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Ratcliff v. Baltimore County Police Department

United States District Court, D. Maryland

August 6, 2019



          George L. Russell, III United States District Judge.

         THIS MATTER is before the Court on Defendants the Baltimore County Police Department (“BCPD”), Lieutenant Craig Mitchell (“Lieutenant Mitchell”), Officer Christopher Stallings (“Officer Stallings”), and Office Darren Brusio's (“Officer Brusio”) (collectively, without BCPD, “Officer Defendants”) Motion to Dismiss or, in the Alternative, for Summary Judgment (ECF No. 17). The Motion is ripe for disposition, and no hearing is necessary. See Local Rule 105.6 (D.Md. 2018). For the reasons outlined below, the Court will grant the Motion.

         I. BACKGROUND[1]

         On March 13, 2018 at 1:07 a.m., Officer Jason Lentz (“Officer Lentz”)[2] arrested Plaintiff Casey Edward Ratcliff at the Red Roof Inn in Timonium, Maryland. (Compl. at 2, ECF No. 1; see also Defs.' Mot. Dismiss Summ. J. [“Defs.' Mot.”] Ex. 1, ECF No. 17-5; Brusio Aff. ¶ 8, ECF No. 17-2).[3] Officer Lentz took Ratcliff to Precinct #7 in Cockeysville, Maryland for booking. (Brusio Aff. ¶ 8). An unspecified officer “handcuffed [Ratcliff] to a pipe” in the booking room. (Compl. at 3). The booking room was “very cold, ” but Ratcliff was not allowed to wear his coat, nor was he provided with a blanket. (Id.).

         Officer Stallings, who was the booking and processing officer, informed Ratcliff that he was switching on his body camera before he uncuffed Ratcliff from the pipe. (Id.). Officer Stallings left shackles on his legs, despite Ratcliff's “large painful wounds on both legs from knee to ankle.” (Id.). While he was standing for his mugshots, Ratcliff “began to feel very dizzy.” (Id.). Ratcliff informed Stallings that he was dizzy and that he believed he was going to “pass out” or suffer a seizure and needed to sit down. (Id.). Officer Stallings “ordered [Ratcliff] to remain standing and continue in the process.” (Id.). Ratcliff tried to comply and remained standing, but he “had to brace [himself] against the wall at least once.” (Id.). Ratcliff again asked Officer Stallings if he could sit down and Officer Stallings ordered him to stay standing. (Id.).

         Ratcliff “reluctantly” began the fingerprinting process. (Id. at 4). At the finger print scanning machine, Ratcliff told Officer Stallings that he was dizzy, he was going to fall, and he needed to sit, but Officer Stallings denied his request to sit down. (Id.). Ratcliff then “had a seizure while standing next to Officer Stallings and fell to the ground striking [his] head on the bare concrete floor.” (Id.). Although he was close enough to Officer Stallings during fingerprinting for Officer Stallings to hold and control his hands to obtain the fingerprints, Officer Stallings made no attempt to catch him or cushion his fall, despite “ample and timely warnings of [Ratcliff's] imminent fall.” (Id.). Lieutenant Mitchell entered the room to ask what had happened. (Id.). “[Officer] Stallings stated to [Lieutenant] Mitchell that [Ratcliff] had told him that [he] would fall and then [he] did.” (Id.). Lieutenant Mitchell asked Officer Stallings whether he tried to catch Ratcliff, and Officer Stallings replied that he had not. (Id.).

         Ratcliff “asked for medical attention and an ambulance was called.” (Id.). Ratcliff's “head was throbbing” as he laid on the cold floor and he was “going in and out of consciousness” until he was transported by ambulance to the Greater Baltimore Medical Center (“GBMC”) emergency room. (Id. at 4-5). Both of Ratcliff's legs remained shackled despite the pain the shackles caused to his leg wounds and his “requests to remove or adjust” them.[4] (Id. at 5). When Baltimore County Detention Center officers took Ratcliff into custody, they shackled only one of his legs to the hospital bed. (Id.). Ratcliff was hospitalized at GBMC for one week. (Id.). He now suffers “recurring headaches, neck pain, and pain in [his] shoulders” that he “did not have before this fall.” (Id.).

         On June 4, 2018, Ratcliff, proceeding pro se, filed a verified Complaint. (ECF No. 1). Ratcliff states that he “believe[s] [that his] civil rights were violated, ” but he does not state which ones. (Id.). He seeks “financial compensation for violation of [his] constitutional rights, negligence on the part of the police, and pain and suffering in the amount of 1 million dollars plus all related cost, fees, medical bills, etc.” (Id. at 7).

         On September 14, 2018, Defendants filed a Motion to Dismiss or, in the Alternative, for Summary Judgment. (ECF No. 17). Ratcliff filed an Opposition on September 21, 2019. (ECF No. 19). To date, the Court has no record that Defendants filed a Reply.


         A. Conversion of Defendants' Motion

         Defendants style their Motion as a motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6) or, in the alternative, for summary judgment under Rule 56. A motion styled in this manner implicates the Court's discretion under Rule 12(d). See Kensington Vol. Fire Dep't, Inc. v. Montgomery Cty., 788 F.Supp.2d 431, 436-37 (D.Md. 2011), aff'd sub nom. Kensington Volunteer Fire Dep't, Inc. v. Montgomery Cty., 684 F.3d 462 (4th Cir. 2012). Under Rule 12(d), when “matters outside the pleadings are presented to and not excluded by the court, the [Rule 12(b)(6) ] motion must be treated as one for summary judgment under Rule 56.” The United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit has articulated two requirements for proper conversion of a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to a Rule 56 motion. First, that the “parties be given some indication by the court that it is treating the 12(b)(6) motion as a motion for summary judgment” and second, “that the parties first ‘be afforded a reasonable opportunity for discovery.'” Greater Balt. Ctr. for Pregnancy Concerns, Inc. v. Mayor of Baltimore, 721 F.3d 264, 281 (4th Cir. 2013) (quoting Gay v. Wall, 761 F.2d 175, 177 (4th Cir. 1985)).

         When the movant expressly captions its motion “in the alternative” as one for summary judgment and submits matters outside the pleadings for the court's consideration, the parties are deemed to be on notice that conversion under Rule 12(d) may occur. See Moret v. Harvey, 381 F.Supp.2d 458, 464 (D.Md. 2005). “[T]he party opposing summary judgment ‘cannot complain that summary judgment was granted without discovery unless that party had made an attempt to oppose the motion on the grounds that more time was needed for discovery.'” Harrods Ltd. v. Sixty Internet Domain Names, 302 F.3d 214, 244 (4th Cir. 2002) (quoting Evans v. Techs. Applications & Serv. Co., 80 F.3d 954, 961 (4th Cir. 1996)). Rule 56(d) provides that the Court may deny or continue a motion for summary judgment “[i]f a nonmovant shows by affidavit or declaration that, for specified reasons, it cannot present facts essential to justify its opposition.” “[T]he failure to file an affidavit under Rule 56[(d)] is itself sufficient grounds to reject a claim that the opportunity for discovery was inadequate.” Nguyen v. CNA Corp., 44 F.3d 234, 242 (4th Cir. 1995) (quoting Paddington Partners v. Bouchard, 34 F.3d 1132, 1137 (2d Cir. 1994)).

         Here, Ratcliff was on notice that the Court might resolve Defendants' Motion under Rule 56 because they styled their Motion in the alternative for summary judgment and presented extensive extra-pleading material for the Court's consideration. See Moret, 381 F.Supp.2d at 464. Ratcliff does not submit a Rule 56(d) affidavit, nor does he otherwise request additional time for discovery. Because the Court considers Defendants' extra-pleading materials in resolving Defendants' Motion, the Court construes their Motion as a motion for summary judgment.

         B. Standard of Review

         In reviewing a motion for summary judgment, the Court views the facts in a light most favorable to the nonmovant, drawing all justifiable inferences in that party's favor. Ricci v. DeStefano, 557 U.S. 557, 586 (2009); Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 255 (1986) (citing Adickes v. S.H. Kress & Co., 398 U.S. 144, 158-59 (1970)). Summary judgment is proper when the movant 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). Significantly, a party must be able to present the materials it cites in “a form that would be admissible in evidence, ” Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c)(2), and supporting affidavits and declarations “must be made on personal knowledge” and “set out facts that would be admissible in evidence, ” Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c)(4).

         Once a motion for summary judgment is properly made and supported, the burden shifts to the nonmovant to identify evidence showing there is genuine dispute of material fact. See Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 586-87 (1986). The nonmovant cannot create a genuine dispute of material fact “through mere speculation or the building of one inference upon another.” Othentec Ltd. v. Phelan, 526 F.3d 135, 141 (4th Cir. 2008) (quoting Beale v. Hardy, 769 F.2d 213, 214 (4th Cir. 1985)).

         A “material fact” is one that might affect the outcome of a party's case. Anderson, 477 U.S. at 248; see also JKC Holding Co. v. Wash. Sports Ventures, Inc., 264 F.3d 459, 465 (4th Cir. 2001) (citing Hooven-Lewis v. Caldera, 249 F.3d 259, 265 (4th Cir. 2001)). Whether a fact is considered to be “material” is determined by the substantive law, and “[o]nly disputes over facts that might affect the outcome of the suit under the governing law will properly preclude the entry of summary judgment.” Anderson, 477 U.S. at 248; accord Hooven-Lewis, 249 F.3d at 265. A “genuine” dispute concerning a “material” fact arises when the evidence is sufficient to allow a reasonable jury to return a verdict in the nonmoving party's favor. Anderson, 477 U.S. at 248. If the nonmovant has failed to make a sufficient showing on an essential element of her case where she has the burden of proof, “there can be ‘no genuine [dispute] as to any material fact,' since a complete failure of proof concerning an essential element of the nonmoving party's case necessarily renders all other facts immaterial.” Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322-23 (1986).

         C. ...

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