Santiago v. MacNamara et al
MEMORANDUM OPINION regarding MOTION to Dismiss, Or, In The Alternative, For Summary Judgment (D.I. 14 ). Signed by Judge Richard G. Andrews on 7/1/2015. (nms)
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE DISTRICT OF DELAWARE
Civil Action No. 14-795-RGA
OFFICER MACNAMARA, et al.,
Jacob Santiago, Howard R. Young Correctional Institution, Wilmington, Delaware; Pro
Daniel Foster McAllister, Esquire, City of Wilmington Law Department, Wilmington,
Delaware; Counsel for Defendants.
July \ , 2015
Irie! Judg :
Plaintiff Jacob Santiago, an inmate at the Howard R. Young Correctional
Institution, Wilmington, Delaware, filed this action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. He
appears pro se and has been granted in forma pauperis status. Before the court is
Defendants' motion to dismiss or, in the alternative, for summary judgment, and
Plaintiff's opposition thereto. (D.1. 14, 15, 16, 20, 21)
Plaintiff alleges that Defendants Officers MacNamara and Shaub "jumped out on
him" and instinct told him to run. After two blocks, Plaintiff stopped, gave up, and
placed his hands in the air. He alleges that McNamara tackled him, kneed him in the
back repeatedly, and stuffed his face into the ground. Plaintiff alleges that his arms
were under him, but it was because McNamara had tackled him and he tried to stop the
impact so that he would not hit head first. Plaintiff alleges that he could not give the
officers his hands because there was a knee in his back and a knee on his neck.
Plaintiff alleges that Shaub hit him in the head a few times and told him to stop resisting.
Once the hitting stopped, MacNamara placed his knee on Plaintiff's shoulder and
snapped Plaintiff's arm. Plaintiff was taken to the Wilmington Hospital for treatment of a
fractured humerus (that is, his upper arm bone). He underwent surgery on February 6,
2014 and "got a plate and about 4 or 5 screws in [his] arm. (D.I. 2). Plaintiff was
charged with carrying a concealed deadly weapon and resisting arrest. He alleges
Defendants used excessive force.
Pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(6), Defendants move to dismiss or, in the
alternative, for summary judgment on the grounds that: (1) the use of force was
objectively reasonable under the totality of the circumstances and, therefore, dismissal
is appropriate, and (2) they enjoy qualified immunity from the excessive force claims.
Given Plaintiff's pro se status, the court considers the instant motion as one for
dismissal and not for summary judgment. 1
In reviewing a motion filed under Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(6), the court must accept
all factual allegations in a complaint as true and take them in the light most favorable to
plaintiff. See Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 94 (2007). A court may consider the
pleadings, public record, orders, exhibits attached to the complaint, and documents
incorporated into the complaint by reference. Tellabs, Inc. v. Makar Issues & Rights,
Ltd., 551 U.S. 308, 322 (2007). A complaint must contain "a short and plain statement
of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief, in order to give the defendant
fair notice of what the ... claim is and the grounds upon which it rests." Bell At/. Corp.
v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 545 (2007) (internal quotation marks omitted) (interpreting
Fed. R. Civ. P. 8(a)). A complaint does not need detailed factual allegations; however,
The Federal Rules of Civil Procedure provide that when a motion to dismiss is filed
pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6) and matters outside the pleadings are presented to and not
excluded by the Court, the matter shall be treated as one for summary judgment and
disposed of as provided in Fed. R. Civ. P. 56. Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(d). "In deciding
motions to dismiss pursuant to Rule 12(b )(6), courts generally consider only the
allegations in the complaint, exhibits attached to the complaint, matters of public record,
and documents that form the basis of a claim. A document forms the basis of a claim if
the document is 'integral to or explicitly relied upon in the complaint.' The purpose of
this rule is to avoid the situation where a plaintiff with a legally deficient claim that is
based on a particular document can avoid dismissal of that claim by failing to attach the
relied upon document. Further, considering such a document is not unfair to a plaintiff
because, by relying on the document, the plaintiff is on notice that the document will be
considered." Lum v. Bank of Am., 361 F.3d 217 n.3 (3d Cir. 2004) (internal citations
omitted); see also In re Burlington Coat Factory Sec. Litig., 114 F.3d 1410, 1426 (3d Cir.
"a plaintiff's obligation to provide the 'grounds' of his entitle[ment] to relief requires more
than labels and conclusions, and a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of
action will not do." Id. at 545 (alteration in original) (citation omitted). The "[f]actual
allegations must be enough to raise a right to relief above the speculative level on the
assumption that all of the complaint's allegations are true." Id. Furthermore, "[w]hen
there are well-ple[d] factual allegations, a court should assume their veracity and then
determine whether they plausibly give rise to an entitlement to relief." Ashcroft v. Iqbal,
556 U.S. 662, 664 (2009). Such a determination is a context specific task requiring the
court "to draw on its judicial experience and common sense." Id.
Defendants move to dismiss on the grounds that the allegations against them fail
to state a claim upon which relief may be granted. They argue that, even accepting as
true the factual allegations in the complaint, the use of force as alleged was reasonable
under the circumstances confronting Defendants. The legal standard for dismissing a
complaint for failure to state a claim pursuant to§ 1915(e)(2)(B)(ii) and§ 1915A(b)(1) is
identical to the legal standard used when ruling on Rule 12(b)(6) motions. See
Tourscher v. McCullough, 184 F.3d 236, 240 (3d Cir. 1999).
This Court previously reviewed the allegations in the complaint and found that
Plaintiff stated cognizable and non-frivolous claims. Nothing has changed since the
court's ruling. Plaintiff adequately alleges excessive force claims against Defendants.
See Graham v. Connor, 490 U.S. 386, 395 (1989) ("claims that law enforcement officers
have used excessive force ... in the course of an arrest ... should be analyzed under
the Fourth Amendment and its 'reasonableness' standard .... ")see a/so Kingsley v.
Hendrickson, _U.S._, 2015 WL 2473447, at *5 (June 22, 2015) (in the context of a
pretrial detainee excessive force case that also employs the reasonableness standard,
"if the use of force is deliberate, i.e, purposeful or knowing -
Dthe claim may proceed").
Therefore, the Court will deny Defendants' motion to dismiss filed pursuant to Rule
Defendants also seek dismissal on the grounds of qualified immunity. They
argue that qualified immunity is appropriate because no unconstitutional use of
excessive force occurred and, even if excessive force was used, a reasonable officer
confronting the situation in which Defendants found themselves would believe
Defendants' conduct was lawful.
"The doctrine of qualified immunity protects government officials from liability for
civil damages insofar as their conduct does not violate clearly established statutory or
constitutional rights of which a reasonable person would have known." Pearson v.
Callahan, 555 U.S. 223, 231 (2009) (citation and quotation marks omitted). The
question of "whether an officer made a reasonable mistake of law and is thus entitled to
qualified immunity is a question of law that is properly answered by the court, not a
jury." Curley v. Klem, 499 F.3d 199, 211 (3d Cir. 2007). "[l]t is generally unwise to
venture into a qualified immunity analysis at the pleading stage as it is necessary to
develop the factual record in the vast majority of cases." Newland v. Reehorst, 328 F.
App'x 788, 791 n.3 (3d Cir. 2009). A full analysis of whether qualified immunity applies
to Plaintiff's claims against Defendants is premature because there are unresolved
questions of fact relevant to the analysis.
Accordingly, the Court will deny the motion to dismiss on the grounds of a
qualified immunity defense at this stage of the litigation, without prejudice to
Defendants' ability to later raise the defense.
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