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Peters v. City of Mount Rainier

United States District Court, D. Maryland, Southern Division

September 29, 2014

MONTELIS PETERS Plaintiff,
v.
CITY OF MOUNT RAINIER, ET AL., Defendants.

MEMORANDUM OPINION

GEORGE JARROD HAZEL, District Judge.

This is a civil rights action brought by Plaintiff Montelis Peters ("Peters") against the City of Mount Rainier (the "City") and Corporal Rob Caplan ("Officer Caplan") (collectively, the "Defendants") for purported violations of 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and Articles 24 and 26 of the Maryland Declaration of Rights arising from Peters' arrest on January 7, 2012. This Memorandum and Order addresses Defendants' Joint Motion to Dismiss, ECF No. 14. The Court held a hearing on Defendants' motion on August 13, 2014 during which the Court informed the parties of its intention to convert Defendants' motion into a motion for summary judgment as to counts three, four, and five. For the reasons stated below, Defendants' Joint Motion to Dismiss and/or for Summary Judgment is GRANTED.

I. BACKGROUND

On January 7, 2012, Peters was walking from his house with a friend looking for a store where he could cash a check. ECF No. 12-1 at ¶ 4. Around 9:40 pm, Peters successfully cashed his check at a local liquor store in Prince George's County. Id. at ¶ 6. After cashing his check, Peters and his friend began walking towards the West Hyattsville Metro Station. Id. at ¶ 7. As they were walking, Peters and his friend were stopped at gunpoint by two members of the Mount Rainier Police Department, including Officer Caplan. Id. at ¶ 8. Peters and his friend were told that they fit the description of robbery suspects and were taken to the Hyattsville Police Department for processing. Id.

Around the time Peters and his friend were taken into custody, Officer Caplan prepared, signed, and presented to a Commissioner of the District Court of Maryland for Prince George's County a Statement of Probable Cause. Id. at ¶ 9. The Statement of Probable Cause resulted in Peters being charged with attempted robbery with a deadly weapon and assault. Id. at ¶ 10. The information reported in the Statement of Probable Cause was later used to procure a nine count indictment charging Peters with various crimes. Id. at ¶ 11. Peters contends that the Statement of Probable Cause created by Officer Caplan was materially false and misleading. Id. at ¶ 12. Specifically, Peters contends that the Statement of Probable Cause misrepresented the information heard in the 911 calls that led police to respond to the underlying events that occurred on January 7, 2012. Id.

Following his arrest, Peters was held in the Prince George's County Detention Center for approximately one month before being placed on house arrest with electronic monitoring. Id. at ¶ 14. Peters remained on house arrest for six more months. Id. During that time, Peters was substantially deprived of his liberty, in that he could not leave his home for any purpose without the prior express approval of his case manager. Id. at ¶ 15. Additionally, Peters was denied permission to return to his employment as a tow truck driver. Id.

Ultimately, on August 3, 2012, prosecutors for the State of Maryland asked the court to enter a nolle prosequi as to all counts in Peters' criminal case. Id. at ¶ 16. Sometime after the entry of nolle prosequi, Peters was released from house arrest. Id. at ¶ 16-A. Then, on August 10, 2012, a "final order" was issued in his Maryland criminal proceeding. Id. On February 4, 2012, Peters sent a letter to the City notifying it of potential claims Peters may have against it arising from the events surrounding his arrest on January 7, 2012. Id .; see also ECF No. 14-2.

On February 3, 2014, Peters filed suit in the Circuit Court for Prince George's County raising various causes of action, including purported violations of 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and Articles 24 and 26 of the Maryland Declaration of Rights. See ECF No. 1 at ¶ 1. On March 27, 2014, Defendants removed the action to this Court on the basis of federal question jurisdiction. See ECF No. 1; see also 28 U.S.C. § 1331. Peters filed his First Amended Complaint on April 29, 2014. See ECF No. 12.

Defendants moved to dismiss the majority of Peters' claims on a variety of grounds, including that Peters failed to adequately allege the existence of a municipal policy or custom that proximately caused Peters' injuries and that Peters failed to comply with the mandatory notice provision of Section 5-304(b) of the LGTCA which required Peters to provide the City with notice of his state claims within 180-days of their accrual. Because Defendants attached to their joint motion to dismiss materials outside the pleadings that the Court did not exclude ( see ECF No. 14-2), the Court informed Peters at its August 13, 2014 hearing that it would convert Defendants' motion to dismiss into a summary judgment motion, as to Peters' state law claims (counts three, four, and five). See ECF No. 22; see also Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(d). In doing so, the Court gave Peters twelve days after the hearing to respond to the material submitted by Defendants that was outside the pleadings. See ECF No. 22.

II. STANDARD OF REVIEW

Typically, when deciding a motion to dismiss under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6), the Court considers only the complaint and any attached documents "integral to the complaint." Sec'y of State for Defence v. Trimble Navigation Ltd., 484 F.3d 700, 705 (4th Cir. 2007). Rule 12(d), however, requires courts to treat such a motion as a motion for summary judgment where matters outside the pleadings are considered and not excluded. See Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(d). Before converting a motion to dismiss to one for summary judgment, courts must give the nonmoving party - in this case, Peters - "a reasonable opportunity to present all the material that is pertinent to the motion." Id. "Reasonable opportunity" has two requirements: (1) the nonmoving party must have some indication that the court is treating the 12(b)(6) motion as a motion for summary judgment, and (2) the nonmoving party "must be afforded a reasonable opportunity for discovery" to obtain information essential to oppose the motion. Gay v. Wall, 761 F.2d 175, 177 (4th Cir. 1985) (citation and internal quotations omitted).

Here, both requirements have been met. First, on August 13, 2014, the Court notified Peters of its intention of treating Defendants' motion to dismiss as a motion for summary judgment as to Counts III, IV, and V. See ECF No. 22. Additionally, the Court provided Peters with a reasonable opportunity for discovery by giving him twelve days to respond to the material submitted by Defendants that was outside the pleadings. See id. To show that a reasonable opportunity for discovery has not been afforded, Peters would have had to file an affidavit or declaration under Rule 56(d) explaining why "for specified reasons, it cannot present facts essential to justify its opposition." Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(d); see Harrods Ltd. v. Sixty Internet Domain Names, 302 F.3d 214, 245 (4th Cir. 2002); Hamilton v. Mayor & City Council of Balt., 807 F.Supp.2d 331, 341 (D. Md. 2011). Peters has done no such thing. Accordingly, the Court will convert Defendants' motion to dismiss into a motion for summary judgment, as to Counts III, IV, and V.[1]

With respect to these counts, summary judgment is properly granted when "the pleadings, the discovery and disclosure materials on file, and any affidavits show that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c); see Meson v. GATX Tech. Servs. Corp., 507 F.3d 803, 806 (4th Cir. 2007) (citing Fed.R.Civ.P.56(c)). The party moving for summary judgment bears the burden of demonstrating that no genuine dispute exists as to material facts. Pulliam Inv. Co. v. Cameo Props., 810 F.2d 1282, 1286 (4th Cir. 1987). If the moving party demonstrates that there is no evidence to support the non-moving party's case, the burden shifts to the non-moving party to identify specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial. To satisfy this burden, the non-moving party "must produce competent evidence on each element of his or her claim." Miskin v. Baxter Healthcare Corp., 107 F.Supp.2d 669, 671 (D. Md. 1999). Although the Court "must draw all reasonable inferences in favor of the non-moving party, " that party "may not create a genuine issue of material fact through mere speculation, or building one inference upon another." Id .; see Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 255 (1986); Runnenbaum v. NationsBank, 123 F.3d 156, 163 (4th Cir. 1997). Indeed, the existence of only a "scintilla of evidence" is not enough to defeat summary judgment. Anderson, 477 U.S. at 251. Instead, the admissible evidentiary materials submitted must show facts from which the finder of fact could reasonably find in favor of the non-moving party. Id.

As to the remaining count (Count I - § 1983 against the City), the Court will not convert Defendants' motion to dismiss into a summary judgment motion as the exhibit attached to Defendants' motion has no relevance to this count.[2] Accordingly, Count I will be evaluated against the familiar 12(b)(6) dismissal standard refined by Twombly and Iqbal. Under this standard, the Court must determine whether the complaint alleges facts sufficient to state a plausible claim for relief. Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009). A claim is 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." Id. While a plaintiff need not always plead a prima facie case to state a plausible claim, see Swierkiewicz v. Sorema N.A., 534 U.S. 506, 510-15 (2002), the "[f]actual allegations must be enough to raise a right to relief above the speculative level." Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007). In making such a determination, the Court must examine the complaint as a whole, consider the factual allegations in the complaint as true, and construe the factual allegations in the light most favorable to the plaintiff. Albright v. Oliver, 510 U.S. 266, 268 (1994); Lambeth v. Bd. of Comm'rs of Davidson Cnty., 407 F.3d 266, 268 (4th Cir. 2005).

III. DISCUSSION

A. Federal Claims (Counts I and II): 42 U.S.C. § 1983

Peters asserts two federal constitutional claims under § 1983. Section 1983 provides a remedy against any person who, under color of state law, deprives another of rights protected by the United States Constitution. See 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Section 1983 also permits a plaintiff to bring a claim directly against a municipality if it causes a deprivation of a constitutional right through an official policy or custom. See Monell v. Dep't of Soc. Servs., 436 U.S. 658 (1978). Here, Peters has asserted § 1983 claims against both the City (Count I) and Officer Caplan (Count II) for violations of the Fourth, Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments. See ECF No. 12 at ¶¶ 31, 36. As mentioned, the City moved to dismiss Peters' § 1983 claim, while Officer Caplan has not. Therefore, for purposes of this Memorandum, the Court will only address the viability of Peters' § 1983 claim against the City (Count I). Peters' § 1983 claim against Officer Caplan (Count II) will proceed into discovery.

Peters contends that the City has violated his rights under § 1983 by subjecting him to an unreasonable search and seizure, a prolonged deprivation of liberty, and a denial of due process, which, he claims, violated his rights under the Fourth, Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments. Id. at ¶ 31. The City has moved to dismiss on the basis that Peters has failed to adequately plead the existence of a municipal policy or custom that proximately caused his injuries. See ECF No. 14-1 at 6-8. Peters disagrees. See ECF No. 15 at 5-8. For the reasons discussed below, the Court agrees with the City and finds that Peters has failed to adequately plead the existence of ...


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