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Ozah v. Merican

United States District Court, D. Maryland

February 21, 2019

MICHAEL MERICAN, [1] Defendant


          Catherine C. Blake United States District Judge.

         In response to the above-titled civil rights complaint, Defendant Michael Merican filed a Motion to Dismiss or, in the Alternative, for Summary Judgment.[2] ECF 13. Plaintiff was advised of his opportunity to oppose the motion (ECF 14) but has not done so.[3] The court finds a hearing in this matter unnecessary. See Local Rule 105.6. For the reasons that follow Defendant's motion, construed as a Motion for Summary Judgment, shall be granted.


         In his unverified Complaint, Plaintiff William Ozah, alleges that in March of 2015, while a pretrial detainee in the St. Mary's County Detention Center ("SMCDC"), he was attacked by inmates Jamarr Sherman Mackall and Deionte William Johnson while he slept. ECF 1 at p. 7. Mackall and Johnson punched, kicked, and beat Plaintiff for several minutes. Plaintiff yelled for assistance to the housing unit officers who after "some time" responded to Plaintiffs cell and ended the assault. Id. Plaintiff filed a supplemental complaint attaching the incident reports and criminal charges which were generated as a result of the assault on him. ECF 3.

         As a result of the attack, Plaintiff suffered injuries to his head, back, face, and chest. He alleges that he continues to suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder, migraine headaches, and loss of vision. ECF 1 at p. 7. Additionally, Plaintiff claims that after the assault he requested unnamed officials at the detention center take him to the hospital, but they failed to do so. ECF 1 at p. 7.

         Plaintiff states that Captain Merican is responsible for "managing the daily operation of SMCDC. ECF 1 at p. 4. He also claims that Captain Merican is responsible for setting the policies of the detention center and "[i]t should be the policy of the St. Mary's County Detention Center to keep separated those inmates which are sentenced to a term of imprisonment, from those awaiting to go to trial." ECF 1 at p. 5. Plaintiff claims that Merican's negligence permitted the two convicted inmates to be housed with him, a pretrial detainee. Id., He further alleges that Merican "failed in his duties to properly screen the sentencing status of all the inmates before assigning them to a housing unit" and Merican should have been aware that Mackall and Johnson were waiting to be'sentenced for prior assaults that occurred at the detention center. Id.

         Lastly, Plaintiff states that he did not file an administrative grievance regarding the matters alleged, as "it was not made known to [him] that there was a grievance process available to inmates housed" at the detention center. ECF 1 at p. 6.

         Merican explains that SMCDC has an inmate grievance policy which is set forth in the Inmate Guidebook. ECF 13-4, ¶ 3 (Merican Affidavit); ECF 13-5, p. 8 (Inmate Guidebook, p. 23, IX Inmate Rights and Privileges, G. Grievance). The policy provides that all inmates have the right to present complaints/grievances regarding SMCDC policies, procedures, rules, regulations and practices. Id. The grievance policy directs that efforts will be made to informally resolve matters. If informal resolution is unsuccessful the inmate may then file a formal grievance by submitting an Inmate Grievance Form to a correctional officer who is tasked with forwarding the grievance to the proper authority for resolution. Id. Complaints against staff are to be forwarded to the Commander of SMCDC. Id. Upon receipt of a formal grievance, staff are required to investigate, and when necessary, to form a Grievance Committee to resolve the grievance in accordance with established policies and procedures. Id. Inmates must be advised of the findings and actions taken to resolve the grievance within 15 working days. Id. If the inmate is dissatisfied with the result of the investigation, the inmate may, within three working days of receipt of the result, file a written appeal directly to the Commander. Id.

         All inmates, whether pretrial detainees or convicted prisoners, upon entering SMCDC, receive an initial briefing which includes an explanation of the grievance process. ECF 13-4, ¶ 4. Additionally, a video is shown to the inmates which explains the grievance process and the availability of the Inmate Guidebook which contains the grievance process. Id. The video advises inmates that the Guidebook is available throughout the detention center including in holding cells or dayrooms of each housing unit and that copies may be obtained from the correctional officer on duty. Id. The video is replayed for the inmates every morning. ECF 13-4, ¶ 5. All inmates are required to acknowledge that they have received this initial briefing, including explanation of the grievance process and the availability of the Guidebook. ECF 13-4, ¶ 4. Plaintiff was booked and processed at SMCDC as a pretrial detainee on October 2, 2014. ECF 13-4, ¶ 6; ECF 13-8 (Booking Report). As part of his processing, he received the initial briefing, was shown the video, and signed a written acknowledgement of same. Id.

         During his incarceration at SMCDC, Plaintiff did not file any grievances regarding security or medical issues. On November 14, 2014, he filed an inmate request form complaining that he had not received a response to a grievance he filed on November 1, 2014. ECF 13-15 (Inmate Request Form). On March 17, 2015, he filed an inmate request form regarding funds in his inmate account. ECF 13-14 (Inmate Request Form). He filed a formal grievance on February 13, 2015, concerning his commissary balance. ECF 13-16. (Inmate Grievance). On April 13, 2015, he filed an inmate request regarding his mail log. ECF 13-13 (Inmate Request Form).

         Plaintiff was transferred from SMCDC on June 13, 2016. ECF 13-4, ¶ 10; ECF 13-11 (Inmate Transfer Alert).

         Standard of Review

          Defendant has filed his Motion as a Motion to Dismiss or, in the Alternative, Motion for Summary Judgment. Typically, when deciding a motion to dismiss under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6), the Court considers only the complaint and any attached documents "integral to the complaint." Sec 'y of State for Defense v. Trimble Navigation Ltd., 484 F.3d 700, 705 (4th Cir. 2007). To the extent that grounds for dismissal are based solely on the contents of the complaint, the Court may dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6) if the complaint does not allege enough facts to state a plausible claim for relief. Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009). A claim is plausible when the facts pleaded allow "the Court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged." Id. Although courts should construe pleadings of self-represented litigants liberally, Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 94 (2007), legal conclusions or conclusory statements do not suffice, Igbal, 556 U.S. at 678. The Court must examine the complaint as a whole, consider the factual allegations in the complaint as true, and construe the factual allegations in the light most favorable to the plaintiff. Albright v. Oliver, 510 U.S. 266, 268 (1994); Lambeth v. Bd. oJComm 'rs of Davidson Cty., 407 F.3d 266, 268 (4th Cir. 2005).

         Rule 12(d) requires courts to treat a Rule 12(b)(6) motion as a motion for summary judgment when matters outside the pleadings are considered and not excluded. Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(d). Before converting a motion to dismiss to one for summary judgment, courts must give the nonmoving party "a reasonable opportunity to present all the material that is pertinent to the motion." Id. "Reasonable opportunity" has two requirements: (1) the nonmoving party must have some indication that the court is treating the Rule 12(b)(6) motion as a motion for summary judgment, and (2) the nonmoving party "must be afforded a reasonable opportunity for discovery" to obtain information essential to oppose the motion. Gay v. Wall,761 F.2d 175, 177 (4th Cir, 1985) (citation omitted). Here, the notice requirement has been satisfied by the title of the Motion. To show that a reasonable opportunity for discovery has not been afforded, the nonmoving party must file an affidavit or declaration under Rule 56(d) explaining why "for specified reasons, it cannot present facts essential to justify its opposition," Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(d), or otherwise put the district court on notice of the reasons why summary judgment is premature, see Harrods ...

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