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Tyler Tremellen v. Auxiliary Officer J.T. Lepore and Baltimore County

May 2, 2013

TYLER TREMELLEN
PLAINTIFF,
v.
AUXILIARY OFFICER J.T. LEPORE AND BALTIMORE COUNTY, MARYLAND
DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Richard D. Bennett United States District Judge

MEMORANDUM OPINION

This case arises from a confrontation on December 11, 2011, between the plaintiff Tyler Tremellen ("Plaintiff" or "Tremellen") and defendant Auxiliary Officer J.T. Lepore ("Officer Lepore") which resulted in physical injury to the Plaintiff. The Plaintiff filed a Complaint (ECF No. 1) against Officer Lepore and Baltimore County, Maryland (together, "Defendants"), alleging excessive force and false arrest and imprisonment in violation of state and federal law, as well as battery, false arrest, and negligence claims under state law. The Defendants filed the pending Motion to Dismiss or in the Alternative for Summary Judgment (ECF No. 7), arguing that Tremellen's pleadings fail to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. The parties' submissions have been reviewed and no hearing is necessary. See Local Rule 105.6 (D. Md. 2011). For the reasons that follow, the Defendants' Motion to Dismiss (ECF No. 7) is DENIED.

BACKGROUND

This Court accepts as true the facts alleged in the Plaintiff's Complaint. See Aziz v. Alcolac, Inc., 658 F.3d 388, 390 (4th Cir. 2011). On Sunday, December 11, 2011, at approximately 2 a.m., the plaintiff Tyler Tremellen ("Plaintiff" or "Tremellen") and his friend Christopher A. Bowling ("Bowling") left a restaurant in Towson, Maryland, and started walking toward a friend's house on York Road. Compl. ¶ 8. While walking, Tremellen and Bowling began "playfully roughhousing for approximately five seconds in the crosswalk" at the intersection of York Road and Burke Avenue. Id. ¶ 9. The roughhousing did not interfere with traffic or disturb anyone, but it did catch the attention of Officer J.T. Lepore ("Officer Lepore"), who was traveling on York Road in a marked Baltimore County police vehicle. Id. ¶¶ 9-10. Upon seeing the vehicle's headlights, Tremellen and Bowling "stopped their horseplay . . . and resumed walking south on York Road." Id. ¶ 11. Officer Lepore stopped his vehicle, exited, and began speaking to Bowling. Id. ¶ 12. When Officer Lepore exited his car, Tremellen saw that the police vehicle's lights had not been activated and continued walking south toward their destination. Id. ¶ 13. Tremellen asserts that he did not hear any request from Officer Lepore to stop. Id.

Bowling explained to Officer Lepore that he and Tremellen were good friends and "had just been horsing around and not fighting." Id. ¶ 14. Bowling provided the officer with his identification and told him that they were both from Ocean City, Maryland and staying in Towson for the weekend. Id. Upon returning Bowling's identification, Officer Lepore told him it was not safe to play in the street and stated, "tell your friend he is an asshole." Id. ¶ 14. Bowling then walked to his friend's house, where he believed Tremellen had already arrived. Id.

Due to his unfamiliarity with the area, Tremellen had continued walking down York Road and inadvertently passed the friend's house. Id. ¶ 16. Eventually, Tremellen realized he had walked too far and started walking back toward the intersection of York Road and Burke Avenue. Id. ¶ 18. Officer Lepore, who had returned to his vehicle and was driving south on York Road, saw Tremellen and followed him to the intersection of York Road and Burke Avenue. Id. ¶¶ 20-21. Officer Lepore did not activate his emergency lights on the car or otherwise make Tremellen aware of his presence. Id. ¶ 22. Tremellen alleges that he did not see the officer's vehicle. Id. ¶ 21.

Officer Lepore exited his car at the intersection and "charged at Plaintiff full speed from behind." Id. ¶ 22. Officer Lepore then "grabbed Plaintiff's arm using a martial arts maneuver while twisting it behind Plaintiff's back, and violently drove Plaintiff to the ground using all of his body weight while restraining Plaintiff's arm so that Plaintiff could not use his arms to break the fall." Id. Tremellen fell to his knee, then his face, and was knocked unconscious. Id. ¶¶ 24-25. Tremellen fractured his right medial tibial plateau bone, broke three of his front teeth, and suffered several facial lacerations as a result of the impact. Id.

On September 28, 2012, Tremellen filed a seven-count Complaint against Officer Lepore individually and Baltimore County, under whose authority Officer Lepore was acting at the time of his encounter with Tremellen. Id. ¶¶ 2-4. As against Officer Lepore, Tremellen asserts excessive force and false arrest and imprisonment claims under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, and battery, false arrest, and negligence claims under Maryland law. Id. ¶¶ 29-33, 41- 50. In addition, Tremellen sues both Officer Lepore and Baltimore County for excessive force and false arrest and imprisonment under Articles 24 and 26 of the Maryland Declaration of Rights. Id. ¶¶ 34-40. In response to Tremellen's Complaint, Officer Lepore and Baltimore County have moved to dismiss the case or, in the alternative, be granted summary judgment. Mot. to Dismiss 1, ECF No. 7. In essence, the Defendants assert that the Complaint fails to state a claim upon which relief can be granted pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. Id.

STANDARD OF REVIEW

The Defendants' motion is styled as a Motion to Dismiss or in the Alternative for Summary Judgment, yet its arguments concern only the sufficiency of the Plaintiff's Complaint. Mot. to Dismiss 1, 4-5, ECF No. 1. For this reason, this Court construes the Defendants' motion as a Motion to Dismiss.

Under Rule 8(a)(2) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, a complaint must contain a "short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief." Rule 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure authorizes the dismissal of a complaint if it fails to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. The purpose of Rule 12(b)(6) is "to test the sufficiency of a complaint and not to resolve contests surrounding the facts, the merits of a claim, or the applicability of defenses." Presley v. City of Charlottesville, 464 F.3d 480, 483 (4th Cir. 2006).

The Supreme Court's recent opinions in Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544 (2007), and Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662 (2009), "require that complaints in civil actions be alleged with greater specificity than previously was required." Walters v. McMahen, 684 F.3d 435, 439 (4th Cir. 2012) (citation omitted). The Supreme Court's decision in Twombly articulated "[t]wo working principles" that courts must employ when ruling on Rule 12(b)(6) motions to dismiss. Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678. First, while a court must accept as true all the factual allegations contained in the complaint, legal conclusions drawn from those facts are not afforded such deference. Id. (stating that "[t]hreadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action, supported by mere conclusory statements, do not suffice" to plead a claim).

Second, a complaint must be dismissed if it does not allege "a plausible claim for relief." Id. at 679. Under the plausibility standard, a complaint must contain "more than labels and conclusions" or a "formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action." Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555. Although the plausibility requirement does not impose a "probability requirement," id. at 556, "[a] claim has facial plausibility when the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged." Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 663; see also Robertson v. Sea Pines Real Estate Cos., 679 F.3d 278, 291 (4th Cir. 2012) ("A complaint need not make a case against a defendant or forecast evidence sufficient to prove an element of the claim. It need only allege facts sufficient to state elements of the claim." (emphasis in ...


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