United States District Court, D. Maryland
ELIA T. WATKINS, Plaintiff,
JOHN CULLEN, et al., Defendants.
L. RUSSELL, III UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
MATTER is before the Court on Defendants John Cullen, Sherri
Passerell, Lauren Lyons, Lee Cashdollar, Dan Brown, Richard
Mihailovich, Laura Robinson, Terri Emerson, Janet Hendershot,
Mary-Lou Perkins, Sharon Pence, Joseph Lyden, and Gary
Leasure's Motion to Dismiss or, in the Alternative,
Motion for Summary Judgment (ECF No. 27) and Motion to
Consolidate Nos. 1:16-cv-01033-GLR and 1:17-cv-00277-GLR
(“Motion to Consolidate”) (ECF No. 26). The Motions are
ripe for disposition, and no hearing is necessary.
See Local Rule 105.6 (D.Md. 2016). For the reasons
outlined below, the Court will deny the Motion to Consolidate
and grant the Motion for Summary Judgment.
The Complaint and Supplements to the
Elia T. Watkins, who currently resides at the Spring Grove
Hospital Center in Catonsville, Maryland, filed this civil
rights action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983
(2018). (ECF No. 1). Watkins' initial
Complaint was a lengthy list of grievances against a variety
of employees of the Thomas B. Finan Center (the “Finan
Center”) in Cumberland, Maryland and a state court
judge. (See Compl., ECF No. 1). The specific nature
of Watkins' Complaint, as well as how each of the named
Defendants was responsible for the facts alleged, was unclear
from Watkins' filing. The Court, therefore, granted
Watkins twenty-eight days to supplement his Complaint to cure
the deficiencies noted. (June 2, 2016 Order, ECF No. 5). In
response to the Order, Watkins filed two Supplements to the
Complaint. (ECF Nos. 6, 8). Neither of Watkins'
Supplements is a model of clarity. At bottom, Watkins alleges
that Finan Center employees treated him improperly, breached
his confidentiality, and failed to protect him from assaults
by a fellow Finan Center patient.
regard to Watkins' specific allegations, he states that
John Cullen, Director of the Finan Center, “did not do
anything to reprimand any of his employees.” (2d Suppl.
Compl. at 4, ECF No. 8). As to the Finan Center employees,
Watkins alleges that Dr. Passerell placed unlawful
restrictions on him and had a prejudicial attitude towards
him. (Compl. at 10; 1st Suppl. Compl. at 2, ECF No. 6). He
states that at times Dr. Passerell would not speak to him,
(Compl. at 11), and that she and members of her treatment
team, including Defendants Dr. Lyons, Cashdollar, Brown,
Emerson, and Robinson, were unprofessional and used
“levels of precautions as a punitive measure, instead
of a safety measure, ” (id. at 12; 1st Suppl.
Compl. at 2).
then alleges that it was “inappropriate legally”
for Dr. Hendershot and Perkins to submit a letter to an
Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”) after a hearing
on his conditional release was closed. (Compl. at 7; 1st
Suppl. Compl. at 3). Watkins also avers that, during the
hearing, Dr. Hendershot falsely testified that Watkins
inappropriately touched a fellow patient. (Compl. at 7-8).
Additionally, Watkins alleges that Mihailovich and Shaw
failed to return art work to him. (Id. at 19; 1st
Suppl. Compl. at 5).
Watkins states that Dr. Hendershot breached patient
confidentiality by allowing student nurses and other
non-employees to sit in on his treatment plan meetings
without his consent. (1st Suppl. Compl. at 2). He alleges
that this caused some of the female students to have a
negative attitude toward him. (Id.). He further
alleges that some of the unspecified negative attitudes
appeared to have racial overtones. (Id. at 4).
Watkins asserts that Pence made several false reports
regarding Watkins assaulting fellow patients. (Compl. at 17;
1st Suppl. Compl. at 5). He also alleges that Lyden made
false reports regarding Watkins threatening him, failed to
stop an assault on Watkins, and then participated in the
assault on Watkins. (Compl. at 18; 1st Suppl. Compl. at 6).
1993, Watkins was found Not Criminally Responsible for child
abuse and a third-degree sex offense and was admitted to
Clifton T. Perkins Hospital Center. (Defs.' Mot. Dismiss
Mot. Summ J. [“Defs.' Mot.”] Ex. 10 at 1, ECF
No. 30-12). In November 2012, Watkins was transferred
to the Finan Center, (id.), where he remained a
patient until October 2016, (Defs.' Mot. at 2; Pl.'s
Resp. at 4, ECF No. 36).
8, 2015, a hearing was held before an Administrative Law
Judge (“ALJ”) regarding Watkins' request for
conditional release. (Defs.' Mot. Ex. 10 at 1). At the
hearing, Dr. Hendershot testified in support of Watkins'
request. (Id. at 2). Following the hearing, Watkins
engaged in assaultive behavior, refused medication, and
declined to participate in various groups. (Defs.' Mot.
Ex. 4, ECF No. 30-5). As a result, Dr. Hendershot felt that
she and the treatment team could no longer support
Watkins' conditional release. (Defs.' Mot. Ex. 9, ECF
No. 30-11). Therefore, on May 11, 2015, Dr. Hendershot
notified the ALJ and Watkins' attorney, through a letter,
that Finan Center staff no longer recommended Watkins'
conditional release. (Id.). Subsequently, the ALJ
denied Watkins' request for conditional release.
(Defs.' Mot. Ex. 10 at 5). In denying the request, the
ALJ stated that he was not persuaded by the joint
recommendation for conditional release presented during the
hearing. (Id. at 5). His decision did not rely on,
or even reference, the letter withdrawing the recommendation
for release. (See id. at 1-6). The ALJ did, however,
forward the letter to the Circuit Court for Baltimore County,
Maryland to consider in conjunction with the ALJ's
recommendation. (Defs.' Mot. Ex. 11, ECF 30-13).
the hearing, Watkins' patient record notes dated May 10,
2015, indicate that Watkins' level of
“supervision/precautions” was increased from
“unescorted” to Aggressive Assault Precaution,
Level 1 (“AAP1”) due to him being involved in a
physical altercation with another patient. (Defs.' Mot.
Ex. 4 at 1, 3, ECF 30-5). Later that day, Watkins got in
another fight with a different patient. (Id.). On
May 12, 2015, he acted aggressively toward staff.
(Id. at 5). On May 14, 2015, a female patient
accused Watkins of touching her breast. (Id. at 10).
Finan Center staff observed Watkins shouting angrily at staff
and other patients on May 18, 2015. (Id. at 15). On
May 20, 2015, Watkins was removed from AAPI precautions and
placed on unit restrictions, which required him to keep a
ten-foot distance from female patients at all times.
(Id. at 18). The patient notes indicate that Watkins
had demonstrated “no assaultive or aggressive
behaviors” over the last couple of days and would be
monitored on unit restrictions instead of fifteen-minute
following month, Watkins again exhibited aggressive behavior.
On June 12, 2015, Watkins threatened staff, stating,
“You don't know who I am and what I can do. I will
get you one day, be careful going home.” (Defs.'
Mot. Ex. 13 at 1, ECF 30-15). On June 18, 2015, Dr. Passerell
entered a progress note confirming that Watkins was on
restricted status due to his behavior. (Defs.' Mot. Ex.
5a at 1, ECF 30-6; Defs.' Mot. Ex. 5b at 1, ECF 30-7).
She noted that Watkins requested his level be changed from
“escorted status” to “unescorted
status.” (Defs.' Mot. Ex. 5a at 1). Dr. Passerell
reported that the treatment team considered Watkins'
request but ultimately denied it. (Id.). The
treatment team advised Watkins that his level would not
change as requested “due to his threats towards staff
[and] refusal to ask vulnerable females to keep a [ten-foot]
distance from him.” (Id.). Watkins responded
that he would not keep a ten-foot distance from vulnerable
females because that was “the staff's job.”
(Id.). Watkins also became “very loud and
2015, Watkins' level of supervision was raised back to
AAPI precautions. Patient record notes dated July 19, 2015
indicate that Watkins' level of supervision was raised
from “staff escort” to AAPI precautions due to
Watkins pacing angrily around the day room and then pushing
another patient out of the way instead of going around him.
(Defs.' Mot. Ex. 12, ECF No. 30-14). Then, on July 23,
2015, Watkins was involved in an altercation with another
patient. (Defs.' Mot. Ex. 13, ECF No. 30-15; id.
Ex. 14, ECF No. 30-16). The following day, Lyden wrote an
account of the incident and identified Watkins as the
aggressor. (Defs.' Mot. Ex. 14 at 1-3). Lyden restrained
Watkins in an attempt to break up the fight between Watkins
and the other patient. (Id. at 2).
24, 2015, Dr. Passerell entered a physician's note that
details almost daily incidents of aggressive behavior and
verbal threats made by Watkins against staff from June 2,
2015 through July 23, 2015. (Defs.' Mot. Ex. 13). In the
note, Dr. Passerell documents that Watkins continued to be
argumentative and refused to take responsibility for his
actions. (Id. at 1). At various times during the
documented time period, Watkins refused to take prescribed
medications. (Id. at 1-4). He threatened staff
physically, threatened to initiate litigation and grievances,
and indicated that the rules did not apply to him.
(Id. at 1-2, 4). He also engaged in numerous
confrontations with other patients and staff. (Id.
regard to Watkins' artwork, Mihailovich, the nursing
supervisor of Cottage 2 at the Finan Center, avers that he
never possessed one of Watkins' drawings or paintings.
(Mihailovich Aff. ¶ 4, ECF No. 30-8). Shaw, an
Occupational Therapist Assistant at the Finan Center, avers
that she did receive a gift of a drawing from Watkins but
water damage destroyed the picture and she threw it away.
(Shaw Aff. ¶¶ 4-5, ECF No. 30-9).
Watkins' concerns that his confidentiality was breached,
Defendants aver that student nurses, contractual staff, and
volunteers, are all subject to per the Finan Center's
confidentiality policy. (Defs.' Mot. Ex. 8 § 1(a)(5)
(contractors); § 1(b)(4) (students); § 5
(volunteers)). The Finan Center shares confidential health
information with these individuals for treatment purposes,
and they are bound to maintain the patient's
confidentiality. (Id. at § 7).
Motion to Consolidate
Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 42(a), the Court may
consolidate cases that “involve a common question of
law or fact.” Defendants seek to consolidate this case
with Watkins v. Cullen, et al. (Watkins
II), No. GLR-17-277 (D.Md. filed Jan. 31, 2017). Watkins
opposes the Motion, arguing that the cases are against
“two different treatment teams” and involve
“different rights ...