Thomas v. Eastern Correctional Institution
MEMORANDUM OPINION. Signed by Judge George Levi Russell, III on 7/27/2017. (c/m 7/27/17 bas, Deputy Clerk)
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE DISTRICT OF MARYLAND
INSTITUTION, et al.,
Civil Action No. GLR-16-2609
In this 42 U.S.C. § 1983 civil rights action, Plaintiff Guy Thomas alleges that Defendants
Eastern Correctional Institution (“ECI”) and ECI Correctional Officer Dominick Timmons1
(“Officer Timmons”) violated his federal constitutional rights when they (1) failed to protect him
from harm from fellow inmates and then (2) denied him constitutionally adequate medical care
for his resulting injuries. Defendants filed a Motion to Dismiss or, in the Alternative, for
Summary Judgment. (ECF No. 14). Thomas filed a Response in Opposition (ECF No. 16), to
which Defendants filed a Reply (ECF No. 18). The Court finds no hearing necessary to resolve
the pending Motion. See Local Rule 105.6 (D.Md. 2016). For the reasons stated below, the
Court will grant the Motion.2
On July 18, 2016, Thomas sued ECI only, alleging that on June 18, 2016 at
approximately 6:00 p.m., he was at recreation when unknown inmates assaulted and stabbed him
in his arm, back, and chest (the “Incident”). (Compl. at 3, ECF No. 1). Thomas asserts that the
The docket shall be amended to include Officer Timmons’s first name.
The Court will also grant nunc pro tunc Defendants’ Motion for an Extension of Time
to Answer the Complaint (ECF No. 13).
Incident occurred while Officer Timmons was “working the tier.” (Id.). On August 3, 2016, the
Court directed Thomas to supplement the Complaint to name the individual responsible for
failing to protect him and to provide supporting details. (ECF No. 4). Thomas filed an Amended
Complaint in which he added Officer Timmons as a defendant. (Am. Compl., ECF No. 6).
Thomas alleges that Officer Timmons escorted him to the medical department at
approximately 11:00 p.m. on June 18, 2016. (Id. at 2). Thomas asserts that the nurses were
careless and unhelpful, only placing a bandage on his arm. (Id.). Thomas alleges that he
received no stitches, pain medicine, or tetanus shot because a nurse was rushed due to a shift
(Compl. at 4; Am. Compl. at 2, 4). According to Thomas, when he awoke the
following morning, the bandage was soaked with blood and no one changed his dressing.
(Compl. at 4). Thomas asserts that he wrote sick-call slips but did not receive medical treatment.
(Id.). Thomas alleges that the Medical Department sent a nurse on July 13, 2016 to ask him to
sign a “waiver,”4 but he refused because he had not received treatment. (Compl. at 2, 4–5).
Thomas states that on June 27, 2016, he submitted an Administrative Remedy Procedure
(“ARP”) request. (Id. at 4). According to Thomas, he wrote in the ARP that he “did not seek
any medical treatment, that [he] was in pain, and that he was seeking an [sic] lawsuit.” (Id.). It
is unclear why Thomas’ states that he “did not seek any medical treatment” as this statement
appears to contradict his claims. The ARP reads:
I was sent to medical on 6/18/16 for getting stabbed. I was placed
in Bld. 5 without any bandages or ointment after nurses concealed
my wound. After showers, I have no type of medical treatment. I
put in sick calls but they got ignored. I’m seeking an [sic] lawsuit
due to the negligence.
Thomas does not name any medical providers as defendants.
The exact nature of the waiver is unstated.
(ARP ECI 1430-16, ECF No. 14-7 at 3).
After investigation, the Warden determined that Thomas’ allegations were unfounded and
dismissed the ARP on July 21, 2016. The Warden wrote:
Your request for Administrative Remedy has been investigated and
is hereby Dismissed; on 6/18/16, you were seen by nursing after
being stabbed. At this time an assessment was done. Per the
nurse’s documentation, you were uncooperative during the visit.
Upon examination, you were asked have you ever had a tetanus
shot. You replied “I don’t need it, I told you I fell on rocks.” You
had a steri strip and a pressure dressing applied at that time and
then released to custody.
Thomas neither appealed the Warden’s decision nor filed a grievance with the Inmate
Grievance Office (“IGO”). (Donnelly Decl,. ECF No. 14-8; Neverdon Decl., ECF No. 14-9).
On August 12, 2016, Thomas filed a second ARP request, ECI-1826-16, this time stating
that he had submitted “request slips” but received no response. Thomas also wrote in the ARP
that “a situation happened with me getting stabbed on 6-18-16. You wrote me back and
dismissed my A.R.P. stating that the nurse said I refused medical treatment. I never refused any
medical treatment. I have not yet gotten an answer or a response.” (ECF No. 16-1 at 1–2). The
ARP continued, “I am asking for the info of the nurse and c.o’s [sic] that were involved on that
night of 6/18/16.” (Id.). The ARP was dismissed for procedural reasons, referencing ECF 143016. Thomas neither appealed the disposition of the second ARP nor filed a grievance with the
IGO. (Donnelly Decl., ECF No. 14-8; Neverdon Decl., ECF No. 14-9). Thomas alleges that the
“prison” was aware he was filing a lawsuit and refused to identify the officer and the nurse to
“cover it up.” (Am. Compl. at 4–5).
Standard of Review
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 Dept., 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). This Rule provides that 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.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(d). The Court
“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.’” Wells-Bey v. Kopp, No.
ELH-12-2319, 2013 WL 1700927, at *5 (D.Md. Apr. 16, 2013) (quoting 5C Wright & Miller,
Federal Practice & Procedure § 1366, at 159 (3d ed. 2004, 2012 Supp.)).
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: notice and a
reasonable opportunity for discovery. See Greater Balt. Ctr. for Pregnancy Concerns, Inc. v.
Mayor of Balt., 721 F.3d 264, 281 (4th Cir. 2013). 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).
Ordinarily, summary judgment is inappropriate when “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 (4th Cir. 2011).
Yet, “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)). To raise sufficiently the
issue that more discovery is needed, the non-movant must typically file an affidavit or
declaration under Rule 56(d), explaining the “specified reasons” why “it cannot present facts
essential to justify its opposition.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(d). The Fourth Circuit has warned that it
“place[s] great weight on the Rule 56[d] affidavit.” Harrods, 302 F.3d at 244 (quoting Evans, 80
F.3d at 961). Indeed, failing to file a Rule 56(d) affidavit “is itself sufficient grounds to reject a
claim that the opportunity for discovery was inadequate.” Id. (quoting Evans, 80 F.3d at 961).
Here, the parties were on notice that the Court might resolve Defendants’ Motion under
Rule 56 because Defendants 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. Burnett does not make an informal request for discovery, let alone file a Rule
56(d) affidavit. Accordingly, the Court will construe Defendants’ Motion as a Rule 56 motion
for summary judgment.
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). 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).
nonmovant cannot create a genuine dispute of material fact “through mere speculation or the
building of one inference upon another.” 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–
Defendants argue that ECI cannot be sued under 42 U.S.C. §1983 for violations of
Thomas’ constitutional rights because ECI is not a “person” amenable to suit under §1983.
Defendants are correct. See Preval v. Reno, 57 F.Supp.2d 307, 310 (E.D.Va. 1999) (holding that
jails are not “persons” amenable to suit under 42 U.S.C. § 1983), aff’d in part and vacated in part
on other grounds, No. 99-6950, 2000 WL 20591 (4th Cir. 2000); see also Allison v. California
Adult Auth., 419 F.2d 822, 823 (9th Cir. 1969) (holding that a prison was not a “person” under
42 U.S.C. § 1983). Accordingly, the Court will enter summary judgment for ECI on all of
Officer Timmons moves for summary judgment on two alternative grounds: (1) Thomas
failed to exhaust administrative remedies; and (2) based on the undisputed record evidence,
Officer Timmons did not fail to protect Thomas from harm or act with deliberate indifference to
any serious medical needs. The Court reviews these grounds in turn.
Failure to Exhaust Administrative Remedies
Inmates are required to exhaust “such administrative remedies as are available” before
filing a lawsuit. 42 U.S.C. § 1997e(a), see also Ross v. Blake, _U.S._, 136 S.Ct. 1850, 1858
(2016) (An inmate “must exhaust available remedies, but need not exhaust unavailable ones.”).
The Prison Litigation Reform Act (“PLRA”) provides in pertinent part that:
No action shall be brought with respect to prison conditions under
section 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.
42 U.S.C. § 1997e(a).
The exhaustion requirement is one of “proper exhaustion of administrative remedies,
which ‘means using all steps that the agency holds out, and doing so properly (so that the agency
addresses the issues on the merits).’” Woodford v. Ngo, 548 U.S. 81, 93 (2006) quoting Pozo v.
McCaughtry, 286 F.3d 1022, 1024 (7th Cir. 2002) (emphasis in original). “[A]n administrative
remedy is not considered to have been available if a prisoner, through no fault of his own, was
prevented from availing himself of it.” Moore v. Bennette, 517 F.3d 717, 725 (4th Cir. 2008).
Exhaustion is mandatory. Ross, 136 S.Ct. at 1857; Jones v. Bock, 549 U.S. 199, 219
(2007). Indeed, a court may not excuse a failure to exhaust. Ross, 136 S.Ct. at 1856 (explaining
“[t]he mandatory ‘shall’ . . . normally creates an obligation impervious to judicial discretion”
(citing Miller v. French, 530 U.S. 327, 337 (2000))). The exhaustion requirement has three
purposes: it 1) allows a prison to address complaints about the program it administers before
being subjected to suit; 2) reduces litigation to the extent complaints are satisfactorily resolved;
and 3) prepares a useful record in the event of litigation. Jones, 549 U.S. at 219. An inmate’s
failure to exhaust administrative remedies is an affirmative defense. Accordingly, a defendant
bears the burden of proving that the inmate had remedies available to him of which he failed to
take advantage. Jones, 549 U.S. at 211–12, 216; Moore, 517 F.3d at 725.
In Maryland, filing a request for administrative remedy (“ARP”) with the warden of the
prison is the first of three steps in the ARP process. See Code of Md. Regs. (“COMAR”), tit. 12
§07.01.04. The ARP request must be filed within 30 days of the date on which the incident
occurred, or within 30 days of the date the inmate first gained knowledge of the incident or
injury giving rise to the complaint, whichever is later. COMAR, tit. 12 §07.01.05A. If the
request is denied, a prisoner has 30 calendar days to file an appeal with the Commissioner of
Correction. COMAR, tit. 12 §07.01.05C. If the appeal is denied, the prisoner has 30 days to file
a grievance with the Inmate Grievance Office (“IGO”). See Md. Corr. Servs., Code Ann. §§10206, 10-210; COMAR, tit. 12 §§ 07.01.03 and 07.01.05B.
Complaints are reviewed preliminarily by the IGO. See Md. Code Ann., Corr. Servs. §
10-207; COMAR, tit. 12 § 07.01.06A. If a complaint is determined to be “wholly lacking in
merit on its face,” the IGO may dismiss it without a hearing. Md. Code Ann. Corr. Servs. § 10207(b)(1); see COMAR, tit. 12 § 07.01.07B. The order of dismissal constitutes the final decision
of the Secretary of DPSCS for purposes of judicial review. Md. Code Ann., Corr. Servs. § 10207(b)(2)(ii). However, if a hearing is deemed necessary by the IGO, the hearing is conducted
by an administrative law judge with the Maryland Office of Administrative Hearings. See Md.
Code Ann. Cts. & Jud. Proc. § 10-208(c); COMAR tit. 12 § 07.01.07-.08. The conduct of such
hearings is governed by statute. See Md. Code Ann., Corr. Servs. § 10-208.
A decision of the administrative law judge denying all relief to the inmate is considered a
final agency determination. A decision concluding that the inmate’s complaint is wholly or
partly meritorious, however, constitutes a recommendation to the Secretary of DPSCS, who must
make a final agency determination within fifteen days after receipt of the proposed decision of
the administrative law judge. See Md. Code Ann., Corr. Servs. §10-209(b)–(c). The final agency
determination is subject to judicial review in Maryland State court, so long as the claimant has
exhausted his remedies. See id. §10-210.
Thomas does not dispute his failure to exhaust his administrative remedies.
acknowledges that he “went straight to file this case” because he “kept getting denied” or “no
answer” to his ARP requests. (ECF No. 16. at 2). It is undisputed that Thomas neither appealed
the Warden’ denial of his two ARPs nor filed a grievance with the IGO. (Donnelly Decl. ECF
No. 14-8; Neverdon Decl. ECF No. 14-9). Thomas does not argue that the ARP process was
unavailable to him. And, what is more, Thomas’s ARPs fail to mention Officer Timmons, much
less assert that Officer Timmons failed to protect Thomas or denied him constitutionally
adequate medical care. The Court concludes, thus, that Officer Timmons is entitled to judgment
on all of Thomas’s claims because Thomas failed to exhaust administrative remedies.
Merits of § 1983 Claims
Even assuming Thomas exhausted administrative remedies, the Court concludes that
based on the undisputed record evidence, Officer Timmons would be entitled to judgment as a
matter of law that he did not fail to protect Thomas from harm or deny him constitutionally
adequate medical care.
Failure to Protect from Harm
To prevail on an Eighth Amendment claim from failure to protect from harm, an inmate
must establish that a defendant exhibited deliberate or callous indifference to a specific known
risk of harm. See Pressly v. Hutto, 816 F.2d 977, 979 (4th Cir. 1987). “Prison conditions may
be ‘restrictive and even harsh,’ but gratuitously allowing the beating or rape of one prisoner by
another serves no legitimate penologicial objective, any more than it squares with evolving
standards of decency. Being violently assaulted in prison is simply not part of the penalty that
criminal offenders pay for their offenses against society.” Farmer v. Brennan, 511 U.S. 825,
833–34 (1994) (citations omitted). “[A] prison official cannot be found liable under the Eighth
Amendment for denying an inmate humane conditions of confinement unless the official knows
of and disregards an excessive risk to inmate health or safety, the official must both be aware of
facts from which the inference could be drawn that a substantial risk of serious harm exists, and
he must also draw the inference.” Id. at 837; see also Rich v. Bruce, 129 F.3d 336, 339–40 (4th
Cir. 1997). “[N]ot every injury suffered by a prisoner at the hands of another translates into
constitutional liability for prison officials responsible for the victims safety.” Makdessi v. Fields,
789 F.3d 126, 133 (4th Cir. 2015).
In his declaration, Officer T. Ford, the officer-in-charge during the Incident, states that
although Officer Timmons was taken off his post for a temporary assignment on June 18, 2016
during the 3 pm to 11 pm shift, Officer Timmons was replaced by another officer so that the post
remained attended. (Ford Decl., ECF No. 14-3). Officer Timmons attests that he did not leave
his post unattended or have information that Thomas was at risk of attack by other inmates.
(Officer Timmons Decl. ¶¶ 10, 11, ECF No. 14-4).
Additionally, Susan Shumaker, ECI
Litigation Coordinator, declares that at the time of the alleged incident, Thomas had no known
enemies at ECI. (Shumaker Decl. ¶ 3, ECF No. 18-1).
Because it is undisputed that Officer Timmons was not present during the time of the
alleged incident and Officer Timmons has no information that Thomas was at risk of assault, the
Court concludes as a matter of law that Officer Timmons did not act with deliberate or callous
indifference to a specific known risk of harm to Thomas.
Denial of Medical Care
To prevail on an Eighth Amendment claim for denial of medical care, a plaintiff must
prove that the actions of the defendants or their failure to act amounted to deliberate indifference
to a serious medical need. See Estelle v. Gamble, 429 U.S. 97, 106 (1976); Jackson v. Lightsey,
775 F.3d 170, 178 (4th Cir. 2014). A serious medical need “ is one that has been diagnosed by a
physician as mandating treatment or one that is so obvious that even a lay person would easily
recognize the necessity for a doctor's attention.” Iko v. Shreve, 535 F.3d 225, 241 (4th Cir.
2008) (quoting Henderson v. Sheahan, 196 F.3d 839, 846 (7th Cir. 1999)).
indifference to a serious medical need requires proof that, objectively, the prisoner plaintiff was
suffering from a serious medical need and that, subjectively, members of the prison staff were
aware of the need for medical attention but failed either to provide it or ensure the needed care
was available. Farmer, 511 U.S. at 837. Prison officials are not liable for relying on the medical
recommendations of medical personnel. See Miltier v. Beorn, 896 F.2d 848, 854–55 (4th Cir.
Officer Timmons offers the following statements in his sworn declaration.
conducting rounds at approximately 10:45 pm, Officer Timmons observed Thomas sitting in his
cell with a bloody rag taped to his arm. (Officer Timmons Decl. ¶ 4). Officer Timmons then
escorted Thomas to ECI’s medical unit. (Id. ¶ 6). Officer Timmons was not involved in
Thomas’ medical treatment because he is unauthorized to provide medical care to inmates and
has no authority to direct medical staff to perform medical procedures or treatments. Officer
Timmons did not interfere with Thomas’ medical treatment. (Id. ¶¶ 9, 12). Thomas refused to
provide a statement, stating that he “fell on the rocks.” (Id. ¶ 7).
Thomas fails to refute Officer Timmons’ sworn statements that he was neither involved
in providing medical care after the alleged assault nor interfered with any medical care that ECI
medical personnel may have provided.
It is uncontroverted that upon observing Thomas’
injuries, Officer Timmons promptly escorted him to the medical unit. The Court concludes,
therefore, that Officer Timmons is entitled to judgment as a matter of law on Thomas’s claim for
denial of medical care.
For the foregoing reasons, the Court will construe Defendants’ Motion to Dismiss, or in
the Alternative, Motion for Summary Judgment (ECF No. 14) as a motion for summary
judgment, and GRANT it as to all claims against all Defendants. A separate Order follows.
Entered this 27th day of July, 2017
George Levi Russell, III
United States District Judge
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