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Zeller v. Lane

United States District Court, D. Maryland

August 8, 2018

DAVID C. ZELLER, Prisoner Identification numbers #369326, #30822, Plaintiff,



         Plaintiff David C. Zeller is incarcerated at North Branch Correctional Institution in Cumberland, Maryland. He filed this civil rights action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against Defendants Warden John Wolfe, Jr., Sergeant Lane, Sergeant Jordan and Captain Rowland based on events that occurred when he was incarcerated at Jessup Correctional Institution (JCI), in Jessup, Maryland. Zeller alleges that he did not receive an indigent prisoner "welfare package," he was denied access to medical treatment, and he was threatened by a correctional officer. Defendants have filed a Motion to Dismiss or, in the Alternative, Motion for Summary Judgment, which is now ripe for disposition. Having reviewed the pleadings, briefs, and exhibits, the Court finds that no hearing is necessary to decide the Motion. See D. Md. Local R. 105.6. For the reasons set forth below, Defendants' Motion is GRANTED.


         In his Complaint, Zeller describes himself as a 64 year-old, indigent inmate who suffers from paranoid schizophrenia. Zeller claims that for approximately five months from September 2016 to March 2017, he did not receive a welfare package, consisting of items such as envelopes, paper, pens, soap, laundry detergent, toothpaste, deodorant, razors, shampoo, and shaving cream. Inmates may request a welfare package once every 30 days if the balance in their commissary account is less than four dollars.

         In mid- to late October 2016, Zeller asked Sgt. Lane, the property manager for his housing unit, why he had not received his welfare package. Sgt. Lane responded that the prison had run out of welfare packages and that he would re-order them. During a tier inspection in January 2017, Zeller asked Warden Wolfe why he had not received his welfare packages since 2016. Warden Wolfe replied that the paperwork for ordering the packages had just been signed.

         Zeller further complains that while he was in disciplinary segregation, Capt. Rowland delayed his welfare package requests and required him to write a new request every 30 days. Zeller claims that Capt. Rowland hoards welfare package request forms and "holds back" soap powder, laundry detergent, and razors from Zeller's welfare package. Am. Compl. at 3, ECF No. 4. Zeller states that he trades away his pain medication to obtain these supplies.

         According to Capt. Rowland, there was a five-month shortage of welfare packages at JCI. In July 2016, the beginning of a new fiscal year, JCI did not receive its requisition of welfare packages. The existing supply of welfare packages was exhausted by mid-August. Sgt. Lane reordered the welfare packages, but the requisition could not be processed until funding became available. Capt. Rowland denies that he or other correctional officers prevented Zeller from accessing writing materials or necessary items such as soap or toothpaste. According to Capt. Rowland and Sgt. Lane, Zeller was provided toothpaste, a toothbrush, soap, and laundry detergent from emergency stocks until the welfare packages resumed. Zeller, however, disputes that he received such emergency supplies. He acknowledges that he received a writing pad, a pencil, and envelopes from a mental health provider.

         Zeller also claims that on May 11 or 12, 2017, Sgt. Jordan refused to allow him to use the restroom while he was waiting to be seen by medical personnel, and that as a result, he urinated on himself and fell out of his wheelchair "onto the floor next to [his] puddle of pee." Am. Compl. at 5. Zeller then got up and ran toward a gate, fell down, and was put back into his wheelchair and returned to his cell by Sgt. Jordan. According to Zeller, Jordan threatened to "slap the shit" out of him and took away his wheelchair. Id. at 5-6. Zeller also asserts that that he was not brought to the medical unit for treatment of neck, ankle, and foot pain for a period of two to three days.

         Sgt. Jordan has denied preventing Zeller from using the restroom or threatening to assault or physically assaulting him at any time. According to Capt. Rowland, Zeller was never wheelchair bound, but medical staff had provided him with one to facilitate his movements before rescinding the order providing him with a wheelchair. Capt. Rowland further asserts that Zeller destroyed his own wheelchair and that there was no other wheelchair available that would fit in his cell. Capt. Rowland and Sgt. Jordan also deny interfering with Zeller's medical care.

         In a November 13, 2017 declaration, Zeller acknowledged that after he had been injured from a fall out of the wheelchair, he had smashed the wheelchair into the wall because he deemed it defective and did not want anybody to get hurt from it. He also acknowledged that it was not Sgt. Jordan, but a different correctional officer, who allegedly denied him restroom access.

         Finally, Zeller claims that his mental health condition renders him unable to file administrative remedy procedure complaints ("ARPs"), and that prison personnel refused to assist him filing ARPs.


         Defendants seek summary judgment in their favor on several grounds, including: (1) Zeller failed to exhaust available administrative remedies; and (2) Zeller fails to state a valid claim for relief under § 1983. Because the Court finds that Defendants are entitled to summary judgment on these grounds, the Court need not address Defendants' remaining arguments.

         I. ...

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