Williams v. Chessnavage et al
MEMORANDUM OPINION. Signed by Judge James K. Bredar on 4/5/2017. (c/m 4/6/17)(kr2, Deputy Clerk)
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE DISTRICT OF MARYLAND
CURTIS E. WILLIAMS, #275-455
DR. KAHLID ELBEDAWI
Civil Action No. JKB-16-1226
Plaintiff Curtis E. Williams, presently confined at the Maryland Reception Diagnostic
Classification Center (“MRDCC”), filed a civil rights action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983,
seeking money damages against a Baltimore County Detention Center (“BCDC”) corrections
officer, Timothy Chesnavage, alleging use of excessive force during an incident on
December 10, 2015. (ECF 1 at p. 3.)1 Williams further claimed that after receiving treatment for
injury suffered during the incident, Dr. Kahlid Elbedawi, a BCDC physician, did not provide
necessary pain medication. (Id. at p. 4.)
On October 28, 2016, Williams was granted 21 days to complete a United States Marshal
service of process form to assist the Clerk in obtaining service of process on Dr. Elbedawi. (ECF
16.) Williams did not comply; accordingly, Dr. Elbedawai is dismissed without prejudice from
Defendant Chesnavage filed a motion to dismiss or, in the alternative, for summary
judgment (ECF 8) that was dismissed without prejudice, subject to renewal, upon submission of
an affidavit. Chesnavage has complied. (ECF 14.) Although Williams was informed on two
occasions pursuant to the dictates of Roseboro v. Garrison, 528 F.2d 309 (4th Cir. 1975), that he
This memorandum opinion references the pagination provided by the court‟s electronic docketing system.
was entitled to file written opposition to the motion or risk dismissal of his case without further
notice (ECF 12 and 15), Williams has failed to respond to the motion.
Standard of Review
Motion to Dismiss
In reviewing the complaint in light of a motion to dismiss pursuant to Federal Rule of
Civil Procedure 12(b)(6), the court accepts all well-pleaded allegations of the complaint as true
and construes the facts and reasonable inferences derived therefrom in the light most favorable to
the plaintiff. Venkatraman v. REI Sys., Inc., 417 F.3d 418, 420 (4th Cir. 2005) (citing Mylan
Labs., Inc. v. Matkari, 7 F.3d 1130, 1134 (4th Cir. 1993)); Ibarra v. United States, 120 F.3d 472,
473 (4th Cir. 1997). Rule 8(a)(2) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure requires only a “short
and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief.” Migdal v. Rowe
Price-Fleming Int’l Inc., 248 F.3d 321, 325-26 (4th Cir. 2001); see also Swierkiewicz v. Sorema
N.A., 534 U.S. 506, 513 (2002) (stating that a complaint need only satisfy the “simplified
pleading standard” of Rule 8(a)).
The Supreme Court of the United States has explained a “plaintiff‟s obligation to provide
the „grounds‟ of his „entitle[ment] to relief‟ requires more than labels and conclusions, and a
formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action will not do.” Bell Atl. Corp. v.
Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007) (alteration in original). Nonetheless, the complaint does not
need “detailed factual allegations” to survive a motion to dismiss. Id. at 555. Instead, “once a
claim has been stated adequately, it may be supported by showing any set of facts consistent with
the allegations in the complaint.” Id. at 563. To survive a motion to dismiss, “a complaint must
contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to „state a claim to relief that is plausible on its
face.‟” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 677-78 (2009) (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 570). “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.” Iqbal, 556
U.S. at 678. “But where the well-pleaded facts do not permit the court to infer more than the
mere possibility of misconduct, the complaint has alleged -- but it has not „show[n]‟ -- „that the
pleader is entitled to relief.‟” Id. at 679 (quoting Fed. R. Civ. P. 8(a)(2)).
Summary judgment is governed by Rule 56(a), which provides:
The court shall grant summary judgment 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.
The Supreme Court has clarified that this does not mean that any factual dispute will
defeat the motion:
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 (1986).
“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 former Fed. R. Civ. P.
56(e)). The court should “view the evidence in the light most favorable to . . . the nonmovant,
and draw all inferences in her favor without weighing the evidence or assessing the witnesses‟
credibility.” Dennis v. Columbia Colleton Med. Ctr., Inc., 290 F.3d 639, 644-45 (4th Cir. 2002).
The court must, however, also abide by the “affirmative obligation of the trial judge to prevent
factually unsupported claims and defenses from proceeding to trial.” Bouchat, 346 F.3d at 526
(internal quotation marks omitted) (quoting Drewitt v. Pratt, 999 F.2d 774, 778-79 (4th Cir.
1993), and citing Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323-24 (1986)).
Because Chesnavage‟s dispositive motion relies on exhibits outside the pleadings, it shall
be treated as a motion for summary judgment. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(d) (2017).
The constitutional protections afforded a pre-trial detainee as provided by the Fourteenth
Amendment are co-extensive with those provided by the Eighth Amendment.
See Bell v.
Wolfish, 441 U.S. 520, 535 (1979). “Due process rights of a pretrial detainee are at least as great
as the eighth amendment protections available to the convicted prisoner.” Hill v. Nicodemus,
979 F.2d 987, 991 (4th Cir. 1992) (citing Martin v. Gentile, 849 F.2d 863, 870 (4th Cir. 1988)).
The Supreme Court held in Kingsley v. Hendrickson that “the appropriate standard for a
pretrial detainee‟s excessive force claim is solely an objective one.” __ U.S. __, 135 S. Ct. 2466,
2473 (2015). It is enough that a pretrial detainee show that the “force purposely or knowingly
used against him was objectively unreasonable,” id., regardless of an officer‟s state of mind, id.
at 2472, cited in Dilworth v. Adams, 841 F.3d 246, 255 (4th Cir. 2016). Pursuant to Kingsley,
this court must consider whether under the “facts and circumstances” of this particular case, and
from the “perspective of a reasonable officer on the scene,” the force used against Williams was
objectively excessive. Kingsley, 135 S. Ct. at 2473.
In his unverified complaint, Williams claims that Chesnavage subjected him to excessive
force while Williams was detained at the Baltimore County Detention Center (BCDC) awaiting
trial. (ECF 1 at p. 3.) Williams claims he was fending off an attack at the hands of a fellow
detainee when Chesnavage subjected Williams to pepper spray and forcefully handcuffed him
behind his back, causing dislocation of Williams‟s shoulder requiring repair at a local hospital.
(Id. at pp. 3-4.)
Defendant Chesnavage and other corrections personnel present a different version of
events. In his unopposed motion, supported by affidavits under oath and verified business
records, Chesnavage asserts that at approximately 9:55 a.m. on December 10, 2015, Officer S.
Williams (hereinafter, “Officer Williams”) observed Curtis Williams and Martin Morgan holding
and striking each other with closed fists in a corner of inmate housing unit 4F. Officer Williams
called for all available officers and medical staff to report to the area over his radio and locked
down the housing unit. (ECF 14-2 at p. 1.) Corporal R. McDowell, Officer Cruz, and the
tactical team, consisting of Officers Jacob Bennett, Herman Curry, and Timothy Chesnavage,
responded and arrived at the incident at the same time. (ECF 14-6, McDowell Aff., p. 2.)
McDowell, Chesnavage, and Bennett approached Williams and Morgan, who continued to
actively strike each other. (ECF 14-4, Chesnavage Aff., p. 2.) McDowell ordered the two to
stop fighting, to no avail. (Id., p. 2.) McDowell grabbed Morgan and pulled him away from
Williams just as Chesnavage and Bennett both deployed pepper spray on both detainees. (ECF
14-5, p. 2.) McDowell ordered Morgan to lie face down and put his hands behind his back.
Morgan complied and was handcuffed. (ECF 14-6 at p. 3.) Chesnavage ordered Williams to
turn around and put his hands behind his back. Williams complied and was handcuffed behind
his back. (ECF 14-4 at p. 3.) Williams appeared to have two lacerations on his head that were
bleeding profusely. After he was evaluated and first aid was rendered by on-scene medical staff,
Williams was escorted to the medical section by Chesnavage and Officer Lovelist.
Williams was treated by Dr. Khalid El-Bedawi for a one-and-a-quarter inch laceration on the
right side of Williams‟s head which required three stitches and a three-and-a-half inch laceration
to his forehead, which required eight stitches. (ECF 14-1 at p. 1.) When he later complained to
McDowell of left shoulder pain caused by handcuffing, he was taken back to the medical
treatment room, where he was examined and transported to St. Joseph‟s Medical Center in
Towson, Maryland, to have the dislocation reduced. (ECF 14-6 at p. 4.)
The uncontroverted evidence demonstrates that Chesnavage deployed a burst of pepper
spray after Williams and Morgan failed to comply with lawful orders to stop fighting. Although
Williams deduces his shoulder dislocation occurred as a result of improper handcuffing, the
uncontroverted record and affidavit evidence demonstrate that the handcuffing occurred while
Williams was standing, and that Williams did not report the injury until after his initial medical
assessment and shower. Nothing suggests that Chesnavage‟s actions led to the injury. The use
of force was tempered and objectively reasonable under the circumstances.
Defendant Chesnavage‟s unopposed dispositive motion, construed as a motion for
summary judgment, is granted. A separate order follows.
April 5, 2017
James K. Bredar
United States District Judge
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