United States District Court, D. Maryland, Southern Division
J. HAZEL UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
William Jeffrey Karn brings this action against Defendants
PTS of America, LLC d/b/a Prisoner Transportation of America
("PTS") and John Does #1-6 (collectively,
"Defendants") alleging various constitutional
violations under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, violations of
Articles 24 and 26 of the Maryland Declaration of Rights, and
state common law claims, including negligence and intentional
infliction of emotional distress, resulting from PTS's
transport of Karn, a pre-trial detainee, from Maryland to
South Carolina in December 2015. Presently pending before the
Court is Defendant PTS's Partial Motion to Dismiss for
Failure to State a Claim. ECF No. 9. A hearing on the Motion was
held on September 13, 2017. See Loc. R. 105.6 (D.
Md. 2016). For the following reasons, the Partial Motion to
Dismiss shall be granted, in part, and denied, in part. The
claims of intentional infliction of emotional distress;
negligent hiring, training, and supervision; the 42 U.S.C.
§ 1983 claim under the Fourth Amendment; and both claims
under the Maryland Declaration of Rights shall be dismissed.
The 42 U.S.C. § 1983 claim under the Fourteenth
Amendment due process clause shall be dismissed against PTS
but shall proceed against the John Doe defendants.
Karn is an adult resident of the State of Maryland. ECF No. 1
¶ 3. PTS is a Tennessee corporation and private company
that provides extradition and detainee transportation
services. Id. ¶ 4. PTS employs drivers and
guards to transport prisoners and detainees between
jurisdictions. Id. ¶ 5. At all times relevant
to this action, Plaintiff was a pre-trial detainee in the
custody of PTS. See Id. ¶ 7.
about December 9, 2015, Plaintiff was arrested in Montgomery
County, Maryland for failure to timely pay child support in
Horry County, South Carolina. ECF No. 1 ¶ 8. Plaintiff
waived an extradition hearing and was taken to a facility in
Montgomery County to await transport to South Carolina.
See Id. ¶¶ 9-10. On the night of December
23, 2015, Defendants arrived to retrieve Plaintiff from the
facility. Id. ¶¶ 10-11. Defendants
handcuffed Plaintiff, strapped ankle cuffs on his legs, and
ran a chain link around his midsection. Id. ¶
12. Plaintiff alleges that the handcuffs were secured so
tightly that the pressure on his wrists, nerves, tissue and
bones made it difficult for him to open his hands, and that
his fingers became numb. Id. ¶ 14. Plaintiff
informed Defendants of this problem repeatedly, but
Defendants ignored him. Id. ¶ 15. Defendants
escorted Plaintiff out to a white van, and when Plaintiff
asked how long it would take to get to South Carolina,
Defendants told him not to worry about it and to "just
get in the fucking van." Id. ¶ 16.
Karn entered the van, there were already fourteen other
prisoners inside, some of whom had been travelling for
fourteen days at that point. ECF No. 1 ¶ 18. Inside the
van, the prisoners were seated on eight-inch metal benches,
shoulder to shoulder, with their knees pressed up against a
central metal divider. Id. ¶¶ 27-28. The
prisoners were not secured with seatbelts. Id.
¶ 30. Plaintiff would spend the next ten days in this
van, traveling through nine different states including
Maryland, Virginia, West Virginia, Ohio, Kentucky, Tennessee,
Arkansas, and North Carolina, to get to South Carolina.
Id. ¶ 19. According to Plaintiff, Defendants
took a circuitous route that passed through multiple states
more than once, id. ¶ 20, and involved several
side-trips that were "completely unrelated to the
transport of the prisoners, " including a stop "at
an out-of-the way airport so that PTS could send one
guard/driver on vacation." Id. ¶ 21. Over
the course of the trip, the van travelled to many different
jails, dropping off prisoners and picking up new ones.
Id. ¶ 56. The PTS guards alternated
eighteen-hour shifts driving, sometimes reaching "speeds
up to 95 miles per hour, " and other times apparently
"falling asleep at the wheel." Id.
the trip, Plaintiff and the other prisoners would "be in
the back of the van on the road for 36 hours without
respite." ECF No. 1 ¶ 22. Because Defendants did
not secure Plaintiff or the other prisoners with seat belts,
as the van "careened and bounced its way through the
route, " the men were thrown around the back of the van,
into each other, the metal divider, and the ceiling.
Id. ¶ 30. According to Plaintiff, these
conditions made sleeping impossible. Id. ¶ 31.
His inability to move or stand up for long periods of time
also caused him to develop "painful boils, rashes, and
abrasions." Id. ¶ 29. Because the windows
of the van were blacked out, much of the time was spent in
complete darkness. Id. ¶ 32. The temperature
was warm, and "there was little air" in the
compartment. See Id. ¶ 36.
to food and water varied widely, and was subject to the whim
of the guards. ECF No. 1 ¶ 34. Typically, every six to
eight hours, the guards would stop at a McDonalds and
purchase "a small hamburger from the $1.00 menu"
and a twelve-ounce bottle of water for each prisoner.
Id. ¶ 33. This meal schedule was largely
inconsistent, however, and at least once, the prisoners were
allegedly not given food or water for almost twice the six
hour period. Id. ¶ 34. Additionally, the guards
made minimal effort to control the prisoners, and on more
than one occasion, other prisoners stole Plaintiffs food and
water, leaving him with nothing to eat or drink. Id.
¶ 35. Plaintiff alleges that he was dehydrated for most
of the journey, because the twelve-ounce bottle of water was
not sufficient. Id. ¶ 36.
the men also fought with each other by head-butting and
biting one another. ECF No. 1 ¶ 58. To quell this
behavior, Defendants would "indiscriminately pepper
spray the entire rear compartment" of the van, including
Plaintiff, even though he had not been fighting. Id.
¶ 59. "Shackled and bound at the waist, "
Plaintiff was unable to rub his eyes or splash water to rinse
his eyes of the pepper spray. Id. ¶¶ 40,
59. At the end of one of the thirty-six hour stretches in the
van, Plaintiff alleges that he became numb in the legs, which
diminished his ability to stand up and exit the van.
Id. ¶ 41. In response, Defendants pushed
Plaintiff out of the van, causing Plaintiff to fall onto his
side and injure his shoulder. Id. ¶¶
42-44. Plaintiff was unable to brace his fall because of the
shackles and handcuffs. Id. ¶ 43. Plaintiff
alleges that he made no complaints about this because the
guards stood over him "with hands on their weapons,
" and he was never treated for this injury. Id.
came time for the prisoners to urinate or have a bowel
movement, Defendants expected the prisoners to urinate
"into their empty water bottles." ECF No. 1 ¶
45-46. However, because the men were shackled, many of them
ended up urinating on the van's floor and on themselves.
Id. ¶ 47. On multiple occasions, Plaintiff and
other prisoners also defecated on themselves, because they
could not contain their bowel movements any longer.
Id. ¶¶ 48-49. One particular prisoner
seated next to Plaintiff suffered from a form of irritable
bowel syndrome, and had "to beg the guards to be
permitted to move his bowels." Id. ¶ 50.
Eventually, Defendants threw a plastic garbage bag in the
back of the van and told the prisoner to use it. Id.
Plaintiff attempted to help the man pull his pants down and
use the bag in the crowded space, but these efforts were
unsuccessful, and the prisoner defecated everywhere,
including on Plaintiffs "leg, arms, clothing, and the
floor." Id. ¶ 52. Defendants would not
allow Plaintiff to bathe or change clothing. Id.
alleges that the combination of urine, open feces, vomit, and
other body odors in the van "was horrific." ECF No.
1 ¶ 54. The van had allegedly transported "other
prisoners in the same circumstances" before Plaintiff,
and Defendants did not clean it between prisoners, or for the
duration of Plaintiff s journey. Id. ¶¶
53-56. Throughout Plaintiffs transport, Defendants also did
not allow him to use a phone to contact his family or
friends. Id. ¶ 60. Plaintiff alleges that he
still suffers from the physical pain, harm, and emotional
distress of this experience, and "will require treatment
into the foreseeable future." Id. ¶¶
65-66. He states that he continues to "relive the pain
and torment, " id. ¶ 66, and to date,
still experiences "numbness and pain in the fingers of
his left hand, " id. ¶ 39, and pain in his
shoulder. Id. ¶¶ 44.
filed the instant Complaint against PTS, and six unnamed
employees, asserting eight causes of action: Count I:
Negligence; Count II: Intentional Infliction of Emotional
Distress ("IIED"); Count III: Negligent Hiring,
Training, and Supervision; Count IV: False Imprisonment;
Count V: Violation of 42 U.S.C. § 1983 Unlawful Arrest,
Seizure, and Detention; Count VI: Violation of 42 U.S.C.
§ 1983 Mistreatment in Custody; Count VII: Violations of
Article 24 and 26 of the Maryland Declaration of Rights
Excessive Force; and Count VIII: Violations of Article 24 and
26 of the Maryland Declaration of Rights Loss of Liberty. ECF
No. 1 at 9-19. Plaintiff seeks judgment against Defendant in
"an amount in excess of $75, 000.00, plus interest and
costs, and punitive damages, plus attorneys' fees,
interest and costs." See id.
PTS filed an Answer to Count I, negligence, and a Partial
Motion to Dismiss with respect to the remaining counts. In
Plaintiffs Opposition, Plaintiff withdrew Count IV, false
imprisonment, and Count VI, the Section 1983 claim for
mistreatment in custody. See ECF No. 14-1 at 1.
Therefore, this Memorandum Opinion will address only Counts
II (intentional infliction of emotional distress), III
(negligent hiring, training and supervision); V (the Section
1983 claim for unlawful arrest, seizure and detention); VII
(Maryland Declaration of Rights - Excessive Force); and VIII
(Maryland Declaration of Rights Loss of Liberty).
STANDARD OF REVIEW
may "test the adequacy of a complaint by way of a motion
to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6)." Prelich v. Med.
Res., Inc., 813 F.Supp.2d 654, 660 (D. Md. 2011) (citing
German v. Fox, 267 F.App'x 231, 233 (4th Cir.
2008)). Motions to dismiss for failure to state a claim do
"not resolve contests surrounding the facts, the merits
of a claim, or the applicability of defenses."
Prelich, 813 F.Supp.2d at 660 (citing Edwards v.
City of Goldsboro, 178 F.3d 231, 243 (4th Cir. 1999)).
To overcome a Rule 12(b)(6) motion, a complaint must allege
enough facts 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."
evaluating the sufficiency of the Plaintiffs claims, the
Court accepts factual allegations in the complaint as true
and construes the factual allegations in the light most
favorable to the Plaintiff See 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).
However, the complaint must contain more than "legal
conclusions, elements of a cause of action, and bare
assertions devoid of further factual enhancement."
Nemet Chevrolet, Ltd v. Consumerqffairs.com, Inc.,591 F.3d 250, 255 (4th Cir. 2009). The court should not grant
a motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim for relief
unless "it is clear that no relief could be granted
under any set of facts that could be proved consistent with