United States District Court, D. Maryland

May 29, 2018

CHRISTINA THOMAS Plaintiff
v.
SGT. OLIVER, BETTY JOHNSON, NICOLE JACKSON, TIARA THOMAS, and TIA GILES Defendants

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          DEBORAH K. CHASANOW, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         Defendants Tia Giles, Nicole Jackson, Sgt. Oliver, and Tiara Thomas filed a motion to dismiss the above-entitled civil rights complaint on November 27, 2017. ECF No. 51. Defendant Betty Johnson was served with the complaint on December 19, 2017, but has not answered or otherwise responded to the complaint.[1] ECF No. 57. Plaintiff opposes the motion to dismiss. ECF No. 56. No. hearing is necessary to resolve the matters pending. See Local Rule 105.6 (D. Md. 2016). For the reasons stated below Defendants' motion will be denied as to the claims against Oliver, Thomas and Giles and granted as to Jackson.

         Background

         Plaintiff Christina Thomas, who at all times relevant to the complaint was incarcerated at the Baltimore City Detention Center for Women, alleges that she was assaulted on July 8, 2015, by correctional officers. She explains that Officer Tiara Thomas became angry when the dormitory “T.V. Card was misplaced.” ECF No. 33 at p. 2. Officer Thomas demanded to know where the card was and threatened the entire dorm that if they did not tell her where it was they would not get the card back. The “dorm rep.” gave Officer Thomas the TV card, but Officer Thomas angrily accused the entire dorm of playing games and threatened that if no one told her who took the card, it would not be given back to the dorm. Id. The dorm rep. then told Officer Thomas that Plaintiff had taken the card.[2] Id.

         Officer Thomas ordered Plaintiff to put her hands on the wall and spread her legs so she could search Plaintiff even though Officer Thomas was already in possession of the TV card. Officer Tia Giles arrived to assist in searching Plaintiff, as well as Plaintiff's bed area and property. Giles claimed that she found something that Plaintiff was not supposed to have and Sgt. Oliver placed Plaintiff in handcuffs and left the area. ECF No. 33 at p. 2.

         Plaintiff claims that after Sgt. Oliver left, Officer Thomas became disrespectful and called her names. Plaintiff states that Officer Thomas then grabbed her and began shaking her violently, stating that now she had a real reason to put Plaintiff on lock up. Officer Thomas then allegedly pushed her hand into Plaintiff's face and Plaintiff “came out of the handcuffs to block her from hitting” her. ECF No. 33 at p. 2. Plaintiff maintains that she was defending herself. Id.

         Plaintiff claims that Officer Thomas began violently striking Plaintiff with a closed fist and Officer Giles began to attack Plaintiff by hitting her in the head, neck, and back. She further alleges that Officer Giles held Plaintiff's arms while Officer Thomas hit her numerous times, “digging and scratching me in my eyes.” ECF No. 33 at p. 2. Plaintiff asserts that, “it was then that Ofc. Thomas slammed me on the ground, banged my head several times” and then “took her handcuffs and began beating me in my head numerous times repeatedly.” Id. Plaintiff states that she bled severely from the right and middle side of her head, and sustained bruises to her eyes and face, as a result of the beating. Id., see also ECF No. 37-2 at pp. 1-7 (medical records).

         Plaintiff states that, following the assault, she was placed in the medical dorm and claims that she was never sent to an outside hospital for treatment. She further claims that pictures were not taken of her injuries until five days after the assault, after the scratches to her face had healed. ECF No. 33 at p. 2. As relief, Plaintiff seeks monetary damages. Id. at p. 1.

         Plaintiff was charged with assaulting a correctional officer in a Notice of Inmate Rule Violation written by Officer Thomas. ECF No. 37-1 at p. 6. In addition, Officer Thomas pursued criminal charges against Plaintiff and an investigation of the matter was referred to the Internal Investigation Division (IID). Id. Questions arose from supervisory officers after reports written by Oliver, Thomas and Giles were reviewed and Plaintiff's injuries, which required sutures to her scalp, were noted. Further investigation was ordered because Plaintiff's injuries did not match the description of the events provided by the officers; the conclusion was that excessive force was used against Plaintiff. See ECF No. 37-6.

         Plaintiff avers that Warden Betty Johnson is liable because she was responsible for protecting Plaintiff from malicious behavior of the officers; Facility Administrator Nicole Jackson was responsible for protecting Plaintiff from the violence of officers; and Sgt. Oliver was the superior officer responsible for the officers involved in the assault. ECF No. 33 at p. 3. Officers Thomas and Giles are named as Defendants for their alleged actions in assaulting Plaintiff. Id.

         Defendants Tia Giles and Tiara Thomas move to dismiss the Eighth Amendment claim raised in the amended complaint because Plaintiff was a pre-trial detainee at the time of the alleged assault and as such the claim is governed by the Fourteenth Amendment. ECF No. 51-1 at pp. 3-4. They conclude that the Eighth Amendment claim must be dismissed with prejudice as a matter of law with respect to all of the Defendants. Id. at p. 4. Defendants Oliver and Jackson aver that the amended complaint fails to state a claim against them as neither of them were present during the alleged assault. ECF No. 51-1 at pp. 4-5.

         Standard of Review

         In reviewing a complaint in light of a motion to dismiss pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. Proc. 12(b)(6), the court accepts all well-pleaded allegations of the complaint as true and construes the facts and reasonable inferences derived therefrom in the light most favorable to the plaintiff. Venkatraman v. REI Sys., Inc., 417 F.3d 418, 420 (4th Cir. 2005) (citing Mylan Labs., Inc. v. Matkari, 7 F.3d 1130, 1134 (4th Cir. 1993)); Ibarra v. United States, 120 F.3d 472, 473 (4th Cir. 1997). Rule 8(a)(2) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure requires only a “short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief.” Migdal v. Rowe Price-Fleming Int'l Inc., 248 F.3d 321, 325-26 (4th Cir. 2001); see also Swierkiewicz v. Sorema N.A., 534 U.S. 506, 513 (2002) (stating that a complaint need only satisfy the “simplified pleading standard” of Rule 8(a)).

         The Supreme Court of the United States explained a “plaintiff's obligation to provide the “grounds” of his “entitlement to relief” requires more than labels and conclusions, and a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action will not do.” Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007) (internal citations omitted). Nonetheless, the complaint does not need “detailed factual allegations” to survive a motion to dismiss. Id. at 555. Instead, “once a claim has been stated adequately, it may be supported by showing any set of facts consistent with the allegations in the complaint.” Id. at 563. To survive a motion to dismiss, “a complaint must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to ‘state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.'” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 677-78 (2009) (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 570). “A claim has facial plausibility when the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged.” Iqbal, ...


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