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Stanley Earl Corbett, Jr v. Gerald J. Branker and Lieutenant Robin Shelton

September 5, 2012



This matter comes before the court on the motion for summary judgment pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56 (DE # 33) of defendants Gerald J. Branker ("Branker") and Robin Shelton ("Shelton"), to which plaintiff responded. Also before the court is plaintiff's motion to compel discovery (DE # 41). Defendants did not respond to plaintiff's motion. In this posture, these matters are ripe for adjudication. For the following reasons, the court grants defendants' motion, but denies plaintiff's motion.


On August 5, 2010, plaintiff filed this pro se complaint pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, alleging defendants acted with deliberate indifference to his serious medical needs in violation of the Eighth Amendment to the United States Constitution. Defendants thereafter filed motion for summary judgment, arguing that plaintiff's Eighth Amendment claim is without merit. Alternatively, defendants argue they are entitled to qualified immunity. Plaintiff subsequently filed a motion to compel discovery and a response to defendants' motion for summary judgment.


The undisputed facts are as follows. Plaintiff, a state inmate, is incarcerated at Central Prison in unit one. On December 2, 2005, plaintiff was diagnosed with bursitis in his left shoulder. Plaintiff re-injured his shoulder during a "use of force" incident on October 19, 2008, and has experienced shoulder pain since that date. Compl. 3. Prison staff has treated plaintiff for his shoulder injury with pain medication and physical therapy.

Central Prison policy states that inmates in unit one may not take items into the recreation cells. Shelton Aff. ¶ 5. On January 21, 2010, plaintiff was seen by physical therapist Wayne Gray ("Gray"), who provided him the following instruction: "IM needs to exercise his left shoulder with the yellow band I supplied today. He should be allowed to exercise as I instructed 10 minutes per day." Pl.'s Resp. Ex. A. Plaintiff states that Gray instructed him to "tie the band to a pole or the bars" and to "stretch it." Compl. 4. Plaintiff claims that performing the prescribed exercises prevents his shoulder from becoming stiff.

Since January 21, 2010, plaintiff has repeatedly asked unit one staff at Central Prison to permit him ten (10) minutes of exercise outside of his cell on the two days when he is not scheduled for recreation. Plaintiff also asked that he be permitted to bring his exercise band to the recreational area on the days that he is scheduled to have one hour of recreation. Plaintiff filed a grievance complaining that staff would not allow him to bring his physical therapy rubber band to the recreation cells. Shelton Aff. ¶ 4 and Ex. A. In response to plaintiff's grievance, Shelton asked Gray whether plaintiff could conduct his exercises in his cell. Id. ¶ 6. Gray responded that "'Inmate Corbett could complete his therapy in his cell using his plastic band.' " Id. Shelton then responded to plaintiff's grievance and informed him that his therapy could be completed in his cell. Id. and Ex.


Plaintiff contends that defendants created a policy that allowed the unconstitutional conduct of staff. Plaintiff additionally states that his inability to perform his exercises has caused him pain and could result in the development of arthritis in his left shoulder. Finally, plaintiff states that defendants' conduct has caused him to experience emotional and mental distress.


A. Motion for Continuance

Before addressing defendants' motion for summary judgment, the court considers plaintiff's request for a continuance to conduct discovery pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56(d) (formerly Rule 56(f)).*fn1 "As a general rule, summary judgment is appropriate only after adequate time for discovery." Evans v. Techs. Applications & Serv. Co., 80 F.3d 954, 961 (4th Cir. 1996) (quotation omitted). Rule 56(d) provides:

If a non-movant shows by affidavit or declaration that, for specified reasons, it cannot present facts essential to justify its opposition, the court may: (1) defer considering the motion or deny it; (2) allow time to obtain affidavits or declarations or to take discovery; or (3) issue any other appropriate order.

Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(d). Thus, Rule 56(d) allows a court to delay ruling on a motion for summary judgment if the nonmoving party requires discovery to identify "facts essential to justify the party's opposition." Crawford-El v. Britton, 523 U.S. 574, 599 n.20 (1998) (quotation omitted). However, "Rule 56(d) affidavits cannot simply demand discovery for the sake of discovery." Young v. UPS, 2011 WL 665321, *20 (D.Md. Feb. 14, 2011). "Rather, to justify a denial of summary judgment on the grounds that additional discovery is necessary, the facts identified in a Rule 56 affidavit must be essential to [the] opposition. " Scott v. Nuvell Fin. Servs., 2011 WL 2222307, *4 (D. Md. June 7, 2011) (quotation and citation omitted). A non-moving party's Rule 56(d) request for discovery is properly denied "where the additional ...

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