United States District Court, D. Maryland
RONNIE D. LYLES, Plaintiff,
CPL JEFF PRAWDZIK, et al., Defendants.
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
W. Grimm United States District Judge
arresting Ronnie Lyles for his failure to wear a seatbelt,
Town of Riverdale Park ("Riverdale Park") Police
Officers Corporal Jeff Prawdzik, PFC Blanco, and Sgt.
Slattery allegedly assaulted Lyles, shooting him with a Taser
and beating him. Lyles has brought this case against the
police officers and Riverdale Park under 42 U.S.C. §
1983. Defendants have filed a motion to dismiss, or in the
alternative, to bifurcate, Defs.' Mot., ECF No. 27, some
portions of which are not disputed. Counts I and II will be
dismissed with respect to Defendants Prawdzik, Blanco, and
Slattery in their official capacities only and with respect
to Defendant Riverdale Park. Because I find that Lyles has
not pleaded facts sufficient to support his Monell
claims, Counts III and IV will be dismissed. Because I will
dismiss Counts III and IV, Defendants' motion in the
alternative to bifurcate will be denied as moot.
STANDARD OF REVIEW
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
678. I must accept the facts as alleged in Plaintiffs'
complaint as true. See Aziz v. Alcolac, 658 F.3d
388, 390 (4th Cir. 2011).
Counts I and II
seek dismissal of Counts I and II with respect to Defendants
Prawdzik, Blanco, and Slattery in their official capacities
and with respect to Defendant Riverdale Park. Lyles states in
his opposition that "[t]o clarify, Counts I and II
were not directed toward and not intended to plead any claims
against the Town of Riverdale Park." Opp'n 1.
Accordingly, Counts I and II will be dismissed with respect
to Riverdale Park. Lyles also states that Counts I and II
meant to refer to the individual Defendants, who are
the only parties mentioned in the counts themselves. As a
result, insofar as the defense motion is targeted any
respondeat superior, "official capacity"
or claims against the Town of Riverdale in Counts I and II,
is it [sic] moot as no such claims are asserted.
Id. It is unclear if Lyles is also conceding that
Counts I and II should also be dismissed against Defendants
Prawdzik, Blanco, and Slattery in their official capacities.
government entity is a "person which may be sued under
§ 1983 although . . . not on a respondeat
superior basis." DiPino v. Davis, 729 A.2d
354, 368 (Md. 1999); see Monell v. Dep't of Soc.
Servs., 436 U.S. 658, 690-91 (1978); 42 U.S.C. §
1983. "[O]fficial-capacity suits generally represent
only another way of pleading an action against an entity of
which an officer is an agent." Monell, 436 U.S.
at 690 n.55. Indeed, a local government only may be sued
through an official-capacity action, which "is really an
action against the governmental entity, of which the official
was merely an agent, " where the official
"‘implement[s] governmental law, policy, or
custom, ' i.e., the deprivation underlying the §
1983 claim is ‘caused by a statute, regulation, policy,
or custom of the governmental entity' that the official
was implementing." DiPino, 729 A.2d at 369
(quoting Ashton v. Brown, 660 A.2d 447, 468 (Md.
1995)). The suit against the officers in their official
capacity is duplicative because Lyles also has brought a
Monell claim against Riverdale Park. See Ulloa
v. Prince George's County, Md., No. DKC-15-257, 2015
WL 7878956, at *6 (D. Md. Dec. 4, 2015) ("Accordingly,
because Plaintiffs have failed to state a plausible
Monell claim alleging that a policy or custom of the
County caused the deprivation of Plaintiffs' rights,
Plaintiffs have similarly failed to state a claim under
§ 1983 against [the police officers] in their official
capacities."). Because I will dismiss Lyles's
Monell claims against Riverdale Park as discussed
below, I will also dismiss Lyles's claims, to the extent
that these claims were intended, against Defendants Prawdzik,
Blanco, and Slattery in their official
Counts III and IV
III and IV allege Monell claims against Riverdale
Park for violations of the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendment.
See Am. Compl. 10-13, ECF No. 21. With respect to
both of these counts, Lyles has alleged liability based on
Riverdale Park's failure "to adequately train,
supervise, and discipline officers" and that Riverdale
Park "instituted and maintained formal and informal
customs, policies, and practices that foster, promote and
encourage officers" to violate individuals'
protected constitutional rights. See Am. Compl.
¶¶ 79, 80, 83, 84. For Count III, Lyles states that
that these practices included
a. The use of excessive force occurs so frequently that it
has become accepted manner by the Defendants and other
employees of Riverdale Park. This is a result of Riverdale
Park's failure to establish effective procedures, rules,
orders, guidelines and practices to ensure that excessive
force will not be used and to ensure that allegations of
excessive force will be thoroughly investigated and
appropriately punished when found to have occurred. As a
result of this failure, there has been a regular pattern and
practice of excessive force, failure to provide adequate
medical care, cover-up, and failure to investigate. This
pattern and practice has been manifested in other prior
incidents involving town officers.
b. Riverdale Park has failed to effectively instruct officers
that they have a duty to prevent and report excessive ...