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Winegardner v. Green

United States District Court, D. Maryland

February 26, 2019

VICTOR WINEGARDNER, [1] #311177, #1196002, a/k/a Victor Winegardener, Plaintiff



         Self-represented Plaintiff Victor Winegardner is incarcerated at Eastern Correctional Institution (ECI) in Westover, Maryland. On October 12, 2017, he filed an unverified complaint pursuant to 42 U.S.C. S 1983, alleging that Defendants Warden Kathleen Green, Officer David Alders, Officer Mike Hunteman, and Officer Robert Marshall acted with gross negligence and deliberate indifference to his safety. Compl. 3, ECF No. 1. Defendants have filed a Motion to Dismiss or, in the alternative, Motion for Summary Judgment, ECF No. 12, along with a Memorandum in Support, ECF No. 12-1, and supporting verified exhibits, ECF Nos. 12-2, 12-3, and declarations, ECF Nos. 12-4 - 12-7. Winegardner was provided an opportunity to file a response and subsequently granted three extensions of time to do so. ECF Nos. 13, 15, 17, 19. The latest deadline has passed without a response. See Docket. I find a hearing unnecessary to resolve the issues. See Loc. R. 105.6 (D. Md. 2016). Defendants' Motion will be treated as a Motion for Summary Judgment and granted for reasons to follow.


         Winegardner worked in the maintenance shop at ECI but had "zero training or experience" in heating, ventilation, and air conditioning ("HVAC".. CompI. 3. On October 15, 2014, [4] he was "told to grab a grease gun" and help Officer Hunteman, who works with HVAC. They went to a mechanical room in an attic area with which Winegardner was not familiar. Id; Incident Rep. 2, ECF No. 12-2. According to Winegardner, Hunteman, who had forgotten his flashlight, "comp1ain[ed] about the burn[t] out lights, and poor visibility" in the mechanical room. CompI. 3. Hunteman instructed Winegardner "to grease the motor attached to a big air handler" and asked him to "check and see if the motor came to a stop." Id. Winegardner states:

I could not hear if the motor was moving or not. Due to the poor lighting, all I could see was the sillouette [sic] of a belt that appear to be stopped. I attempted to tap the belt, and my hand was pulled into the motor.

Id. Winegardner gave the same description of the incident in his October 16, 2014 Inmate Statement. Inmate Statement, Incident Rep. 18.

         When his hand caught in the motor, portions of his index and middle fingers were severed. Compl. 3; Incident Rep. 19-20; Intelligence and Investigative Division ("IID") Rep. 1, 2, 11, ECF No. 12-3. Winegardner claims that he also injured his right thumb, neck, back, and hip as a result of this incident. Compl. 3.

         Huntemans's account of the incident differs in one important detail. Specifically, Hunteman states that after Winegardner reported that he could not hear if the motor was moving, he told Winegardner "that's fine we'll take the cover off. Don't put your hands in there," but "seconds later Victor [Winegardner] started screaming and had stuck his fingers in the pully [sic]." Notice of Incident, Incident Rep. 11; Hunteman Decl. ¶ 3, ECF No. 12-7 (stating that he adopts the statements attributed to him in the Serious Incident Report and IID Report). Additionally, Hunteman stated that he "had recently killed the power to both air handlers that [the maintenance workers] were serving." Notice of Incident, Incident Rep. 11.

         Inmates Martin Czosnowski, Blain Blackburn, and William Davis were working with Hunteman and Winegardner in the mechanical room at the time of the incident, Incident Rep. 11, 15, 16117. Czosnowski's statement of the incident corroborates Hunteman's account.[5] He states that Hunteman told Winegardner "not to put his hand into belt's area until it was completely stop [sic] so we could take off cover. But he had already tried to check belt's [sic] before it was stop [sic]." Incident Rep. 17.

         Detective Sergeant William Sage interviewed Winegardner at the ECI infirmary on October 16, 2014 as part of the incident investigation.

Inmate Winegardner stated he was in the process of greasing the motor of the air handler when CMO Hunteman asked him if the motor had stopped. Inmate Winegardner advised [Sage] that he had put his ear against the air handler to determine if the motor had stopped but was not able to ascertain if it had due to the amount of noise from the actual unit. Therefore, he stated he then reached underneath, near the cover, to touch the bottom of the belts. When asked why he would do this, Inmate Gardner [sic] stated he has done this in the past with belts and pulleys where he would reach up and under and touch the belt from underneath to determine if the belt was still moving. In addition, he stated that it was dark in his location and that he could not observe the light as he did not have a flashlight. According to Inmate Winegardner, the belt would normally just brush over his fingers if it was still running. Inmate Winegardner believes that there were two belts underneath the cover and when he touched one belt, the ' other had grabbed his right fingers and forced it into the unit causing them to be severed at the index and middle fingers of his right hand at the first joint. Inmate Winegardner stated that he was unable to see because of the lack of light and that he should not have touched the belt without having a flashlight. He further stated that the motor had been shut off earlier but he assumed that it had stopped completely. Inmate Winegardner stated, "it was my fault. Nobody did it to me. I can't blame Michael (CMO Hunteman) for it. He wasn't pressing me. I'm relentless sometime.. If somebody says do it, I do it Maybe I'm being too gung ho."

         IID Rep. 3. Sage's completed IID report recommended no further action be taken. Id. at 4.

         Winegardner alleges that two years before, Officer K. Glasco was injured in a similar accident; Glasco was a supervisor at the time of Winegardner's accident. Compl. 3. He does not allege, however, that any Defendant was aware of that incident, and he does not name Glasco as a defendant.

         Winegardner is suing Defendants in their official and individual capacities. Id. He seeks to hold them liable for his injuries because they "were aware of the risk/threat of injury, and did nothing to remedy the situation." Id. He claims that "proper safety procedures were not followed such as lock out-tag out" to ensure the machine was properly shut off and not able to start up before completion of the work. Id. Winegardner asserts that he "was not trained, and therefore never should have been working with this machine/equipment." Id. As relief, he seeks future medical expenses, [6] compensatory damages of$1500000, and punitive damages of $80, 000. Id. at 4.


         Summary judgment is proper when the moving party demonstrates, through "particular parts of materials in the record, including depositions, documents, electronically stored information, affidavits or declarations, stipulations ..., admissions, interrogatory answers, or other materials," 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), (c)(1)(A); see Baldwin v. City of Greensboro,714 F.3d 828, 833 (4th Cir. 2013). If the party seeking summary judgment demonstrates that there is no evidence to support the nonmoving party's case, the burden shifts to the nonmoving party to identify evidence that shows that a genuine dispute exists as to material facts. See Celotex v. Catrett,477 U.S. 317 (1986). The existence of only a "scintilla of evidence" is not enough to defeat a motion for summary judgment. Anderso ...

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