United States District Court, D. Maryland
NATHANIEL M. COSTLEY, SR., Plaintiff,
THE CITY OF WESTMINSTER, et al., Defendants.
L. Russell, III United States District Judge.
MATTER is before the Court on Defendants', the City of
Westminster, the Westminster City Police Department,
Lieutenant Thomas Kowalczyk, and Officer Patricia
Parks (collectively, the “Westminster
Defendants”), Motion to Dismiss or, in the Alternative,
Motion for Summary Judgment (ECF No. 7). The Motion is
fully briefed and ripe for disposition. No hearing is
necessary. See Local Rule 105.6 (D.Md. 2016). For the reasons
that follow, the Court will grant the Motion.
November 15, 2015, pro se Plaintiff Nathaniel M. Costley, Sr.
called Defendant Christina Steiner to explain that he
“was tired of fighting over their child and wanted the
fighting to end.” (Compl. ¶ 10, ECF No. 1). During
the conversation, Costley also told Steiner that “he
was thinking about moving from his current residence and that
all the fighting between them would soon be over because
[Costley] could not take it anymore.” (Id.).
Steiner began asking questions about their minor child's
wellbeing and encouraged Costley to reconsider his decision
to relocate. (Id.).
the conversation with Costley, Steiner called the Westminster
Police Department and alerted them that Costley told Steiner
he was going to commit suicide. (Id. ¶ 11).
Meanwhile, Costley drove to a neighbor's house to collect
money Costley had loaned. (Id. ¶ 12). While at
the neighbor's house, Costley's cousin, Justin
Carter, arrived and asked Costley to follow him back to
Costley's house. (Id.). Costley obliged.
Costley approached his house, he observed a marked
Westminster Police Department vehicle in front of his house.
When Costley pulled into his driveway, “he was
completely caught off guard by three officers.”
(Id. ¶ 13). One officer “blocked
[Costley's] vehicle in, ” while the other two
officers approached Costley with his wife, Shelvon Costley
(“Mrs. Costley”). (Id.). Mrs. Costley
then explained to her husband that Steiner called the
Westminster Police Department, as well as Mrs. Costley and
Carter, to explain that Costley was going to commit suicide.
(Id. ¶ 14). Costley “immediately”
stated to “everyone” that the allegation that he
was going to commit suicide was “completely
false.” (Id.). The Officers, however,
“were not trying to hear [Costley] and told him that
they were going to get him some help.” (Id.).
attempted to reason with Lieutenant Kowalczyk, Officer Parks,
and “Sgt. Darby” and repeatedly stated that
Steiner was lying because he had no intentions of harming
himself. (Id. ¶ 15). Costley told the Officers
he was not going anywhere and demanded they get off his
property. But the Officers refused to listen. (Id.).
When Costley proceeded to the back door of his residence, the
Officers followed him and “forced their way”
inside. (Id. ¶¶ 15, 16). Costley alleges
the Officers had neither consent nor a warrant to enter his
home. (Id. ¶ 16).
Costley was inside his home with the Officers, he “felt
threatened and fearful for his safety.” (Id.
¶17). Costley made several more requests for the
Officers to leave, but they refused. (Id.). Costley
also “continuously” repeated that Steiner was
lying and that he was not going to harm himself.
(Id.). The Officers, however, told Costley he needed
to go with them to the hospital for a psychiatric evaluation.
(Id.). Costley refused, reiterating that there was
nothing wrong with him, and sat down at his kitchen table.
Costley was seated at his kitchen table, Lieutenant Kowalczyk
told him that he had no choice but to obey the Officers and
he could go willingly or “by force.”
(Id. ¶ 18). At that point, Costley was
“in tears.” (Id.). Lieutenant Kowalczyk
then warned Costley that if Costley did not go willingly,
Costley's home, which was once his grandmother's, may
get destroyed in any ensuing struggle. (Id.).
next alleges that as result of Lieutenant Kowalczyk's
“verbal t[h]reats” and the Officers'
“threats to physically harm” him, Costley began
to suffer an anxiety attack. (Id. ¶ 19).
Costley took some medication and informed the Officers he
needed and wanted to rest on his sofa. (Id.).
Lieutenant Kowalczyk and Officer Parks, however, blocked the
doorway leading to Costley's living room. (Id.).
Lieutenant Kowalczyk then threatened to use his taser and
handcuffs if Costley did not voluntarily submit to the
Officers' authority and accompany them to the hospital.
(Id.). At that point, Officer Parks “started
going through [Costley's] cabinets and checking [his]
medicine bottles and other prescriptions against
[Costley's] will and without a warrant.”
(Id.). Costley reminded Officer Parks that she did
not have a warrant or consent to search his home, but she
responded, “It does not matter!” (Id.).
made several phone calls “to get advice and help”
with his situation because it was “clear” that
the Officers were violating his rights, but no one answered.
(Id. ¶ 20). Following these unsuccessful calls,
the Officers made more threats to “harm” Costley
and “destroy” his home. (Id.). Costley
then walked outside to his back porch, and the Officers
followed him. (Id.). “Out of fear for his
safety, ” Costley ran away from the Officers.
(Id.). As he fled, Costley fell and hit his head,
left hand, and forearm on the concrete. (Id. ¶
21). Costley got back on his feet and took off again, but
after traveling only a few yards, he fell again.
(Id.). This time, Costley was unable to get up and
he remained on the ground until paramedics arrived to
transport him to the hospital. (Id.). Once Costley
arrived at the hospital, Officer Parks completed a petition
for emergency mental health evaluation in accordance with
§ 10-622 of the Health-General Article of the Maryland
Code. (See ECF Nos. 7-3, 7-4). After spending twelve hours in
the hospital, a psychiatrist released Costley after
determining the Officers' complaint that Costley had
threatened to commit suicide was “frivolous.”
(Id. ¶ 22).
13, 2016, Costley sued the Westminster Defendants in this
Court, asserting several federal and state claims arising out
of the November 15, 2015 incident described above. (Compl.).
Costley raises federal claims under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 for
(1) illegal search and seizure, (2) excessive use of force,
and (3) violation of equal protection. (Id.). He
asserts state common law claims for (1) assault and battery,
(2) defamation, and (3) “Abuse of Government Power and
Authority, ” which the Court will construe as a claim
for the tort of abuse of process. (Id.). Costley
neither states which claims he brings against which
Defendants, nor states whether he sues the Officers in their
official or individual capacities. Costley seeks $5 million in
compensatory damages and $750, 000 in punitive damages.
August 24, 2016, the Westminster Defendants filed their
Motion to Dismiss or, in the Alternative, Motion for Summary
Judgment (ECF No. 7); it is fully briefed,  (see ECF Nos.
7-10, 7-12). On October 19, 2016, the Court granted
Costley's Motion to submit a cellular phone video of the
November 15, 2015 incident. (ECF No. 13). The Court received
the video on October 28, 2016. (ECF No. 14).
Standard of Review
Westminster Defendants style their Motion as a motion to
dismiss under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) or, in
the alternative, for summary judgment under Rule 56. A motion
styled in this manner implicates the Court's discretion
under Rule 12(d). See Kensington Vol. Fire Dept., Inc. v.
Montgomery Cty., 788 F.Supp.2d 431, 436-37 (D.Md. 2011),
aff'd sub nom., Kensington Volunteer Fire Dep't,
Inc. v. Montgomery Cty., 684 F.3d 462 (4th Cir. 2012).
This Rule provides that when “matters outside the
pleadings are presented to and not excluded by the court, the
[Rule 12(b)(6)] motion must be treated as one for summary
judgment under Rule 56.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(d). The Court
“has ‘complete discretion to determine whether or
not to accept the submission of any material beyond the
pleadings that is offered in conjunction with a Rule 12(b)(6)
motion and rely on it, thereby converting the motion, or to
reject it or simply not consider it.'”
Wells-Bey v. Kopp, No. ELH-12-2319, 2013 WL 1700927,
at *5 (D.Md. Apr. 16, 2013) (quoting 5C Wright & Miller,
Federal Practice & Procedure § 1366, at 159 (3d ed.
2004, 2012 Supp.)).
United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit has
articulated two requirements for proper conversion of a Rule
12(b)(6) motion to a Rule 56 motion. The first is notice: the
Court must give the parties some indication that it is
treating the 12(b)(6) motion as a motion for summary
judgment. Greater Balt. Ctr. for Pregnancy Concerns, Inc.
v. Mayor of Balt., 721 F.3d 264, 281 (4th Cir. 2013).
The second is a reasonable opportunity for discovery.
the movant expressly captions its motion “in the
alternative” as one for summary judgment and submits
matters outside the pleadings for the court's
consideration, the parties are deemed to be on notice that
conversion under Rule 12(d) may occur. See Moret v.
Harvey, 381 F.Supp.2d 458, 464 (D.Md. 2005). The
nonmovant “cannot complain that summary judgment was
granted without discovery unless that party had made an
attempt to oppose the motion on the grounds that more time
was needed for discovery.” Harrods Ltd. v. Sixty
Internet Domain Names, 302 F.3d 214, 244 (4th Cir. 2002)
(quoting Evans v. Techs. Applications & Serv.
Co., 80 F.3d 954, 961 (4th Cir. 1996)). Rule 56(d)
provides that the Court may deny or continue a motion for
summary judgment “[i]f a nonmovant shows by affidavit
or declaration that, for specified reasons, it cannot present
facts essential to justify its opposition.”
“[T]he failure to file an affidavit under Rule 56[(d)]
is itself sufficient grounds to reject a claim that the
opportunity for discovery was inadequate.” Nguyen
v. CNA Corp., 44 F.3d 234, 242 (4th Cir. 1995)
(quoting Paddington Partners v. Bouchard, 34 F.3d
1132, 1137 (2d Cir. 1994)).
the Westminster Defendants caption their Motion in the
alternative for summary judgment and attach matters beyond
Costley's Complaint for the Court's consideration.
Costley submits his own extra-pleading material and he has
not expressed a need for discovery via a formal Rule 56(d)
affidavit or an informal discovery request. Accordingly, the
Court will treat the Westminster Defendants' Motion as
one for summary judgment.
reviewing a motion for summary judgment, the Court views the
facts in a light most favorable to the nonmovant, drawing all
justifiable inferences in that party's favor. Ricci
v. DeStefano, 557 U.S. 557, 586 (2009); Anderson v.
Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 255 (1986)
(citing Adickes v. S.H. Kress & Co., 398 U.S.
144, 158-59 (1970)). Summary judgment is proper when the
movant 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). Significantly, a party must be able to
present the materials it cites in “a form that would be
admissible in evidence, ” Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c)(3), and
supporting affidavits and declarations “must be made on
personal knowledge” and “set out facts that would
be admissible in evidence, ” Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c)(4).
motion for summary judgment is properly made and supported,
the burden shifts to the nonmovant to identify evidence
showing there is a genuine dispute of material fact. See
Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475
U.S. 574, 586-87 (1986). The nonmovant cannot create a
genuine dispute of material fact “through mere
speculation or the building of one inference upon
another.” Beale v. Hardy, 769 F.2d 213, 214
(4th Cir. 1985) (citation omitted).
“material fact” is one that might affect the
outcome of a party's case. Anderson, 477 U.S. at
248; see also JKC Holding Co. v. Wash. Sports Ventures,
Inc., 264 F.3d 459, 465 (4th Cir. 2001) (citing
Hooven-Lewis v. Caldera, 249 F.3d 259, 265 (4th Cir.
2001)). Whether a fact is considered to be
“material” is determined by the substantive law,
and “[o]nly disputes over facts that might affect the
outcome of the suit under the governing law will properly
preclude the entry of summary judgment.”
Anderson, 477 U.S. at 248; accord Hooven-Lewis, 249
F.3d at 265. A “genuine” dispute concerning a
“material” fact arises when the evidence is
sufficient to allow a reasonable jury to return a verdict in
the nonmoving party's favor. Anderson, 477 U.S. at 248.
If the nonmovant has failed to make a sufficient showing on
an essential element of her case where she has the burden of
proof, “there can be ‘no genuine [dispute] as to
any material fact, ' since a complete failure of proof
concerning an essential element of the nonmoving party's
case necessarily renders all other facts immaterial.”
Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322-23