Karn v. PTS of Am., LLC

Docket NumberCase No.: GJH-16-3261
Decision Date11 March 2022
Citation590 F.Supp.3d 780
Parties William Jeffrey KARN, Plaintiff, v. PTS OF AMERICA, LLC, et al., Defendants.
CourtU.S. District Court — District of Maryland

Jay Paul Holland, Timothy Francis Maloney, Alyse Lauren Prawde, Joseph Greenwald and Laake PA, Lawrence Roger Holzman, The Holzman Law Firm, Greenbelt, MD, for Plaintiff.

Eric Matthew Rigatuso, Eccleston and Wolf PC, Hanover, MD, Harry Conrad Jones, Cole Schotz P.C., Baltimore, MD, for Defendant PTS of America, LLC.

James S. Liskow, DeCaro Doran Siciliano Gallagher and DeBlasis LLP, Bowie, MD, for Defendants Brevard Extraditions, LLC, James Lebron.


GEORGE J. HAZEL, United States District Judge In this action, Plaintiff William Jeffrey Karn brings constitutional deprivation and negligence claims stemming from an extradition performed by Defendants PTS of America, LLC, Brevard Extraditions, LLC, and Brevard employee James Lebron. See ECF No. 40. Defendants PTS, Brevard, and Lebron have filed a Joint Motion for Summary Judgment. ECF No. 112. Defendant Lebron has also filed a Motion for Summary Judgment as to Plaintiff's claims against him in particular. ECF No. 113. A hearing on the Motions is not necessary. See Loc. R. 105.6 (D. Md. 2021). For the reasons stated below, the Court will deny summary judgment as to Plaintiff's negligence claims against all Defendants. The Court will grant in part and deny in part summary judgment on Plaintiff's constitutional deprivation claims against Defendant Lebron.1


Defendants PTS and Brevard are private prisoner and pre-trial detainee transport companies. See ECF No. 118-7 at 3 (Caruso Dep.). At the relevant time, Brevard was a subsidiary of PTS. See id. PTS maintains contracts with state sheriff offices, including, as relevant here, the Horry County Sheriff's Office in South Carolina. Id. at 4. PTS and Brevard are paid fees to transport prisoners and detainees between jails and prisons across the country. Id. On or about December 9, 2015, Plaintiff Karn was arrested in Montgomery County, Maryland, for failure to timely pay child support in Horry County, South Carolina. See ECF No. 113-3 at 29 (Karn Dep.). Karn waived extradition to South Carolina. Id. at 28, 29. Karn was detained in Montgomery County for two weeks until his extradition. Id. at 17, 27. On December 23, 2015, Jorge Santiago, a PTS employee and non-party, and Defendant Lebron, a Brevard employee, arrived in a transport van to collect Plaintiff. ECF No. 113-3 at 36, 116; ECF No. 115-8 (Activities Log).

Over the course of nine days, Plaintiff was transported through Maryland, West Virginia, Kentucky, Tennessee, and South Carolina. ECF No. 118-7 at 4, 15–18, 21–23; ECF No. 115-8 at 3–6. The van stopped at various jail and prison facilities to pick up and drop off other detainees or prisoners along the way to Plaintiff's destination.

Id. Plaintiff reached the end of his journey, the J. Reuben Long Detention Center in Horry County, South Carolina, on December 31, 2015. ECF No. 113-3 at 127, 144; ECF No. 115-8 at 6. Defendants PTS and Brevard were paid $350 for transporting him. ECF No. 118-7 at 4.

A. Plaintiff's Allegations

Plaintiff Karn was transported from Maryland to South Carolina over the course of nine days. See ECF No. 118-1 at 8. Plaintiff attests that he endured a disturbing and dehumanizing experience in the custody of Defendants, which he supports with affidavits from fellow passengers on the van, see ECF No. 115-3 ¶ 39 (Spina Aff.); ECF No. 115-5 ¶ 17 (Loud Aff.).

When he was awaiting extradition in Maryland, Plaintiff was told that U.S. Marshals would transport him to South Carolina. ECF No. 113-3 at 28. Instead, on December 23, 2015, Santiago and Defendant Lebron arrived to transport him. Id. at 36; see also ECF No. 115-8 at 3. Santiago and Lebron transported Plaintiff from Montgomery County, Maryland to a jail in Christian County, Kentucky from December 23, 2015 through December 24, 2015. ECF No. 115-8 at 4.3

Plaintiff attests that, before first getting into the van, he was restrained in excessively tight handcuffs, which were not loosened for the entirety of the trip despite his frequent requests. See ECF No. 113-3 at 41, 42, 44. Plaintiff states that the tight handcuffs caused numbness, pain, and bruising during the trip. Id. Plaintiff attests that the van itself was overcrowded and filthy, a "cesspool" of human waste. Id. at 44, 73. When Plaintiff entered the van, around twelve people were already there, including a woman being held in a segregation cage. Id. at 49. Plaintiff was not sure if they were other pre-trial detainees, like himself, or if some were prisoners. Id. at 53. He asserts that at least some of the passengers were "hardened" criminals and were either charged with or convicted of serious crimes. Id.

The seating was on metal benches along the sides of the van, with no padding and no seatbelts. Id. at 35, 46. Plaintiff states that, while the van was already dirty when he entered, it increasingly filled up with human waste and trash over the course of the journey to Kentucky. See id. at 44, 74. Plaintiff describes "urine bottles rolling back and forth hitting the ... walls, pee on the floor, food flies. The flies would drive you crazy." Id. at 74.

Plaintiff claims that he and the other transportees were denied bathroom breaks and that Defendant Lebron and Santiago ordered the transportees to use plastic water bottles and bags as toilets instead. Id. at 59, 68, 70, 76. Plaintiff was also denied any opportunity to wash and, after one incident where he attempted to help another passenger use a bag as a toilet, he was covered in human waste. Id. at 56, 59, 68, 69. Plaintiff also says that he was denied adequate food and water, as the guards either did not buy enough food or his food was stolen by other passengers. Id. at 133. He complained to the guards about the lack of food and was told that it was "not [the guard's] problem." Id. at 133.

The van drove through the night, so there was no opportunity to sleep. Id. at 94. Plaintiff remained tightly chained and uncomfortable while sitting on the metal bench, and other passengers were often loud and aggressive. Id. Plaintiff claims that Defendant Lebron and Santiago took turns driving the van, and each drove dangerously and erratically. See id. at 189. Plaintiff asserts that he was "scared to death" by the excessive speeds and reckless driving and that he was frequently thrown off the bench. Id. Plaintiff claims that he was nauseated throughout the trip and vomited at one point. See id. at 79.

Plaintiff was assaulted by fellow passengers and subject to verbal abuse from both the other passengers and the guards. Id. at 67, 68, 117. Plaintiff states that at one point, after some passengers began to fight, both guards opened the back door and indiscriminately sprayed pepper spray at all the passengers. Id. at 117, 118. Plaintiff claims that he was not given water or medical attention afterwards. Id. Plaintiff also states that, when he was allowed off the van in West Virginia to use the restroom in a jail facility, he fell out of the van directly onto his shoulder and injured himself. Id. at 61, 62. Plaintiff had lost feeling in his legs from being cramped and restrained for so long. Id. One guard observed him and ordered him to get up, offering no help. Id. Plaintiff asserts that he still has pain in this shoulder. See id. at 158.

When Plaintiff got off the van at a "hub" facility in Christian County, Kentucky, on the afternoon of December 24, he states that his hands had "purple and blue rings around both wrists." Id. at 88.4 He was exhausted and filthy. See id. at 89. Plaintiff was processed into this hub facility, ECF No. 118-7 at 18, which is where he was held for several days before being picked up by a different van to continue to South Carolina, ECF No. 115-8 at 8. Plaintiff asserts that his family had no idea where he was, and he was not allowed to contact anyone. ECF No. 113-3 at 104.

On December 29, 2015, Plaintiff was picked up by guards King and Cabrera, non-parties here, who transported him to South Carolina. ECF No. 115-8 at 5; see also ECF No. 113-3 at 103. After an overnight stop in Tennessee on December 30, Plaintiff was dropped off at the detention facility in Horry, South Carolina on December 31, 2015. ECF No. 113-3 at 127, 140, 143, 144. Plaintiff states that, like the first leg of the trip, King and Cabrera also denied regular restroom breaks and there was frequent fighting amongst the passengers. See ECF No. 113-3 at 126, 128, 130, 131. He also states that this second van was also filthy, he was tightly restrained, and he was given no adequate opportunity to clean himself and had to wear his filthy clothes from the first leg of the trip. Id. at 114, 133. He also states that, at one point, he and the other passengers were denied food and water for a period of 10 hours because the guards missed the correct exit. Id. at 128.

Plaintiff claims that it is PTS and Brevard's business model to "keep the vans as full as possible in order to maximize their profits, which results in long, circuitous, and indirect transports to pick up prisoners, in which detainees are frequently forced to attempt to sleep overnight in the vans." ECF No. 115-1 at 9. A direct trip from Maryland to South Carolina normally would take eight hours and around 400 miles. See ECF No. 118-7 at 23. However, Plaintiff's transportation took nearly nine days, and he was transported over 2,000 miles. ECF No. 115-1 at 9.

Plaintiff asserts that he still has some difficulty using his hands, which affects his ability to play instruments, and he still has pain in his shoulder. ECF No. 113-3 at 157, 158, 159. Plaintiff also developed boils from sitting and being restrained for so long, and asserts that he still suffers from depression, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder

, and difficulty sleeping from the nightmarish trip. Id. at 173, 186, 187, 192.

B. Defend...

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