Bennett v. Wolfe et al
MEMORANDUM. Signed by Judge James K. Bredar on 8/18/2017. (c/m 8/18/2017)(ko, Deputy Clerk)
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE DISTRICT OF MARYLAND
CHAUNCEY BENNETT, #259742
WARDEN JOHN WOLFE
LT. VALERIE STYLES
STEPHEN T. MOYER
CIVIL ACTION NO. JKB-17-302
Pending before the court are a motion to dismiss or, alternatively, for summary judgment
filed by defendants (ECF No. 17) and Chauncey Bennett‟s opposition. ECF No. 20. Upon
review of the pleadings, the court finds a hearing in this matter unnecessary. See Local Rule
105.6 (D. Md. 2016).
For the reasons stated below, defendants‟ dispositive motion IS
I. Complaint Allegations
Plaintiff Chauncey Bennett, an inmate currently confined at Eastern Correctional
Institution (“ECI”) in Westover, Maryland, filed this complaint alleging that when on ECI
“lockdown” he is not receiving his cardiovascular (“CV”) diet and is being “forced” to eat
regular meals. He further contends that while on lockdown he is not obtaining the proper
The Clerk shall amend the docket to reflect the correct names of defendants
White, Styles, and Trotl as Lt. Ruby White, Lt. Valerie Styles, and Lt. Troxell.
servings, sugar substitutes, or hot cereal suitable for someone on a CV diet. Bennett additionally
claims that he was retaliated against (given smaller food portions) for filing an administrative
remedy procedure (ARP) grievance against a dietary official and he was denied medical
treatment due to the negligence of a dietary official. ECF No. 1, pp. 4-7. He seeks punitive,
compensatory, and other damages, as well as double food portions, the honoring of his CV diet,
outside hospital examinations, and other miscellaneous relief.2 Id., p. 4.
In later filings construed as supplemental complaints, Bennett continues to complain
about the receipt of food that contains small portions, is unhealthful, and is non-compliant with
his CV diet. ECF Nos. 5-7, 9-10, 13, 15, & 19.
II. Dispositive Responses
Defendants acknowledge that Bennett was placed on a CV diet by the medical provider.
ECF No. 17-2, pp. 2-5.3 They assert that the CV diet is designed to provide less fat, sodium, and
cholesterol than regular diets.
Certain foods are prohibited, including but not limited to
commercial soups, bouillon cubes, salted snacks, chili sauce, pickles, seasoning salts, all canned,
salted, or smoked meats or processed lunch meats, food in brine, commercially baked products
or pastries, chocolate, fatty meat, regular peanut butter, processed cheese and cheese spreads,
potato chips, candy containing nuts, and canned baked beans. Defendants affirm that Bennett‟s
CV diet allows all cereal, sugar, jam, and jelly. ECF No. 17-3, Troxell Decl. and ECF No. 17-3,
In attachments to his complaint, Bennett presents ARPs filed regarding the denial
of medical treatment for a hot water burn, the small portions and non-dietary food received on
his meal trays, and a verbal threat from a correctional officer. He additionally filed letters,
incident reports, and matters of record concerning medical and job assignments. ECF No. 1-1.
All references to exhibits are made to the electronic pagination.
Defendants argue that from March 28, 2016, through May 8, 2017, Bennett placed
commissary orders for foods prohibited by his CV diet, including pre-packaged ramen soups,
food items in brine or hot sauces, and foods containing large amounts of sodium, i.e., pickles,
packaged chips, party mixes, and meats. Bennett‟s commissary orders additionally included
commercially baked pastries. ECF No. 17-4, Shumaker Decl. and ECF No. 17-4, pp. 2-35.
Defendants note that while Bennett complains about being served cereal, he is expressly
permitted to have cereal on the CV diet and he ordered cereal from the commissary. ECF
No. 17-3, pp. 7-8 and ECF No. 17-4, pp. 14 & 21.
Defendants affirm that records from 2016 and 2017 show that Bennett consistently
received his medically ordered CV diet and there were times when he chose not to present
himself for his diet, including occasions when he obtained food from the regular diet. ECF
No. 17-3, Troxell Decl. and ECF No. 17-3, pp.16-31. They maintain that on any occasion when
Bennett believed he was served a meal that was not in compliance with his CV diet, he had the
opportunity to notify personnel and to obtain a corrected food tray.4 ECF No. 17-3, Troxell
In his opposition, Bennett alleges that defendants‟ motion demonstrates “liability,
negligence, and retaliation.” ECF No. 20. He claims he has been able to order prohibited items
from the commissary since arriving at ECI. Bennett contends that he orders canned soups in
order to obtain fruits, as well as other healthful items. He asserts that he has no authority to
Defendants also respond to Bennett‟s secondary claims found in his ARPs. They
assert that he received treatment for an August 9, 2016, burn to his foot, he was terminated from
his job with the Dietary Department for cause, and the notices of infraction complained of were
not disputed by Bennett. ECF No. 17-2, pp. 6-11, ECF No. 17-5, Turner Decl., and ECF No. 174, pp. 36-58.
question staff and, as they are aware of his diet, they should ensure that inmates are fed in
accordance with their diet. He claims that while on lockdown he was deprived of medical diet
bags and a hot meal on the third day of the lockdown. ECF No. 20.
III. Standard of Review
Motion for Summary Judgment
Because defendants have filed and relied on declarations and exhibits attached to their
dispositive motion, their motion shall be treated as a summary judgment motion. Summary
Judgment is governed by Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 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).
“The 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, 525 (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)).
In Anderson, 477 U.S. at 249, the Supreme Court explained that in considering a motion
for summary judgment, the “judge‟s function is not himself to weigh the evidence and determine
the truth of the matter but to determine whether there is a genuine issue for trial.”
about a material fact is genuine “if the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a
verdict for the nonmoving party.” Id. at 248. Thus, “the judge must ask himself not whether he
thinks the evidence unmistakably favors one side or the other but whether a fair-minded jury
could return a verdict for the [nonmoving party] on the evidence presented.” Id. at 252.
The moving party bears the burden of showing that there is no genuine issue as to any
material fact. No genuine issue of material fact exists if the nonmoving party fails to make a
sufficient showing on an essential element of his or her case as to which he or she would have
the burden of proof. See Catrett, 477 U.S. at 322-23. Therefore, on those issues on which the
nonmoving party has the burden of proof, it is his or her responsibility to confront the summary
judgment motion with an affidavit or other similar evidence showing that there is a genuine issue
Under Shaw v. Stroud, 13 F.3d 791 (4th Cir. 1994), supervisory liability may attach under
42 U.S.C. § 1983 if a plaintiff can establish three elements: (1) the supervisor had actual or
constructive knowledge that his subordinate was engaged in conduct that posed “a pervasive and
unreasonable risk” of constitutional injury to citizens like the plaintiff, (2) the supervisor‟s
response to that knowledge was so inadequate as to show “deliberate indifference to or tacit
authorization of the alleged offensive practices,” and (3) an “affirmative causal link” between the
supervisor‟s inaction and the particular constitutional injury suffered by the plaintiff. Id. at 799
No allegation demonstrates the supervisory liability of Wardens Wolfe and Foxworth or
Secretary Moyer with regard to the dietary concerns at issue here. See Shaw, 13 F.3d at 799.
Indeed, aside from Bennett‟s self-serving and conclusional statements, there is no evidence that
these administrators had actual or constructive knowledge of alleged problems with the
distribution of Bennett‟s CV diet meals or that any delay in correcting the problem posed “a
pervasive and unreasonable risk” of constitutional injury to Bennett. The liability of supervisory
officials “is not based on ordinary principles of respondeat superior, but rather is premised on a
recognition that supervisory indifference or tacit authorization of subordinates‟ misconduct may
be a causative factor in the constitutional injuries they inflict on those committed to their care.”
Bayard v. Malone, 268 F.3d 228, 235 (4th Cir. 2001) (citing Slakan v. Porter, 737 F.2d 368, 372
(4th Cir. 1984)). Bennett‟s claim with regard to the Wardens and Secretary are based on their
supervisory positions. They do not appear to have been personally involved in the issues
presented here or had actual or constructive knowledge thereof. Accordingly, Wardens Wolfe
and Foxworth and Secretary Moyer are entitled to summary judgment as a matter of law.
The court shall next examine whether summary judgment in favor of the individual
defendant correctional officers would be appropriate.
In Farmer v. Brennan, 511 U.S. 825 (1994) the Supreme Court stated that the Eighth
Amendment imposes a duty on prison officials to provide inmates with “adequate food.”
Farmer, 511 U.S. at 832. Several Circuits have reasoned that this duty includes an obligation to
provide a medically appropriate diet when necessary. The Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals has
held that the Eighth Amendment requirement that inmates receive special diets when medically
appropriate is not without limit and that prison officials may comply with this directive when
they furnish food that a complaining inmate is able to eat without compromising his health. See
Scinto v. Stansberry, 841 F.3d 219, 233-34 (4th Cir. 2016). The Tenth Circuit has stated that the
Eighth Amendment “requires officials to provide inmates with a special diet if such an
accommodation is medically necessary.” Frazier v. Dep’t of Corr., 125 F.3d 861, 1997 WL
603773 at *1 (10th Cir. 1997) (unpublished) (citing Byrd v. Wilson, 701 F.2d 592, 595 (6th Cir.
The Seventh Circuit has noted that the Eighth Amendment “assures prisoners a
medically and nutritionally sound diet.” Jackson v. Hanlon, 923 F.2d 856, 1991 WL 3056 at *1
(7th Cir. 1991) (unpublished).
The Fourth Circuit has recognized the well-established principal that “inmates must be
provided nutritionally adequate food, „prepared and served under conditions which do not
present an immediate danger to the health and well being of the inmates who consume it.‟”
Shrader v. White, 761 F.2d 975, 986 (4th Cir. 1985) (citations omitted); French v. Owens, 777
F.2d 1250, 1255 (7th Cir. 1985). The failure to meet an inmate‟s basic nutritional needs is
considered cruel and unusual punishment because the inmate relies on prison officials to provide
Assuming a diet‟s nutritional adequacy, prison officials have the discretion to control its
contents. See Divers v. Dep't of Corrs., 921 F.2d 191, 196 (8th Cir. 1990). Although Bennett
complains that the food at ECI was nutritionally inadequate, he presents no factual allegations
supportive of this conclusional assumption. He does not allege that he became sick from the
food served to him, that he lost a significant amount of weight, that it was spoiled, or that the
number, portions, or frequency of meals caused a documented deterioration of his physical or
The exhibits show that Bennett was placed on a CV diet, which has been routinely
renewed on an annual basis. Defendants observe that he has failed to establish that the alleged
variance from the CV diet was a serious deprivation of his basic needs as (1) the evidence
demonstrates that he did not adhere to the CV diet himself as he ordered multiple commissary
items with high levels of sodium and fat; (2) his being served hot cereal, jelly, and sugar did not
violate his food regimen because they are expressly permitted on the CV diet; and
(3) defendants‟ exhibits show that steps were taken to provide Bennett items on his CV diet and
with few exceptions (when Bennett did not present himself to receive his CV diet), he received
his CV diet. The court concurs. Bennett has not shown an objective injury arising from the
alleged non-compliance. No Eighth Amendment violation has been demonstrated.5 As such,
defendants are entitled to summary judgment.6 A separate Order follows.
Date: August 18, 2017
James K. Bredar
United States District Judge
As no Eighth Amendment claim has been demonstrated, the court need not
address the defendants‟ immunity or administrative exhaustion arguments.
A “complaint which alleges retaliation in wholly conclusory terms may safely be
dismissed on the pleadings alone.” French v. Smith, Civil Action No. CCB-08-3476, 2012 WL
831881, *6 (D Md. 2012), aff’d, 475 F. App‟x 879 (4th Cir. 2012) (internal quotation marks and
citations omitted). Bennett has no constitutional right to prison employment and has no liberty
interest in being assigned to a specific job. See Sandin v. Conner, 515 U.S. 472, 484 (1995);
Penrod v. Zavaras, 94 F.3d 1399, 1407 (10th Cir. 1996); Frazier v. Coughlin, 81 F.3d 313 (2d
Cir. 1996) (per curiam); Bulger v. United States Bureau of Prisons, 65 F.3d 48, 49 (5th Cir.
1995); see also Olim v. Wakinekona, 461 U.S. 238, 244-45 (1983); Paoli v. Lally, 812 F.2d 1489,
1492-93 (4th Cir. 1987). Consequently, Bennett‟s removal from his dietary job does not violate
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