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Fox v. Barnes

United States District Court, M.D. North Carolina

July 12, 2018

ISAIAH FOX, Plaintiff,
v.
B.J. BARNES and OFFICER C. CARY, Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND RECOMMENDATION OF UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE

          Joe L. Webster United States Magistrate Judge.

         Plaintiff Isaiah Fox, a prisoner of the State of North Carolina, seeks monetary damages pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 for alleged federal constitutional violations related to an incident that occurred while in custody as a pre-trial detainee. (See Amended Compl, Docket Entry 21.) Defendants, Sheriff B.J. Barnes and Officer C. Cary (collectively, "GCSO Defendants"), have filed a Motion to Dismiss Plaintiffs Amended Complaint. (Docket Entry 22.) For the reasons stated herein, the Court recommends that this motion be converted to a motion for summary judgment, and be granted.

         I. BACKGROUND

         In his Amended Complaint, Plaintiff alleges that on March 21, 2016, he was injured as a result of an incident at the Guilford County Jail ("Greensboro Jail"). (Am. Compl., Docket Entry 21.) Plaintiff states that Defendant Cary "came to let Plaintiff out of cell for and [sic] hour recreation [and] shower." (Id. at 1.) Before walking downstairs to the lower tier, Plaintiff states that Defendant Cary "placed [P]laintiff in handcuffs, placed [a] chain around the waist of [P]laintiff [and] shackles on [P]laintiff['s] ankles." (Id. at 2.) Plaintiff alleges that he warned Defendant Cary that jail officers are required to provide adequate safety to pre-trial detainees in such situations and that Defendant Cary responded, "[d]on't tell me how to do my job." (Id.) Plaintiff states that Defendant Cary failed to assist Plaintiff and that Defendant Cary did not provide adequate safety to Plaintiff, resulting in a violation of his Due Process rights under the Fourteenth Amendment. (Id.)

         Plaintiff also asserts that, as he was walking down the stairs, he stated that his restraints were "too tight," "unfit," and "uncomfortable" to which Defendant Cary replied that the restraints were not too tight. (Id. at 3.) As such, Defendant Cary was aware of the risk of harm and showed deliberate indifference to this harm. (Id. at 2-3.) As he was walking down the stairs, Plaintiff "loss [sic] balance, slipped [and] fell downstairs, as a result of defendant(s) not taking full responsibility in providing Plaintiff adequate safety." (Id. at 3.) He immediately "felt [a] sharp pain in [his] lower back," that he claims is now permanent, as well as pain and swelling of his left leg, ankle and arm that lasted for several days. (Id.)

         Plaintiff alleges that the incident could have been prevented if Defendant Barnes "would have upheld [and] obeyed Policy, N.C. [General Statutes], [and the] 14th Amendment by enforcing policy," and "training staff adequately to be aware of the risk of harm [and] to keep inmates safe." (Id.) In his prayer for relief, Plaintiff asks for compensatory damages from GCSO Defendants in the amount of $350, 000 "jointly and severally" or $175, 000 against each Defendant. (Id. at 4.)

         As to the alleged incident, Plaintiff states that he submitted grievances to jail officials on March 24, 2016 and April 18, 2016. (Id.) He also makes reference to a Guilford County Sheriffs Office Detention Bureau Inmate Request Form ("Inmate Request Form"), dated September 25, 2016, in which Plaintiff describes the alleged events of March 21, 2016 and which Plaintiff captions "Grievance About a Complaint." (Id.; see also Docket Entry 2 at 8.) Plaintiff states that he never received a response to the Inmate Request Form. (Am. Compl. at 4.)

         GCSO Defendants filed their Motion to Dismiss the Amended Complaint on October 11, 2017. (Docket Entry 23.) Defendants included affidavits and other attachments in support of their filings. (Docket Entries 23-1, 23-2, 23-3, 23-4.) On October 30, 2017, Plaintiff filed a document, with an attached affidavit from another inmate, which the Court construes as an opposition brief in response to Defendants' Motion to Dismiss.[1] (Docket Entry 26.) Defendants thereafter filed a reply. (Docket Entry 27.) On June 5, 2018, this Court issued an order giving all parties notice of the Court's intention to consider construing Defendants' Motion to Dismiss as a motion for summary judgment solely on the issue of whether Plaintiff exhausted administrative remedies. (Docket Entry 29.) After receiving additional time to submit any other material on this issue (id.), Plaintiff filed a supplemental response on June 27, 2018. (Docket Entry 30.) Defendants filed an objection and reply to Plaintiffs response on July 5, 2018. (Docket Entry 32.)

         II. DISCUSSION

         A. Defendants' Motion to Dismiss Should be Converted to a Motion for Summary Judgment.

         Pursuant to Rule 12(d), when matters outside the pleadings are submitted with a motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted, "the motion must be treated as one for summary judgment under Rule 56." Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(d) (2017); Gay v. Wall, 761 F.2d 175, 177 (4th Or. 1985). Furthermore, "[a]ll parties must be given reasonable opportunity to present all material that is pertinent to the motion." Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(d). When determining the requirements for the term "reasonable opportunity", the Fourth Circuit has held that all parties be given '"some indication by the court . . . that it is treating the 12(b)(6) motion as a motion for summary judgment,' with the consequent right in the opposing party to file counter affidavits or pursue reasonable discovery." Johnson v. RAC Corp., 491 F.2d 510, 513 (4th Or. 1974) (quoting Dale v. Hahn, 440 F.2d 633, 638 (2d Cir. 1971)). "Once notified, a party must be afforded a 'reasonable opportunity for discovery' before a Rule 12(b)(6) motion may be converted and summary judgment granted." Gay, 761 F.2d at 177; see also Johnson, 491 F.2d at 515. "Converting a motion to dismiss into a motion for summary judgment... applies only to a motion made pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6)." Wilson-Cook Med., Inc. v. Wilson, 942 F.2d 247, 252 (4th Cir. 1991).

         Here, both parties submitted affidavits for the Court's consideration regarding GCSO Defendants' motion to dismiss. After the Court placed the parties on notice of its intent to construe GCSO Defendants' motion to dismiss as a motion for summary judgment solely on the issue of exhaustion of administrative remedies, Plaintiff filed a supplemental response brief asserting that he recently submitted several requests for grievance forms and was denied. (Docket Entry 30.) Plaintiff attached several Inmate Request Forms to support this assertion. (Id. at 2-7.) Considering that both parties have submitted documents outside the Complaint and Plaintiff has been given a reasonable opportunity to present material relevant to the issue of exhaustion of his administrative remedies, the undersigned finds that GCSO Defendants' motion to dismiss should be converted to a motion for summary judgment, and be granted.

         B. Plaintiff Did Not Exhaust His Administrative Remedies.

         Summary judgment is appropriate when there exists no genuine issue of material fact and the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c); Zahodnick v. Int'lBus. Machs. Corp., 135 F.3d 911, 913 (4th Or. 1997). The party seeking summary judgment bears the initial burden of coming forward and demonstrating the absence of a genuine issue of material fact. Temkin v. Frederick County Comm'rs,945 F.2d 716, 718 (4th Cir. 1991) (citing Celotex v. Catrett,477 U.S. 317, 322 (1986)). Once the moving party has met its burden, the non-moving party must then affirmatively demonstrate that there is a genuine issue of material fact which requires trial. Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. Ltd. v. Zenith Radio Corp.,475 U.S. 574, 587 (1986). There is no issue for trial unless there is sufficient evidence favoring the non-moving party for a fact finder to return a verdict for that party. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 250 (1986); Sylvia Dev. Corp. v. Calvert County, Md.,48 ...


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