United States District Court, D. Columbia
December 6, 2005.
CORNELL BARBER, Plaintiff,
DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA, et al., Defendants.
The opinion of the court was delivered by: JAMES ROBERTSON, District Judge
Plaintiff, an inmate at the Federal Medical Center in
Springfield, Missouri, brought this action pro se pursuant to
42 U.S.C. § 1983 against the District of Columbia, Anthony
Williams, the Mayor of the District of Columbia, Odie Washington,
Director of the District of Columbia Department of Corrections
("DOC"), and Dennis Harrison, Warden of the DOC's Lorton Central
Facility.*fn1 Defendants have moved to dismiss or,
alternatively, for summary judgment.
On March 26, 2001, Mr. Barber was incarcerated at DOC's Lorton
Central Facility. Complaint ("Compl."), ¶ 10.*fn2 Plaintiff
was transferred that day from Lorton to the Sussex II State
Maximum Security Facility. Id., ¶ 11. Prior to the transfer,
DOC staff ordered plaintiff to remove a finger splint, which was
medically prescribed for the treatment of Carpal Tunnel Syndrome.
Id., ¶ 12. Plaintiff told the prison employees that he was
required to wear the splint continuously. Id., ¶ 13. In
response, Corporal McKnight and other prison employees attacked the plaintiff, wrestled him to the floor, and twisted his arms
behind his back. Id. As a result of this assault, plaintiff's
neck was jammed and dislocated. Id., ¶ 14.
Plaintiff requested medical assistance, but Corporal McKnight
informed him that he would receive medical assistance upon his
arrival at Sussex II. Id., ¶ 15. Once plaintiff was received at
Sussex II, the staff there handled him roughly, causing more
injury to his wrists. Id., ¶ 16. The medical staff at Sussex
determined that, because plaintiff had recently undergone
hemorrhoid surgery, he would not be accepted at Sussex. Id., ¶
17. He was ordered back to Lorton. Id. Upon his return to
Lorton, plaintiff's request for medical treatment was again
denied by prison staff. Id., ¶ 18. Plaintiff eventually
received medical treatment, but he alleges it was inadequate.
Plaintiff filed an inmate grievance. Id., ¶ 19. Soon
thereafter, he was transferred to the United States Penitentiary
in Allenwood, Pennsylvania ("USP-Allenwood"). Id. Plaintiff
alleges that his transfer was in retaliation for his filing of a
grievance. Id. At USP-Allenwood, plaintiff received medical
treatment for a bulged disc, dislocated vertebrae in the neck,
and a wrist injury. Id., ¶ 21.
On May 8, 2003, Mr. Barber filed an action in the Superior
Court of the District of Columbia based on these alleged
incidents. Defendants' Motion to Dismiss or in the Alternative
Motion for Summary Judgment ("Defts.' Mot."), Exhibit ("Ex.") 1.
In that action, plaintiff brought constitutional claims pursuant
to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and common law claims. Id. On August 24,
2004, the Superior Court granted summary judgment in favor of the
District of Columbia. Id., Ex. 2. The Superior Court held that
plaintiff had failed to establish municipal liability under §
1983 and that the common law claims were barred because plaintiff
failed to timely notify the District of his intent to sue as required under
the D.C. Code. Id. The Superior Court's decision was affirmed
by the District of Columbia Court of Appeals on February 10,
2005. Id., Ex. 3. Mr. Barber filed this action on April 29,
The District of Columbia contends that plaintiff's claims are
barred because they were previously litigated in the Superior
Court of the District of Columbia. The doctrine of res judicata
operates as a bar to relitigation of a cause of action that has
been reduced to final judgment on the merits in a prior suit
involving the same parties or their privies. Parklane Hosiery
Co. v. Shore, 439 U.S. 322, 326 n. 5 (1979); I.A.M. Nat'l
Pension Fund v. Indus. Gear Mfg. Co., 723 F.2d 944, 946-47 (D.C.
Cir. 1983). The doctrine bars relitigation, not only of matters
that were determined in the previous litigation, but also issues
that could have been raised in that action. Allen v. McCurry,
449 U.S. 90, 94 (1980); Appalachian Power Co. v. EPA,
251 F3d 1026, 1033 (D.C. Cir. 2001). In order for the doctrine to apply,
(1) the issue must have actually been litigated, i.e., contested
by the parties and determined by the court; (2) the issue must
have been necessary to the court's disposition of the case; and
(3) the relitigation bar in the second action would not create an
unfairness against the party as to whom the issue preclusion is
imposed. United States v. TDC Mgmt. Corp., 24 F.3d 292, 295
(D.C. Cir. 1994); Meng v. Schwartz, 305 F.Supp.2d 49, 57
All of the claims in this case involve plaintiff's alleged
mistreatment by prison officials during his transfer from the
Lorton facility to Sussex II. Plaintiff has pleaded the same
facts and named the same parties here as in his D.C. Superior
Court case. The District of Columbia courts decided that
Plaintiff had failed to establish municipal liability under §
1983. Under the doctrine of res judicata, plaintiff may not relitigate the same claims
here. The defendants' motion will be granted and judgment entered
in favor of defendants.
A separate Order accompanies this Memorandum Opinion.
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