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Brown v. Warden

United States District Court, D. Maryland, Southern Division

March 28, 2019

DONTE BROWN, #1956844 Plaintiff
v.
WARDEN, et al. Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          George J. Hazel United States District Judge.

         Plaintiff Donte Brown, an inmate incarcerated at Roxbury Correctional Institution, brings this civil rights action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, seeking monetary damages and other miscellaneous relief from Warden, Baltimore City Booking and Intake Center (“BCBIC”), and Defendant Correctional Sergeant Wayne Murray (“CS Murray”). ECF Nos. 1, 3, & 24. Presently pending before the Court is Defendant's Motion to Dismiss, or in the Alternative, for Summary Judgment, ECF No. 19, Plaintiff's Motion for Discovery, ECF No. 30, and Plaintiff's Motion for Extension of Time, ECF No. 31. Although Plaintiff's counsel sought and was granted an opportunity to respond to Defendant's Motion to Dismiss by November 15, 2018, he has neither opposed the motion nor sought additional time in which to do so. ECF Nos. 39 & 40. No. hearing is necessary. See Local Rule 105.6. For the reasons that follow, Defendant's unopposed Motion, ECF No. 19, construed as a Motion for Summary Judgment, is granted-in-part and denied-in-part, and Plaintiff's Motions are denied as moot.

         I. BACKGROUND [1]

         Brown alleges that on August 10, 2017, CS Murray was called to Brown's holding cell when Brown requested medical attention due to pneumonia-like symptoms. ECF Nos. 21 & 24 ¶ 8. Brown claims that, after his repeated requests for medical attention, CS Murray ordered a female officer “to call a code.” ECF No. 24 ¶ 8. Brown alleges that he saw “numerous officers coming, ” dropped his charging papers to prepare for “what they where [sic] going to do, ” and heard CS Murray say, “Fuck his ass up.” Id. ¶ 9. Brown alleges that CS Murray then sprayed mace in Brown's face for about thirty seconds. Id. CS Murray admits that he pepper sprayed Brown, but disputes Plaintiff's recollection of the incident, instead stating that he used the pepper spray on Brown when “Plaintiff made a threatening gesture to Sgt. Murray, as if he intended to throw a punch.” ECF No. 19-1 at 3; ECF No. 19-2 ¶ 3.

         Brown further alleges that, after “losing [his] sight, ” he “felt numerous punches to the face and head coming from everywhere.” ECF No. 24 ¶ 10. Plaintiff claims that he “ran back in the direction of the Hall [cameras], ” in an effort to escape the alleged beating that occurred “out of sight of the [camera].” Id. He asserts that when officers ordered him to get on the ground, he complied, and then “was kick[e]d and stomp[ed] in the face knocking [his] teeth out by unknown officers.” Id. ¶ 11. Brown states that he heard CS Murray order the officers to take him to the “medical middle bull pen where the [camera] can't see.” Id. He alleges that the escorting officers continued to hit him in the face with “punches, foggers and keys.” Id. Once in the “medical middle bull pen” and handcuffed “to the back, ” Brown alleges that three officers came in and punched him in the face, followed by three additional officers who beat his body and face in the corner of the bull pen. Id. ¶ 12.

         Brown contends that BCBIC's head doctor told the staff that Brown needed to go to the emergency room, and that a lieutenant, captain, and major took photographs of his face and body. Id. ¶ 13. Brown was then escorted to the University of Maryland Medical Center (“UMMC”) for x-ray and cat scans. Id. He was released later that night and sent back to BCBIC, allegedly sustaining “2 black eye[s], double vision in [his] left eye when [he] look[s] down or up, depressed right nasal bone fracture, missing tooth and a busted lip.” Id. ¶ 14. The UMMC records submitted by Brown reflect a finding of “blunt trauma, right eye” and “atrophic holes, left eye, ” with the left eye condition possibly “related to previous trauma” based on his “past medical history of [c]losed blow-out fracture of left orbit.” ECF No. 26-1 at 2-3.

         Brown claims that he exhausted his administrative and legal remedies by submitting numerous Inmate Grievance Forms, to which he never got a response. ECF No. 24 ¶¶ 15, 16. It is undisputed that CS Murray issued Brown five notices of infraction following the incident. Id. ¶ 18; ECF No. 19-2, Murray Declaration, ¶ 4.

         Defendant filed the instant Motion on August 6, 2018. ECF No. 19. Plaintiff filed his Amended Complaint three days later, on August 9, 2018. ECF No. 24. To avoid elevating form over substance, the Court will apply the arguments raised in Defendant's Motion to Plaintiff's Amended Complaint. In his Amended Complaint, Brown alleges excessive force by CS Murray and violations of his First and Eighth Amendment rights. ECF No. 24 ¶¶ 21, 22. He seeks declaratory and injunctive relief, compensatory damages in the amount of $2, 000, 000, and punitive damages in the amount of $2, 000, 000. Id. ¶¶ 24-31.

         II. STANDARD OF REVIEW

         Defendant styles his motion as a Motion to Dismiss, or in the Alternative, for Summary Judgment. Defendant has filed a DVD, a declaration, and the Maryland Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services “Use of Force Procedures Manual.” ECF Nos. 19, 19-2, 19-3, 19-4. If the Court considers matters 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. When the moving party styles its motion as a “Motion to Dismiss, or in the Alternative, for Summary Judgment, ” as is the case here, and attaches additional materials to its motion, the non-moving party is, of course, aware that materials outside the pleadings are before the Court, and the Court can treat the motion as one for summary judgment. See Laughlin v. Metropolitan Wash. Airports Auth., 149 F.3d 253, 260-61 (4th Cir. 1998). Further, the Court is not prohibited from granting 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 justiciable inferences are to be drawn in his favor.” Anderson, 477 U.S. at 255.

         The Court is mindful that Brown was initially a pro se litigant, and a federal court must liberally construe pro se pleadings to allow the development of potentially meritorious cases. See Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 94 (2007); Cruz v. Beto, 405 U.S. 319 (1972). Liberal construction does not mean, however, that this Court can ignore a clear failure in the pleadings to allege facts sufficient to state a claim. See Weller v. Department of Social Services, 901 F.2d 387, 391 (4th Cir. 1990). A court cannot assume a genuine issue of material fact where none exists. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c). The Court also notes that Plaintiff eventually retained counsel, who was granted an opportunity to respond to Defendant's Motion, but did not do so. ECF Nos. 35, 39, 40.

         III. DISCUSSION

         Brown alleges excessive force and denial of medical care under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, and violations of his First and Eighth Amendment rights. Title 42 U.S.C. § 1983 authorizes a plaintiff to bring a suit for damages against any individual whom “under color of any statute, ordinance, regulation, custom, or usage, of any State … subjects, or causes to be subjected, any citizen of the United States ...


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