Devi v. Prince George's County , et al
MEMORANDUM OPINION. Signed by Judge Deborah K. Chasanow on 8/21/2017. (sat, Chambers)
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE DISTRICT OF MARYLAND
LA’MOORE QUEEN DEVI
Civil Action No. DKC 16-3790
PRINCE GEORGE’S COUNTY, et al.
Presently pending and ready for resolution in this civil
George’s County (the “County”) and Prince George’s County Police
Officers Alton Bradley and Daniel Conley.
hearing being deemed necessary.
(ECF Nos. 20; 29).
Local Rule 105.6.
(“Plaintiff”), while in transit to visit her brother Antonio
Thomas, was driving through the parking lot of Henson Creek
Apartments, when she was pulled over by private security for the
Unless otherwise noted, the facts outlined here are set
forth in the complaint and construed in the light most favorable
apartment complex for failing to stop at a stop sign.
1 ¶¶ 8-10).
Mr. Thomas emerged from his apartment and notified
Plaintiff that the men were private security for the apartment
complex and that she should neither give them her identification
nor answer any questions.
(Id. ¶ 12).
Plaintiff was issued a
continued to argue about the guard’s treatment of visitors to
the apartment complex.
(Id. ¶¶ 13-14).
left the apartment complex without further incident.
The following day, Plaintiff returned to the Henson Creek
While inside Mr. Thomas’s apartment, Mr. Thomas’s
girlfriend informed Plaintiff that County police and apartment
upstairs to Thomas’s apartment.
(Id. ¶ 18).
Upon opening the
Bradley and Conley, who allegedly forced their way through the
partially open door, grabbed Plaintiff by the neck, twisted her
arms behind her back, and slammed her against the wall with
sufficient force to break the dental retainer in her mouth.
transported to the Upper Marlboro Department of Corrections and
arrest, and failure to obey a lawful order of a law enforcement
(Id. ¶¶ 24, 26).
Those charges were dismissed nolle
prosequi on December 7, 2015.
(ECF No. 1-4).
On November 23, 2016, Plaintiff filed a complaint against
Defendants alleging claims for malicious prosecution (Count I);
unlawful custom, pattern, or practice of improper conduct under
Maryland law (Count II); gross negligence (Count III); § 1983
excessive force (Counts IV and V); and § 1983 Monell liability
(Counts VI and VII).
(ECF No. 1).
On February 7, the County
and Officer Bradley filed a partial motion to dismiss or, in the
alternative, for summary judgment.
(ECF No. 20).
moves to dismiss all claims except Count V.
Plaintiff submitted her opposition to the County and Officer
Bradley’s motion on February 24 (ECF No. 24), and the County and
Officer Bradley replied on March 10 (ECF No. 25).
Conley was served, he filed his motion adopting the arguments
made by Officer Bradley in the County and Officer Bradley’s
motion (ECF No. 29), to which Plaintiff submitted her opposition
on May 2, adopting all arguments made in her opposition to the
County and Officer Bradley’s motion.
(ECF No. 30).
Standard of Review
The purpose of a motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6) is
to test the sufficiency of the complaint.2
Presley v. City of
plaintiff’s complaint need only satisfy the standard of Rule
8(a), 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.”
v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 n.3 (2007).
Bell Atl. Corp.
That showing must
consist of more than “a formulaic recitation of the elements of
a cause of action” or “naked assertion[s] devoid of further
Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678
(2009) (citations omitted).
At this stage, all well-pleaded allegations in a complaint
must be considered as true, Albright v. Oliver, 510 U.S. 266,
268 (1994), and all factual allegations must be construed in the
Westinghouse Savannah River Co., 176 F.3d 776, 783 (4th Cir.
The Defendants move to dismiss or, in the alternative, for
Material outside of the pleadings was not
Defendants’ motions will be analyzed as motions to dismiss. See
Pruitt v. Wells Fargo Bank, N.A., No. DKC-15-1308, 2015 WL
9490234, at *2 (“In reviewing [a] motion to dismiss, the court
may consider allegations in the complaint . . . . without
converting the motion into one for summary judgment.”).
1999) (citing Mylan Labs., Inc. v. Matkari, 7 F.3d 1130, 1134
(4th Cir. 1993)).
In evaluating the complaint, unsupported legal
Comm’rs, 882 F.2d 870, 873 (4th Cir. 1989).
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,
Giacomelli, 588 F.3d 186, 193 (4th Cir. 2009).
complaint must “‘permit[ ] the court to infer more than the mere
possibility of misconduct’ based upon ‘its judicial experience
and common sense.’”
Coleman v. Md. Court of Appeals, 626 F.3d
187, 190 (4th Cir. 2010) (quoting Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 679).
Tort Claims against the County
The County argues that Counts I and III should be dismissed
against it because, as a municipality, it is immune from suit
based on the tortious acts of its employees.
ingrained in Maryland law” and may not be waived in the absence
Montgomery Cty., 127 Md.App. 172, 182 (1999).
such as the County, is also entitled to governmental immunity.
Id. at 183.
(“When the state gives a city or county part of its
police power to exercise, the city or county to that extent is
Specifically, municipalities are generally immune
from common law tort suits when engaged in governmental, as
opposed to proprietary, acts.
See Gray–Hopkins v. Prince
George’s Cty., 309 F.3d 224, 234 (4th
Thus, the County is immune as to
committed by its police officers.
Hector v. Weglein, 558 F.Supp. 194, 206
Id.; DiPino v. Davis, 354 Md.App.
(“LGTCA”) requires the County to indemnify a judgment against
its employee for damages resulting from a tortious act committed
by the employee within the scope of employment, the LGTCA does
not permit a plaintiff to name the County directly in a common
law tort suit.
Md.Code Ann., Cts. & Jud. Proc. § 5-303(b);
Dawson v. Prince George’s Cty., 896 F.Supp. 537, 539 (D.Md.
Accordingly, governmental immunity bars Counts I and
III against the County, and the County’s motion will be granted
as to Counts I and III.
Monell Claims against the County3
The County also asserts that Counts VI and VII must be
dismissed because Plaintiff has failed to plead sufficient facts
in her complaint under Monell v. Dept. of Soc. Servs., 436 U.S.
Under Monell, municipal liability arises only where
the constitutionally offensive acts of its employees are taken
in furtherance of some municipal “policy or custom.”
v. City of Newport News, 743 F.2d 227, 229 (4th Cir. 1984).
policy or custom can arise in four ways: “(1) through an express
policy, such as a written ordinance or regulation; (2) through
the decisions of a person with final policymaking authority; (3)
‘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)(citing Carter v. Morris, 164 F.3d 215, 217 (4th Cir.
Although Plaintiff requests relief against all Defendants
on Counts VI and VII of her complaint, she concedes in her
opposition to Defendants’ motions that she has “no intention of
pursuing a Monell claim against [Officers Bradley and Conley],
and they are not named in the complaint.” (ECF No. 24, at 12).
Furthermore, Plaintiff cannot state a Monell claim against an
officer in his individual capacity.
Lee v. Queen Anne’s Cty.
Office of Sheriff, No. RDB-13-672, 2014 WL 476233 at *11 (D.Md.
In Count VI, Plaintiff alleges that a policy or custom of
the County has arisen through its failure to train its officers
with respect to the use of excessive force.
alleges that a policy or custom has also arisen through certain
practices that encourage officers to use excessive force.
Failure to Train Properly
train its officers with respect to the use of excessive force.
failure properly to train officers, that “manifest[s] deliberate
indifference to the rights of citizens.”
indifference’ is a stringent standard, which is only met if
Plaintiff pleads facts such that the Court may draw a reasonable
inference that (1) the County has actual or constructive notice
McDonnell v. Hewitt-Angleberger, No. WMN-11-3284, 2012
Without alleging any facts from which a reasonable inference may
be drawn, Plaintiff merely states in conclusory terms that the
County failed to “adequately train, supervise, and discipline
“demonstrat[ing] a gross disregard for the constitutional rights
of the public and [Plaintiff],” leading to Plaintiff’s injuries.
(ECF No. 1 ¶ 81).
Without more, Plaintiff has failed to allege
purported failure to train its officers.
See Peters v. City of
Mount Rainier, No. GJH-14-00955, 2014 WL 4855032, at *5 (D.Md.
Sept. 29, 2014); see also Milligan, 743 F.2d at 230 (upholding
the district court’s dismissal of a plaintiff’s Monell claim
where the complaint alleged only that the City was “‘grossly
negligent’ in failing adequately to train its personnel and that
Plaintiff further alleges municipal liability on the basis
of “formal and informal customs, policies, and practices that
foster, promote, and encourage officers to use excessive force,”
including: failure to effectively instruct officers that they
occurs; failure to keep adequate record of acts of excessive
behavior; and failure to establish effective procedures, rules,
orders, guidelines, and practices to ensure that excessive force
will not be used.
(ECF No. 1 ¶ 82(a)-(d)).
Policy or custom
widespread” as to constitute a “custom or usage with the force
Lytle, 326 F.3d at 471.
Plaintiff fails to allege any
facts to support a known history of “persistent and widespread”
constitutional deprivations on the part of County employees from
which to infer a policy or custom of the County.
Milligan, 743 F.2d at 229-30.
Plaintiff merely alleges that a
adequate medical care, cover-up, and failure to investigate has
officers” (ECF No. 1 ¶ 82(a)), without providing any reference
Lanford v. Prince George’s Cty., 199 F.Supp.2d 297, 305 (D.Md.
2002)(finding that the plaintiff failed to provide support for
his Monell claim when he pleaded “conclusory factual allegations
devoid of any reference to actual events”); cf. Chen v. Mayor of
2009)(permitting the plaintiff’s Monell claim to proceed past
the motion-to-dismiss stage because he had alleged two “separate
incidents,” occurring nearly one week apart, in which the city
Savage v. Mayor of Salisbury, No. CCB-08-3200, 2009 WL 1119087,
at *4 (D.Md. Apr. 22, 2009)(finding the plaintiff’s allegations
raised an inference of widespread police misconduct in light of
“[t]he number of officers involved, including repeat offenders,
illegality of their actions.”).
allegedly committed by Defendants Bradley and Conley, Milligan,
743 F.2d at 230, and “a municipal policy or custom giving rise
to § 1983 liability will not be inferred merely from municipal
inaction in the face of isolated constitutional deprivations by
Plaintiff’s complaint “consists of
speculative, legal conclusions couched as factual allegations;
not facts supporting a plausible claim.”
Lewis v. Simms, No.
AW-11-2172, 2012 WL 254024, at *5 (D.Md. Jan. 26, 2012), aff’d,
582 F.App’x 180 (4th Cir. 2014).
Plaintiff thus fails to satisfy
failure to train and certain improper practices, with respect to
Plaintiff's allegations are identically general and fail for the
granted as to Counts VI and VII.
Longtin Claim against Defendants
Defendants argue that Count II should be dismissed because
Plaintiff failed to plead sufficient facts to support her claim
and is unable to bring a Longtin claim against Officers Bradley
and Conley, in their individual capacities, under Maryland law.
Rosa v. Board of Educ., No. AW-11-02873, 2012
WL 3715331, at *9 (D.Md. Aug. 27, 2012).
“Maryland, like the
McMahon v. Cty. Comm’rs, No. JFM-13-490, 2013 WL
2285378, at *4 n.6 (D.Md. May 21, 2013)(citing Prince George’s
Cty. V. Longtin, 419 Md. 450, 494-98 (2011)).
For the same
reasons that Plaintiff’s Monell claims fail, Plaintiff’s Longtin
See McMahon, 2013 WL 2285378, at *4 n.6.
Maryland law does, however, recognize municipal liability based
constitutional violations committed by employees.
Plaintiff argues in her opposition that she may bring a
individual capacities because Maryland law recognizes a pattern
Longtin, 419 Md. at 500).
Plaintiff places emphasis on the
United States, . . . imposes respondeat superior liability on
State Constitutional violations committed by their agents and
Plaintiff has not identified any cases holding that
cognizable under Maryland law.
Accordingly, Count II must also
be dismissed as to Officers Bradley and Conley.
See Lee, 2014
WL 476233, at *17.
Fourteenth Amendment Excessive Force Claim
Defendants next argue that Count IV should be dismissed
because Plaintiff’s claim of excessive force during the course
during the course of an arrest, investigatory stop, or other
seizure of a person, Riley v. Dorton, 115 F.3d 1159, 1161 (4th
Fourteenth Amendment, Orem v. Rephann, 523 F.3d 442, 446 (4th
physically restrained her inside her brother Thomas’s apartment,
before she was transported to the Upper Marlboro Department of
Corrections for processing.
(ECF No. 1 ¶¶ 20-24).
occurs when the arrestee is physically restrained or when the
arrestee is told of the arrest and submits.
300 Md. 485, 510 (1984).
Little v. State,
Because Plaintiff does not allege any
force used by Officers Bradley and Conley at any other time,
Plaintiff’s alleged injury occurred during the course of her
arrest and requires application of the Fourth Amendment, not the
Fourteenth Amendment, to her claim.
Accordingly, Count IV is
Plaintiff May Not Recover Punitive Damages from the
Count V seeks both compensatory and punitive damages.
County moves to dismiss Plaintiff’s request for punitive damages
on the ground that punitive damages are not recoverable against
“Maryland law disallows any such assessment of punitive
damages against a county.”
Robles v. Prince George’s Cty., 302
F.3d 262, 273 (4th Cir. 2002)(citing Md.Code Ann., Cts. & Jud.
Proc. § 5–303(c)(1)); see also City of Newport v. Fact Concerts,
Plaintiff may seek punitive damages against Officers Bradley and
punitive damages against the County.
For the foregoing reasons, Defendants’ partial motions to
dismiss will be granted.
Specifically, Counts II, IV, VI, and
VII are dismissed as to all Defendants.
dismissed as to the County only.
Counts I and III are
A separate order will follow.
DEBORAH K. CHASANOW
United States District Judge
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