Rico v. Green

CourtUnited States District Courts. 4th Circuit. United States District Court (Maryland)
PartiesMICHAEL RICO, Plaintiff, v. ROBERT GREEN, et al., Defendants.
Docket NumberCase No.: GJH-18-1949
Decision Date30 March 2021

MICHAEL RICO, Plaintiff,
ROBERT GREEN, et al., Defendants.

Case No.: GJH-18-1949


March 30, 2021


Plaintiff Michael Rico brought this consolidated civil action against Defendants Eric Watkins, Carlos Taylor, Andre Brown, Patrick Beam, Robin White, Anthony Sturgess, Shelford A. Gilliam, Susan Malagari, Robert Green, Jane Doe Nurses ("Nurse Defendants"), and Montgomery County, alleging various 42 U.S.C. § 1983 claims for violations of Plaintiff's constitutional rights—including violations of Plaintiff's rights under the First, Fourth, Eighth, and Fourteenth Amendments of the United States Constitution—and various tort claims arising under Maryland law—including assault, battery, intentional infliction of emotional distress, and negligent retention and supervision. ECF No. 53. Pending before the Court is Defendants' Motion to Dismiss Plaintiff's Complaint, or in the Alternative, for Summary Judgment, ECF No. 55, and Plaintiff's Motion for Waiver of Notice Requirement Pursuant to the Local Government Tort Claim Act, ECF No. 58.1 No hearing is necessary. See Loc. R. 105.6 (D. Md. 2018). For

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the following reasons, Defendants' Motion to Dismiss is denied, in part, and granted, in part, and Plaintiff's Motion for Waiver of Notice Requirement is granted.


A. Factual Background

i. Background on Plaintiff, Plaintiff's History of Migraines, and MCCF's Failure to Provide Prompt Treatment

In 2017, while he was facing drug distribution charges in the Circuit Court for Montgomery County, Maryland, Plaintiff was held under pretrial detention in the custody, care, and protection of the Montgomery County Correctional Facility ("MCCF"). ECF No. 53 ¶¶ 1, 29-30. Plaintiff remained at MCCF for approximately one year before he was incarcerated at the Maryland Correctional Training Center ("MCTC") in Hagertown, Maryland. Id. ¶¶ 30-31. Plaintiff has since been released, under supervision, from MCTC. ECF No. 56-1 ¶ 10.

Plaintiff suffers from severe ocular migraine headaches. ECF No. 53 ¶ 2. This condition is extremely painful, and the symptoms are debilitating, causing Plaintiff severe head and eye pain, dizziness, vomiting, and vision difficulties. Id. ¶ 32. A migraine episode can sometimes confine Plaintiff to bed for days. Id. Plaintiff normally suffers one to two migraines each month, but upon entering MCCF in May 2017, the stress of incarceration and the lack of control over his diet increased the frequency and severity of Plaintiff's migraine episodes. Id. ¶ 33.

While at MCCF, Plaintiff was prescribed Imitrex (Sumatriptan) to treat his migraines. Id. ¶ 34. Imitrex is an oral medication frequently prescribed to treat severe migraine headaches, and prompt administration at the onset of migraine symptoms helps to relieve those symptoms, including headache, nausea, vomiting, and sensitivity to light and sound. Id. ¶ 2, 34. Because the

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drug is a preventative measure, however, it is effective only when taken at the first sign of a migraine. Id. ¶ 34. When Plaintiff receives his Imitrex at the onset of a migraine episode, as his physician instructed, Plaintiff experiences milder symptoms and diminished pain. Id. ¶ 36.

During his detention at MCCF, Plaintiff was permitted to seek medical treatment only through MCCF's providers and procedures, meaning that he had to either initiate a "sick call" or, after receiving permission from a correctional officer, travel to MCCF's medical unit in order to request treatment. Id. ¶ 37. Plaintiff's medical issues were well-known to the staff at MCCF's medical unit, including to Defendant White,3 Defendant Sturgess,4 and the Nurse Defendants who frequently encountered Plaintiff when he sought treatment for his migraines. Id. ¶ 38.

On multiple occasions between May 2017 and September 2017, Plaintiff sought treatment at the medical unit at the onset of his migraine symptoms, but the Nurse Defendants failed to timely administer Imitrex to Plaintiff. Id. ¶ 40. The Nurse Defendants either delayed his dosage for hours after Plaintiff's migraine symptoms had become severe or denied him access to his medication outright. Id. Plaintiff was told on more than one of these occasions that MCCF did not have any Imitrex in stock, despite his prescription and his physician's instructions. Id. As a result of having experienced numerous issues in receiving his prescribed migraine medication, Plaintiff sought relief through the MCCF grievance process. Id. ¶ 41. Between September 12, 2017, and April 7, 2018, Plaintiff submitted ten or more grievances with MCCF, through which he informed MCCF personnel, including Defendants Sturgess and White, that the Nurse Defendants were not providing proper treatment for Plaintiff's migraines. Id.

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ii. The Events of September 27-28, 2017

Late on the night of September 27, 2017, Plaintiff began experiencing a migraine episode and immediately requested permission to go to the medical unit at MCCF for treatment. Id. ¶ 42. When he arrived at the medical unit, Plaintiff explained to the Nurse Defendant on duty that he needed to take Imitrex immediately to prevent a severe migraine headache and the associated symptoms. Id. ¶ 43. However, the Nurse Defendant told Plaintiff that he would have to wait to receive his medication until other patients were treated. Id. A Nurse Defendant finally provided the Imitrex pill to Plaintiff over three hours after the onset of Plaintiff's symptoms, but then took the pill back when Plaintiff questioned why he had not received his medication sooner. Id. As a result of this exchange, a correctional officer took Plaintiff to a holding cell in the medical unit without allowing him to take the Imitrex. Id. ¶ 44. Plaintiff was left in the holding cell while he continued to tell the correctional officers and nurses outside the cell that his symptoms were getting worse and that he needed his medication immediately. Id.

Thirty minutes after the correctional officer had placed Plaintiff in the holding cell, Defendants Watkins and Brown entered the cell and placed Plaintiff in handcuffs with his hands behind his back.5 Id. ¶ 45. A Nurse Defendant brought Plaintiff his medication while he was in this position. Id. Plaintiff requested the handcuffs to be removed so that he could take the Imitrex, but Defendants Watkins and Brown refused. Id ¶ 46. Instead, Defendant Watkins elbowed Plaintiff in the throat as Plaintiff stood against the wall and then Plaintiff was force fed the medication and forced to swallow the pill without water. Id. ¶¶ 46-47.

After Plaintiff was given his medication, Defendants Watkins and Brown brought him to the segregation unit. Id. ¶ 48. Before Plaintiff entered the unit, however, Defendants Watkins and

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Brown ordered Plaintiff to enter the shower area, which had no camera coverage, and told him that he needed to undergo a strip search in order to enter the segregation unit. Id. ¶ 48. Defendant Watkins ordered Plaintiff to remove his clothing and, when Plaintiff questioned why a strip search was necessary, did not provide an explanation but instead repeated the instruction.6 Id. ¶ 49. Plaintiff informed Defendant Watkins that he could not physically remove his clothing with his hands still cuffed behind his back. Id. ¶¶ 49-50. Defendant Watkins then exited the shower area to retrieve leg shackles while Defendant Brown remained with Plaintiff. Id. Defendants Taylor and Beam arrived in the shower area while Defendant Watkins was gone.7 Id. ¶ 50.

When Defendant Watkins returned to the shower area with the leg shackles, he told Plaintiff to turn toward the shower wall and to place his face against the surface. Id. ¶ 51. Defendant Watkins then walked up behind Plaintiff, grabbed his head, and slammed Plaintiff face first into the shower wall multiple times.8 Id. Plaintiff still had his hands shackled behind his back and had no way to protect his head from impact. Id. Defendants Brown, Taylor, and Beam were all present in the shower area during this incident, but none made any effort to prevent Defendant Watkins from harming Plaintiff or to intervene in the attack. Id. ¶ 52.

Defendant Watkins then slammed Plaintiff to the ground while Plaintiff was still dazed, during which time Plaintiff was screaming in pain and bleeding from his head. Id. ¶ 53. The other Defendants then pulled Plaintiff upright, and Defendant Watkins unbuttoned Plaintiff's

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jumpsuit and pulled it down off his shoulders so that it was half open. Id. ¶ 54. Rather than conduct a full strip search, however, Defendant Watkins grabbed Plaintiff's genitals through his boxers. Id. The Defendants then buttoned up Plaintiff's jumpsuit and brought Plaintiff into the segregation unit. Id. At no point did any of the Defendants pat Plaintiff down or remove any other clothing from Plaintiff. Id.

Plaintiff was later taken via ambulance to the emergency room at Holy Cross Hospital Germantown. Id. ¶ 60. Plaintiff was treated for a laceration over his right eye, a closed head injury, and a neck contusion caused by Defendant Watkins' attack. Id.

At no time during the events of September 27-28, 2017 did Plaintiff threaten or become physically aggressive towards any of the Defendants or any other MCCF employee or inmate. Id. ¶ 57. Plaintiff did not pose a threat to the safety of any MCCF employee or inmate, nor did he pose any risk of escape or other criminal violation. Id. At all times during the events of September 27-28, 2017, Plaintiff was complying with MCCF rules and regulations. Id.

iii. The Mental and Physical Toll on Plaintiff of the Events of September 27-28, 2017

On September 29, 30, and 31, 2017, Plaintiff filed sick slips seeking to see a psychiatrist in the wake of the events of September 27-28, 2017. Id. ¶ 62. Plaintiff filed a grievance with the medical unit when he received no response to his sick slips. Id.

Plaintiff saw Defendant Watkins for...

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