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Stafford v. Smith

United States District Court, D. Maryland

October 19, 2017

THERESA D. STAFFORD, Plaintiff,
v.
SERGEANT JEFFREY SMITH, et al, Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          Richard D. Bennett United States District Judge

         Plaintiff Theresa D. Stafford ("Plaintiff or "Stafford") has filed this four-count complaint against Defendants Sergeant Jeffrey Smith ("Sgt. Smith") and Patrol Officer Joshua Guiles ("Officer Guiles"), individually and in their official capacity, and the City of Cambridge, Maryland ("Cambridge") (collectively, "Defendants"). She alleges violations of her Fourth Amendment rights pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against Sgt. Smith and Officer Guiles in their individual capacities (Count I) and against them in their official capacities and the City of Cambridge pursuant to Monell v. Department of Social Servs., 436 U.S. 658 (1978) (Count II). In addition, she claims battery against Officer Guiles (Count III), and false imprisonment and false arrest against Sgt. Smith and Officer Guiles (Count IV). (Compl., ECF No. 1.) Currently pending are Defendants Sgt. Smith and Cambridge's Motion to Dismiss (ECF No. 8) and Defendant Guiles' Motion to Dismiss (ECF No. 11) Counts I and II of the Complaint. The parties' submissions have been reviewed, and no hearing is necessary. See Local Rule 105.6 (D. Md. 2016). For the reasons that follow, Defendants Sgt. Smith and Cambridge's Motion to Dismiss (ECF No. 8) and Defendant Officer Guiles' Motion to Dismiss (ECF No. 11) Counts I and II of die Complaint are DENIED.

         BACKGROUND

         This Court accepts as true the facts alleged in Plaintiffs complaint. See Aziz v. Alcolac, Inc., 658 F.3d 388, 390 (4th Cir. 2011). Dr. Theresa D. Stafford is an African-American female, a retired supervisor from the Maryland public school system, and is retired after twenty years service with the Maryland National Guard. (ECF No. 1 at ¶ 4.) Soon after midnight on April 1, 2017, she drove to the Cambridge Walmart where her nephew was being held by Cambridge Police. (Id. at ¶ 9.) When Stafford arrived, she was met by Officer Guiles and Sgt. Smith. (Id. at ¶¶ 10, 16.) Both officers were wearing body cameras. (Id.) Officer Guiles told Stafford that her nephew was being detained. (Id. at ¶ 11.) In fact, he was handcuffed in the back of a police car. (Id. at ¶ 11.) When Stafford asked why, if her nephew was only being detained, he was handcuffed in the back of a police car, Officer Guiles became agitated and yelled, “You want to talk Maryland law?" (Id. at ¶12.)

         Stafford then turned to talk to her niece who was also present. (Id. at ¶ 13.) As she turned, she was allegedly struck by Officer Guiles in the back. (Id.) Stafford responded by attempting to call the Cambridge Police Department, but Sgt. Smith "accosted [Stafford], used his own cell phone radio to intercept the call, and instructed the dispatcher not to send anyone to the scene because he was already there." (Id. at ¶ 15.) Sgt. Smith then asked Officer Guiles if Stafford was interfering with the investigation of her nephew. (Id. at ¶ 18.) When Officer Guiles responded in the affirmative, Sgt. Smith instructed Officer Guiles to arrest Stafford. (Id.) Officer Guiles then ordered Stafford to put her hands behind her back, handcuffed her, and placed her in a police car. (Id. at ¶ 20.) Another officer, Private First Class Officer Beans ("Officer Beans"), who is "multi-racial, " was in the front seat. (Id. at ¶ 21.) Stafford then asked Officer Guiles to loosen her handcuffs. (Id. at ¶ 23.) In response, Officer Guiles tightened them further. (Id. at ¶¶ 22-23.) When Stafford complained again, Officer Guiles allegedly struck Stafford in the back for a second time before slamming the car door. (Id. at ¶ 24.) Finally, after Officer Beans spoke with Officer Guiles, Officer Guiles returned and loosened the handcuffs. (Id. at ¶ 25.)

         Officer Beans took Stafford to the Cambridge Police Department. (Id. at ¶ 26.) At the station, Stafford remained handcuffed to a railing. (Id. at ¶ 27.) Stafford claims that she heard Sgt. Smith and Officer Guiles discuss charging her with resisting arrest. (Id. at ¶ 30.) Officer Beans, however, stepped in and stated that he saw Stafford do everything she was asked. (Id.) Officer Guiles and Sgt. Smith ultimately charged Stafford with obstruction and hindering and disorderly conduct in violation of Maryland law. (Id. at ¶ 34.) However, the State's Attorney for Dorchester County subsequently dismissed all charges. (Id. at ¶ 38.) Stafford then filed the instant four-count complaint against Sgt. Smith and Officer Guiles in their individual and official capacities and against the City of Cambridge. Defendants moved to dismiss Counts I and II of the Complaint.

         STANDARD OF REVIEW

         Under Rule 8(a)(2) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, 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). Rule 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure authorizes the dismissal of a complaint if it fails to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6). The purpose of Rule 12(b)(6) 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." Presley v. City of Charlottesville, 464 F.3d 480, 483 (4th Or. 2006).

         To satisfy Rule 8(a)(2), a complaint need not include "detailed factual allegations." Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007); Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009). However, a plaintiff must plead more than bald accusations or mere speculation. Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555. A complaint must set forth "enough factual matter (taken as true) to suggest" a cognizable cause of action, "even if . . . [the] actual proof of those facts is improbable and . . . recovery is very remote and unlikely." Id. at 556 (internal quotations ] omitted).

         In reviewing a Rule 12(b)(6) motion, a court "'must accept as true all of the factual allegations contained in the complaint'" and must "'draw all reasonable inferences [from those facts] in favor of the plaintiff.'" E.I. du Pont de Nemours & Co. v. Kolon Indus., Inc., 637 F.3d 435, 440 (4th Cir. 2011) (citations omitted); Hall v. DirectTV, LLC, 846 F.3d 757, 765 (4th Cir. 2017); Kendall v. Balcerzak, 650 F.3d 515, 522 (4th Cir.), cert. denied, 565 U.S. 943 (2011); Monroe v. City of Charlottesville, 579 F.3d 380, 385-86 (4th Cir. 2009), cert, denied, 559 U.S. 991 (2010). However, a court is not required to accept legal conclusions drawn from those facts. Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678. "A court decides whether [the pleading] standard is met by separating the legal conclusions from the factual allegations, assuming the truth of only the factual allegations, and then determining whether those allegations allow the court to reasonably infer" that the plaintiff is entitled to the legal remedy sought. A Society Without A Name v. Virginia, 655 F.3d 342, 346 (4th Cir. 2011), cert, denied, 566 U.S. 937 (2012).

         ANALYSIS

         I. Individual Capacity Claims

         Stafford asserts a claim against Officer Guiles and Sgt. Smith in their individual capacities, alleging they violated her Fourth Amendment rights pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. The Fourth Amendment of the United States Constitution guarantees "[t]he right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures." Stafford alleges that Sgt. Smith and Officer Guiles violated her clearly established Fourth Amendment rights by arresting and detaining her without probable cause and by using excessive and unreasonable force. (ECF No. 1 at ¶¶ 53-56.)

         Defendants' Motions to Dismiss the "deficient due process claim" focus, however, not on Stafford's Fourth Amendment claims but rather her references to not receiving Miranda warnings, damage to her reputation, and denial of medical care. In Plaintiffs Opposition to the Motions to Dismiss, Stafford clarifies that that she is not bringing a claim under the Due Process Clause or Eighth Amendment. Rather, the allegations Defendants reference were to "further evidence . . . Defendants' wanton disregard of her constitutional rights." (ECF No. 12-1 at 12.) Accordingly, Stafford has sufficiently ...


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