Thornton v. Oliver et al
MEMORANDUM OPINION. Signed by Judge Richard D Bennett on 7/16/14. (c/m apls, Deputy Clerk)
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE DISTRICT OF MARYLAND
DOUGLAS HENRY THORNTON
CIVIL ACTION NO. RDB-14-52
On January 7, 2014, Douglas Henry Thornton ("Thornton"), a detainee at the Baltimore
City Detention Center ("BCDC") filed this 42 U.S.C.
1983 Complaint seeking injunctive relief
Defendant Oliver has filed a Motion to Dismiss or for Summary Judgment. ECF
NO.9. Thornton, having been notified of his rights and obligations to file responsive pleadings
pursuant to Roseboro v. Garrison, 528 F.2d 309 (4th CiT. 1975), see ECF No. 10, has chosen not
to file opposition materials.
No hearing is needed to resolve the issues presented. See Local
Rule 106.5 (D. Md. 2011).
For reasons to follow, Defendant Oliver's dispositive Motion,
construed as a motion for summary judgment, IS GRANTED.
Thornton claims that he was housed with 100 other detainees in a building at BCDC
which contained no "smoke detective system" and had overflowing toilets and was unsanitary.
ECF No. I. He further complains that BCDC has no law library.
STANDARD OF REVIEW
Motion to Dismiss
Rule 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure authorizes dismissal of a complaint
if it fails to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. The purpose of Rule 12(b)(6) is "to
test the sufficiency of a complaint and not to resolve contests surrounding the facts, the merits of
a claim, or the applicability of defenses." Presley v. City of Charlottesville, 464 F.3d 480, 483
(4th Cir. 2006) (internal quotation marks and alterations omitted) (quoting Edwards v. Cily of
Goldsboro, 178 FJd 231, 243 (4th Cir. 1999)). When ruling on such a motion, the Court must
"accept the well-pled
of the complaint as true," and "construe
the facts and
reasonable inferences derived therefrom in the light most favorable to the plaintiff." Ibarra v.
United Siales, 120 FJd 472, 474 (4th Cir. 1997). However, this Court "need not accept the legal
drawn from the facts, and need not accept as true unwarranted
unreasonable conclusions or arguments." Nemel Chevrolel, LId. v. Consumerajfairs.com,
591 FJd 250, 253 (4th Cir. 2009) (internal quotation marks and citation omitted).
The Supreme Court's opinions in Bell Atlanlic Corp. v. Twombly. 550 U.S. 544 (2007),
and Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662 (2009), "require that complaints in civil actions be alleged
with greater specificity than previously was required." Walters v. McMahen, 684 F.3d 435, 439
(4th Cir. 2012) (citation omitted). The Supreme Court's decision in Twombly articulated "[t]wo
working principles" that courts must employ when ruling on Rule 12(b)(6) motions to dismiss.
Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678. First, while a Court must accept as true all the factual allegations
contained in the complaint, legal conclusions drawn from those facts are not afforded such
(stating that "[t]hreadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action, supported
by mere conclusory statements, do not suffice" to plead a claim). Second, a Complaint must be
dismissed if it does not allege a "plausible" claim for relief. Id. at 678-79 ("A claim has facial
plausibility when the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable
inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged.").
Motion for Summary Judgment
Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56(a) provides that summary judgment should be granted
"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." Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(a) (emphasis added). Whether a fact
is material depends upon the substantive law. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby. Inc., 477 U.S. 242,
247-48 (1986). Accordingly, "the mere existence of some alleged factual dispu.te between the
parties will not defeat an otherwise properly supported motion for summary judgment." Id. "A
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) (alteration in original) (quoting Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(e». The Court must
view the evidence in the light most favorable to the nonmovant and draw all justifiable
inferences in his favor. See Scott v. Harris, 550 U.S. 372, 378 (2007) (citation omitted); see also
Greater Baltimore Clr. for Pregnancy Concerns, Inc. v. Mayor and City Council oj Baltimore,
721 F.3d 264, 283 (4th Cir. 20 13) (citation omitted). At the same time, the Court must not yield
its obligation "to prevent factually unsupported claims and defenses from proceeding to trial."
Bouchat, 346 F.3d at 526 (citation and internal quotation marks omitted).
The Complaint is filed pursuant to 42 U.S.c.
1983, which "'is not itself a source of
substantive rights,' but provides 'a method for vindicating federal rights elsewhere conferred.'''
Albright v. Oliver, 510 U.S. 266, 271 (1994) (quoting Baker v. McCollan, 443 U.S. 137,144 n. 3
(1979». A suit under
1983 allows "a party who has been deprived of a federal right under the
color of state law to seek relief." City of Monterey v. Del Monte Dunes at Monterey, Ltd, 526
U.S. 687, 707 (1999). To state a claim under
1983, a Plaintiff must allege that (I) a right
secured by the Constitution or laws of the United States was violated, and (2) that the alleged
violation was committed by a person acting under the color of state law.
West v. Atkins, 487
U.S. 42, 48 (1988).
This Court reviews the facts and all reasonable inferences in the light most favorable to
the nonmoving party, see ScOIl v. Harris, 550 U.S. 372, 378 (2007); Erickson v. Pardus, 551
U.S. 89, 94 (2007) and liberally construes Thornton's pleadings in light of the fact that he is selfrepresented. See Gordon v. Leek, 574 F.2d 1147, 1151 (4th Cir. 1978).
Defendant Oliver argues that Thornton's claims are subject to dismissal. She argues that
Thornton: (I) has failed to exhaust his administrative remedies under the BCDC's grievance
procedure; and (2)
has failed to set out factual allegations linking Defendant Oliver to the
alleged deprivations of which he complains. Thornton does not refute either argument.
Defendants argue that Plaintiff s claims are barred due to' his failure to exhaust his
See ECF NO.9 at Ex. A, Levin Aff.
Title 42 U.S.c.
provides that "[n]o action shall be brought with respect to prison conditions under
1983 of this
title, or any other Federal law by a prisoner confined in any jail, prison, or other correctional
facility until such administrative remedies as are available are exhausted."
The phrase "prison
"all inmate suits about prison life, whether they involve general
circumstances or particular episodes, and whether they allege excessive force or some other
wrong." Porter v. Nussle, 534 U.S. 516, 532 (2002).
Proper exhaustion of administrative
remedies dem an d s compliance with an
because "no adjudicative system
an other critical procedural ruJes
nctlOn effi t'
ec Ively without'
ure on the course of its proceed in "
Imposmg some orderly
Woodford v N
. go, 548 V.S. 81, 90-91 (2006)
un er !i 1997e(a) is not a jurisdicti'
Impose a heightened plead"
onal requIrement and does not
mg reqUlrement on the pnsoner.
d . .
Rather th f:'J
a mlfl1strative remedies is a' ffi
e aI ure to exhaust
n a IrmatIve defense to be pleaded and
Jones v. Bock, 549 V S 199 215
proven by Defendant(s). See
-216 (2007); Anderson v. XYZ CorrectIOnal Health Services
inc., 407 F.2d 674,682 (4th Cir. 2005).
fall under the exhaustion prerequisites
he can show that he has satisfied
9 1997e(a), and must
the administrative exhaustion requirement or
that Defendant has forfeited his right to raise non-exhaustion as a defense. See Chase v. Peay,
286 F.SupP. 2d 523, 528 (D. Md. 2003). It remains unrefuted that Thornton failed to exhaust his
administrative remedies regarding his conditions claims.
Further, the Court observes that Thornton has failed to demonstrate Assistant Warden
Oliver's personal involvement in the alleged deprivations. There are no allegations that she was
personally involved in the day-to-day conditions or care received at BCDC and Thornton has
provided no evidence demonstrating supervisory liability on her part, See Shaw v. Shroud, 13
FJd 791,799 (4th Cir. 1994).
Finally, the Court observes that under the Prison Litigation Reform Act (42 V.S.c.
a physical injury requirement is coextensive with the physical injury test. See Siglar
v. Hightower, 112 F .3d 191, 193-94 (5th Cir. 1997); see also Jones v. Price, 696 F. Supp.2d 618,
624 (N.D. W. Va. 2010) (no federal civil action may be brought by a prisoner confined in ajail,
prison, or other correctional facility, for mental or emotional injury suffered while in custody
without a prior showing of physical injury). It is the nature of the relief sought, however, and not
the underlying substantive violation that controls this limitation on recovery in
J 997e( e).
Insofar as Thornton seeks damages, he has failed to show real and actual physical injuries
from the alleged deprivations. Therefore, he does not satisfy 42 U.S.c.
physical injury requirements.
For the aforementioned reasons, Defendant Oliver's court-construed motion for summary
judgment will be granted. The Complaint against Defendants "Unknown Officers" is dismissed.'
A separate Order follows dismissing the Complaint.
Date: July", 2014
RICHARD D. BENNETT
UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
Thornton has listed unidentified correctional officers as Defendants in the caption of his
Complaint. Such a claim is factually deficient under both Bell At/anlic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544
(2007), and Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662 (2009). A Plaintiff may name "John Doe" as a Defendant
when the identity of a Defendant is unknown. However, a district court is not obligated "to wait
indefinitely for the Plaintiff to take steps to identify and serve... unknown defendants." Figueroa v.
Rivera, 147 F.3d 77, 83 (1st Cir. 1998). Thornton has had sufficient time to identify all the Defendants in
this action yet has failed to specifically identify any "Unknown" Defendants. Therefore, Defendants
"Unknown Officers" are dismissed from this action.
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