United States District Court, D. Maryland
L. Hollander United States District Judge.
self-represented plaintiff, Luis Garza-Ovalle, a federal
inmate currently incarcerated at the Federal Correctional
Institution in Pollock, Louisiana, filed suit against
Detention Officer Armstrong, Warden Renee Alexander, the
Chesapeake Detention Facility in Baltimore, Maryland
(“CDF”), and the United States Marshals Service
(“U.S. Marshals” or “USMS”),
defendants, pursuant to the Federal Tort Claims Act and
Bivens v. Six Unknown Named Agents, 403 U.S. 388
(1971). ECF 1. In a verified Complaint, plaintiff
claims that defendants deliberately placed his life in danger
in July 2016, when they refused to buckle his seatbelt for
transport in a correctional van and denied him proper medical
attention after the van was involved in a collision.
Id. at 3. As relief, he seeks a declaration that
defendants violated his constitutional rights as well as
compensatory and punitive damages in the amount of $3 million
per defendant. Id. at 4.
to Correctional Officer Marc Hardaway, of the Central
Transportation Unit (“CTU”), as well as
Alexander, and CDF (collectively, the “Correctional
Defendants”), at the time of the incident giving rise
to plaintiff's Complaint, there was no custody officer
working at CDF by the name of Armstrong. ECF 4-1 at 2-3.
Rather, Hardaway was the CTU officer who drove a transport
van from CDF on July 18, 2016. Id. Plaintiff, under
the name “Juan Baca Quintana, ” was a passenger
in the van.
the Clerk shall be directed to add Marc Hardaway as a
defendant. To the extent plaintiff intended to bring suit
against “Officer Armstrong, ” his claims against
that individual shall be dismissed, without prejudice.
Correctional Defendants have moved to dismiss or for summary
judgment, pursuant to Federal Rules of Civil Procedure 12(b)
and 56. ECF 4. The motion is supported by a memorandum of law
(ECF 4-1) (collectively, “the Correctional
Defendants' Motion”) and an exhibit. The U.S.
Marshals filed a similarly-titled dispositive motion. ECF 10.
That motion is also supported by a memorandum of law (ECF
10-1) (collectively, the “U.S. Marshals'
Motion”) and an exhibit.
to Roseboro v. Garrison, 528 F.2d 309 (4th Cir.
1975), the court informed plaintiff that the failure to file
a response in opposition to the defendants' motions could
result in dismissal of his Complaint or a judgment in favor
of defendants. ECF 5, 11. Plaintiff responded on December 13,
2019. ECF 14. He also submitted a memorandum in opposition to
the “government motions” (ECF 14-1) and several
exhibits. No replies were filed.
matter is now ripe for disposition. Upon review of the
record, exhibits, and applicable law, the court deems a
hearing unnecessary. See Local Rule 105.6 (D. Md.
2018). For the reasons that follow, the suit shall be
dismissed as to the U.S. Marshals. And, the Correctional
Defendants' Motion, construed as a motion for summary
judgment, shall be granted.
claims that on or about July 14, 2016, while in the custody
of CDF, he was “being transferred” to Harrisburg,
Pennsylvania by “Detention Officer Armstrong and an
unknown female officer, both acting under the directions of
Warden Renee Alexander.” ECF 1 at 2. Plaintiff states
that he was handcuffed, shackled, and placed in a transport
van with nine other prisoners. Id. Plaintiff claims
that he asked Armstrong, who was also the driver, to buckle
his seatbelt but Armstrong “refused smiling before
stating, ‘don't worry about it, its' [sic] just
a hour and fifteen minutes up the road.'”
Id. According to plaintiff, “after reaching
high speeds” of 85 miles per hour on “Highway 83,
” the van was involved in “a serious accident . .
. .” Id. He recalls that “a car coming
onto the freeway impacted [the transport van] on the front
right side knocking the transport van into the concrete
dividing wall.” Id. Plaintiff claims that his
head and knee slammed into the side of the van and “his
body twisted so bad that his bladder let loose . . . .”
to plaintiff, officers and prisoners remained at the scene of
the accident for approximately 45 minutes until
“agents” of the U.S. Marshals arrived, along with
local police, state troopers, ambulances, and a news
reporter, at which time they were moved to a nearby rest
area. Id. Plaintiff claims that he heard the U.S.
Marshals tell the paramedics to “‘just make sure
they have no broken bones or any bones sticking out of them
and tell them whatever is wrong with them they be [sic] taken
care of when they get back to Baltimore.'”
Id. Plaintiff told a paramedic that his neck, knee,
and lower back were injured “but the paramedic just
repeated what the U.S. Marshal told him to say, and refused
to give him medical treatment or take him to the hospital for
states that they were transported back to CDF, where the
medical staff “dismissed his complaints as
mediocre” and he was assigned to sleep on a top bunk.
Id. Plaintiff also claims that for 15 days CDF staff
refused to provide him with medical treatment, despite his
repeated complaints. Id.
August 1, 2016, plaintiff was transferred to the United
States Penitentiary Canaan in Pennsylvania, where he again
complained of his injuries and worsening condition.
Id. He was given Naproxen for pain relief.
Id. at 3. But, the staff “did not tend to the
nerve problems in which [he was] having bowl [sic] movements
uncontrollably.” Id. at 2-3.
August 10, 2016, plaintiff was transferred to the Federal
Correctional Institution in Ray Brook, New York (“FCI
Ray Brook”). Id. at 3. He asserts that upon
his arrival a correctional officer confiscated his Naproxen.
Id. When plaintiff sought to explain about the
accident and his injuries, the officer told him to “buy
his medication off of commissary.” Id. When
plaintiff's “repeated attempts” to obtain
medical care from the institution were unsuccessful, he began
the administrative remedy process. Id.
submitted an Informal Resolution at FCI Ray Brook on October
18, 2016, seeking proper medical treatment for his spinal
injuries. See ECF 14; ECF 14-2. The Warden
subsequently denied plaintiff's request with the
following explanation: “You have had several x-rays all
of which are normal. You have been provided back exercises
& advised to take Tylenol.” ECF 14-2 at 4.
December 1, 2016, plaintiff noted an appeal from the ruling
on his Informal Resolution. ECF 14-3. The Regional Director
denied the appeal on February 17, 2017, stating that the
Warden adequately addressed plaintiff's complaint.
Id. at 4. On March 8, 2017, plaintiff filed an
appeal to the General Counsel at the Federal Bureau of
Prisons (“BOP”). Id. at 5-6. The
National Inmate Appeals Office denied plaintiff's claims
on June 29, 2017. Id. at 7.
about September 25, 2017, plaintiff filed an administrative
claim with the Northeast Regional Office of the BOP.
Id. at 8. The Acting Regional Counsel denied his
claim on March 29, 2018, stating: “There is no evidence
that a compensable loss was experienced as a result of the
negligence on the part of any [BOP] employee.”
Id. at 9.
Standard of Review
motions are styled as motions to dismiss under Fed.R.Civ.P.
12(b)(6) or, in the alternative, for summary judgment under
Fed.R.Civ.P. 56. A motion styled in this manner implicates
the court's discretion under Rule 12(d) of the Federal
Rules of Civil Procedure. See Kensington Vol. Fire Dept.,
Inc. v. Montgomery Cty., 788 F.Supp.2d 431, 436-37 (D.
a court “is not to consider matters outside the
pleadings or resolve factual disputes when ruling on a motion
to dismiss.” Bosiger v. U.S. Airways, Inc.,
510 F.3d 442, 450 (4th Cir. 2007). However, under Rule
12(b)(6), a court, in its discretion, may consider matters
outside of the pleadings, pursuant to Rule 12(d). If the
court does so, “the motion must be treated as one for
summary judgment under Rule 56, ” and “[a]ll
parties must be given a reasonable opportunity to present all
the material that is pertinent to the motion.”
Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(d); see Adams Housing, LLC v. The City of
Salisbury, Maryland, 672 Fed App'x 220, 222 (4th
Cir. 2016) (per curiam). But, 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; the court “does not have an obligation to notify
parties of the obvious.” Laughlin v. Metro. Wash.
Airports Auth., 149 F.3d 253, 261 (4th Cir. 1998).
district judge has “complete discretion to determine
whether or not to accept the submission of any material
beyond the pleadings that is offered in conjunction with a
Rule 12(b)(6) motion and rely on it, thereby converting the
motion, or to reject it or simply not consider it.” 5C
Wright & Miller, Federal Practice & Procedure §
1366, at 159 (3d ed. 2004, 2011 Supp.). This discretion
“should be exercised with great caution and attention
to the parties' procedural rights.” Id. at
149. In general, courts are guided by whether consideration
of extraneous material “is likely to facilitate the
disposition of the action, ” and “whether
discovery prior to the utilization of the summary judgment
procedure” is necessary. Id. at 165-67.
judgment is generally inappropriate “where the parties
have not had an opportunity for reasonable discovery.”
E.I. du Pont de Nemours & Co. v. Kolon Indus.,
Inc., 637 F.3d 435, 448-49 (4th Cir. 2011); see
Putney v. Likin, 656 Fed. App'x 632, 638 (4th Cir.
2016) (per curiam); McCray v. Maryland Dep't of
Transportation, 741 F.3d 480, 483 (4th Cir. 2015).
However, “the 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)); see also Dave &
Buster's, Inc. v. White Flint Mall, LLLP, 616 Fed.
App'x 552, 561 (4th Cir. 2015).
raise adequately the issue that discovery is needed, the
nonmovant typically must file an affidavit or declaration
pursuant to Rule 56(d) (formerly Rule 56(f)), explaining why,
“for specified reasons, it cannot present facts
essential to justify its opposition, ” without needed
discovery. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(d); see Harrods, 302 F.3d
at 244-45 (discussing affidavit requirement of former Rule
56(f)). “[T]o justify a denial of summary judgment on
the grounds that additional discovery is necessary, the facts
identified in a Rule 56 affidavit must be ‘essential to
[the] opposition.'” Scott v. Nuvell Fin.
Servs., LLC, 789 F.Supp.2d 637, 641 (D. Md. 2011)
(alteration in original) (citation omitted). A nonmoving
party's Rule 56(d) request for additional discovery is
properly denied “where the additional evidence sought
for discovery would not have by itself created a genuine
issue of material fact sufficient to defeat summary
judgment.” Strag v. Bd. of Trs., Craven Cmty.
Coll., 55 F.3d 943, 954 (4th Cir. 1995); see McClure
v. Ports, 914 F.3d 866, 874-75 (4th Cir. 2019);
Gordon v. CIGNA Corp., 890 F.3d 463, 479 (4th Cir.
2018); Amirmokri v. Abraham, 437 F.Supp.2d 414, 420
(D. Md. 2006), aff'd, 266 Fed.Appx. 274 (4th
Cir. 2008), cert. denied, 555 U.S. 885 (2008).
nonmoving party believes that further discovery is necessary
before consideration of summary judgment, the party fails to
file a Rule 56(d) affidavit at his peril, because
“‘the failure to file an affidavit . . . is
itself sufficient grounds to reject a claim that the
opportunity for discovery was inadequate.'”
Harrods, 302 F.3d at 244 (citations omitted). But,
the nonmoving party's failure to file a Rule 56(d)
affidavit cannot obligate a court to issue a summary judgment
ruling that is obviously premature. And, a court
“should hesitate before denying a Rule 56(d) motion
when the nonmovant seeks necessary information possessed only
by the movant.” Pisano v. Strach, 743 F.3d
927, 931 (4th Cir. 2014).
the Fourth Circuit has placed “‘great
weight'” on the Rule 56(d) affidavit, and has said
that a mere “‘reference to Rule 56(f) [now Rule
56(d)] and the need for additional discovery in a memorandum
of law in opposition to a motion for summary judgment is not
an adequate substitute for [an] affidavit, '” the
appellate court has “not always insisted” on a
Rule 56(d) affidavit. Id. (internal citations
omitted). According to the Fourth Circuit, failure to file an
affidavit may be excused “if the nonmoving party has
adequately informed the district court that the motion is
premature and that more discovery is necessary” and the
“nonmoving party's objections before the district
court ‘served as the functional equivalent of an
affidavit.'” Id. at 244-45 (internal
citations omitted); see also Putney, 656 Fed.
App'x at 638; Nader v. Blair, 549 F.3d 953, 961
(4th Cir. 2008). “This is especially true where, as
here, the non-moving party is proceeding pro se.”
Putney, 656 Fed. App'x at 638.
has not filed an affidavit under Rule 56(d). However, he
explains that he has tried to obtain records about the
accident from the “Pennsylvania State trooper office,
” without success. ECF 14 at 1-2. He has also written
to CDF for records concerning the accident, also without
success. Id. at 2. He asks the court to review the
case with “a liberal state of mind, ” because he
cannot afford a lawyer. Id.
satisfied that it is appropriate to address the Correctional
Defendants' Motion as one for summary judgment, as this
will facilitate resolution of the case. In this regard, the
documents previously sought by plaintiff from third parties
are not material to the issues. But, I shall construe the
U.S. Marshals' Motion as one to dismiss, either under
Rule 12(b)(1) or Rule 12(b)(6).
defendant may test the legal sufficiency of a complaint by
way of a motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6). In re
Birmingham, 846 F.3d 88, 92 (4th Cir. 2017); Goines
v. Valley Cmty. Servs. Bd., 822 F.3d 159, 165-66 (4th
Cir. 2016); McBurney v. Cuccinelli, 616 F.3d 393,
408 (4th Cir. 2010), aff'd sub nom., McBurney v.
Young, 569 U.S. 221 (2013); Edwards v. City of
Goldsboro, 178 F.3d 231, 243 (4th Cir. 1999). A Rule
12(b)(6) motion constitutes an assertion by a defendant that,
even if the facts alleged by a plaintiff are true, the
complaint fails as a matter of law “to state a claim
upon which relief can be granted.”
a complaint states a claim for relief is assessed by
reference to the pleading requirements of Fed.R.Civ.P.
8(a)(2). That rule provides that a complaint must contain a
“short and plain statement of the claim showing that
the pleader is entitled to relief.” The purpose of the
rule is to provide the defendants with “fair
notice” of the claims and the ...