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Lancaster v. USP Hazelton

United States District Court, N.D. West Virginia, Martinsburg

August 11, 2017

USP HAZELTON, Defendant.



         This matter is before the Court for consideration of a Report and Recommendation (“R&R”) issued by United States Magistrate Judge Robert W. Trumble. Pursuant to the Court's Local Rules, this action was referred to Magistrate Judge Trumble for submission of an R&R. On May 18, 2017, Magistrate Judge Trumble issued his R&R, recommending that this Court grant the Defendant's motion to dismiss or, in the alternative, for summary judgment [ECF No. 35] and deny the Plaintiff's motions for outside medical assessment [ECF No. 53] and to contact prisoners in other facilities [ECF No. 55]. For the following reasons, the Court ADOPTS the R&R IN PART.

         I. Standard of Review

          Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(C), this Court is required to make a de novo review of those portions of the magistrate judge's findings to which timely objection is made. However, this Court is not required to review, under a de novo or any other standard, the factual or legal conclusions of the magistrate judge to which no objections are made. Thomas v. Arn, 474 U.S. 140, 150 (1985). Failure to timely file objections constitutes a waiver of de novo review and a plaintiff's right to appeal this Court's order. 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(C); Snyder v. Ridenour, 889 F.2d 1363, 1366 (4th Cir. 1989); United States v. Schronce, 727 F.2d 91, 94 (4th Cir. 1984).

         In this case, objections to the R&R were due within fourteen days after being served with a copy of the same. See 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(C); Fed.R.Civ.P. 72(b)(2); ECF No. 72 at 22. Service of the R&R was accepted on May 23, 2017. ECF No. 74. On June 5, 2017, this Court received a motion from the Plaintiff requesting additional time within which to file his objections. ECF No. 80. The Court granted the Plaintiff's request in part and ordered him to file any objections on or before July 14, 2017.[1] ECF No. 81. The Plaintiff failed to timely file objections.[2] Accordingly, this Court will review the R&R for clear error.

         II. Background

         On March 22, 2016, the Court received a letter from the pro se Plaintiff alleging personal injury and cruel and unusual punishment occurring while he was incarcerated at United States Penitentiary Hazelton in Bruceton Mills, West Virginia. ECF No. 1. Upon receipt, the case was docketed pursuant to the Federal Tort Claims Act (“FTCA”) and the Plaintiff was directed to complete the court-approved form. ECF No. 2. On June 20, 2016, the Plaintiff filed his complaint in which he alleges assault and medical negligence by Bureau of Prisons (“BOP”) employees. Specifically, the Plaintiff states that on June 5, 2014, while he was being escorted to his cell with his hands cuffed behind his back, Correctional Officer Derek Artrip smashed his face into the wall, chipping four of his front teeth and causing one to fall out. ECF No. 16 at 6, 9. The Plaintiff advises that, upon impact, his forehead split open and he lost consciousness. ECF No. 16 at 6, 9. He then claims that he was slammed onto the floor and, as a result, suffered injury to his lower back. ECF No. 16 at 9. In addition to his back injury, the Plaintiff alleges that the incident caused him to suffer a concussion, severe headaches, blurry vision and dizziness for over forty-eight months. ECF No. 16 at 6, 9.

         On January 5, 2017, the Defendant filed its motion to dismiss or, in the alternative, for summary judgment, in which it argues it is immune from suit as to the Plaintiff's assault and battery claims for two main reasons: correctional officers are privileged to use force as articulated under BOP Program Statement 5566.06 and ordinary diligence, as required by 18 U.S.C. § 4042, was observed during the June 5, 2014 encounter. Additionally, the Defendant argues that the Plaintiff's medical negligence claim should be dismissed for failure to file a screening certificate of merit in accordance with West Virginia Code § 55- 7B-6. In support of its motion, the Government filed declarations from Lieutenant Stephen Trent, Officer Artrip and Registered Nurse Gary Hileman as well as a BOP medical record from June 5, 2014, immediately following the incident. ECF Nos. 36-1, 36-2, 36-3. In his response to the Defendant's motion, the Plaintiff provides four pages of dental records, four pages of medical records which were not previously submitted, and sixty-four handwritten pages of his own account of his injuries and the events occurring on June 5, 2014.[3]

         III. Applicable Law

         A responsive pleading captioned as a motion to dismiss or, in the alternative, for summary judgment puts all parties on notice that a court could construe the motion either way. Laughlin v. Metro. Wash. Airports Auth., 149 F.3d 253, 260 (4th Cir. 1998). “If, on a motion under Rule 12(b)(6) . . . matters outside the pleadings are presented to and not excluded by the court, the motion must be treated as one for summary judgment under Rule 56.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(d). However, if the Court considers documents attached to the complaint or the motion to dismiss that are “integral to the complaint and authentic, ” the pleading may still be treated as a motion to dismiss. Sec'y of State for Def. v. Trimble Navigation Ltd., 484 F.3d 700, 705 (4th Cir. 2007) (citing Blankenship v. Manchin, 471 F.3d 523, 526 n.1 (4th Cir. 2006)).

         Summary judgment is appropriate when there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322 (1986). It is also appropriate “when the nonmovant cannot prevail as a matter of law, even on its view of the facts and evidence.” Ateliers de la Haute-Garonne v. Broetje Automation USA Inc., 717 F.3d 1351, 1356 (Fed. Cir. 2013) (first citing Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 587 (1986); then citing Allied Colloids, Inc. v. Am. Cyanamid Co., 64 F.3d 1570, 1573 (Fed. Cir. 1995)). Once the moving party identifies evidence that demonstrates there is no issue for trial, the burden shifts to the nonmoving party, who “must do more than simply show that there is some metaphysical doubt as to the material facts, ” Matsushita, 475 U.S. at 586, and validate that there is indeed a genuine issue for trial, see Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c); Celotex, 477 U.S. at 323-25; Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986).

         IV. Discussion

         Because the R&R considers evidence, including declarations, medical records and video surveillance, which is not integral to the Plaintiff's complaint, see Trimble Navigation Ltd., 484 F.3d at 705, the Court concludes, and the reasoning contained within the magistrate judge's report confirms, that the Defendant's motion was construed as one for summary judgment. See Zuspan v. O'Brien, Civil Action No. 1:13CV167, 2013 WL 6805574, at *2 (N.D. W.Va. Dec. 20, 2013) (considering matters outside the pleadings and converting defendant's motion to one for summary judgment). This Court likewise has reviewed the issues presented in this case in accordance with the summary judgment standard and finds that the Defendant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law regarding the Plaintiff's claims of assault and battery and, additionally, that dismissal of the Plaintiff's medical negligence claim is warranted.

         A. Findings and Recommendations of ...

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