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McDonald v. George

United States District Court, D. Maryland

April 30, 2019




         Plaintiff Antoine McDonald, an inmate formerly housed at Maryland Correctional Institution at Jessup ("MCI-J") in Jessup, Maryland and presently confined at Eastern Correctional Institution in Westover, Maryland, has filed a civil rights complaint pursuant to 42 U.S.C. S 1983, alleging that Defendants MCI-J and the Maryland Department of Corrections ("the State Defendants") and Defendants George, Harrison, "L.A.," and Smiley ("the Individual Defendants") failed to protect him from an assault at the hands of other inmates. Service was effected on all Defendants except L.A. and Smiley, who will be dismissed as Defendants because service was not effected on them and because, as discussed below, no valid claims are asserted against them. Pending before the Court is the remaining Defendants' Motion to Dismiss or, in the Alternative, Motion for Summary Judgmen.. Having reviewed the submitted materials, the Court finds that no hearing is necessary. See D. Md. Local R. 105.6. For the reasons set forth below, the Motion will be GRANTED.


         In their Motion, Defendants seek dismissal or summary judgment on the grounds that (1) the Complaint is barred by sovereign immunity; (2) McDonald failed to exhaust administrative remedies; (3) McDonald's claim fails because Defendants had no role in the incident, and any negligence would not state a valid constitutional claim; and (4) the action is barred by qualified immunity. The Court will address only those arguments necessary to resolve the Motion.

         I. Legal Standards

         In their Motion, Defendants seek dismissal pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) or summary judgment pursuant to Rule 56. To defeat a motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6), the complaint must 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, Iqbal, 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. of Comm 'rs of Davidson Cty., 407 F.3d 266, 268 (4th Cir. 2005).

         Where Defendants have submitted exhibits with their Motion, the Court may consider such evidence only if it converts the Motion to one seeking summary judgmen.. Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(d). Before converting a motion to dismiss to one for summary judgmen,, 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 notice that the court is treating the Rule 12(b)(6) motion as a motion for summary judgmen,, 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). 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), or an equivalent filing, explaining why "for specified reasons, it cannot present facts essential to justify its opposition." Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(d); see Harrods Ltd. v. Sixty Internet Domain Names, 302 F.3d 214, 245 (4th Cir. 2002). McDonald has not filed a Rule 56(d) affidavit or otherwise requested discovery in this matter, nor has he opposed the substance of the Defendants' Motion. Under these circumstance,, the Court will construe Defendants' Motion as a Motion for Summary Judgment for purposes of arguments requiring consideraiion of the attached exhibits.

         Under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56, the Court grants summary judgment if the moving party demonstrates that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact, and that the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a); Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322 (1986). In assessing the motion, the Court views the facts in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party, "with all justifiable inferences" drawn in its favor. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 255 (1986). The Court may rely only on facts supported in the record, not simply assertions in the pleadings. Bouchat v. Bah. Ravens Football Club, Inc., 346 F.3d 514, 522 (4th Cir. 2003). A fact is "material" if it "might affect the outcome of the suit under the governing law." Anderson, 477 U.S. at 248. 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. Id.

         II. The State Defendants

         The State Defendants seek dismissal of all claims against them on the grounds that they are not a proper defendant under S 1983 and are protected from suit by the Eleventh Amendment to the Constitution.

         Section 1983 states:

Every person who, under color of any statute, ordinance, regulation, custom, or usage, of any State or Territory or the District of Columbia, subjects, or causes to be subjected, any citizen of the United States or other person within the jurisdiction thereof to the deprivation of any rights, privileges, or immunities secured by the Constitution and laws....

42 U.S.C. S 1983 (2012) (emphasis added).

         The Maryland Department of Corrections, officially referred to as the Maryland Division of Corrections, and MCI-J are both arms of the State and are not persons within the meaning of S 1983. See Will v. Mich. Dep't of State Police,491 u.s. 58, 64 (1989) ("[A] State is not a person within the meaning of S 1983."); see also Md. Code Ann., State Gov't S 8-201(b)(16) (West 2015) (identifying the Maryland Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services as a department of the Maryland state government); Md. Code Ann., Corr. Servs. S2-2011)) (West 2002) (identifying the Maryland Division of Corrections as a unit within the Maryland Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services). Moreover, under the Eleventh Amendment to the United States Constitution, a state, its agencies, and departments are immune from ...

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