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Hamilton v. Prince George's County Police Department

United States District Court, D. Maryland

March 16, 2018




         Presently pending and ready for resolution in this civil rights case is the motion to dismiss, or in the alternative, for summary judgment filed by Defendant Prince George's County. (ECF No. 14). The issues have been briefed, and the court now rules, no hearing being deemed necessary. Local Rule 105.6.

         Defendant's motion is confusing, to say the least. While counsel has purported to articulate the proper standards for either a motion to dismiss or for summary judgment, the memorandum is hopelessly jumbled. The discussion meanders from failure to ALLEGE something, to inability to PROVE something. It is not this court's role to parse the arguments in this fashion.

         Plaintiff counsel did little better in pleading and arguing Plaintiff's case. The complaint was not a “short and plain statement of the claim, ” Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2), but rather a long and unwieldy document which failed appropriately to explain the events giving rise to Plaintiff's claims. Although counsel recognized the applicability of Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(d), they failed to file the Rule 56(d) affidavit. In several instances, counsel advances arguments in response to Defendant's motion that contradict the complaint. Counsel would be well advised to file an amended complaint.

         Given the deficiencies on both sides, the pending motion will be treated as a motion for summary judgment in its entirety. It will be granted as to the state law claims but denied as to the federal claims.

         I. Background

         A. Factual History [1]

         Prince George's County Police Department hired Plaintiff NaRica Hamilton in 2006. At all relevant times, Plaintiff was the only female in her unit, and her immediate supervisor was Sergeant Gerald Manley, a male. Prior to November 12, 2015, Plaintiff always received satisfactory or better on her performance reviews. (ECF No. 17-3 ¶¶ 1, 3, 4).

While under Sergeant Manley's supervision, [Plaintiff] was routinely subjected to verbal harassment. This harassment included berating [her] in front of other members of [her] squad and/or [her] superior officers . . . . and sharing private information that should have only been shared with [her] supervising officers, and referring to [her] by [her] first name only[.]

(ECF No. 17-3 ¶ 5). The parties also agree that Sgt. Manley listened to radio shows at work which were offensive to women and minorities. (ECF No. 14-1 ¶ 74). On October 7, 2015, Plaintiff expressed her concern about the discrimination she was experiencing to her Lieutenant, Lt. Popielarcheck. On October 8, she emailed a union shop steward about the discrimination. On October 15, at a squad meeting, Sgt. Manley mocked and humiliated Plaintiff for asking a question. He did not treat anyone else that way. On October 22, Plaintiff filed a formal complaint with the police department. (Id. ¶¶ 6-10).

         On October 26, Plaintiff found out she was pregnant, and her doctor told her that she needed to be placed on light duty because of complications from the pregnancy. Plaintiff requested an accommodation to ensure she did not have to a) stand for long periods, b) drive more than 30 miles each day, or c) lift more than twenty pounds. The request was granted on November 2, and Plaintiff was transferred to the Records Department. Even though Plaintiff was not supposed to drive other than from home to work and back, she was ordered to drive to the station on November 10, 11, and 12. (ECF No. 17-3 ¶¶ 12-14).

         Plaintiff found out that she had had a miscarriage on November 14 and underwent a related surgical procedure on November 15. Plaintiff was on leave from November 15 until December 30. When she returned, “Sergeant Manley continued to make offensive and derogatory comments to [her] and continued to treat [her] in a discriminatory and hostile manner.” (ECF No. 17-3 ¶ 19). She was then granted a transfer request to a patrol assignment and involuntary reassigned to the night shift. (Id. ¶ 20).

         B. Procedural Background

         On June 23, 2017, Plaintiff filed suit in the Circuit Court for Prince George's County, Maryland, against Prince George's County and the Prince George's County Police Department. (ECF No. 2). Plaintiff brought 16 claims under an assortment of federal and state laws alleging discrimination on the basis of sex, pregnancy, disability and related claims of retaliation. On August 11, Defendant Prince George's County removed the case. Defendant Prince George's County moved to dismiss, or in the alternative, for summary judgment on September 15. (ECF No. 14). Plaintiff responded (ECF No. 17), and Defendant replied (ECF No. 20).

         II. State Discrimination Claims

         A. Prince George's County Police Department

         Plaintiff brought claims against the Prince George's County Police Department. Although Defendant has not raised this issue, Fed.R.Civ.P. 17(b)(2) states that a corporation's capacity to be sued is determined by the law under which it was organized. Pursuant to state law, the Prince George's County Charter mandates that the corporate name of the County is “Prince George's County, Maryland, ” and that the County shall be designated as such in all actions and proceedings touching its liabilities and duties. Prince George's County Charter § 103. Thus, a claim against the “Prince George's County Police Department” should be brought as a claim against the county itself. See Hines v. French, 157 Md.App. 536, 573 (2004). Where the county is already named in the suit, claims against the Prince George's County Police Department are properly dismissed. See, e.g., Dodson v. Prince George's Cty., No. JKS-13-2916, 2016 WL 67255 (D.Md. Jan. 6, 2016); Stewart v. Prince George's Cty., No. AW-01-302, 2001 WL 759890 (D.Md. May 23, 2001). Accordingly, the claims against Prince George's County Police Department will be dismissed with prejudice.

         B. Local Government Tort Claim Act

         Counts IX through XVI of Plaintiff's complaint assert state law claims. (ECF No. 2 ¶¶ 109-187). Defendant argues that Plaintiff's state law claims are barred because she failed properly to provide notice as required under the Local Government Tort Claims Act (“LGTCA”). (ECF No. 14-1, at 15). Compliance with the LGTCA is necessary to effectuate a waiver of immunity for local governments in Maryland. Plaintiff contends that her claims are not subject to the LGTCA and that even if the LGTCA applied, she complied with the notice and timing requirements by reporting the incidents to the Maryland Commission on Civil Rights. (ECF No. 17-1, at 20-21).

         Plaintiff cites to Md.Code, State Gov't § 20-903, to argue that Defendant cannot assert immunity. (ECF No. 17-1, at 20). Section 20-903 provides, “The State, its officers, and its units may not raise sovereign immunity as a defense against an award in an employment discrimination case under this title.” Defendant is a county, and Section 20-903 of the State Government Article of the Maryland Code does not apply to counties. See Md.Code, State Gov't § 1-101(b), (e) (defining county and state); see also Prince George's Cty. v. Silverman, 58 Md.App. 41, 51-52 (1984) (explaining Defendant's status as a charter county pursuant to Article XI-A of the Maryland Constitution). Therefore, the waiver of sovereign immunity cited by Plaintiff does not apply.

         The LGTCA applies to suits against Defendant, White v. Prince George's Cty., 163 Md.App. 129, 141-144 (2005), and it applies regardless of whether an action is a common law tort, constitutional tort, or a statutory cause of action. See Md.Code, Cts. & Jud. Proc. § 5-304(b)(1) (“[A]n action for unliquidated damages may not be brought against a local government or its employees unless the notice of the claim required by this section is given within 1 year after the injury”) (emphasis added); Rounds v. Maryland-Nat. Capital Park & Planning Comm'n, 441 Md. 621, 636 (2015) (“[W]e hold that, generally, the LGTCA notice requirement applies to both state constitutional ...

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