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James v. Wolfe

United States District Court, D. Maryland, Southern Division

October 1, 2018

MORTEAMES JAMES, #1864197, Plaintiff,
v.
THOMAS WOLFE, JOHN KELSON, WARDEN Y CAMPBELL, Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          GEORGE J. HAZEL, United States District Judge.

         Plaintiff Morteames James, a pro se litigant incarcerated at Brockbridge Correctional Facility (“BCF”) in Jessup, Maryland, brings this civil rights action against Defendants Assistant Warden Thomas Wolfe, acting Facility Administrator John Kelson, and Warden Casey Campbell, [1] pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Plaintiff seeks $250, 000.00 in damages and alleges that the water at BCF is contaminated with sand and lead, that he “has trouble thinking” and that he is in danger of liver damage from lead poisoning. ECF No. 1 at 1-2; ECF No. 6-1.[2] Pending before the Court is Defendants' Motion to Dismiss or, in the Alternative, Motion for Summary Judgment. ECF No. 10. Plaintiff has not opposed Defendants' Motion, [3] and no hearing is necessary. See Loc. R. 105.6 (D. Md. 2016). For the following reasons, Defendants' Motion, construed as a Motion for Summary Judgment, is granted.

         I. BACKGROUND

         The Court received Plaintiff's Complaint on December 6, 2017. ECF No. 1. Plaintiff's Complaint alleges that he is “under imminent danger . . . of serious physical injury” as there is “sand and lead in the water” at BCF as a result of old pipes. Id. at 1-2. In addition to sand and lead in the water, Plaintiff also claims that the facility has “bad water from bad old pipes” and that there is “mold all over and all kinds.” ECF No. 1 at 1; ECF No. 6. He alleges that consuming the water has caused him a number of health problems. In support of his Complaint, Plaintiff includes a Sick Call Request/Encounter Form that purports to show that Plaintiff complained of “problems with [his] body from drinking the lead tainted water.” ECF No. 1-2 at 1. Plaintiff also asserts that the corrections officers do not consume the water at BCF and that, according to information obtained from the internet, BCF is condemned. ECF No. 1 at 1-2.

         On March 19, 2018, Defendants filed a Motion to Dismiss or, in the Alternative, Motion for Summary Judgment. ECF No. 10. Along with their motion, Defendants submitted supporting materials to the Court, including communications regarding recent water testing completed at the correctional facility, which reported a finding that neither the office water nor the jail water were contaminated with lead. ECF No. 10-2; ECF No. 10-4 at 3-5. Defendants also attached Plaintiff's verified medical records and a declaration affirming that Plaintiff has not sought any administrative remedies to resolve this matter. ECF Nos. 10-5, 10-9. Finally, Defendants contend that the Sick Call Request/Encounter Form is a falsified copy of another inmate's medical record.[5] Compare ECF No. 1-2, with ECF No. 10-3 at 4.

         The material facts are not in dispute.

         II. STANDARD OF REVIEW

         Defendants' motion is styled as a Motion to Dismiss, or in the Alternative, for Summary Judgment. ECF No. 10. 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. Plaintiff was provided notice of the Defendants' filing of exhibits and affidavits to support the Motion for Summary Judgment and has not responded. ECF No. 11.

         III. DISCUSSION

         Defendants argue that they are entitled to summary judgment on the basis of qualified immunity[7] and because Plaintiff failed to allege conditions that rise to the level of cruel and usual punishment under the Eighth Amendment. ECF No. 10-1 at 6-7, 10-12. Additionally, Defendants assert that they are entitled to dismissal because they had no personal involvement in Plaintiff's alleged violation, the Complaint alleges no facts against them, and Plaintiff has not satisfied the administrative exhaustion requirement under the Prison Litigation Reform Act (PLRA). Id. at 7-10, 12-14. For the reasons that follow, the Court agrees that the PLRA bars Plaintiff's federal claim. The Court also agrees that Defendants would be entitled to summary judgment, if Plaintiff had satisfied the exhaustion requirement.

         A. Exhaustion of Administrative Remedies

         Defendants raise the affirmative defense of non-exhaustion, pursuant to the PLRA. See ECF No. 10-1 at 12-14; accord Jones v. Bock, 549 U.S. 199, 216 (2007). The PLRA provides, in pertinent part:

No action shall be brought with respect to prison conditions under section 1983 of this title, or any other Federal law, by a prisoner confined in any jail, prison, or other correctional facility until such ...

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