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Turpin v. Colbourne

United States District Court, D. Maryland

September 9, 2019

KEVIN D. TURPIN, Plaintiff,
RUTH COLBOURNE, Warden, BENJAMIN PARKS, Officer, Defendants.


          Theodore D. Chuang United States District Judge

         Plaintiff Kevin D. Turpin, who was previously confined at the Wicomico County Detention Center ("WCDC)" in Salisbury, Maryland, has filed a self-represented civil rights Complaint pursuant to 42 U.S.C. S1983 alleging that on March 20, 2088 at WCDC, Defendant Correctional Officer Benjamin Parks maliciously slammed a cell door food slot on Turpin's hand and thus injured Turpin's fingers. As relief, Turpin seeks $100, 000 in damages. Defendants Parks and Ruth Colbourne, Director of the Wicomico County Department of Corrections, have filed a Motion to Dismiss or Alternatively for Summary Judgment. In his memorandum in opposition to the' Motion, Turpin states that he is abandoning his claim against Colbourne. 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.


         Turpin was committed to WCDC on October 14, 2017. He was transferred to the Caroline County Detention Center on May 26, 2088 and returned to WCDC on July 10, 2018. Turpin was transferred out of WCDC again on July 12, 2018 and is presently housed at the Dorsey Run Correctional Facility in Jessup, Maryland.

         On March 20, 2018, at approximately 4:24 p.m., Parks and Corrections Officer II James Bare were distributing meal trays to inmates. According to Turpin, while at Turpin's cell, Parks angrily slammed the food slot door closed on Turpin's hand, leaving his index, middle, and ring fingers cut, bleeding, and swollen. Turpin asserts that he now has scar tissue. According to Parks, as he placed a food tray in Turpin's cell door food slot, Turpin pushed the tray away and forced it back toward him, stating "I don't fucking want that shit." Parks Aff. ¶ 2, ECF 37-1. Parks asserts that he pulled the tray from the slot, observed that the slot was clear, and then began to close the slider across the slot. As he did so, Turpin placed his hand in the track, causing the slider to pinch his fingers at the end of the track. Parks asserts that while he was trying to open the slot, Turpin pushed against the slider, forcing it off its track. The slider fell to the floor. Bare picked it up, replaced it in its track, and ordered Turpin to remove his hand and place it back inside the cell. Turpin refused to comply, banged on the door, and shouted that he needed medical attention. Parks left the housing unit to inform the medical unit that Turpin needed care.

         Bare and Correctional Officer WiIna Cange escorted Turpin to the medical unit. Medical staff noted two small skin tears on Turpin's left middle and index finger with a small amount of blood, which was removed with a wound cleaner. Turpin's hand was swollen, discolored, and painful, and Turpin could not make a fist with the left hand. Medical staff offered Turpin pain medication and an ice pack and informed him that he would have an x-ray the next day. Turpin insisted that he wanted his hand x-rayed immediately, but he was escorted back to his cell.

         Parks charged Turpin with destroying property, specifically, the food slot, in violation of WCDC rules. On March 26, 2018, a hearing officer, having viewed the video evidence, found Turpin not guilty.


         Defendants seek dismissal or summary judgment on the grounds that (1) Turpin failed to exhaust administrative remedies; and (2) the Complaint fails to state a constitutional claim for use of excessive force under the Eighth Amendment.

         I. Legal Standards

         Defendants have filed their Motion as a Motion to Dismiss or Alternatively for Summary Judgment. Typically, when deciding a motion to dismiss under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6), the Court considers only the complaint and any attached documents "integral to the complain.." Sec'y of State for Defense v. Trimble Navigation Ltd., 484 F.3d 700, 705 (4th Cir. 2007). To the extent that grounds for dismissal are based solely on the contents of the Complain,, the Court may dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6) if the complaint does not 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).

         Rule 12(d) requires courts to treat a Rule 12(b)(6) motion as a motion for summary judgment where matters outside the pleadings are considered and not excluded. Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(d). Before converting a motion to dismiss to one for summary judgment, 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 indication that the court is treating the Rule 12(b)(6) motion as a motion for summary judgment, 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) (citation omitted). 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) explaining why "for specified reasons, it cannot present facts essential to justify its opposition," Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(d), or otherwise put the district court on notice of the reasons why summary judgment is premature. See Harrods, Ltd. v. Sixty Internet Domain Names, 302 F.3d 214, 244-45 (4th Cir. 2002).

         Here, Turpin has asserted that he requires discovery before the resolution of the Motion. Although there may be grounds for discovery before reaching the merits of the Motion, Turpin provides no persuasive argument for discovery before the resolution of the threshold issue of exhaustion of administrative remedies, as the relevant documents relating to that issue, including the WCDC inmate handbook, have already been provided. The Court therefore will construe the Motion as one for summary judgment as to the exhaustion of administrative remedies issue and consider the attached exhibits relevant to that issue.

         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. Balt. Ravens Football Club, Inc., 346 F.3d 514, 522 (4th Cir. 2003). A fact is "material" if tt "might affect the outcome of the suit under the governing law." Anderson, 477 U.S. ...

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