Karn v. PTS of America, LLC
MEMORANDUM OPINION. Signed by Judge George Jarrod Hazel on 9/18/2017. (jf3s, Deputy Clerk)
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE DISTRICT OF MARYLAND
Southern Division Rill SEP
I 9 - "). 09
WILLIAM JEFFREY KARN,
Civil Action No. GJH-16-3261
PTS OF AMERICA, LLC,
Plaintiff William Jeffrey Karn brings this action against Defendants PTS of America,
LLC d/b/a Prisoner Transportation of America ("PTS") and John Does #1-6 (collectively,
"Defendants") alleging various constitutional violations under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, violations of
Articles 24 and 26 of the Maryland Declaration of Rights, and state common law claims,
including negligence and intentional infliction of emotional distress, resulting from PTS's
transport of Karn, a pre-trial detainee, from Maryland to South Carolina in December 2015.
Presently pending before the Court is Defendant PTS's Partial Motion to Dismiss for Failure to
State a Claim. ECF No. 9.1 A hearing on the Motion was held on September 13, 2017. See Loc.
R. 105.6 (D. Md. 2016). For the following reasons, the Partial Motion to Dismiss shall be
granted, in part, and denied, in part. The claims of intentional infliction of emotional distress;
Plaintiff's Complaint asserts a total of eight causes of action: Count 1: Negligence; Count 11: Intentional Infliction
of Emotional Distress; Count III: Negligent Hiring, Training, and Supervision, Count IV: False Imprisonment;
Count V: Violation of 42 U.S.C. § 1983 — Unlawful Arrest, Seizure, and Detention; Count VI: Violation of 42
U.S.C. § 1983— Mistreatment in Custody; Count VII: Violations of Article 24 and 26 of the Maryland Declaration
of Rights — Excessive Force; and Count VIII: Violations of Article 24 and 26 of the Maryland Declaration of Rights
— Loss of Liberty. ECF No. 1 at 9-19. Defendant's Partial Motion to Dismiss requests dismissal of Counts II, Ill,
IV, V, VI, VII, and VIII. ECF No. 9. Plaintiff withdraws Counts IV and VI in his Opposition. See ECF No. 14-1 at
I. Thus, this Memorandum Opinion will address only Counts 11, III, V, VII, and VIII.
negligent hiring, training, and supervision; the 42 U.S.C. § 1983 claim under the Fourth
Amendment; and both claims under the Maryland Declaration of Rights shall be dismissed. The
42 U.S.C. § 1983 claim under the Fourteenth Amendment due process clause shall be dismissed
against PTS but shall proceed against the John Doe defendants.
A. Factual Background2
William Karn is an adult resident of the State of Maryland. ECF No. 1 1113. PTS is a
Tennessee corporation and private company that provides extradition and detainee transportation
services. Id. ¶ 4. PTS employs drivers and guards to transport prisoners and detainees between
jurisdictions. Id. ¶ 5. At all times relevant to this action, Plaintiff was a pre-trial detainee in the
custody of PTS. See id. 4ff 7.
On or about December 9, 2015, Plaintiff was arrested in Montgomery County, Maryland
for failure to timely pay child support in 1-lorry County, South Carolina. ECF No. I II 8. Plaintiff
waived an extradition hearing and was taken to a facility in Montgomery County to await
transport to South Carolina. See id. TT 9-10. On the night of December 23, 2015, Defendants
arrived to retrieve Plaintiff from the facility. Id. 11110-11. Defendants handcuffed Plaintiff,
strapped ankle cuffs on his legs, and ran a chain link around his midsection. Id. If 12. Plaintiff
alleges that the handcuffs were secured so tightly that the pressure on his wrists, nerves, tissue
and bones made it difficult for him to open his hands, and that his fingers became numb. Id. ¶ 14.
Plaintiff informed Defendants of this problem repeatedly, but Defendants ignored him. Id. ¶ 15.
Defendants escorted Plaintiff out to a white van, and when Plaintiff asked how long it would take
to get to South Carolina, Defendants told him not to worry about it and to "just get in the fucking
van." Id. ¶ 16.
Unless stated otherwise, the facts are taken from the Complaint and assumed to be true.
When Karn entered the van, there were already fourteen other prisoners inside, some of
whom had been travelling for fourteen days at that point. ECF No. 1 ¶ 18. Inside the van, the
prisoners were seated on eight-inch metal benches, shoulder to shoulder, with their knees pressed
up against a central metal divider. Id. 111 27-28. The prisoners were not secured with seatbelts.
Id. ¶ 30. Plaintiff would spend the next ten days in this van, traveling through nine different
states including Maryland, Virginia, West Virginia, Ohio, Kentucky, Tennessee, Arkansas, and
North Carolina, to get to South Carolina. Id. ¶ 19. According to Plaintiff, Defendants took a
circuitous route that passed through multiple states more than once, id. If 20, and involved several
side-trips that were "completely unrelated to the transport of the prisoners," including a stop "at
an out-of-the way airport so that PTS could send one guard/driver on vacation." Id. ¶ 21. Over
the course of the trip, the van travelled to many different jails, dropping off prisoners and picking
up new ones. Id. lj 56. The PTS guards alternated eighteen-hour shifts driving, sometimes
reaching "speeds up to 95 miles per hour," and other times apparently "falling asleep at the
wheel." Id. TT 24-25.
During the trip, Plaintiff and the other prisoners would "be in the back of the van on the
road for 36 hours without respite." ECF No. 1 ¶ 22. Because Defendants did not secure Plaintiff
or the other prisoners with seat belts, as the van careened and bounced its way through the
route," the men were thrown around the back of the van, into each other, the metal divider, and
the ceiling. Id. It 30. According to Plaintiff, these conditions made sleeping impossible. Id. ¶ 31.
His inability to move or stand up for long periods of time also caused him to develop "painful
boils, rashes, and abrasions." Id. 1129. Because the windows of the van were blacked out, much
of the time was spent in complete darkness. Id. ¶ 32. The temperature was warm, and "there was
little air" in the compartment. See id. ¶ 36.
Access to food and water varied widely, and was subject to the whim of the guards. ECF
No. I 1134. Typically, every six to eight hours, the guards would stop at a McDonalds and
purchase "a small hamburger from the $1.00 menu" and a twelve-ounce bottle of water for each
prisoner. Id. ¶ 33. This meal schedule was largely inconsistent, however, and at least once, the
prisoners were allegedly not given food or water for almost twice the six hour period. Id. ¶ 34.
Additionally, the guards made minimal effort to control the prisoners, and on more than one
occasion, other prisoners stole Plaintiff's food and water, leaving him with nothing to eat or
drink. Id. ¶ 35. Plaintiff alleges that he was dehydrated for most of the journey, because the
twelve-ounce bottle of water was not sufficient. Id. ¶ 36.
Some of the men also fought with each other by head-butting and biting one another.
ECF No. 1 ¶ 58. To quell this behavior, Defendants would "indiscriminately pepper spray the
entire rear compartment" of the van, including Plaintiff, even though he had not been fighting.
Id. If 59. "Shackled and bound at the waist," Plaintiff was unable to rub his eyes or splash water
to rinse his eyes of the pepper spray. Id. ¶¶ 40, 59. At the end of one of the thirty-six hour
stretches in the van, Plaintiff alleges that he became numb in the legs, which diminished his
ability to stand up and exit the van. Id. ¶ 41. In response, Defendants pushed Plaintiff out of the
van, causing Plaintiff to fall onto his side and injure his shoulder. Id. TT 42-44. Plaintiff was
unable to brace his fall because of the shackles and handcuffs. Id. ¶ 43. Plaintiff alleges that he
made no complaints about this because the guards stood over him "with hands on their
weapons," and he was never treated for this injury. Id. 1144.
When it came time for the prisoners to urinate or have a bowel movement, Defendants
expected the prisoners to urinate "intotheir empty water bottles." ECF No. I 1( 45-46. However,
because the men were shackled, many of them ended up urinating on the van's floor and on
themselves. Id. ¶ 47. On multiple occasions, Plaintiff and other prisoners also defecated on
themselves, because they could not contain their bowel movements any longer. Id. ¶J 48-49.
One particular prisoner seated next to Plaintiff suffered from a form of irritable bowel syndrome,
and had "to beg the guards to be permitted to move his bowels." Id. ¶ 50. Eventually, Defendants
threw a plastic garbage bag in the back of the van and told the prisoner to use it. Id. Plaintiff
attempted to help the man pull his pants down and use the bag in the crowded space, but these
efforts were unsuccessful, and the prisoner defecated everywhere, including on Plaintiff's "leg,
arms, clothing, and the floor." Id. II 52. Defendants would not allow Plaintiff to bathe or change
clothing. Id. 1153.
Plaintiff alleges that the combination of urine, open feces, vomit, and other body odors in
the van "was horrific." ECF No. 1 ¶ 54. The van had allegedly transported "other prisoners in the
same circumstances" before Plaintiff, and Defendants did not clean it between prisoners, or for
the duration of Plaintiff's journey. Id. TT 53-56. Throughout Plaintiff's transport, Defendants
also did not allow him to use a phone to contact his family or friends. Id. ¶ 60. Plaintiff alleges
that he still suffers from the physical pain, harm, and emotional distress of this experience, and
"will require treatment into the foreseeable future." Id. ¶J 65-66. He states that he continues to
"relive the pain and torment," id. II 66, and to date, still experiences "numbness and pain in the
fingers of his left hand," id.
4ff 39, and pain in his shoulder. Id. IN 44.
B. Procedural History
Plaintiff filed the instant Complaint against PTS, and six unnamed employees, asserting
eight causes of action: Count I: Negligence; Count II: Intentional Infliction of Emotional Distress
("TIED"); Count III: Negligent Hiring, Training, and Supervision; Count IV: False
Imprisonment; Count V: Violation of 42 U.S.C. § 1983 — Unlawful Arrest, Seizure, and
Detention; Count VI: Violation of 42 U.S.C. § 1983 — Mistreatment in Custody; Count VII:
Violations of Article 24 and 26 of the Maryland Declaration of Rights — Excessive Force; and
Count VIII: Violations of Article 24 and 26 of the Maryland Declaration of Rights — Loss of
Liberty. ECF No. 1 at 9-19. Plaintiff seeks judgment against Defendant in "an amount in excess
of $75,000.00, plus interest and costs, and punitive damages, plus attorneys' fees, interest and
costs." See id.
Defendant PTS filed an Answer to Count I, negligence, and a Partial Motion to Dismiss
with respect to the remaining counts. In Plaintiffs Opposition, Plaintiff withdrew Count IV, false
imprisonment, and Count VI, the Section 1983 claim for mistreatment in custody. See ECF No.
14-1 at 1. Therefore, this Memorandum Opinion will address only Counts II (intentional
infliction of emotional distress), III (negligent hiring, training and supervision); V (the Section
1983 claim for unlawful arrest, seizure and detention); VII (Maryland Declaration of Rights —
Excessive Force); and VIII (Maryland Declaration of Rights — Loss of Liberty).
STANDARD OF REVIEW
Defendants may "test the adequacy of a complaint by way of a motion to dismiss under
Rule 12(b)(6)." Prelich v. Med. Res., Inc., 813 F. Supp. 2d 654, 660 (D. Md. 2011) (citing
German v. Fox, 267 F. App'x 231, 233 (4th Cir. 2008)). Motions to dismiss for failure to state a
claim do "not resolve contests surrounding the facts, the merits of a claim, or the applicability of
defenses." Prelich, 813 F. Supp. 2d at 660 (citing Edwards v. City of Goldsboro, 178 F.3d 231,
243 (4th Cir. 1999)). To overcome a Rule 12(b)(6) motion, a complaint must allege enough facts
to state a plausible claim for relief. Ashcroft v. lqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009). A claim is
plausible when "the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the Court to draw the reasonable
inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged." Id
In evaluating the sufficiency of the Plaintiff's claims, the Court accepts factual
allegations in the complaint as true and construes the factual allegations in the light most
favorable to the Plaintiff. See Albright v. Oliver, 510 U.S. 266, 268 (1994); Lambeth v. Bd. of
Comm 'rs of Davidson Cty., 407 F.3d 266, 268 (4th Cir. 2005). However, the complaint must
contain more than "legal conclusions, elements of a cause of action, and bare assertions devoid
of further factual enhancement." Nemet Chevrolet, Ltd v. Consumeraffairs.com, Inc., 591 F.3d
250, 255 (4th Cir. 2009). The court should not grant a motion to dismiss for failure to state a
claim for relief unless "it is clear that no relief could be granted under any set of facts that could
be proved consistent with the allegations." GE Inv. Private Placement Partners II v. Parker, 247
F.3d 543, 548 (4th Cir. 2001) (citing H.J. Inc. v. Northwestern Bell Tel. Co., 492 U.S. 229, 24950) (1989)).
A. Intentional Infliction of Emotional Distress
To state a common law claim for IIED, Plaintiff must allege that: "(1) the defendant's
conduct was intentional or reckless; (2) the conduct was extreme and outrageous; (3) there was a
causal connection between the wrongful conduct and the emotional distress; and (4) that the
emotional distress was severe." Harris v. Jones, 281 Md. 560, 566 (1977). In Maryland, an TIED
claim is "rarely viable," Borchers v. Hrychuk, 126 Md. App. 10, 19 (1999), and courts have
imposed "liability sparingly and. . . limited the tort to situations where the 'wounds are truly
severe and incapable of healing themselves.' Lee v. Queen Anne's Cty. Office of Sheriff No.
CIV.A. RDB-13-672, 2014 WL 476233, at *16 (D. Md. Feb. 5, 2014) (quoting So/is v. Prince
George's Cty., 153 F. Supp. 2d 793, 804 (D. Md.2001)). Accordingly, an IIED claim is subject
to a heightened pleading standard, and each element of the claim must be "pled with specificity."
Washington v. Maynard, No. CV GLR-13-3767, 2016 WL 865359, at *10 (D. Md. Mar. 7,2016)
(citing Bagwell v. Peninsula Reg'l Med. Ctr., 665 A.2d 297, 319 (Md. Ct. Spec. App. 1995);
Foor v. Juvenile Servs. Admin., 552 A.2d 947, 959 (Md. Ct. Spec. App. 1989)). Defendant
contends that Plaintiff has not alleged facts sufficient to satisfy the first, second and fourth
elements of TIED.
To adequately plead the first element of an IIED claim, a plaintiff must allege that
defendant either "desired to inflict severe emotional distress, knew that such distress was certain
or substantially certain to result from his conduct, or acted recklessly in deliberate disregard of a
high degree of probability that emotional distress would follow." Brengle v. Greenbelt Homes,
Inc., 804 F. Supp. 2d 447, 452 (D. Md. 2011) (quoting Foor, 78 Md. App. at 175).
As to the second element, the defendant's conduct must be "so outrageous in character,
and so extreme in degree, as to go beyond all possible bounds of decency, and to be regarded as
atrocious, and utterly intolerable in a civilized community." Washington, 2016 WL 865359, at
*11 (citing Harris, 380 A.2d at 614). "The conduct must strike to the very core of one's being,
threatening to shatter the frame upon which one's emotional fabric is hung." Id. (citing Hamilton
v. Ford Motor Credit Co., 502 A.2d 1057, 1064 (Md. Ct. Spec. App. 1986)). In assessing this
element, "courts should consider multiple factors, including the context in which the conduct
occurred, the personality of the plaintiff and [his] susceptibility to emotional distress, and the
relationship between the defendant and plaintiff." Brengle, 804 F. Supp. 2d at 453. In particular.
"the extreme and outrageous character of the defendant's conduct may arise from his abuse of a
position, or relation with another person, which gives him actual or apparent authority over him,
or power to affect his interests." Harris, 380 A.2d at 616.
With respect to the fourth element, the plaintiff must show that he suffered "a severely
disabling emotional response to the defendant's conduct, and that the distress was so severe that
no reasonable man could be expected to endure it." Solis v. Prince George's Cty., 153 F. Supp.
2d 793, 804 (D. Md. 2001) (quoting Thacker v. City of Hyattsville, 762 A.2d 172, 197 (Md. Ct.
Spec. App. 2000)). To be severe, "emotional distress need not produce total emotional
disablement, but it must render the plaintiff unable to function and tend to necessary matters."
Washington, 2016 WL 865359, at *11 (citing Reagan v. Rider, 70 Md. App. 503, 512 (1987)).
To prevail, the plaintiff must show the "truly devastating effect of the conduct [he was] subjected
to." Kashaka v. Baltimore Cty., Maryland, 450 F. Supp. 2d 610, 620 (D. Md. 2006) (quoting
Pemberton v. Bethlehem Steel Corp., 66 Md.App. 133 (Md. 1986)).
Here, Plaintiff has pleaded sufficient factual matter as to the first three elements of IIED
but not the fourth. Taking the allegations in the Complaint as true, Plaintiff has alleged that PTS
and its employees knowingly created and perpetuated a situation that was dehumanizing and
outrageous, causing Plaintiff emotional distress. Plaintiff alleges that he was forced to sit
shoulder to shoulder with fourteen other men, chained at the hands, feet, and waist, on metal
benches in the back of a van for ten days. ECF No. 1 im 18-19, 27-28, 58. Plaintiff was required
to sit in the back of this van for thirty-six hour periods of time "without respite." Id. ¶ 22. At
most, Plaintiff was provided a small hamburger and a twelve-ounce bottle of water every six to
eight hours. Id. ¶IJ 33-35. In response to fighting among others, Plaintiff was subjected to bursts
of pepper spray in a confined space, and subsequently denied medical treatment. Id. ¶ 59.
Plaintiff also told the guards that his shackles were too tight, but these complaints were ignored,
and when Plaintiff was unable to stand, the guards pushed him out of the van, injuring his
shoulder. ¶¶ 15, 38-39, 41-42. The PTS guards expressly expected the prisoners to openly
urinate into their empty water bottles and defecate into plastic bags. Id. If 45-49. According to
the Complaint, when Plaintiff attempted to help a sick prisoner defecate into a bag, the feces
spilled all over him and the floor, and the guards did not allow Plaintiff to bathe or change
clothing. TT 52-53.
Drawing all reasonable inferences in favor of Plaintiff, Defendants knew that emotional
distress would result from their conduct or acted in reckless disregard of the high probability that
it would occur, and the conduct went "beyond all possible bounds of decency, and . . . [was]
atrocious, and utterly intolerable in a civilized community." Harris v. Jones, 281 Md. at 567.
Bolstering this conclusion is the fact that this conduct occurred while Plaintiff was in the custody
and control of Defendants for ten days. cl Gray v. Kern, 124 F. Supp. 3d 600, 616 (D. Md.
2015) (noting that -where the defendant is in a peculiar position to harass the plaintiff, and cause
emotional distress, his conduct will be carefully scrutinized"). Defendants assumed a position of
authority over Plaintiff, and were responsible for his health and safety during transport. The
alleged abuse of this power, and the degradation of Plaintiff that ensued, was outrageous.
Nevertheless, while Plaintiff has alleged that he "relives the pain and torment to this date
. . . and he will require treatment into the foreseeable future," ECF No. 1 "II 66, and "continues to
suffer humiliation and embarrassment, and severe and extreme emotional distress,- id. 1179, such
allegations are insufficient to plead "a severely disabling emotional response to the defendant's
conduct. . . so severe that no reasonable man could be expected to endure it." Thacker v. City of
Hyattsville, 762 A.2d 172, 197 (Md. Ct. Spec. App. 2000). Indeed, such conclusory statements of
emotional distress are routinely rejected by Maryland courts for purposes of IIED claims. See,
e.g., Templeton v. First Tenn. Bank, NA., No. CIV.WDQ-09-3280, 2010 WL 2292493, at *5 (D.
Md. June 3,2010), aff'd in part, vacated in part on other grounds, 424 F. App'x 249 (4th Cir.
2011) (finding allegations that plaintiff suffered "severe mental anxiety" and "extreme emotional
distress for which she incurred medical costs" were insufficient to constitute severe distress);
Griffin v. Clark, No. RWT 11-2461, 2012 WL 4341677, at *3 (D. Md. Sept. 20, 2012)
(dismissing IIED claim and noting that "Maryland courts have found that mere embarrassment,
public humiliation, feelings of inferiority, or shame do not rise to the level of severe emotional
distress."); Takacs v. Fiore, 473 F. Supp. 2d 647, 652 (D. Md. 2007) (dismissing TIED claim
where plaintiff did "not allege that she has been unable to function on a daily basis, even if her
functioning is presumably affected by her psychological and physical distress."). Here, Plaintiff
has not, for example, alleged that he requires psychological treatment, that he was ever
hospitalized for his mental anguish, or that he is no longer able to work or function normally. For
this reason, the IIED claim must be dismissed.
B. Negligent Hiring, Training, and Supervision
Maryland has recognized that an employer has an "obligation to the public to use due
care in selecting and retaining only competent and careful employees." Jarvis v. Securitas Sec.
Servs. USA, Inc., No. 11-CV-00654-AW, 2012 WL 527597, at *6 (D. Md. Feb. 16, 2012), ced
sub nom., Jarvis v. Contractor Securitas Sec., 474 F. App'x 271 (4th Cir. 2012) (citing Henley v.
Prince George's Cty., 60 Md. App. 24 (Md. Ct. Spec. App. 1984)). To state a common law claim
for negligent hiring, training, or supervision, Plaintiff must allege: "(1) the existence of an
employment relationship; (2) the employee's incompetence; (3) the employer's actual or
constructive knowledge of such incompetence; (4) the employee's act or omission causing the
plaintiff's injuries; and (5) the employer's negligence in hiring, [training, or supervising the
employee] . . . as the approximate cause of plaintiff's injuries." Jarvis, 2012 WL 527597, at *5
(citing Latty v. St. Joseph's Soc. of Sacred Heart, Inc., 198 Md. App. 254, 272 (Md. Ct. Spec.
App. 2011)); see also Bryant v. Better Bus. Bureau, 923 F. Supp. 720, 751 (D. Md. 1996) (noting
that for a negligent training and supervision claim, the plaintiff must allege that employer knew
or should have known of the employee's "conduct or general character which would have caused
a prudent employer in these circumstances to have taken action.").
"Under Maryland law, an employer's liability in this regard is not to be reckoned simply
by the happening of the injurious event. Rather, there must be a showing that the employer failed
to use reasonable care in making inquiries about the potential employee or in supervising or
training the employee." Gay v. United States, 739 F. Supp. 275, 277 (D. Md. 1990) (citing
Cramer v. Housing Opportunities Commission, 304 Md. 705, 501 A.2d 35 (1985)). Here, while
Plaintiff has alleged the existence of an employment relationship between the guards or drivers
and PTS, and incompetent conduct that injured Plaintiff, the Complaint is devoid of actual facts
about PTS's training and supervision, or about PTS's selection of any particular employee — nor
does Plaintiff allege prior incidents of misconduct involving these guards or drivers that would
have given Defendants actual or constructive notice of their incompetence. Thus, Keene v.
Hawkins, No. 2:13-CV-49, 2015 WL 7180695, at *1 (N.D.W. Va. Feb. 20, 2015), relied on by
Plaintiff, is distinguishable. There, the plaintiff alleged five prior incidents of misconduct by the
officer at issue, placing the defendant county on notice of the officer's tendency towards
excessive force. See id. at *1, 6. By contrast, no such allegations are made here.3
3 To the extent Plaintiff contends that the opportunity to conduct discovery would lead to "attestations from
prisoners previously transported by Defendant," ECF No. 14-1 at 12, Plaintiff is asking the Court to grant him the
keys to discovery on this issue based upon conclusory allegations. Such an approach is clearly inconsistent with the
dictates of lqbal, and has been routinely rejected by courts. Ashcroft v. lqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678-79 (noting that the
Federal Rules of Civil Procedure do "not unlock the doors of discovery for a plaintiff armed with nothing more than
conclusions."); see also Young v. CitiMortgage, Inc., No. 5:12CV079, 2013 WL 3336750, at *12 (W.D. Va. July 2,
2013) (noting that "Nile discovery process is not a fishing expedition, and a party is not entitled to discovery simply
in hope that something will turn up.") (citing Riddick v.' United States, No. C1V.A. 2:04CV278, 2005 WL 1667757,
at *7 (E.D. Va. July 6, 2005)) (internal citations and alterations omitted).
In sum, Plaintiff's allegations are insufficient to sustain a negligent hiring, training, or
supervision claim. See Jarvis, 2012 WL 527597, at *6 (dismissing negligent hiring claim where
there were no allegations that the security guard was unqualified or incompetent at the time
Defendant hired him" or that would support "the contention that Defendant engaged in negligent
hiring practices"); Silver v. Wells Fargo Bank, N.A., No. CV MJG-16-382, 2017 WL 2833254, at
*11 (D. Md. June 30, 2017) (dismissing negligent hiring and retention claim where complaint
pointed "only to the injurious event" as evidence of negligent supervision). Therefore, the
negligent hiring, training, and supervision claim is also dismissed.
C. 42 U.S.C. § 1983 — Unlawful Arrest, Seizure, and Detention
In Count V. Plaintiff brings a claim against the individual defendants and PTS pursuant
to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, claiming a violation of the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments. ECF No. 1
at 14. Section 1983 states in pertinent part that "every person who, under color of any statute,
ordinance, regulation, custom, or usage, of any state or territory, subjects, or causes to be
subjected, any citizen of the United States. . . to the deprivation of any rights, privileges, or
immunities secured by the Constitution and laws, shall be liable to the party injured in an action
at law. . . for redress." 42 U.S.C. § 1983. To state a claim under Section 1983, Plaintiff must
allege "the violation of a right secured by the Constitution and laws of the United States, and
must show that the alleged deprivation was committed by a person acting under color of state
law." West v. Atkins, 487 U.S. 42, 48 (1988).
"The traditional definition of acting under color of state law requires that the defendant in
a 1983 action have exercised power 'possessed by virtue of state law and made possible only
because the wrongdoer is clothed with the authority of state law." Jarvis, 2012 WL 527597, at
*3 (citing Atkins, 487 U.S. at 49). To constitute state action, "the deprivation must be caused by
the exercise of some right or privilege created by the State. . . or by a person for whom the State
is responsible . . . [and] the party charged with the deprivation must be a person who may fairly
be said to be a state actor." Id. (citing Lugar v. Edmondson, 457 U.S. 922, 937 (1982)). Here, as
a "private corporation involved in the custody and control of prisoners," PTS performs "a
traditional state function" and therefore may be held liable under Section 1983. See Bain v.
Transcor Am., LLC, No. 3:08-0656, 2009 WL 4348598, at *6, n.2 (M.D. Tenn. Nov. 24, 2009)
(imposing Section 1983 liability on private company that transported prison inmates); Myers v.
Transcor Am., LLC, No. 3:08-0295, 2010 WL 3619831, at *16 (M.D. Tenn. Sept. 9,2010)
(noting that "TransCor's liability under Section 1983 is akin to the liability of a municipality
under Section 1983.") (compiling cases).4
However, it is well-recognized that there is no doctrine of respondeat superior in Section
1983 actions, and thus, PTS cannot be held directly liable for the alleged unconstitutional acts of
its employees. See Chin v. City of Baltimore, 241 F. Supp. 2d 546, 549 (D. Md. 2003) (citing
Monell v. New York Department of Social Services, 436 U.S. 658, 694 (1978)). Rather, Plaintiff
can proceed only against the PTS employees in their personal capacities, or seek to establish that
the employees were acting pursuant to an official policy or custom of PTS.
Plaintiff alleges a claim of "unlawful arrest, seizure, and detention- under Section 1983
in Count V, stating that "Defendants deprived Mr. Karn of his rights under the Fourth and
Fourteenth Amendment. . ." See ECF No. 1 at 14. The Fourth Amendment provides that "the
right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable
searches and seizures shall not be violated." U.S. Const. amend. IV. A Fourth Amendment
seizure occurs "when there is a governmental termination of freedom of movement through
Defendant PTS does not dispute that it is a municipality for purposes of Section 1983 liability in this case. See ECF
No. 15 at 7.
means intentionally applied." Bixler v. Harris, No. CIV. WDQ-12-1650, 2013 WL 2422892, at
*5 (D. Md. June 3, 2013) (citing Brower v. Cnty. of Inyo, 489 U.S. 593, 597 (1989)).
Importantly, however, the Fourth Circuit has "rejected any concept of a continuing seizure rule,"
holding that "the Fourth Amendment applies to the initial decision to detain an accused, [but] not
to the conditions of confinement after that decision has been made." Robles v. Prince George's
Cty., Md., 302 F.3d 262, 268 (4th Cir. 2002) (citing Riley v. Dorton, 115 F.3d 1159, 1163)).
Thus, "[o]nce the single act of detaining an individual has been accomplished, the [Fourth]
Amendment ceases to apply." Id. Claims regarding the subsequent use of excessive force and
conditions of confinement are therefore governed by the Fourteenth Amendment's Due Process
Here, Plaintiff does not dispute that he was arrested pursuant to a lawful warrant for
failure to pay child support. See ECF No. 1 ¶ 8. Plaintiff waived an extradition hearing and was
therefore lawfully extradited to South Carolina. Id. ¶ 9. Hence, Plaintiff fails to state a claim
entitling him to relief for an unlawful seizure under the Fourth Amendment. See, e.g., Davis v.
Wright, No. 3:14CV161, 2014 WL 5361335, at *2 (W.D.N.C. Oct. 21, 2014) (dismissing Fourth
Amendment claim and noting that "[s]ince Plaintiff's requests to use the bathroom began after
she was arrested and was about to enter the BAT Mobile for further processing, the alleged
denial of those requests must be evaluated under the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth
Amendment, not the Fourth Amendment"); Walters v. Prince George's Cty., No. CIV.A. AW08-711, 2010 WL 2858442, at *6 (D. Md. July 19, 2010) (granting summary judgment on Fourth
Amendment claim under § 1983, noting that "Plaintiff complains of events that occurred after
Defendants . . . took custody of her, when the Fourth Amendment had ceased to apply because
the single act of detaining Plaintiff had already been completed and she was already in police
custody"). Thus, to the extent Plaintiff raises a claim under the Fourth Amendment, those claims
must be dismissed as to all Defendants.
While Plaintiff fails to state a claim under the Fourth Amendment — Plaintiff does,
however, state a claim under the Fourteenth Amendment against John Does #1-6 in their
personal capacities.5 Claims challenging the "conditions of confinement imposed upon pretrial
detainees are examined under the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment." Oladokun
v. Maryland, No. CIV.A. DKC-14-463, 2014 WL 7014511, at *7 (D. Md. Dec. 10, 2014).6
The constitutional protections guaranteed to a pretrial detainee under the Fourteenth
Amendment "are co-extensive with those provided to convicted prisoners by the Eighth
Amendment." Christopher v. Warden Assistant Warden of Baltimore City Det. Ctr., No. CIV.A.
1FM-13-1057, 2013 WL 1701464, at *1 (D. Md. Apr. 17, 2013) (citing Bell v. Wolfish. 441 U.S.
520, 535 (1979)); see also Patten v. Nichols, 274 F.3d 829, 834 (4th Cir. 2001) (noting that "the
Fourteenth Amendment rights of pre-trial detainees 'are at least as great as the Eighth
Amendment protections available to a convicted prisoner.") (quoting City of Revere v.
Massachusetts Gen. Hosp., 463 U.S. 239, 244 (1983)). Thus, "pretrial detainees have a clearly
established right to the Eighth Amendment's restraints on 'cruel and unusual punishments' by
prison officials. . . ." Sleeper v. City of Richmond. Va., No. 3:12CV441-HEH, 2012 WL
3555412, at *6 (E.D. Va. Aug. 16, 2012). In determining whether conditions of confinement
As discussed during the hearing on the Motion, because Defendant has not moved to dismiss Count I, this case
would move forward into discovery regardless of the Court's rulings on the pending Motion. Thus, Plaintiff will
have the opportunity, through discovery, to identify the individual drivers who are currently identified as John Doe
defendants, amend the complaint to describe what each did and serve them with the Amended Complaint. For now,
the Court will address whether their collective conduct could state a claim, recognizing that the Defendant will be
permitted to bring a renewed Motion based on the specific conduct ascribed to individual defendants, if appropriate.
The Court notes that Count VI, labeled "42 U.S.C. § 1983 — Mistreatment in Custody," more clearly addressed the
allegations the Court is relying on as its basis for not dismissing Count V. See ECF No. 1 at 15. For reasons
explained during the hearing, however, Plaintiff has withdrawn Count VI, but the Court finds that Count V
sufficiently alleges a Fourteenth Amendment claim.
constitute "cruel and unusual punishment,- the Court employs a two-prong test, considering first
"whether the conditions of confinement objectively inflict harm that is sufficiently serious to
deprive a prisoner of minimal civilized necessities." Id. at *6 (citing Farmer v. Brennan, 511
U.S. 825, 834 (1994)); see also Roberts v. Taniguchi, No. CIV.A. JKB-12-1187, 2012 WL
5252288, at *5 (D. Md. Oct. 23, 2012) (describing two-prong test). In this regard, prison officials
are under a duty "to furnish humane conditions of confinement, including provision of adequate
food, clothing, shelter, and medical care." Sleeper, 2012 WL 3555412, at *6 (citing Hudson v.
Palmer, 468 U.S. 517, 526-27 (1984)). Second, the Court determines "whether prison officials
subjectively acted with 'deliberate indifference to inmate health or safety,* meaning that they
actually knew of and disregarded the inhumane nature of the confinement." Id. (citing Farmer,
511 U.S. at 837). Further, Plaintiff must allege an injury that is "more than de minimis." Robles
v. Prince George's Cty., Maryland, 302 F.3d 262, 269 (4th Cir. 2002).
The factual allegations in the Complaint demonstrate conditions in the prison van that
were cruel and unusual. The rear compartment where Plaintiff was housed contained fourteen
other men, many of whom openly urinated and defecated inside of the van throughout the course
of the trip. While attempting to help another prisoner, Plaintiff got feces on his leg, arms and
clothing and was not permitted to bathe or change clothes. Additionally, no efforts were made to
clean the van of these unsanitary conditions, and thus, Plaintiff sat in a windowless, warm van,
among feces and other bodily fluids, for ten continuous days. It is a "settled rule that housing
inmates in a grossly overcrowded and unsanitary facility violates the inmates' rights to be free
from cruel and unusual punishments." Brown v. Mitchell, 308 F. Supp. 2d 682, 693 (E.D. Va.
2004) (citing Wilson v. Seiter, 501 U.S. 294 (1991); Strickler v. Waters, 989 F.2d 1375 (4th Cir.
1993)); see Dawson v. Kendrick, 527 F. Supp. 1252, 1288 (S.D.W. Va. 1981) (finding that
inadequate plumbing, failure to provide functioning lighting fixtures, and denial of clean bedding
and clothing constituted constitutional violations).
In addition, Plaintiff has alleged that he was forced to sit in darkness for much of the
journey, surrounded by metal on all sides, and denied clean clothing for ten days. The drivers
took 18 hour shifts, often began to fall asleep at the wheel and drove at speeds up to 95 miles per
hour. Scuffles between prisoners were not addressed other than by the indiscriminate spraying of
pepper spray into the back of the van. For the duration of the trip, Plaintiff was shackled at the
hands, torso, and ankles. As Plaintiff has alleged, the restraints were too tight, causing him to
lose sensation in his fingers. Plaintiffs cries went ignored and to date, Plaintiff still suffers
numbness in his hands. When Plaintiff was unable to exit the van, the PTS guards pushed him
out onto the ground, injuring Plaintiffs shoulder. Plaintiff still experiences physical pain in his
shoulder. Such injuries are more than de minimis, and support a claim for a Fourteenth
Amendment violation. See Robles v. Prince George's Ciy., Maryland, 302 F.3d 262, 270 (4th
Cir. 2002) (finding Fourteenth Amendment due process violation of pretrial detainee who was
"tied up in a dark and deserted location in the middle of the night," and noting that "any
reasonable person would have been upset by what happened here.. . . The resulting injury was
more than de minimis").7
Both sides have cited the Court to a list of cases, mostly from district court judges, supporting their respective
positions on whether the conditions alleged support a Fourteenth Amendment claim. Compare Wright v. J&S
Extradition Services, LLC, etal., No. 3:11-0464, 2012 WL 1681812 (M.D. Tenn. May 11,2012) (finding plaintiff
did not state a claim where during transport he was shackled, not allowed to use bathroom, not allowed to bathe and
his high blood pressure was not attended to), Jensen v. Jorgenson, No. Civ. 03-4200, 2005 WL 2412379 (D.S.D.
Sept. 29, 2005) (granting motion to dismiss where plaintiff alleged being chained to other prisoners and not being
allowed to use the restroom for 12 hours) with Otero v. Catalogne. C.A. 08-282, 2010 U.S. Dist. LEX1S 102160
(W.D. Penn. Sept. 28, 2010) (allowing claim to move forward against driver of prisoner transport vehicle who was
falling asleep and driving recklessly); Avery v. Extradition Transp. Of Am., CV 11-00153-M-DWM-JCL, 2012 U.S.
Dist. LEXIS 186588 (D. Mont. Nov. 28, 2012) (granting default judgment in favor of plaintiff who alleged an
Eighth Amendment violation where plaintiff was shackled continuously and deprived of adequate sleeping facilities,
restroom facilities, and showers for at least six days). It is difficult to extrapolate a consistent pattern from these
holdings other than to note that they are fact specific and reflect a difference of opinion among judges in different
With regard to Defendants' culpable state of mind — drawing all reasonable inferences
in Plaintiff's favor, the guards and drivers had actual knowledge of these conditions, as they are
alleged to have required the prisoners to urinate in water bottles and defecate in plastic bags. The
guards and drivers are alleged to have pepper sprayed the entire rear compartment of the van,
and subsequently denied medical treatment to the prisoners. Indeed, they sat in the front seat and
bore witness to these events over the course of a week and a half. Thus, Plaintiff has alleged
sufficient facts to state a claim for unconstitutional conditions of confinement under the
Fourteenth Amendment against John Does #1-6.
With respect to Defendant PTS, however. under Monell v. Dep't of. Soc. Serv. of City qf
New York, 436 U.S. 658 (1978), a § 1983 cause of action may sustain against a municipality only
when execution of the government's unconstitutional policy or custom causes a plaintiff injury.
Lee, 2014 WL 476233, at *10; see also Walker v. Prince George's Co., Md., 575 F.3d 426, 431
(4th Cir. 2009) (stating that the liability of the municipality only arises where the employees'
unconstitutional actions are taken in furtherance of a municipal policy or custom); Bain v.
Transcor Am., LLC, No. 3:08-0656, 2009 WL 4348598, at *6-7 (M.D. Tenn. Nov. 24, 2009)
(discussing Monell claim against private company that provided prisoner and detainee
transportation services). To hold a municipality liable for an unconstitutional policy or custom,
plaintiff must allege liability "(1) through an express policy, such as a written ordinance or
regulation; (2) through the decisions of a person with final policymaking authority; (3) through
an omission, such as a failure to properly train officers, that manifests deliberate indifference to
the rights of citizens; or (4) through a practice that is so persistent and widespread as to
constitute a custom or usage with the force of law." Lytle v. Doyle, 326 F.3d 463, 471 (4th Cir.
2003) (internal citations omitted).
Because Plaintiff's Complaint is devoid of factual allegations from which the Court could
reasonably infer the existence of a written policy, a policy established by custom, or a policy
established by negligent training and supervision, Plaintiff has failed to state a 42 U.S.C. § 1983
claim against Defendant PTS in Count V of the Complaint. See Miller v. Hamm, Civ. No. CCB10-243, 2011 WL 9185, at *14 (D. Md. Jan. 3,2011) (dismissing a plaintiff's § 1983 claim
against defendants in their official capacity where the plaintiff "purports to identify several
policies, customs, and practices engaged in by the [Defendants] that causally contributed to his
constitutional violations, [but] these allegations amount to no more than conclusory statements
that are not sufficient to establish a plausible claim for relief'). Indeed, Plaintiff's Complaint
appears to be limited to a single experience, at a particular time, with a particular set of guards.8
Accordingly, Count V as to PTS is dismissed.
D. Violations of Article 24 and 26 of the Maryland Declaration of Rights
— Excessive Force and Loss of Liberty
Finally, as to Plaintiff's Articles 24 and 26 claims, "the cases are legion in which
Maryland Courts have construed Article 26 in pani materia with the Fourth Amendment to the
United States Constitution," Strickland v. Carroll Cry., Md., No. CIV.A. ELH-11-00622, 2012
WL 401075, at *23 (D. Md. Feb. 7, 2012) (compiling cases), and Article 24 is the state analog to
the Fourteenth Amendment Due Process Clause. See Lee, 2014 WL 476233, at *15 (noting that
Articles 24 and 26 are the state analog to the federal Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments, and
they are analyzed in pani materia). Moreover, in evaluating claims under Article 24 and Article
26, "Supreme Court decisions with regard to those amendments are particularly persuasive."
Widgeon v. Eastern Shore Hospital Center, 300 Md. 520, 533 (1984). But Maryland courts have
During the Motion hearing, counsel for Plaintiff presented the Court with a list of similar allegations against PTS
employees; however, those allegations were not included in the Complaint and will, therefore, not be considered for
purposes of this Motion.
recognized that relief for violations of the U.S. Constitution do not necessarily warrant relief
under the Maryland Declaration of Rights. See Manikhi v. Mass Transit Admin., 360 Md. 333,
361-62 (2000) (citing DiPino v. Davis, 354 Md. 18, 50 (1999) ("[T]he right of recovery for
Federal violations arises from statute—§ 1983—whereas the redress for State violations is
through a common law action for damages."); see also Widgeon, 300 Md. at 537-538 (-we hold
only that where an individual is deprived of his liberty or property interest in violation of Articles
24 and 26, he may enforce those rights by bringing a common law action for damages")
(emphasis added); Dyer v. Maryland State Board of Education, 187 F. Supp. 3d. 599, 614 n.23
(D. Md. 2016) (noting that Article 24 implicates a narrower class of defendants than § 1983).
Liability for constitutional violations under statute (i.e., § 1983) attaches to those acting
"under color of law," whereas federal non-statutory constitutional claims may not be pursued
against private actors. See Correctional Services Corp. v. Malesko, 534 U.S. 61, 71(2001)
(holding that plaintiff may not bring Bivens action against private prison even if prison was
acting "under color of federal law"). The Fourth Circuit has also recognized the need to restrain
the liability of private actors under judicially-created constitutional remedies, like Bivens, as
compared to § 1983, which is a "congressional enactment that expressly creates liability" for
those acting under color of law. See Holly v. Scott, 434 F.3d 287, 292 (4th Cir. 2006). As the
Fourth Circuit stated, "[t]here is ample reason to be even more cautious about imputing liability
to private actors under Bivens than under § 1983." Id.
Likewise, Maryland courts have acknowledged that plaintiffs may only pursue state
constitutional claims against "public officials" or "government agents."9 See Estate of Jones v.
Plaintiff introduces general concepts of agency law to suggest that the Defendants, acting under contract with the
State, are liable as government agents. See ECF No. 14-1 at 17 (citing Wood v. Walton, 855 F. Supp. 2d 494, 503
n.25 (D. Md. 2012). This analysis is not directly applicable to whether the Defendants, acting 'under color of law'
for purposes of § 1983 liability are also liable under judicially-created constitutional remedies.
NMS Health Care of Hyattsville, LLC, 903 F. Supp. 2d 232, 239 (D. Md. 2012) ("Although a
plaintiff may bring a common law cause of action under [Article 24] . . . he can only do so
against "public officials" or "government agents") (internal citation omitted); see also Manikhi,
360 Md. at 363 ("Maryland Constitutional provisions have the more narrow focus of protecting
citizens from certain unlawful acts committed by government officials. Indeed, only government
agents can commit these kinds of Constitutional transgressions.") (emphasis in original and
citation omitted). Therefore, because neither PTS nor John Does #1-6 are public officials or
government agents, they are not subject to claims under Article 24 and Article 26 of the
Maryland Declaration of Rights.1°
For the foregoing reasons, Defendant's Partial Motion to Dismiss, ECF No. 9, is granted,
in part, and denied, in part. A separate Order shall issue.
GEORGE J. HAZEL
United States District Judge
io In addition to the analysis above, the Court's dismissal of the Plaintiff's Fourth Amendment claim under Section
§ 1983 in Count V precludes the Article 26 claim in Count VII.
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