United States District Court, D. Maryland
DEBORAH K. CHASANOW UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
pending and ready for resolution in this civil rights case
are partial motions to dismiss or, in the alternative, for
summary judgment filed by Defendants Prince George's
County (the “County”) and Prince George's
County Police Officers Alton Bradley and Daniel Conley. (ECF
Nos. 20; 29). The issues have been briefed, and the court now
rules, no hearing being deemed necessary. Local Rule 105.6.
For the following reasons, the partial motions to dismiss
will be granted.
March 8, 2015, Plaintiff La'Moore Queen Devi
(“Plaintiff”), while in transit to visit her
brother Antonio Thomas, was driving through the parking lot
of Henson Creek Apartments, when she was pulled over by
private security for the apartment complex for failing to
stop at a stop sign. (ECF No. 1 ¶¶ 8-10). Mr.
Thomas emerged from his apartment and notified Plaintiff that
the men were private security for the apartment complex and
that she should neither give them her identification nor
answer any questions. (Id. ¶ 12). Plaintiff was
issued a warning citation, and Mr. Thomas and the security
guards continued to argue about the guard's treatment of
visitors to the apartment complex. (Id. ¶¶
13-14). Plaintiff subsequently left the apartment complex
without further incident. (Id. ¶ 17).
following day, Plaintiff returned to the Henson Creek
Apartments. While inside Mr. Thomas's apartment, Mr.
Thomas's girlfriend informed Plaintiff that County police
and apartment security had blocked in her vehicle and were on
their way upstairs to Thomas's apartment. (Id.
¶ 18). Upon opening the front door to the apartment,
Plaintiff was met by Officers Bradley and Conley, who
allegedly forced their way through the partially open door,
grabbed Plaintiff by the neck, twisted her arms behind her
back, and slammed her against the wall with sufficient force
to break the dental retainer in her mouth. (Id.
¶¶ 20, 21, 23). After Plaintiff's arrest, she
was transported to the Upper Marlboro Department of
Corrections and charged with trespassing upon private
property, resisting arrest, and failure to obey a lawful
order of a law enforcement officer. (Id.
¶¶ 24, 26). Those charges were dismissed nolle
prosequi on December 7, 2015. (ECF No. 1-4).
November 23, 2016, Plaintiff filed a complaint against
Defendants alleging claims for malicious prosecution (Count
I); unlawful custom, pattern, or practice of improper conduct
under Maryland law (Count II); gross negligence (Count III);
§ 1983 excessive force (Counts IV and V); and §
1983 Monell liability (Counts VI and VII). (ECF No.
1). On February 7, the County and Officer Bradley filed a
partial motion to dismiss or, in the alternative, for summary
judgment. (ECF No. 20). The County moves to dismiss all
claims except Count V. Officers Bradley and Conley move to
dismiss Counts II, IV, VI, and VII. Plaintiff submitted her
opposition to the County and Officer Bradley's motion on
February 24 (ECF No. 24), and the County and Officer Bradley
replied on March 10 (ECF No. 25). After Officer Conley was
served, he filed his motion adopting the arguments made by
Officer Bradley in the County and Officer Bradley's
motion (ECF No. 29), to which Plaintiff submitted her
opposition on May 2, adopting all arguments made in her
opposition to the County and Officer Bradley's motion.
(ECF No. 30).
Standard of Review
purpose of a motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6) is to test
the sufficiency of the complaint. Presley v. City of
Charlottesville, 464 F.3d 480, 483 (4th Cir.
2006). A plaintiff's complaint need only satisfy the
standard of Rule 8(a), which requires a “short and
plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is
entitled to relief.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2). “Rule
8(a)(2) still requires a ‘showing, ' rather than a
blanket assertion, of entitlement to relief.” Bell
Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 n.3 (2007).
That showing must consist of more than “a formulaic
recitation of the elements of a cause of action” or
“naked assertion[s] devoid of further factual
enhancement.” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662,
678 (2009) (citations omitted).
stage, all well-pleaded allegations in a complaint must be
considered as true, Albright v. Oliver, 510 U.S.
266, 268 (1994), and all factual allegations must be
construed in the light most favorable to the plaintiff,
see Harrison v. Westinghouse Savannah River Co., 176
F.3d 776, 783 (4th Cir.1999) (citing Mylan
Labs., Inc. v. Matkari, 7 F.3d 1130, 1134
(4th Cir. 1993)). In evaluating the complaint,
unsupported legal allegations need not be accepted.
Revene v. Charles Cty. Comm'rs, 882 F.2d 870,
873 (4th Cir. 1989). Legal conclusions couched as
factual allegations are insufficient, Iqbal, 556
U.S. at 678, as are conclusory factual allegations devoid of
any reference to actual events, United Black Firefighters
v. Hirst, 604 F.2d 844, 847 (4th Cir. 1979);
see also Francis v. Giacomelli, 588 F.3d 186, 193
(4th Cir. 2009). Ultimately, a complaint must
“‘permit[ ] the court to infer more than the mere
possibility of misconduct' based upon ‘its judicial
experience and common sense.'” Coleman v. Md.
Court of Appeals, 626 F.3d 187, 190 (4th Cir.
2010) (quoting Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 679).
Claims against the County
County argues that Counts I and III should be dismissed
against it because, as a municipality, it is immune from suit
based on the tortious acts of its employees.
state's right to governmental immunity is “deeply
ingrained in Maryland law” and may not be waived in the
absence of express or implied statutory authorization.
Nam v. Montgomery Cty., 127 Md.App. 172, 182 (1999).
A municipality, such as the County, is also entitled to
governmental immunity. Id. at 183. (“When the
state gives a city or county part of its police power to
exercise, the city or county to that extent is the
state.”). Specifically, municipalities are generally
immune from common law tort suits when engaged in
governmental, as opposed to proprietary, acts. Id.;
DiPino v. Davis, 354 Md.App. 18, 47 (1999).
“The operation of a police force is a governmental
function.” Hector v. Weglein, 558 F.Supp. 194,
206 (1982)(citations omitted). Thus, the County is immune as
to common law tort claims asserted against it based on torts
committed by its police officers. See Gray-Hopkins v.
Prince George's Cty., 309 F.3d 224, 234
(4th Cir. 2002). Although Section 5-303(b) of the
Local Government Tort Claims Act (“LGTCA”)
requires the County to indemnify a judgment against its
employee for damages resulting from a tortious act committed
by the employee within the scope of employment, the LGTCA
does not permit a plaintiff to name the County directly in a
common law tort suit. Md.Code Ann., Cts. & Jud. Proc.
§ 5-303(b); Martino v. Bell, 40 F.Supp.2d 719,
722 (D.Md. 1999)(citing Dawson v. Prince George's
Cty., 896 F.Supp. 537, 539 (D.Md. 1995)). Accordingly,
governmental immunity bars Counts I and III against the
County, and the County's motion will be granted as to
Counts I and III.
Monell Claims ...