Shotwell v. Sapp et al
MEMORANDUM OPINION. Signed by Judge Stephanos Bibas on 09/08/2021. (smg)
Case 1:18-cv-00984-SB Document 48 Filed 09/08/21 Page 1 of 3 PageID #: 349
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE DISTRICT OF DELAWARE
MARK J. SHOTWELL,
DELAWARE DEPARTMENT OF
SAFETY AND HOMELAND
SECURITY, ET AL.,
Mark J. Shotwell, Newark, Delaware.
Pro se Plaintiff.
Anna Elizabeth Currier, Kenneth Lee-Kay Wan, Deputy Attorney General,
DELAWARE DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE, Wilmington, Delaware.
Counsel for Defendants.
September 8, 2021
Case 1:18-cv-00984-SB Document 48 Filed 09/08/21 Page 2 of 3 PageID #: 350
BIBAS, Circuit Judge, sitting by designation.
The Constitution gives people tools to challenge state action. But not every tool
fits a job. Just as you cannot use a hammer to unclog a drain, you cannot use one
Amendment to do the work of another. Because Mark Shotwell tries to do just that,
I will dismiss one of his claims.
The police arrested Shotwell after he threatened an officer. And they searched his
home and his electronic devices. D.I. 28, at 1–2. Shotwell sued several police officers
and the Delaware Department of Safety under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. He claimed that the
search was unlawful, that the police used excessive force, and that he was harmed by
a state-created danger. Id. at 2.
This Court dismissed many of his claims, let those alleging excessive force and an
unlawful search proceed, and gave him another chance to make out his state-created
danger claim. Id. at 22. In response, Shotwell added more facts to his new complaint,
refocusing his state-created danger claim on his handcuffing. Third Am. Compl. at 2–
3. Now the defendants ask me to dismiss his new state-created danger claim too.
To plead a state-created danger claim here, Shotwell must allege that the police
intentionally “created a danger” and that it foreseeably harmed him. Sanford v.
Stiles, 456 F.3d 298, 304–05 (3d Cir. 2006) (per curiam). He argues that the police did
just this: they created a danger when they arrested him but handcuffed him
improperly, and he was harmed when they later overtightened his cuffs. Third Am.
Compl. at 2–3.
Case 1:18-cv-00984-SB Document 48 Filed 09/08/21 Page 3 of 3 PageID #: 351
Because I rule on a motion to dismiss, I accept all facts in the amended complaint
as true. Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 94 (2007) (per curiam). And I read Shotwell’s
pro se pleading liberally. Id. Even so, he fails to state a claim. True, the police may
have intentionally created a danger. Shotwell says that an officer had a vendetta
against him and purposefully left his cuffs loose so he could later slam them down.
D.I. 17, at 7. But the harm he suffered—pain in his wrists—resulted from excessive
force during his arrest. And we must analyze such claims under the Fourth
Amendment. Graham v. Connor, 490 U.S. 386, 395 (1989). So Shotwell’s state-created
danger claim, a Fourteenth Amendment claim, cannot proceed. Id. at 394–95; see
Brice v. City of York, 528 F. Supp. 2d 504, 515 (M.D. Pa. 2007) (“The state-created
danger claim cannot be predicated upon the force used to arrest the plaintiff.”).
But Shotwell is not out of luck. He still has his excessive-force and unlawfulsearch claims. D.I. 28, at 22. He just cannot proceed with this state-created danger
theory too, so I dismiss this claim with prejudice.
Disclaimer: Justia Dockets & Filings provides public litigation records from the federal appellate and district courts. These filings and docket sheets should not be considered findings of fact or liability, nor do they necessarily reflect the view of Justia.
Why Is My Information Online?