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McClellan v. Monyai

United States District Court, D. Maryland

February 21, 2019

TYREE MCCLELLAN, Plaintiff
v.
THOMAS MONYEI, et al., [1] Defendants

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          Paul W. Grimm, United States District Judge

         Plaintiff Tyree McClellan filed this civil rights action alleging that he was assaulted by a correctional officer and suffered various deprivations following the assault. ECF No. 4.[2]Defendants have filed a Motion to Dismiss or, in the Alternative, for Summary Judgment, ECF No. 27, and a Memorandum in Support, ECF No. 27-1. Plaintiff filed a Motion to Strike, ECF No. 32, and also filed an Opposition to Defendants' Motion, ECF 34. These motions are now ripe for review. The Court finds a hearing in these matters unnecessary. See Loc. R. 105.6 (D. Md. 2018). For the reasons that follow, Plaintiff's Motion to Strike is DENIED, and Defendants' dispositive Motion, construed as a Motion for Summary Judgment, is DENIED as to Defendant Monyei and GRANTED as to the remaining Defendants. I will order the appointment of counsel for Plaintiff for the limited purpose of representing Plaintiff during the discovery and dispositive motions (if any) stages of litigation, but if Plaintiff's claim against Monyei survives summary judgment, representation may extend to representing Plaintiff at trial.

         BACKGROUND

         Plaintiff's Claims and Sworn Opposition

          Plaintiff's unsworn Complaint and Amended Complaint predominately concern a fight that took place between Plaintiff and Officer Monyei on May 20, 2017, while Plaintiff was a pretrial detainee at the Maryland Reception, Diagnostic, and Classification Center (MRDCC). On May 20, Plaintiff and his cellmate were instructed to switch cells because their cell door was not closing properly. Am. Compl. 3. Officer Olaleye accused Plaintiff and his cellmate of tampering with the lock. Id. Plaintiff claims that Olaleye “show[ed] animosity and dislike towards [him], ” antagonized Plaintiff and his cellmate, and threatened Plaintiff with serious bodily harm. Id. However, Plaintiff does not allege that Olaleye physically touched him. Thereafter, Defendant Monyei came to Plaintiff's cell and also began antagonizing Plaintiff and asking Plaintiff “if [he] was trying to fight.” Id.

         Plaintiff and his cellmate begin complying with the officers' instructions to move to a new cell. Id. At some point, Plaintiff left his original cell and then returned to that cell to pack his property. Id. According to Plaintiff, after re-entering the cell, he heard the door shut behind him and turned around, when Officer Monyei punched Plaintiff twice with a closed fist. Id. at 3-4. Plaintiff alleges that Monyei

then grabbed me trying to restrain me, being in fear that something was going to happen I broke loose from his grasp, in which he threw several more punches in which cause my head to hit the cell hook used for hanging up clothes, I began to bleed immediately, I feel to the ground and grabbed on to Officer T. Monyai because in which [sic] I was balled up in the fetal position he was still throwing massive blows to my ribs and elbows to my back.

Id. at 4. Olaleye then opened the cell door and Sergeant Lewis removed Monyei from Plaintiff. Id. In his Opposition, Plaintiff clarifies that Officer Olaleye was responsible for closing and locking the cell door and failed to promptly call for staff assistance, in contravention of institutional policy. Pl.'s Opp'n 2-3.

         Plaintiff reports that following the assault he was bleeding profusely. Compl. 4. He states that Captain Braxton restrained him, escorted him to the medical department, and denied Plaintiff's request to be transported to an outside medical facility. Id. Plaintiff also makes assertions that Braxton was “being very hostile” toward him during this time and refused to let Plaintiff write a statement about the incident.

         After Plaintiff was medically screened, he was placed in segregation, where Sergeant Kpakiwa was supposed to “make sure [Plaintiff] got [a] shower, ” but failed to do so. Id. However, Plaintiff acknowledges that he received a shower the following morning. Plaintiff alleges that he also told Kpakiwa that he was “trying to write statement and that [he] need[ed] to go back to medical [because his] head was in pain and needed bandage[;] bandaid didn't help stop the bleeding, ” but Kpakiwa never gave him a statement form. Id. He further states that unspecified individuals (Plaintiff merely says “they”) failed to “keep a check on [him]” or clean/bandage his wound, so Plaintiff was forced to use a towel on the wound. Id.

         Unlike Plaintiff's Complaint, Plaintiff's Opposition to Defendants' Motion is sworn. Pl.'s Opp'n 4. The majority of the Opposition presents legal conclusions, such as that Defendants violated the Division of Corrections' (DOC) use of force manual. Id. at 1-4. For example, Plaintiff contends that Olaleye should have called for staff assistance before closing the door on Plaintiff and Monyei, and that Monyei and Olaleye should have called their supervisor as soon as Plaintiff became non-compliant with their orders. Id. at 2-3. Further, Plaintiff contends that DOC policy states that any inmate who receives a head injury is supposed to taken to the hospital for further evaluation, yet Plaintiff was not. Id. at 4. Plaintiff also alleges (in conclusory fashion), for the first time in his Opposition, that Kpakiwa should be held liable under principles of supervisory liability because he “was well aware of the situation, but chose to ignore the police and procedure of the use of force manual, and told [Olaleye and Monyei] to handle the situation.” Id. at 4. However, none of Plaintiff's filings explain why he believes Kpakiwa had knowledge of the force that Monyei was going to use.

         As for facts within his personal knowledge, Plaintiff asserts in his Opposition that he “clearly showed that [he] was not a threat to the officer[]s Mr. Olaleye or Mr. Monyai” and that Plaintiff's cellmate “did not pose [a] threat to [Monyai and Olaleye], he was only showing concern for [Plaintiff] who was being assaulted by Officer Monyai inside the cell.” Id. at 3-4.

         Defendants' Evidence

         Defendants, through sworn affidavits, describe the incident differently. Monyei asserts that after receiving a radio call from Officer Olaleye requesting assistance in moving Plaintiff to another cell,

I arrived at the cell and directed Mr. McClellan and cellmate to pack and move cells. After I gave several orders to move, the cellmate moved while Mr. McClellan refused. Initially, Mr. McClellan briefly came out of the cell then returned and refused to leave. I entered the cell to assist the Plaintiff with his move. As soon as I entered the cell, Mr. McClellan struck me in my right eye and then in my mouth. Officer Olaleye shut the door to prevent the escalation of the fight and curtail the cellmate from joining the fight. We continued to tussle until additional officers arrived and could secure the cellmate and Mr. McClellan.

Monyei Aff., ECF No. 27-6. Olaleye's affidavit echoes Monyei's, stating:

As Officer Monyei entered the cell, the Plaintiff struck him. I shut the door to prevent the escalation of the fight and curtail the cellmate from joining the fight. I radioed for officer assistance to help detain the cellmate so I could open the cell door and assist Officer Monyei. The cellmate became animate[d] and blocked my access to the cell door. I attempted to push the cellmate away to unlock the door and gain access to the cell. When the other officers arrived, they restrained the cellmate. I was able to unlock the cell door at which point officers restrained Mr. McClellan.

Olaleye Aff., ECF No. 27-5.

         Braxton, who states that he was responding to Olaleye's radio call for assistance, asserts that he “entered the cell and proceeded to cuff Mr. McClellan, escorting him to medical. The nurse treated Mr. McClellan for a small laceration to the head.” Braxton Aff. 2, ECF No. 27-7. Braxton further asserts that “McClellan refused to provide a written statement of the incident” but that Braxton “took photographs of Mr. McClellan . . . while in the medical unit.” Id.

         Each of the Defendants states that he did not deny Plaintiff access to medical attention and did not harass or threaten Plaintiff. Monyei Aff.; Olaleye Aff.; Braxton Aff.; Kpakiwa Aff., ECF No. 27-4. Kpakiwa and Olaleye insist that they did not have any physical contact with Plaintiff, while Braxton insists that the only contact he had with Plaintiff was in connection with handcuffing him and escorting him to medical. Olaleye Aff.; Braxton Aff.; Kpakiwa Aff.

         Plaintiff's certified medical records reflect that he was seen by Registered Nurse Kathleen Doebling shortly after the altercation. Med. Recs. 3, ECF No. 27-10. According to Doebling's medical notes, Plaintiff was actively bleeding and had a wound on his left scalp that was two centimeters in length, though, at a subsequent medical appointment, the wound was described as three centimeters long. Id. at 3, 7. Doebling, who did not note any evidence of infection and did not observe other wounds, cleaned all visible blood from Plaintiff and applied ointment. I ...


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