United States District Court, D. Maryland, Southern Division
PAUL W. GRIMM, District Judge.
While arresting Ernest Doggett for charges that later were dismissed, Hyattsville Police Officers Chantha Vong and Chite allegedly "punched [Doggett] in his face, his back, and his elbow, and bent his finger back, " causing him to "suffer a broken left index finger, a broken right elbow, and facial contusions." Compl. ¶ 8, ECF No. 2. Initially represented by counsel, who subsequently was permitted to withdraw his appearance, he filed a seven-count complaint alleging assault,  battery, false arrest, and violations of 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Id. ¶¶ 12-34. As Defendants, he named Officers Vong and Chite, individually and in their official capacity, as well as the City of Hyattsville, Maryland ("Hyattsville"). Id. at 1. Hyattsville moves to dismiss the § 1983 claims against it (Counts V and VII) for failure to state a claim under Monell v. Department of Social Services, 436 U.S. 658, 690-91 (1978). Def.'s Mem. 3. Because Plaintiff has not pleaded sufficiently that a Hyattsville policy or custom caused the alleged violations of § 1983, Plaintiff has failed to state a Monell claim, and I will dismiss Counts V and VII.
Hyattsville contends that Counts V and VII are "the only counts pertaining to it, " Def.'s Mem. 2, but Plaintiff claims in Counts II and III (for battery and false arrest) that "Hyattsville is liable for the actions taken by these officers pursuant to the doctrine of respondeat superior. " Compl. ¶¶ 17 & 20. Yet, Hyattsville is immune from liability for Counts II and III because the officers' alleged actions were governmental in nature. Therefore, I will give Plaintiff notice and an opportunity to be heard and, absent a showing that he has stated a claim against Hyattsville in Count II or III, I will dismiss these counts as to Defendant Hyattsville as well.
I. STANDARD OF REVIEW
Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) provides for "the dismissal of a complaint if it fails to state a claim upon which relief can be granted." Velencia v. Drezhlo, No. RDB-12-237, 2012 WL 6562764, at *4 (D. Md. Dec. 13, 2012). This rule's purpose "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.'" Id. (quoting 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, 2012 WL 6562764, at *4 (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.
A. Counts V and VII
Counts V and VII allege "Violation of 4th Amendment Rights, 42 U.S.C. Section 1983, " against Hyattsville, through arrest without probable cause in the fifth count and excessive force in the seventh count. Compl. 5-7. In Count V, Plaintiff claims
26. On February 19, 2011, while acting under color of state law, Officers Vong and Chite knowingly deprived plaintiff of his 4th Amendment right to be free from arrest without probable cause by arresting plaintiff without probable cause to believe he had committed a crime.
27. Officer Vong and Chite's actions were the result of the City of Hyattsville's custom, policy, and practice of and deliberate indifference to, and failure to take action to stop, the widespread and on-going practice of arresting individuals without probable cause by the City's police officers.
Compl. ¶¶ 26-27. Similarly, in Count VII, Plaintiff claims
33. On February 19, 2011, while acting under color of state law, Officers Vong and Chite knowingly deprived plaintiff of his 4th Amendment right to be free from the use of excessive force by using excessive force during the course of an arrest.
34. Officer Vong and Chite's actions were the result of the City of Hyattsville's custom, policy, and practice of and deliberate indifference to, and failure to take action to stop, the widespread and on-going ...