United States District Court, D. Maryland
MARK COULSON UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.
suit arises out of injuries allegedly sustained by Cynthia
Mowery and Brian Alexander, (collectively, the
“Plaintiffs”), while attending entry-level police
officer training at the Eastern Shore Criminal Justice
Academy (the “Academy”). The Academy is operated
by Wor-Wic Community College (“Wor-Wic”) under
its criminal justice department. Defendant John C. Moses
(“Mr. Moses”) is head of that department, Donald
Rollyson (“Mr. Rollyson”) served as director of
the Academy, and Barry Smith (“Mr. Smith”) served
as an instructor (collectively, the
“Defendants”). Pursuant to Standing Order 2018-4
and 28 U.S.C. § 636(c), this case was assigned directly
to a magistrate judge and the parties consented to proceed
before that magistrate judge. (ECF No. 19). Plaintiffs
advance claims of negligence, negligent hiring, as well as
violations of Title IX and 42 U.S.C. § 1983. (ECF No.
1). Now pending is Defendants' Motion for Summary
Judgment/Partial Summary Judgment as to all negligence-based
claims. (ECF No. 23). The issues are fully briefed, (ECF Nos.
23, 25, and 26), and no hearing is necessary. See
Loc. R. 105.6 (D. Md. 2018). For the reasons that follow,
Defendants' motion will be GRANTED.
Ms. Mowery's Injuries
operates the Academy as part of its criminal justice
department to provide training to law enforcement recruits
and cadets in Salisbury, Maryland. (ECF No. 1 at ¶ 11).
Wor-Wic hired Mr. Smith as a defensive tactics instructor at
the Academy after his employment with the Maryland State
Police. (Id. at ¶¶ 12-13, 29). In January
2017, Ms. Mowery was accepted into the Elkton State Police
Department and was sent for entry-level law enforcement
training at the Academy. (Id. at ¶ 31). During
sessions taught by Mr. Smith, Ms. Mowery was required to
participate in five fight practical scenarios that involved
boxing with minimal safety equipment. (Id. at
¶¶ 32-33). In the fight scenarios, she participated
despite allegedly sustaining multiple blows to the head.
(Id. at ¶ 34). After each fight scenario Ms.
Mowery was asked if she was injured, and each time she
indicated that she was not. (ECF Nos. 23-7, 23-8, 23-9,
23-10, and 23-11). Mr. Smith, in consultation with Mr.
Rollyson and Mr. Moses, determined that Ms. Mowery failed her
training due to the number of blows she sustained and would
have to wait a week to try again. (ECF No. 1 at ¶¶
35-38). Defendants did not recommend that Ms. Mowery receive
any medical treatment for the blows she received.
(Id. at ¶ 40).
her participation in the fight scenarios, Ms. Mowery alleges
that she began to experience dizziness, headaches, and
difficulty sleeping. (Id. at ¶ 41). In addition
to the injuries she sustained during the fight scenarios, Ms.
Mowery alleges separate instances where Mr. Smith injured her
during her time at the Academy. (Id. at ¶ 49).
Specifically, she alleges that Mr. Smith continued to
maintain his knee and arm on the back of her neck despite her
screams for help and attempts to tap out during the pain
compliance portion of the program. (Id.). On May 25,
2017, Ms. Mowery resigned from the Academy. (Id. at
¶¶ 43-44). She is currently employed as a police
officer in the Aberdeen Police Department. (ECF No. 23-1 at
Mr. Alexander's Injuries
graduating from Harrisburg Community College, Mr. Alexander
accepted a position with the Ocean City Maryland Police
Department and was required to attend the Academy. (ECF No. 1
at ¶ 51). Roughly a month into the Academy, Mr.
Alexander was participating in a boxing exercise when Mr.
Smith allegedly instructed the participants to use full
force. (Id. at ¶ 52). During this exercise, Mr.
Alexander was struck in the head and lost consciousness.
(Id. at ¶¶ 52-53). Mr. Alexander alleges
that the Defendants failed to perform any evaluation of him
once he went unconscious. (Id. at ¶ 54). In
spite of Defendants' alleged inaction, another trainee
called “911” and paramedics arrived approximately
ten minutes later. (Id. at ¶ 54). Mr. Alexander
suffered a brain bleed which required surgery. He now alleges
permanent neurological and cognitive defects rendering him
unable to work as a law enforcement officer. (Id. at
Plaintiffs were allowed to attend the Academy, they were
required to execute a Waiver and Release of Liability Form
(“Waiver”) to shield Defendants from claims
arising from injuries sustained during Plaintiffs' time
at the Academy. Specifically, the Waiver provided that
Plaintiffs shall “release and discharge any and all
claims for damages for death [or] personal injury . . . as a
result of [their] participation” against “Wor-Wic
Community College/ Eastern Shore Criminal Justice Academy and
their respective directors, agents, employees,
representatives, volunteers, and organizers of any
activities.” (ECF No. 23-1 at 3). Plaintiffs
acknowledge that they read and understood the terms of the
Waiver and voluntarily elected to execute the Waiver as a
condition of their participation at the Academy. (ECF Nos.
23-1, 23-2, and 23-3). Now Defendants argue that
Plaintiffs' suit is barred by these waivers.
STANDARD OF REVIEW
Rule of Civil Procedure 56(a) requires the Court to
“grant summary judgment if the movant shows that there
is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant
is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.” The moving
party bears the burden “to demonstrate the absence of
any genuine dispute of material fact.” Jones v.
Hoffberger Moving Servs. LLC, 92 F.Supp.3d 405, 409 (D.
Md. 2015) (internal citations omitted). A dispute as to a
material fact “is genuine if the evidence is such that
a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving
party.” J.E. Dunn Const. Co. v. S.R.P. Dev. Ltd.
P'ship, 115 F.Supp.3d 593, 600 (D. Md. 2015)
(quoting Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S.
242, 248 (1986)).
nonmoving party “opposing a properly supported motion
for summary judgment ‘may not rest upon the mere
allegations or denials of [his] pleadings,' but rather
must ‘set forth specific facts showing that there is a
genuine issue for trial.'” Bouchat v. Baltimore
Ravens Football Club, Inc., 346 F.3d 514, 522 (4th Cir.
2003). The court is “required to view the facts and
draw reasonable inferences in the light most favorable
to” the nonmoving party, Iko v. Shreve, 535
F.3d 225, 230 (4th Cir. 2008) (citing Scott v.
Harris, 550 U.S. 372, 377 (2007)), but must also
“abide by the ‘affirmative obligation of the
trial judge to prevent factually unsupported claims and
defenses from proceeding to trial.'” Heckman v.
Ryder Truck Rental, Inc., 962 F.Supp.2d 792, 799-800 (D.
Md. 2013) (quoting Drewitt v. Pratt, 999 F.2d 774,
778-79 (4th Cir. 1993)).
advance a variety of negligence-based claims against the
Defendants. As a threshold matter, they contend Wor-Wic was
negligent for hiring Mr. Smith as a defensive tactics
instructor because he was allegedly unqualified. (ECF No. 1
at ¶¶ 14-15). Plaintiffs further maintain
that the Academy's defensive tactics curriculum was
negligently designed and unreasonably dangerous for
participants. In addition, Plaintiffs claim that Defendants
failed to take appropriate action to evaluate and treat