United States District Court, D. Maryland, Southern Division
J. HAZEL, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
an action filed under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, in which
Plaintiff Maurice Ragins, who is currently confined at the
Western Correctional Institution, alleges that while he was
being housed at the Baltimore Central Booking & Intake
Facility, he was physically assaulted by several correctional
officers, including Correctional Officers Lieutenant Derrick
Burman and Sergeant Brett Thomas. ECF No. 48 at
For each of the two counts in his Amended Complaint, Ragins
seeks compensatory damages of $100, 000, punitive damages of
$1 million and an award of attorney's fees and costs. ECF
No. 48 at 6. Presently pending before the Court is
Defendants' Motion to Dismiss the Amended Complaint, ECF
No. 49. No hearing is necessary. See Loc.
R. 105.6 (D. Md. 2016). For the following reasons,
Defendants' Partial Motion to Dismiss, ECF No. 49, is
alleges that on or about May 8, 2014, he was being housed at
the Baltimore City Central Booking and Intake Center. ECF No.
49 ¶ 11. He was "physically assaulted by several
correctional officers" including the Defendants.
Id. Ragins further alleges that this assault was
"excessively vicious, not based on any disciplinary
action, and completely unwarranted." Id. There
were two phases to the assault: an initial phase, in which
Ragins was "repeatedly and viciously stomped, kicked,
elbowed, and mercilessly punched with clenched fists to his
back, neck, arms, legs, torso, head and face, "
id. ¶ 12, and a secondary phase, in which
Ragins was "placed in handcuffs by Defendants so that
they could continue the beating unabated by Plaintiffs
efforts at blocking an insignificant portion of the blows
raining down on him, " id. ¶ 13. This
incident allegedly occurred "inside Plaintiffs cell.. .
and after an interaction where a female officer accused
Plaintiff of calling her a bad name." Id.
August 20, 2015, Ragins initiated this § 1983 suit
against Defendants. ECF No. 1. On April 18, 2017, Ragins
filed an Amended Complaint. ECF No. 48. His Amended Complaint
contains two claims: first, in Count I, he alleges that
Defendants violated his Fourth Amendment rights "not to
have his person or property unlawfully searched, seized,
detained in an unreasonable manner, not to be deprived of his
liberty without due process of law, and not to be summarily
punished, " ECF No. 48 ¶¶ 19-26; second, in
Count II, he alleges that Defendants violated his Fourteenth
Amendment rights "not to have his person or property
unlawfully searched, seized, detained in an unreasonable
manner, not to be deprived of his liberty without due process
of law, and not to be summarily punished, " ECF No. 48
¶¶ 27-32. On May 3, 2017, Defendants filed a Motion
to Dismiss, arguing that Ragins was a pretrial detainee
during the alleged assault, and that he does not have a
colorable Fourth Amendment claim; Defendants concede,
however, that his Fourteenth Amendment claims are sufficient
to survive a Motion to Dismiss. ECF No. 49. On May 25, 2017,
Ragins filed an Opposition brief, ECF No. 51,  to which
Defendants replied on June 8, 2017, ECF No. 54.
STANDARD OF REVIEW
survive a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss, "a complaint
must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to
'state a claim to relief that is plausible on its
face.'" Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662,
678 (2009) (citing Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly,
550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007)). "A claim has facial
plausibility when the plaintiff pleads factual content that
allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the
defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged."
Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678. "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 ("a plaintiffs
obligation to provide the 'grounds' of his
'entitle[ment] to relief requires more than labels and
conclusions, and a formulaic recitation of a cause of
action's elements will not do.")).
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 Cir. 2006) (citation and internal
quotation marks omitted). When deciding a motion to dismiss
under Rule 12(b)(6), 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 and internal quotation marks
omitted). The Court need not, however, accept unsupported
legal allegations, see Revene v. Charles County
Comm'rs, 882 F.2d 870, 873 (4th Cir. 1989), legal
conclusions couched as factual allegations, Papasan v.
Attain, 478 U.S. 265, 286 (1986), or conclusory factual
allegations devoid of any reference to actual events.
United Black Firefighters of Norfolk v. Hirst, 604
F.2d 844, 847 (4th Cir. 1979).
U.S.C. § 1983 creates a "species of tort liability,
" Imbler v. Pachtman, 424 U.S. 409, 417 (1976),
for "the deprivation of any rights, privileges, or
immunities secured by the Constitution." Manuel v.
City of Joliet, Ill. 137 S.Ct. 911, 916 (2017) (quoting
42 U.S.C. § 1983). The Fourth Amendment protects
"[t]he right of the people to be secure in their persons
.. . against unreasonable searches and seizures." U.S.
Const, amend. IV. The applicability of the Fourth Amendment
turns on whether "the person invoking its protection can
claim a 'justifiable, ' a 'reasonable, ' or a
'legitimate expectation of privacy' that has been
invaded by government action." Hudson v.
Palmer, 468 U.S. 517, 525 (1984) (quoting Smith v.
Maryland, 442 U.S. 735, 740 (1979)). At issue is whether
Count I, alleging that Defendants violated Plaintiffs Fourth
Amendment rights, states a plausible claim to relief. While
Defendants argue that Ragins's excessive force claims are
appropriately brought under only the Fourteenth Amendment and
not the Fourth Amendment, ECF No. 49-1 at 3, Ragins argues
that Count I states a Fourth Amendment claim because he
"alleges constitutional violations related to being
beaten, punched, kicked, elbowed, and stomped ... while
handcuffed, " ECF No. 53 ¶ 3.
who bring excessive force claims against law enforcement
officers will typically fall into one of three categories: 1)
arrestees, 2) pretrial detainees, or 3) convicted prisoners.
Each of these categories of persons enjoys constitutional
protection from excessive uses of force. See Graham,
490 U.S. at 395 ("the Due Process Clause protects a
pretrial detainee from the use of excessive force that
amounts to punishment. . . . After conviction, the Eighth
Amendment "serves as the primary source of substantive
protection ... in cases ... where the deliberate use of force
is challenged as excessive and unjustified") (quoting
Whitley v. Albers, 475 U.S. 312, 327 (1986)). Ragins
does not contest Defendants' characterization of him as a
"pretrial detainee" at the time of the alleged
assault. Typically, where a plaintiff alleges allegations of
excessive force stemming from incidents that occurred while
he was a pretrial detainee, such claims are brought under the
Fourteenth Amendment. Riley v. Dorton, 115 F.3d
1159, 1167 (4th Cir. 1997) ("we conclude that the
excessive force claims of pretrial detainees are governed by
the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment"),
abrogated on other grounds by Wilkins v. Gaddy, 559
U.S. 34 (2010). Conversely, the protection of the Fourth
Amendment "does not extend to the alleged mistreatment
of arrestees or pretrial detainees in custody."
Id. at 1162. See also Smith v. Murphy, 634
Fed.Appx. 914, 917 (4th Cir. 2015) (noting that cases
involving "either prisoners or pretrial detainees"
implicate the "Eighth or Fourteenth Amendment, rather
than the Fourth Amendment").
Ragins's Fourth Amendment claim, Count I, is an excessive
force claim. See ECF No. 48 at 4 (alleging that
Defendants deprived Ragins of his Fourth Amendment right
"not to be subjected to excessive
force" (emphasis in original)). Ragins does not
contest Defendants" characterization of him at the time
of the alleged assault as a "pretrial detainee."
Thus, because the Fourth Amendment does not apply to claims
of excessive force against pretrial detainees. Count I does
not "state a claim to relief that is plausible on its
face" to survive Defendants Partial Motion to Dismiss,
which is therefore granted.
foregoing reasons, Defendants' Partial Motion to Dismiss
is granted and Count I is dismissed from the ...