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Baden v. Dovey

United States District Court, D. Maryland

July 12, 2019

RICO BADEN, Plaintiff,


          Date Paula Xinis United States District Judge.

         Plaintiff Rico Baden filed this civil rights complaint in which he contends that he was the victim of correctional officers' excessive use of force while housed at the Maryland Correctional Training Center (MCTC).[1] Baden also alleges he is the subject of retaliation after filing suit in an earlier, unrelated case. ECF No. 1. Defendants Warden Dovey and Corporal Clever move to dismiss or alternatively for summary judgment as to the first use of force incident. ECF No. 15. As to the second incident, Defendant Christopher Levan had resigned from MCTC as of April 1, 2018, so service of process for him was refused.[2] See ECF No. 13.

         The Court has reviewed the pleadings and finds a hearing unnecessary. See Local Rule 105.6 (D. Md. 2018). For the following reasons, Defendants' motion, construed as one for summary judgment, is granted as to the first incident alleged in the Complaint. The matter remains open regarding claims against Defendant Levan. Counsel for Defendants shall provide the Court the last known address for Defendant Levan under seal so that service of the complaint may be effectuated on Levan.

         I. Background

         The following facts are pertinent to resolving the current motion and are construed most favorably to Baden. On October 24, 2017, Baden complained that his food included a hair in it. ECF No. 1 at p. 4; ECF No. 15-5 at p. 4. Baden contends that he told Clever about the problem with his food, and that Clever responded, “Eat the hairy food or you don't eat at all!” Id. Clever, and another officer, Henderson, entered the cell to inspect the tray. Clever contends that Baden threw the food tray at him. In response, Baden was restrained and a chemical agent was deployed by way of an “OC Fogger.” ECF No. 15-5 at p. 4. Baden characterizes the restraint as an assault during which time he was punched and kicked, thereby making it difficult for him to breathe.

         Once restrained, Baden received treatment for exposure to the OC spray. Id. ECF No. 15-5 at p. 13. After he was examined by medical staff, Baden claims he was again assaulted, this time by Officer Levan and another officer who only identified himself as “Tattoo.”[3] Id. Baden maintains that these officers slammed his head on the concrete walkway in front of the medical building after he had asked them to stop pulling his arms in an “awkward and painful position.” Id.

         Photographs of Baden taken after the incident involving Clever show no obvious injuries but with a large stain on the front left leg of his pants. ECF No. 15-5 at p. 19. Baden requested to see a nurse “for [his] back.” ECF No. 15-6 at p. 2. The examining nurse noted that Baden was walking with a steady gait and was “in no acute distress.” Id. Examination of Baden's back was unremarkable. Id. The nurse also recorded that Baden did not complain of pain.

         As a result of this incident, Baden was charged with a violation of disciplinary rule 101, which prohibits assaulting a correctional officer. ECF No. 15-3 at p. 4. At a disciplinary hearing held on January 29, 2018, Baden admitted guilt to the charge and was sentenced to 180 days of segregation, revocation of 120 days of good conduct time, and indefinite loss of visitation. Id. at p. 9. Baden's adjustment history is noted as poor in an explanatory remark for the penalties imposed. Id. at p. 10, see also p. 3 (adjustment history). A related investigation found that Baden had assaulted Clever, but Clever declined to press charges. ECF No. 15-7 at pp. 2-5.

         As to the retaliation claim, Baden maintains that after he had filed a separate civil rights suit in this Court (Civil Action PX-17-2964), he was denied recreation, was served inedible food, suffered verbal and physical abuse, had his mail withheld, and was denied recreational time. Id. He alleges that these events have caused him to suffer from insomnia, physical and mental stress, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Id.

         II. Standard of Review

         Because the parties have submitted evidence outside the four corners of the Complaint and have been given reasonable opportunity to present all pertinent material, the Court will treat the motion as one for summary judgment. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(d). Pursuant to Rule 56(a) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, summary judgment shall be granted if the movant demonstrates that no genuine issue of disputed material fact exists, rendering the movant entitled to judgment as a matter of law. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(d). “By its very terms, this standard provides that the mere existence of some alleged factual dispute between the parties will not defeat an otherwise properly supported motion for summary judgment; the requirement is that there be no genuine issue of material fact.” Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 247-48, 106 S.Ct. 2505, 91 L.Ed.2d 202 (1986) (emphasis in original). “The 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.” See Bouchat v. Baltimore Ravens Football Club, Inc., 346 F.3d 514, 525 (4th Cir. 2003) (alteration in original) (quoting Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(e)). The Court must view the evidence in the light most favorable to the non-movant without weighing the evidence or assessing witness credibility. See Dennis v. Columbia Colleton Med. Ctr., Inc., 290 F.3d 639, 644-45 (4th Cir. 2002). Factually unsupported claims and defenses may not proceed to trial. Bouchat, 346 F.3d at 526.

         III. Analysis

         A. Excessive Force Claim

         To sustain his excessive force claim, Baden must demonstrate that the force Clever used was not applied as a “good-faith effort to maintain or restore discipline, ” but rather was imposed “maliciously and sadistically to cause harm.” Hudson v. McMillian, 503 U.S. 1, 6-7 (1992). In assessing whether Baden has generated sufficient evidence to survive summary judgment, the Court considers the need for application of force; the relationship between that need and the degree of force applied; the extent of the injury inflicted; the extent of the threat to the safety of staff and inmates as reasonably perceived by prison officials; and any efforts made to temper the severity of the response. Whitley v. Albers, 475 U.S. 312, 321 (1986). The absence of significant injury alone is not dispositive; if force is applied maliciously and sadistically, then liability is not avoided simply because the prisoner had the good fortune to escape serious harm. Id. at 38. Deployment of a chemical agent “in quantities greater than necessary or for ...

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