Ayele v. Washington Adventist Hospital et al

Filing 23

MEMORANDUM OPINION (c/e/m and m/ to Plaintiff 9/5/17 sat). Signed by Judge Deborah K. Chasanow on 9/5/2017. (sat, Chambers)

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IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT FOR THE DISTRICT OF MARYLAND : MICHAEL AYELE : v. : Civil Action No. DKC 16-3778 : WASHINGTON ADVENTIST HOSPITAL, et al. : MEMORANDUM OPINION Presently pending and ready for resolution are: (1) a motion to dismiss filed by Defendants Montgomery County Police Department (“MCPD”) and J. Thomas Manger, Chief of Police (collectively, the “MCPD Defendants”) (ECF No. 6); (2) a motion to dismiss filed by Defendants Washington Adventist Hospital, Terry Forde — President and CEO of Adventist HealthCare, Inc., and Erik Wangsness Washington Adventist — President Hospital of Adventist (collectively, the HealthCare “Washington Adventist Defendants”)(ECF No. 8); (3) a motion to strike filed by the motion Washington to amend (“Plaintiff”) (ECF Adventist the No. Defendants complaint 13); (5) by a (ECF No. Plaintiff motion to 11); (4) Michael end a Ayele modern day slavery filed by Plaintiff (ECF No. 20); and (6) a motion to request video recordings filed by Plaintiff (ECF No. 22). The issues have been briefed, and the court now rules, no hearing being deemed necessary. Local Rule 105.6. For the following reasons, the motion to amend the complaint will be granted in part and denied in part, the motions to dismiss will be granted, the motion to end modern day slavery will be denied, the motion to strike will be denied, and the motion to request video records will be denied as moot. I. Background Plaintiff filed a previous suit against the Defendants on August 29, 2016, but that case was dismissed without prejudice when Plaintiff failed to return a court proceed in forma pauperis and complaint. approved motion to Order Dismissing Case, Ayele v. Washington Adventist Hosp., No. PX-16-3011 (D.Md. Oct. 28, 2016) (ECF No. 4).1 On November 22, 2016, Plaintiff brought this action under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against the MCPD Defendants, the Washington Adventist Defendants, and the Maryland Crisis Team,2 alleging that they violated his Fourth Amendment Rights. (ECF No. 1, at 4). This complaint alleges that Plaintiff was improperly detained at a McDonald’s restaurant in Silver Spring, 1 Plaintiff also brought suit against the MCPD Defendants in a separate action for libel per se but that case was dismissed when Plaintiff failed to supplement his complaint with the allegedly defamatory statements about which he complained. Ayele v. My Montgomery Cty. Media, DKC-16-3900 (D.Md. May 19, 2017). 2 When Plaintiff failed to serve Defendant Maryland Crisis Team with a summons or a copy of the complaint within 90 days of filing and failed to respond within 30 days to an Order to Show Cause (ECF No. 12), Defendant Maryland Crisis Team was dismissed from the case. (ECF No. 15). 2 Maryland. He was taken from the McDonald’s to Washington Adventist Hospital against his will, where he was held for a period of time. He purports to make a claim pursuant to the Fourth Amendment. (ECF No. 1). On January 26, 2017, the MCPD Defendants moved to dismiss for failure to state a claim. (ECF No. 6). On February 1, the Washington Adventist Defendants moved to dismiss for failure to state a claim and lack of jurisdiction. (ECF No. 8). On February 7, Plaintiff filed a document entitled “Michael Ayele Analysis and Comments to Judge Peter Messit[t]e Order: Request for Introduction of a Court Appointed Technologies, and Jury Trial.” reiterated parts of the Lawyer, Communication (ECF No. 10). complaint, requested The document appointment of counsel, and requested that all court proceedings be recorded and made available to Plaintiff. On February 24, the Washington Adventist Defendants moved to strike the document. 11). On May 19, Plaintiff responded to the MCPD Defendants’ motion to dismiss and moved to amend the complaint. 13). (ECF No. On July 15, an order was issued denying (ECF No. Plaintiff’s request for appointment of counsel and directing the Washington Adventist Defendants to mail Plaintiff a copy of their motion to dismiss. The order gave Plaintiff until August 16 to respond to the motions. (ECF No. 18). On August 25, Plaintiff filed a 3 motion to end modern day slavery (ECF No. 20), and a motion to request video recordings of court sessions (ECF No. 22). Plaintiff’s additional motion details. to (ECF amend his 13). He No. complaint alleges contains that stopped him at the McDonald’s in early August 2015. police He alleges that, at that time, he “was posing no harm to [himself] or others.” (Id. at 2). the hospital. The police took him in a police car to It appears he was held at the hospital pursuant to Maryland’s civil commitment procedure. hospital forced him to take He alleges that the psychotropic medication. hospital discharged him sometime before early November. The (Id. at 3-5). II. Motion to Amend A party may amend its pleading once as a matter of course within 21 days after serving it or within 21 days after service of a motion under Fed.R.Civ.P. 15(a)(1). Rule 12(b), whichever is earlier. When the right to amend as a matter of course expires, “a party may amend its pleading only with the opposing party's Fed.R.Civ.P. written 15(a)(2). consent Rule or 15(a)(2) the court's provides that leave.” courts should “freely give leave [to amend] when justice so requires,” and commits the matter to the discretion of the district court. See Simmons v. United Mortg. & Loan Inv., LLC, 634 F.3d 754, 769 (4th Cir. 2011). Denial of leave to amend is appropriate “only 4 when the amendment would be prejudicial to the opposing party, there has been bad faith on the part of the moving party, or the amendment would be futile.” Edwards v. City of Goldsboro, 178 F.3d 231, 242 (4th Cir. 1999) (emphasis in original) (quoting Johnson v. Oroweat Foods Co., 785 F.2d 503, 509 (4th Cir. 1986)). Leave to amend may be denied as futile “if the proposed amended complaint fails to satisfy the requirements of the federal rules,” including federal pleading standards. Katyle v. Perm Nat. Gaming, Inc., 637 F.3d 462, 471 (4th Cir. 2011) (quoting United States ex rel. Wilson v. Kellogg Brown & Root, Inc., 525 F.3d 370, 376 (4th Cir. 2008)); Oroweat Foods Co., 785 F.2d at 510 (“Leave to amend, however, should only be denied on the ground of futility when the proposed amendment is clearly insufficient or frivolous on its face.” (citations omitted)). A pleading need not contain detailed factual allegations, but the plaintiff must allege enough facts to make the claim appear “plausible on its face.” Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555 (2007); see Ashcroft U.S. v. Iqbal, 556 662, 678 (2009) (“Threadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action, supported by mere conclusory statements, do not suffice.” (citation omitted)). Accordingly, denial of leave to amend is appropriate if the court, taking as true the allegations of the proposed amended pleading, would be compelled to dismiss the action. See Kellogg Brown & Root, 525 F.3d at 376 (affirming the district court's 5 denial of leave to amend because the “proposed amended complaint does not properly state a claim under Rule 12(b)(6)”). Plaintiff’s motion to amend related to his initial detention. motion requests additional contains additional facts Based on these facts, the damages. (ECF No. 13, at 1-5). Fed.R.Civ.P. 15(a)(2) mandates that courts “freely give leave” to amend. Therefore, to the extent Plaintiff supplements the initial complaint with additional facts related to his detention by MCPD Defendants and the Washington Adventist Defendants and based on these new facts increases the amount of damages, his motion to amend will be granted. The Maryland motion also Department (ECF No. 13, at 3-5). requests of to Health3 as add Amanda defendants. Street In and the support, Plaintiff states: I would like to re-iterate here that I have previously requested Medical Information and Arrest Reports via postal mail and e-mail to appropriate channels handling FOIA questions at the Department of Mental Health and Hygiene (DHMH) of Maryland, namely Amanda Street . . . . For that reason, and because of her failure to give [me an] official position in the form of a letter acknowledging receipt of my FOIA requests and the reasons for which she was not able to retrieve requested records, I have decided to add her name in this complaint. 3 During the pendency of this case, the Maryland legislature changed the name of this department from the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene to the Department of Health. “Department of Health and Mental Hygiene – Renaming,” 2017 Maryland Laws Ch. 214 (S.B. 82). 6 (ECF No. 13, at 4). Plaintiff has not pled facts that support a legal claim for relief against Ms. Street and the Department of Health. Therefore, to the extent Plaintiff seeks to add Amanda Street and the Maryland Department of Health as defendants, his motion will be denied. The motion also requests to add Springfield Hospital Center and six of its employees as defendants. (ECF No. 13 at 4-6). The motion explains that, after he was released from Washington Adventist trespass. Hospital, he Apparently, was he later was arrested taken to and charged Springfield with Hospital Center where the doctors found him incompetent to stand trial. He alleges that he was mistreated during his stay there. (ECF No. 13 at 4-6). Under the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, “plaintiff may join multiple defendants in a single action only if plaintiff asserts at least one claim to relief against each of them that arises out of the same transaction or occurrence and presents questions of law or fact common to all.” 7 Charles Allen Wright, Arthur R. Miller, Mary Kay Kane, Federal Practice & Procedure Civil § 1655 (3d ed. 2009). Thus, “Claim A against Defendant 1 should not be joined with unrelated Claim B against Defendant 2.” George v. Smith, 507 F.3d 605, 607 (7th Cir. 2007). 7 Here, Plaintiff tries multiple defendants. to join unrelated claims against He was committed to Washington Adventist Hospital in August after being detained at a McDonald’s, and he was released sometime before November. He describes Washington Adventist as an “asylum.” (ECF No. 13, at 4). he never got a chance to consult an He alleges that attorney during the commitment process and that he was held at Washington Adventist Hospital based on the proceedings of a “kangaroo court inside the [h]ospital” (ECF No. 1, at 6). In early November, after his release from Washington Adventist Hospital, police arrested him and charged him with trespass. Unlike his experience with Hospital, Plaintiff had an attorney. appears to have committed him Washington Adventist In this case, a court after an evaluation by a Springfield Hospital Center employee found him incompetent to stand trial. take Although he claims both hospitals forced him to medication, he only alleges that Springfield Hospital Center was abusive. Because detention, hospitals the circumstances the commitment process, were different, “[t]he the staff at the (ECF No. 13, at 4-8). surrounding and claims the his initial treatment arise from at the separate events . . . . As such this complaint comprises multiple law suits, rather 3:09cv00043, than 2010 WL one suit.” 724023, *8 8 Jackson (E.D. Va. v. Olsen, March 1, No. 2010) (internal quotation marks omitted); see Saval v. BL Ltd., 710 F.2d 1027, 1031 (4th Cir. 1983) (affirming the district court’s conclusion that problems arising from automobiles were not properly joined). four different Jaguar Therefore, to the extent his motion to amend seeks to add additional defendants involved in his commitment to the Springfield Hospital Center, it will be denied. III. Motions to Dismiss A. Standard of Review The purpose of a motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6) is to test the sufficiency of the complaint. Presley v. City of Charlottesville, 464 F.3d 480, 483 (4th Cir. 2006). A complaint need only satisfy the standard of Rule 8(a)(2), which requires a “short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief.” “Rule 8(a)(2) still requires a ‘showing,’ rather than a blanket assertion, of entitlement to relief.” (2007). Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 n.3 That showing must consist of more than “a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action” or assertion[s] devoid of further factual enhancement.” v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (citations omitted). stage, all considered well-pleaded as true, allegations Albright v. in a Oliver, complaint 510 U.S. “naked Ashcroft At this must 266, be 268 (1994), and all factual allegations must be construed in the 9 light most favorable to the plaintiff. See Harrison v. Westinghouse Savannah River Co., 176 F.3d 776, 783 (4th Cir. 1999) (citing Mylan Labs., Inc. v. Matkari, 7 F.3d 1130, 1134 (4th Cir. 1993)). In evaluating the complaint, unsupported legal allegations not need be accepted. Revene Comm’rs, 882 F.2d 870, 873 (4th Cir. 1989). v. Charles Cty. Legal conclusions couched as factual allegations are insufficient, Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678, as are conclusory factual allegations devoid of any reference to actual events, United Black Firefighters v. Hirst, 604 F.2d 844, (4th 847 Cir. 1979); see also Francis v. Giacomelli, 588 F.3d 186, 192 (4th Cir. 2009). Pro se pleadings are liberally construed and held to a less stringent standard than pleadings drafted by lawyers. Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 94 (2007) (quoting Estelle v. Gamble, 429 U.S. 97, 106 (1976)); Haines v. Kerner, 404 U.S. 519, 520 (1972). pleadings Liberal construction means that the court will read the to state a valid claim to the extent that it is possible to do so from the facts available; it does not mean that the court should rewrite the complaint to include claims never presented. Cir. 1999). Barnett v. Hargett, 174 F.3d 1128, 1132 (10th That is, even when pro se litigants are involved, the court cannot ignore a clear failure to allege facts that support a viable claim. Weller v. Dep’t of Soc. Servs., 901 F.2d 387, 391 (4th Cir. 1990); Forquer v. Schlee, No. RDB–12–969, 10 2012 WL 6087491, at *3 (D.Md. Dec. 4, 2012) (“[E]ven a pro se complaint must be dismissed if it does not allege a plausible claim for relief.” (citation and internal quotation marks omitted)). B. “Under MCPD Defendants’ Motion to Dismiss Maryland law, it is well-established that county police departments are agents of the county and not treated as separate legal entities.” AW-10-2851, 2011 WL LaPier v. Prince George’s Cty., No. 4501372, at *3 (D.Md. Sept. 27, 2011). Thus, MCPD is not a suable entity. Mason v. Montgomery Cty. Police Dep’t, No. AW-13-1077, 2013 WL 6585928, at *1 (D.Md. Dec. 13, 2013). To the extent Plaintiff brings a claim against MCPD, the claim will be dismissed. Plaintiff fails to allege that Defendant Manger was personally involved in Plaintiff’s detention, and, therefore, to the extent Plaintiff brings a claim against Defendant Manger in his individual capacity, it will be dismissed. To state a claim pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against Defendant Manger in his official capacity (which is simply a suit against the entity which he represents), a plaintiff must allege “a direct causal link between a municipal policy constitutional deprivation.” 378, 385 (1989). a government’s or custom and the alleged City of Canton v. Harris, 489 U.S. A municipal policy includes “the decisions of lawmakers [and] 11 the acts of its policymaking officials[.]” Connick v. Thompson, 563 U.S. 51, 60-61 (2011). Plaintiff’s complaint fails to identify a specific policy, act, or decision of the County that has a causal connection to the alleged brings violation, a claim and, therefore, against Defendant to the Manger extent in Plaintiff his official capacity, it will be dismissed. C. Washington Adventist Defendants’ Motion to Dismiss Section 1983 “imposes liability only where a person acts ‘under color’ of a state ‘statute, ordinance, regulation, custom, or usage.’” Richardson v. McKnight, 521 U.S. 399, 403 (1997) (quoting 42 U.S.C. § 1983). Private actors, such as the Washington Adventist Defendants, can be liable if “the conduct allegedly causing the deprivation of a federal right be fairly attributable to the State.” 457 U.S. 922, 937 (1982). Lugar v. Edmondson Oil Co., Inc., The United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit has identified three circumstances where “[a] private entity regulated by the state acts under color of state law (1) when there is either a sufficiently close nexus, or joint action between the state and the private party; (2) when the state has, through extensive regulation, exercised coercive power over, or provided significant encouragement to, the private actor; or (3) when the function performed by the private party has traditionally 12 been an exclusive public S.P. v. City of Takoma Park, 134 F.3d 260, 269 (4th function.” Cir. 1998). private In that case, the court specifically held that a medical involuntary professional commitment acting statute is pursuant to acting under not Maryland’s color of state law. Here, Plaintiff has only provided conclusory statements about the Washington Adventist Defendants’ relationship to the government. (ECF No. 13, at 3). He has not alleged facts to support a conclusion that the Washington Adventist Defendants were acting under color of state law, and, therefore, his claims will be dismissed as to these defendants.4 IV. Motion to Strike Defendants filed a motion to strike Plaintiff’s “Analysis and Comments.” to strike (ECF No. 11). “from a Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(f) allows a court pleading any impertinent, or scandalous matter.” redundant, immaterial, Plaintiff’s “Analysis and Comments” (ECF No. 10), is not construed as a pleading, and, therefore, the motion to strike will be denied. 4 The Washington Adventist Defendants also argue that there is no federal jurisdiction. Although Plaintiff’s complaint is not a model of clarity, to the extent it raises a claim, the claim is a violation of federal law. Thus, jurisdiction exists to decide the matter. 13 V. Motion to End Modern Day Slavery Plaintiff’s motion to end modern day slavery does not request any relief that can be granted by the court system. Therefore, the motion will be denied. VI. Motion to Request Video Recordings Plaintiff proceedings. requests video recordings of all court Having dismissed the rest of his action, this motion will be denied as moot. VII. Conclusion For the foregoing reasons, the motion to amend filed by Plaintiff will be granted in part and denied in part, the motion to dismiss filed by the MCPD Defendants will be granted, the motion to dismiss filed by the Washington Adventist Defendants will be granted, the motion to strike filed by the Washington Adventist Defendants will be denied, the motion to end modern day slavery will be denied, and the motion to request video recordings will be denied as moot. A separate order follow. /s/ DEBORAH K. CHASANOW United States District Judge 14 will

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