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Wormley v. United States

February 24, 2009


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Royce C. Lamberth, Chief Judge


Before the Court are dispositive motions filed by four discrete groups of defendants. Plaintiff asserts that various defendants are liable for injuries she suffered in connection with her five-month overdetention. Defendant Reynolds & Associates, doing business as Washington Halfway Homes ("WHH"), moves [21] to dismiss plaintiff's negligence claim. (Plaintiff responds with a cross motion [27] for summary judgment against WHH.) Defendants associated with the federal government move [53] to dismiss (or, in the alternative, for summary judgment on) plaintiff's constitutional and common-law tort claims. Defendants associated with the District of Columbia move [38] to dismiss (or, in the alternative, for summary judgment on) plaintiff's claims under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and common-law tort. Defendants associated with Corrections Corporation of America (CCA) move to dismiss [14] plaintiff's claims under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and common-law tort.

For the reasons explained herein, the Court will (1) deny WHH's motion to dismiss (and deny plaintiff's cross-motion), (2) grant in part and deny in part federal defendants' motion; (3) deny without prejudice District defendants' motion and stay discovery as to District defendants, and (4) deny CCA defendants' motion to dismiss.


On December 15, 2005, plaintiff was sentenced to twelve months imprisonment (six of them suspended) by a D.C. Superior Court judge. (WHH's Reply Ex. 13 [43-7] (J. & C. Dec. 15, 2005).) On May 30, 2006, plaintiff was transferred from a prison facility to Fairview Halfway House in D.C. (operated by WHH) so that she could seek employment while awaiting the expiration of her sentence (set for June 12, 2006). (Pl.'s Opp'n to WHH's Mot. [27] at 2, Ex. 10 [27-14] ("Institutional Referral for CCC Placement," Mar. 3, 2006).) On the morning of Friday, June 2, plaintiff checked out of Fairview to look for a job, saying that she would be back by 2:30 p.m. (WHH Mot. Ex. 2 [21-4].) When plaintiff did not return by 3:00 p.m., Fairview personnel, following institutional policy, reported her to the federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP) as "escaped." (Id.) Plaintiff did return to Fairview at about 5:22 p.m., but she appeared intoxicated and was combative toward Fairview staff. (Id.) Plaintiff was then transported to D.C. General Hospital.*fn1

When she returned to Fairview later that evening, she was denied re-entry to the facility and instructed to turn herself in to the United States Marshals Service ("USMS") on Monday, June 5. (Id.) Plaintiff stayed at a D.C. homeless shelter for the weekend. (Pl.'s Opp'n [27] to WHH's Mot. at 3.)

On Monday, June 5, defendant Randal White, a BOP official, acted upon the communication from Fairview by issuing a "Notice of Escaped Federal Prisoner" (hereinafter "Notice of Escape"). (Pl.'s Reply in Support of Cross-Mot. for Summary Judgment Ex. 2 [50-3] (Notice of Escape).) The notice stated that after plaintiff was taken to the hospital on June 2 "she ha[d] yet to return to the facility and her whereabouts remain[ed] unknown." (Id.) On June 6 plaintiff, a veteran, checked herself into a VA hospital. (Pl.'s Opp'n [27] to WHH's Mot. at 3.) With the assistance of hospital staff and D.C. Metropolitan Police, plaintiff turned herself in at the D.C. Central Detention Facility ("CDF") on June 14, at which point she resumed service of her six-month Superior Court sentence. (Id. at 4.) CDF is operated by the D.C. Department of Corrections ("DOC").

On June 16, defendant Sean McLeod of USMS issued a "Detainer Based On Federal Parole Violation Warrant" to CDF for plaintiff. (Pl.'s Opp'n to Fed. Defs.' Mot. Ex. 3 [59-5] [hereinafter "Detainer"].) The Detainer instructed CDF that

[t]he United States Parole Commission has issued a Federal parole violation warrant against [plaintiff]. Prior to [plaintiff]'s release from [CDF] custody, please notify [USMS] at once so [USMS] may assume custody of the subject if necessary.

(Id.) Plaintiff was not then on parole, nor had she ever been on parole. No such warrant existed.*fn2

On June 21, plaintiff's six-month sentence expired (adjusting for escaped time and credit). However, plaintiff then went directly before another Superior Court judge for violating a civil protection order in an unrelated matter. (WHH's Reply Ex. 13 [43-7].) Plaintiff was sentenced to another 135 days for the violation (id.), at which point she was apparently transferred to D.C.'s Correctional Treatment Facility ("CTF") to serve that sentence.*fn3 CTF is run under the auspices of DOC, but DOC contracts the facility's operation and management to Corrections Corporation of America ("CCA").

On October 18, DOC sent defendant Donna Scott of USMS a fax regarding plaintiff which read, "This inmate's sentence will expire on 10-21-2006. Please execute the U.S.M.S. Detainer dated 6-16-06 with a come-up on 10-19-06." (WHH's Reply Ex. 14 [43-8].) On October 19, unidentified USMS officers brought plaintiff to the Prettyman United States Courthouse in D.C. where she was fingerprinted and then, apparently, returned to CTF. (Pl.'s Opp'n [59] to Fed. Defs.' Mot. at 8.) Defendant Baldwin that same day faxed CDF a "Prisoner Remand or Order to Deliver and Receipt for United States Prisoners" (known as a "USM-41") instructing DOC to "place [plaintiff] in transit hold pending federal designation." (Pl.'s Opp'n to District Defs.' Mot. Ex. 7 [46-10].) When plaintiff's 135-day sentence expired on October 21, she was not released from CTF. She would remain in custody, for no apparent legitimate reason, for almost five more months.

On December 6, 2006, CCA-operators of CTF-sent defendant Scott a fax regarding plaintiff: "[Plaintiff]'s sentence was complete on 10/21/06. Please execute her warrant." (WHH's Reply Ex. 15 [43-9].) It seems that no activity resulted from this fax. On January 11, 2007, a USMS official faxed the October 19, 2006 USM-41 to CDF.*fn4 The purpose of this communication is unclear. On March 15, 2007, USMS faxed DOC a new USM-41 instructing DOC to "lift USMS detainer dated 06-16-2006." (Pl.'s Opp'n to District Defs.' Mot. Ex. 6 [46-9].) Plaintiff was apparently transferred from CTF to CDF the next day. (Id. at 5.) On March 19, 2007, USMS faxed "DC Jail Records" informing them that plaintiff was "released from her escape charge on 6/21/06, the day she came into DC Jail custody for a Superior Court matter, violation of a protection order." (WHH's Reply Ex. 16 [43-10].) Plaintiff was finally released from custody that day, March 19, 2007.


A. Standard for Dismissal

On a motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6), this Court will dismiss a claim if the plaintiff fails to plead "enough facts to state a claim for relief that is plausible on its face." Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 127 S.Ct. 1955, 1974 (2007) (abrogating the prior standard which required appearance, beyond a doubt, that plaintiff can prove no set of facts in support of his claim that would entitle him to relief). The Court must construe the allegations and facts in the complaint in the light most favorable to the plaintiff, and the plaintiff will have the benefit of all inferences that can be derived from the facts alleged. Barr v. Clinton, 370 F.3d 1196, 1199 (D.C. Cir. 2004) (citing Kowal v. MCI Commc'ns Corp., 16 F.3d 1271, 1276 (D.C. Cir. 1994)).

However, the Court is not required to accept plaintiffs' unsupported inferences, nor "legal conclusions cast in the form of factual allegations." Kowal, 16 F.3d at 1276.

Federal defendants also move to dismiss on jurisdictional grounds pursuant to Rules 12(b)(1), (b)(2), (b)(4), and (b)(5). Rule 12(b)(1) allows for dismissal for lack of subject-matter jurisdiction, Rule 12(b)(2) for lack of personal jurisdiction, Rule 12(b)(4) for insufficient process, and Rule 12(b)(5) for insufficient service of process.

B. Standard for Summary Judgment

Summary judgment should be granted when "the pleadings, the discovery and disclosure materials on file, and any affidavits show that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(c). The party seeking summary judgment bears the initial burden of production as to the absence of genuine issues of material fact. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323 (1986). A genuine issue of material fact exists if the evidence, viewed in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party, "is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party." Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986). But a genuine issue requires more than "a scintilla of evidence" supporting the nonmoving party; "there must be evidence on which the jury could reasonably find" for the nonmoving party. Id. at 252.


Plaintiff asserts one claim, negligence, against defendant WHH. Plaintiff alleges that WHH breached its duty of care by not allowing her to return to the Fairview facility after her combative behavior on June 2, 2006. WHH moves [21] to dismiss, claiming that (1) it had no duty to let plaintiff return under the circumstances and (2) even if there did exist a duty, WHH's alleged negligence did not cause plaintiff's injury. Neither of WHH's arguments support dismissal of plaintiff's negligence claim.

Plaintiff does state a claim that is plausible on its face. On the issue of duty, WHH may eventually establish that it did not have a duty to allow plaintiff to return to the facility after her behavior. However, at this early stage in the litigation, plaintiff's claim to the contrary is still plausible. Plaintiff has submitted various WHH manuals and procedures that she alleges demonstrate the existence of a duty. (Pl.'s Opp'n [27] toWHH's Mot. Exs. 3 ("BOP Community Corrections Manual" as related to contractors) & 6 ("Statement of Work").) It is plausible that WHH had a duty to allow plaintiff to re-enter; that is sufficient to defeat WHH's motion. Similarly, WHH has not shown that it is implausible that its actions contributed to plaintiff's injury (i.e., her overdetention). The Notice of Escape issued by BOP prominently mentions the fact that Wormley did not re-enter Fairview on the evening of May 2. It is plausible that, had WHH allowed her to re-enter, the Notice of Escape would not have been filed, the improper Detainer would not have issued, and plaintiff might have been spared her ordeal. At this point, that plausible scenario is all that is needed to defeat WHH's motion to dismiss.

Plaintiff responded to WHH's motion with a Cross Motion [29] for Summary Judgment. However, plaintiff's motion never gets off the ground; as the previous paragraph demonstrates, this scenario is littered with unresolved issues of material fact (for example, whether WHH's internal policies establish a duty to allow individuals in plaintiff's position to re-enter the facility). The absence of genuine issues of material fact is a prerequisite for summary judgment.

Accordingly, plaintiff's cross motion shall be denied.


Plaintiff asserts numerous claims against the federal defendants (the United States of America, BOP Director Harley Lappin, BOP employee White, and USMS employees McLeod, Baldwin, and Scott). Plaintiff brings a variety of constitutional claims against the BOP and USMS employees under Bivens v. Six Unknown Named Agents, 403 U.S. 388 (1971). She also asserts claims of false imprisonment and negligence against the United States under the Federal Tort ...

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