United States District Court, D. Maryland
L. Russell, III United States District Judge.
MATTER is before the Court on Defendant Baltimore Police
Department and Anthony W. Batts’s (collectively,
“BPD”) Motion to Dismiss for Failure to State a
Claim (ECF No. 22) Plaintiff Eric Jones’s Amended
Complaint (ECF No. 21). This 42 U.S.C. § 1983 (2012)
action arises from the August 17, 2014 arrest of Jones by
Defendants Joshua Jordan and Russell J. Tonks (the
“Officer Defendants”). The Motion is ripe for
disposition, and no hearing is necessary. See Local
Rule 105.6 (D.Md. 2016). For the reasons outlined below, the
Court will deny the Motion.
August 17, 2014, the Officer Defendants were investigating
suspected drug activity at 3500 Hayward Avenue, Baltimore,
Maryland. (Am. Compl. ¶ 26, ECF No. 21). They were
looking for a person suspected of selling drugs who was
“wearing all black.” (Id. ¶ 27).
The Officer Defendants observed Jones and another person
walking out of a building on the 3200 block of the same
avenue. (Id. ¶ 29). While Jones did not meet
the description of the suspect, the Officer Defendants
observed him walking on the sidewalk in a “hurried
manner.” (Id. ¶¶ 30, 32, 34). They
stopped Jones. (Id. ¶ 33).
provided them his name and other “pertinent
information,” but when they asked if he had anything
illegal on him, he “attempted to end the
discussion” and leave. (Id.). The Officer
Defendants did not let Jones leave, and instead, they
“employed a ‘departmentally trained take
down’” of Jones, “tackling” him to
the ground. (Id. ¶ 35). He fell, face first,
onto the curb. (Id. ¶ 36). As a result, Jones
went to the hospital for five days, where he was diagnosed
with various brain and shoulder injuries. (Id.
¶ 37). He underwent brain surgery and continues to
receive treatment. (Id. ¶ 38). The take down
left Jones with permanent injuries, including brain damage,
preventing him from returning to his job. (Id.
¶¶ 36, 38).
was charged with seven counts related to possession and
distribution of marijuana, assault, and interfering with
arrest. (Id. ¶ 39). On September 29, 2014, the
State’s Attorney dismissed the charges, and a nolle
prosequi was entered for all of Jones’s charges.
(Id. ¶ 45).
filed the present action on July 22, 2016 against the Officer
Defendants, Batts, the Baltimore Police Department, Unknown
Individual Officers (the “John Doe Officers”),
and Unknown Supervisors of the Baltimore Police Department
(the “John Doe Supervisors”). (ECF No. 1). On
October 25, 2016, Jones filed an Amended Complaint. (ECF No.
nine-count Amended Complaint, Jones alleges: direct liability
for violations of his constitutional rights under § 1983
against the Officer Defendants and John Doe Officers (the
“Individual Defendants”) (Count I); municipal
liability for violations of his constitutional rights under
§ 1983 against the Baltimore Police Department, Batts,
and the John Doe Supervisors (Count II); supervisor liability
for violations of his constitutional rights under § 1983
against the John Doe Supervisors (Count III); bystander
liability for violations of his constitutional rights under
§ 1983 against the John Doe Officers (Count IV);
violations of Articles 24 and 26 of the Maryland Declaration
of Rights against the Individual Defendants (Count V);
Malicious Prosecution against the Individual Defendants
(Count VI); Assault and Battery against the Individual
Defendants (Count VII); False Imprisonment against the
Individual Defendants (Count VIII); and False Arrest against
the Individual Defendants (Count IX). (See id.
¶¶ 95–149). Jones seeks damages and
attorney’s fees and costs. (Id. ¶¶
101, 109, 117, 127, 130, 136, 141, 148, 149).
moves to dismiss all counts against it for failure to state a
claim upon which relief may be granted. (ECF No. 22). Jones
filed an Opposition on December 2, 2016. (ECF No. 26). BPD
filed a Reply on December 22, 2016. (ECF No. 29).
Standard of Review
purpose of a Rule 12(b)(6) motion is to test the sufficiency
of a complaint,” not to “resolve contests
surrounding the facts, the merits of a claim, or the
applicability of defenses.” Edwards v. City of
Goldsboro, 178 F.3d 231, 243–44 (4th Cir. 1999)
(quoting Republican Party v. Martin, 980 F.2d 943,
952 (4th Cir. 1992)). A complaint fails to state a claim if
it does not contain “a short and plain statement of the
claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief,”
Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2), or does not “state a claim to
relief that is plausible on its face,” Ashcroft v.
Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (quoting Bell Atl.
Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007)). A claim is
facially 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. (citing Twombly, 550
U.S. at 556). “Threadbare recitals of the elements of a
cause of action, supported by mere conclusory statements, do
not suffice.” Id. (citing Twombly,
550 U.S. at 555). Though the plaintiff is not required to
forecast evidence to prove the elements of the claim, the
complaint must allege sufficient facts to establish each
element. Goss v. Bank of Am., N.A., 917 F.Supp.2d
445, 449 (D.Md. 2013) (quoting Walters v. McMahen,
684 F.3d 435, 439 (4th Cir. 2012)), aff’d sub
nom., Goss v. Bank of Am., NA, 546
F.App’x 165 (4th Cir. 2013).
considering a Rule 12(b)(6) motion, a 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 Cty., 407 F.3d 266, 268 (4th
Cir. 2005) (citing Scheuer v. Rhodes, 416 U.S. 232,
236 (1974)). But, the court need not accept unsupported or
conclusory factual allegations devoid of any reference to
actual events, United Black Firefighters v. Hirst,
604 F.2d 844, 847 (4th Cir. 1979), or legal conclusions
couched as factual allegations, Iqbal, 556 U.S. at
Monell v. Department of Social Services, a
municipality, such as the Baltimore Police Department, is
subject to suit under § 1983. 436 U.S. 658, 690 (1978).
A plaintiff may sue a municipality under § 1983 if he
suffered a constitutional violation at the hands of an
employee acting under color of a municipal policy.
Id. at 692. Under Monell, however, “a
municipality is liable only for its own illegal acts.”
Owens v. Balt. City State’s Attorneys Office,
767 F.3d 379, 402 (4th Cir. 2014). As a result, “[o]nly
if a municipality subscribes to a custom, policy, or practice
can it be said to have committed an independent act, the
sine qua non of Monell liability.”
Id. at 402. Liability under respondeat
superior is insufficient under Monell’s
standard. Monell, 436 U.S. at 693–94.
§ 1983 Monell claims have three elements:
“(1) identifying the specific ‘policy’ or
‘custom’[;] (2) fairly attributing the policy and
fault for its creation to the municipality; and (3) finding
the necessary ‘affirmative link’ between
identified policy or custom and specific violation.”
Spell v. McDaniel, 824 F.2d 1380, 1389 (4th Cir.
1987), cert. denied sub nom., City of
Fayetteville v. Spell, 484 U.S. 1027 (1988); see
also Jones v. Chapman, No. ELH-14-2627, 2015 WL 4509871,
at *12 (D.Md. July 24, 2015) (“[A] municipality is
liable when a policy or custom is fairly attributable to the
municipality as its own, and is . . . the moving force behind
the particular constitutional violation.” (citation and
internal quotation marks omitted)).
are four kinds of customs, policies, or practices that a
plaintiff can allege: (1) the “decisions of a
government’s lawmakers;” (2) “the acts of
its policymaking officials;” (3) “a local
government’s decision not to train certain employees
about their legal duty to avoid violating citizens’
rights,” known as a “failure to train”
claim; and (4) “practices so persistent and widespread
as to practically have the force of law.” Connick
v. Thompson, 563 U.S. 51, 61 (2011).
prevailing on the merits of a Monell claim is
difficult, simply alleging such a claim is, by definition,
easier.” Owens, 767 F.3d at 403. To state a
Monell claim under Rule 12(b)(6) sufficiently, a
plaintiff “need only allege facts which, if true,
‘state a claim to relief that is plausible on its
face.’” Id. (quoting Iqbal, 556
U.S. at 678). The complaint’s facts “need not be
particularly detailed, and the chance of success need not be
particularly high.” Id. “A plaintiff
fails to state a claim only when he offers ‘labels and
conclusions’ or formulaically recites the elements of
his § 1983 cause of action.” Id. (quoting
Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678).
Jones alleges that BPD subscribes to the third and fourth
kinds of Monell customs, policies, or
practices-failure to train officers about their legal duties
to avoid constitutional violations and failure to correct
persistent and widespread unconstitutional practices, known
as a condonation claim. BPD offers three principal reasons
for dismissing Jones’s § 1983 claims under
Monell. First, BPD argues that Jones does not
sufficiently state that he suffered an underlying
constitutional violation to support his Monell
claims. Second, BPD contends that Jones does not sufficiently
state a failure to train claim. Third, BPD asserts that Jones
does not sufficiently state a condonation claim. The Court
begins by examining whether Jones sufficiently states an
underlying constitutional violation.
Underlying Constitutional Violation
maintains that Jones does not sufficiently state that he
suffered an underlying constitutional violation at the hands
of any officers because the Officer Defendants did not
violate Jones’s constitutional rights when they
arrested him on August 14, 2014. The Court disagrees.
alleges that the Officer Defendants violated his rights under
the Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution. The
Fourth Amendment provides that “[t]he right of the
people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and
effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures shall not
be violated.” U.S. Const. amend. IV. Reasonableness of
a seizure “depends on a balance between the public
interest and the individual’s right to personal
security free from arbitrary interference by law
officers.” Jones v. Ashford, No. TDC-14-3639,
2017 WL 221783, at *5 (D.Md. Jan. 18, 2017) (quoting
United States v. Brignoni-Ponce, 422 U.S. 873, 878
(1975)). The Fourth Circuit has identified three categories
of police-citizen interactions: (1) an arrest, which requires
probable cause; (2) a brief investigatory stop, which
requires reasonable suspicion; and (3) brief encounters,
which do not implicate the Fourth Amendment. Id. at
*4 (citing United States v. Weaver, 282 F.3d 302,
309 (4th Cir. 2002)).
cause to justify an arrest means facts and circumstances
within the officer’s knowledge that are sufficient to
warrant a prudent person, or one of reasonable caution, in
believing, in the circumstances shown, that the suspect has
committed an offense.” Humbert v. Mayor of Balt.
City, 866 F.3d 546, 555 (4th Cir. 2017) (alterations
omitted) (quoting Cahaly v. Larosa, 796 F.3d 399,
407 (4th Cir. 2015)). “While probable cause requires
more than bare suspicion, it requires less than that evidence
necessary to convict.” Id. at 556 (quoting
United States v. Gray, 137 F.3d 765, 769 (4th Cir.
contrast to probable cause, reasonable suspicion to justify a
brief investigatory stop means “the totality of
circumstances” demonstrate that criminal activity
“may be afoot.” United States v. Foster,
824 F.3d 84, 88–89 (4th Cir. 2016) (quoting United
States v. Slocumb, 804 F.3d 677, 682 (4th Cir. 2015);
United States v. Bumpers, 705 F.3d 168, 171 (4th
Cir. 2013)). “While a mere hunch is insufficient,
reasonable suspicion is less demanding than probable cause
and may well fall considerably short of satisfying a
preponderance of the evidence standard.”
Foster, 824 F.3d at 89 (alteration in original)
(quoting United States v. Massenburg, 654 F.3d 480,
485 (4th Cir. 2011)) (internal quotation marks omitted).
Jones alleges that the Officer Defendants stopped him and
asked him for his name and other information. (Am. Compl.
¶ 33). Jones pleads that after the Officer Defendants
asked him whether he had anything illegal, he
“attempted to end the discussion” and
“leave the area.” (Id.). In response,
the Officer Defendants “did not allow [Jones] to freely
exit the area” and “tackled” Jones to the
ground, injuring him. (Id. ¶¶
35–36). BPD argues that the Officer Defendants did not
violate Jones’s constitutional rights because they had
reasonable suspicion to stop Jones and probable cause to
arrest him. BPD asserts that Jones ran away from the ...