Coleman v. State of New Hampshire
ORDER denying 26 Motion to Dismiss. So Ordered by Judge Landya B. McCafferty.(gla)
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE DISTRICT OF NEW HAMPSHIRE
Civil No. 16-cv-498-LM
Opinion No. 2017 DNH 213
State of New Hampshire, et al.
O R D E R
Before the court is defendant Officer Thomas Dronsfield’s
motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of
As a result of preliminary review conducted
pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e) and LR 4.3(d)(2), only two
claims remain against Dronsfield: a Fourth Amendment maliciousprosecution claim brought under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, and a state
tort law claim for malicious prosecution.
See doc. no. 19 at
Dronsfield moves to dismiss both claims on res judicata
In response, plaintiff Richard Coleman filed a motion
to strike the motion to dismiss, which the court construes as an
objection to Dronsfield’s motion.1
For the following reasons,
the court denies Dronsfield’s motion to dismiss.
Dronsfield argues that the motion to strike should be
rejected because it fails to comply with LR 7.1(a)(2) and LR
7.1(c). To the extent that Coleman failed to comply with those
rules, the court excuses such failures in the interest of
justice. See LR 1.3(b).
STANDARD OF REVIEW
Under Rule 12(b)(6), the court must accept the factual
allegations in the complaint as true, construe reasonable
inferences in the plaintiff’s favor, and “determine whether the
factual allegations in the plaintiff's complaint set forth a
plausible claim upon which relief may be granted.”
Wells Fargo Bank, N.A., 772 F.3d 63, 71 (1st Cir. 2014)
(internal quotation marks omitted).
A claim is facially
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.”
Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S.
662, 678 (2009).
In addition, “[a]n affirmative defense such as res judicata
may be raised in a motion to dismiss . . . when the facts
establishing the defense are clear on the face of the
Medina-Padilla v. U.S. Aviation
Underwriters, Inc., 815 F.3d 83, 85 (1st Cir. 2016).
motion to dismiss is premised on res judicata, [the court] may
take into account, in addition to the well-pleaded facts in the
complaint, the record in the original action.”
The court incorporates by reference the facts set forth in
the April 18, 2017 Report & Recommendation, which summarizes the
allegations in Coleman’s complaint.
See doc. no. 19 at 2-4; see
also doc. no. 25 (approving R & R).
In his motion to dismiss,
Dronsfield directs the court’s attention to Coleman’s 2012
lawsuit against him, which relates to the same incident
underlying Coleman’s claims in this case.
In that case, as
here, Coleman alleged that Dronsfield had Coleman arrested for
indecent exposure, knowing that the charge was false.
Coleman v. Town of Lee, No. 12-cv-109-PB, 2012 WL 4725502, at *2
(D.N.H. Sept. 10, 2012), R. & R. adopted by 2012 WL 4713897
(Oct. 3, 2012).
On preliminary review in the prior case, this court
construed Coleman’s claim against Dronsfield to be “that
Dronsfield lacked probable cause to effect Coleman's arrest
[and] knowingly obtained his arrest using false statements,” in
violation of the Fourth Amendment.
The court recommended
dismissal of the claim, concluding that the complaint failed to
state sufficient facts to show that Dronsfield lacked probable
cause or “knew that Coleman was innocent when he had him
The Report & Recommendation was approved, and
the prior suit was dismissed.
Dronsfield argues that res judicata bars Coleman from
pursuing the present claims against him, because those claims
are premised on the same operative facts as Coleman’s prior
The court disagrees.
Res judicata “does not apply where a claim could not have
been raised in the first litigation.”
Torromeo v. Town of
Fremont, NH, 438 F.3d 113, 116 (1st Cir. 2006) (citing In re
Iannochino, 242 F.3d 36, 43 n.4 (1st Cir. 2001)).
the doctrine “does not bar a party from bringing a claim that
arose subsequent to a prior judgment involving the same
Am. Home Assurance Co. v. Chevron, USA, Inc., 400
F.3d 265, 272 (5th Cir. 2005) (collecting cases); cf.
Restatement (Second) of Judgments § 20(2) (1982) (“A valid and
final personal judgment for the defendant, which rests on the
prematurity of the action . . . does not bar another action by
the plaintiff instituted after the claim has matured.”).
Here, Coleman could not have brought his maliciousprosecution claims until January 2015, when his indecent
exposure charge was dismissed.
This is because one element of a
claim for malicious prosecution—whether the claim is framed as a
violation of the U.S. Constitution or of state tort law—is that
the criminal proceeding terminate in the plaintiff’s favor.
Hernandez-Cuevas v. Taylor, 723 F.3d 91, 101 (1st Cir. 2013)
(constitutional claim); Ojo v. Lorenzo, 164 N.H. 717, 727 (2013)
(state law claim).
Thus, it was not until the charge was
dismissed, years after the first suit was resolved, that Coleman
could maintain viable causes of action for malicious
Because Coleman could not have brought his
malicious prosecution claims in the prior litigation, res
judicata does not operate to bar the present action.
Torromeo, 438 F.3d at 116; Lambert v. Williams, 168 F.3d 482,
1998 WL 904731, at *1 (4th Cir. 1998) (per curiam) (“Because the
malicious prosecution claim was not ripe until [after the
earlier cases concluded], res judicata . . . does not preclude
the [plaintiffs] from raising this claim.”).
Accordingly, defendant Dronsfield’s motion to dismiss (doc.
no. 26) is denied.
United States District Judge
September 29, 2017
Richard Coleman, pro se
Matthew Vernon Burrows, Esq.
R. Matthew Cairns, Esq.
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