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Bowie v. Meyer

United States District Court, D. Maryland

March 10, 2014

RICKY DARNELL BOWIE, JR., #362329 Plaintiff,


PAUL W. GRIMM, District Judge.

I. Background

On March 27, 2013, plaintiff Ricky Darnell Bowie (hereinafter referred to as "Bowie") filed a Fourth Amendment complaint against Frederick County Police Officers Meyer and Prior and the Frederick City Police Department pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, seeking compensatory damages and disciplinary action against the officers. Bowie claims that he was subject to false arrest, the use of excessive force, and false imprisonment. ECF No. 1.

Defendants have filed a motion to dismiss or, in the alternative, for summary judgment, which shall be construed as a motion for summary judgment, ECF No. 15, along with a Memorandum in Support, ECF No. 15-1. Plaintiff has filed an opposition. ECF No. 17. Defendants have not filed a reply, and the time for doing so has passed. See Loc. R. 105.2. The motion may be determined on the pleadings and shall be GRANTED IN PART and DENIED IN PART without a hearing. See Loc. R. 105.6.

II. Standard of Review

Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) authorizes the dismissal of a complaint if it fails to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. The purpose of the rule 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). To that end, the court bears in mind the requirements of Fed.R.Civ.P. 8, Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544 (2007), and Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662 (2009), when considering a motion to dismiss pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6). Specifically, a complaint must contain "a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief, " Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2), and must state "a plausible claim for relief, " as "[t]hreadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action, supported by mere conclusory statements, do not suffice, " Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678-79; see Velencia v. Drezhlo, No. RDB-12-0237, 2012 WL 6562764, at *4 (D. Md. Dec. 13, 2012) (discussing standard from Iqbal and Twombly ). "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.

When reviewing a motion to dismiss, "[t]he court may consider documents attached to the complaint, as well as documents attached to the motion to dismiss, if they are integral to the complaint and their authenticity is not disputed." Sposato v. First Mariner Bank, No. CCB-12-1569, 2013 WL 1308582, at *2 (D. Md. Mar. 28, 2013); see CACI Int'l v. St. Paul Fire & Marine Ins. Co., 566 F.3d 150, 154 (4th Cir. 2009); see also Fed.R.Civ.P. 10(c) ("A copy of a written instrument that is an exhibit to a pleading is a part of the pleading for all purposes."). Moreover, where the allegations in the complaint conflict with an attached written instrument, "the exhibit prevails." Fayetteville Investors v. Commercial Builders, Inc., 936 F.2d 1462, 1465 (4th Cir. 1991); see Azimirad v. HSBC Mortg. Corp., No. DKC-10-2853, 2011 WL 1375970, at *2-3 (D. Md. Apr. 12, 2011). However, if the court considers matters outside the pleadings, as the court does here, the court must treat the motion as a motion for summary judgment. See Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(d); Syncrude Canada Ltd. v. Highland Consulting Grp., Inc., 916 F.Supp.2d 620, 622-23 (D. Md. 2013).

Summary judgment is proper when the moving party demonstrates through "particular parts of materials in the record, including depositions, documents, electronically stored information, affidavits or declarations, stipulations..., admissions, interrogatory answers, or other materials, " that "there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a), (c)(1)(A); see Baldwin v. City of Greensboro, 714 F.3d 828, 833-34 (4th Cir. 2013). If the party seeking summary judgment demonstrates that there is no evidence to support the nonmoving party's case, the burden shifts to the nonmoving party to identify evidence that shows that a genuine dispute exists as to material facts. See Celotex v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317 (1986). The existence of only a "scintilla of evidence" is not enough to defeat a motion for summary judgment. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 251 (1986). Instead, the evidentiary materials submitted must show facts from which the finder of fact reasonably could find for the party opposing summary judgment. Id.

III. Discussion

A. Facts

In his unverified complaint, plaintiff states that, while riding his bicycle on February 2, 2013, he was approached by a Frederick County police officer. He claims that later that afternoon, when given a ride in a car by an "old school friend, " that same police officer followed them in his patrol car and conducted an automobile stop. He seemingly complains that he was arrested without probable cause, handcuffed and subjected to a continuous assault by the two defendants when he was slammed to the pavement, elbowed several times, held down by the neck, and kneed to the left ribs and lower back. He acknowledges verbally arguing with the officers, but claims that he was cuffed from behind at all times. Plaintiff asserts that his legs were "tied up, " he was dragged to the back of the car, thrown into a patrol car, and taken to the Frederick County Detention Center. He complains that his wrists were bleeding from tight handcuffs and he suffered scratches and bruises from the incident. ECF No. 1.

In their supporting memorandum, defendants affirm that on the date in question plaintiff was charged with resisting arrest, second-degree assault of a police officer, and possession of a controlled dangerous substance (marijuana). Defs.' Mem. Exs. A-1 & A-2. Plaintiff pled guilty to resisting arrest and the remaining counts were nolle prossed.[2] Id. Ex. A-1.

B. Legal Analysis

Defendants first claim that a § 1983 cause of action may not proceed against the Frederick City Police Department under a respondeat superior theory. At no point in the complaint does Plaintiff reference what illegal action was taken by the named defendant Frederick City Police Department ("Department"). He presumably seeks to hold the Department liable for the alleged actions of defendants Meyer and Prior. To establish municipal liability on the part of the Department, Plaintiff must show that his harm was caused by a constitutional violation and, if so, that the municipality was responsible for that violation. See Collins v. City of Harker Heights, 503 U.S. 115, 122 (1992). A municipality is responsible only when the execution of government's "policy or custom" inflicts injury. Monell v. Dep't of Social Servs., 436 U.S. 658, 694 (1978); see also Spell v. McDaniel, 824 F.2d 1380, 1385 (4th Cir. 1987). A municipality cannot be held liable under § 1983 on a respondeat superior ...

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