United States District Court, D. Maryland
Catherine C. Blake United States District Judge
plaintiff, Douglass Hussy, asserts seven claims-intentional
infliction of emotional distress ("IIED");
defamation; wrongful discharge; wrongful termination;
malicious prosecution; civil conspiracy; violation of the
14th Amendment; and breach of contract-against four
defendants-Housing Authority of Baltimore City
("HABC"); Carla M. Walton, Chief of Human Resources
of HABC; Lynette Cooper; and Housing Authority Risk
Retention Group ("HARRG") -related to an allegation
that Hussy committed sexual misconduct while serving as a
maintenance worker in Baltimore public housing that resulted
in, among other things, the termination of his employment and
two criminal indictments. The defendants have moved for
dismissal of Hussy's claim, or for summary
judgment. For the reasons stated below, the
defendants' motion for summary judgment will be granted.
was hired by HABC as a maintenance worker in April 2005.
(Id. at ¶ 13). Hussy was promoted to a
maintenance mechanic in 2006, and was moved to the Govans
Manor property in 2013. (Id. at ¶¶ 15-16).
He alleges that throughout his employment he received
consistently positive performance evaluations, (id
at ¶¶ 17-18), and maintained membership in the
American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees
(AFL-CIO), until he was fired, (rat at ¶ 14).
September 29, 2015, the Baltimore Sun reported that women
living in Baltimore public housing had sued the Housing
Authority of Baltimore City (HABC), and two maintenance
workers, claiming that maintenance men at the City's
Gilmor Homes property were demanding sexual favors in return
for repairs. (Compl. at ¶ 20). The day after the Sun
reported on the lawsuit filed by women in Gilmor Homes,
Lynette Cooper, a resident at the city's Govans Manor
property, filed a complaint alleging that Hussy
"repeatedly asked [her] inappropriate questions about
her undergarments." (Id. at ¶ 22). HABC
launched an investigation into Hussy's conduct,
(id. at ¶ 23), which was hindered by
Cooper's failure to appear for an interview with
HABC's internal investigations unit, (id. at
¶ 24). The investigation concluded in October 2015, and
recommended that no action be taken against Hussy,
(Id. at ¶¶ 24-25, 29). HABC fired Hussy on
October 23, 2015, anyway, (id. at ¶ 32), and
Hussy was eventually barred from all future employment with
HUD or HABC, (id. at ¶ 38).
Hussy's legal troubles began. A few weeks after he was
fired, on November 13, 2015, Hussy was added as a party to
the civil suit arising from the alleged misconduct at the
Gilmor Homes property. (Id. at ¶ 39). Hussy
claims that he was never notified of this, and still was not
consulted when HABC settled the case on his behalf in January
2016. (Id. at ¶¶ 39, 47- 48). On November
18, 2015, Hussy's first criminal trial, founded on
Cooper's allegations, began-though on the first day of
trial the government entered a nolle prosequi,
allegedly because Cooper did not wish to participate in the
trial and failed to attend. (Id. at ¶ 40). In
June 2016, Hussy was indicted by a grand jury on the basis of
Cooper's allegations. (Id. at ¶ 51). This
time one criminal charge was dismissed before the trial began
in March 2017, and Hussy successfully moved for judgment of
acquittal after the state rested its case and Cooper again
failed to attend the trial. (Id. at ¶ 58)1
These proceedings drew considerable media attention.
(Id. at ¶53).
alleges that the defendants breached two contractual
obligations during his legal battles. First, he alleges that
the Master Agreement between HABC and AFL-CIO was violated
because the agreement required that HABC give employees
24-hour notice before their discharge, which Hussy did not
receive. (Id. at ¶¶ 31, 33). He also alleges
that the Housing Authority Risk Retention Group, (HARRG),
denied coverage of his legal fees, claiming that his
commercial liability insurance did not cover allegations
concerning sexual misconduct. (Id. at ¶ 35).
filed suit in state court on August 18, 2017, claiming that
HABC, Walton, HARRG, and Cooper committed several violations
of state and federal law. The case was removed to federal
court in September 2017. (Compl, ECF No. 2) The defendants
now move for dismissal or for summary judgment. (ECF Nos. 5,
6). For the reasons stated below, the defendants' motion
for summary judgment will be granted.
Rule of Civil Procedure 56(a) provides that summary judgment
should be granted "if the movant shows that there is no
genuine dispute as to any material fact and
the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law."
Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a) (emphases added). "A dispute is
genuine if 'a reasonable jury could return a verdict for
the nonmoving party.'" Libertarian Party of Va.
v. Judd, 718 F.3d 308, 313 (4th Cir. 2013) (quoting
Dulaney v. Packaging Corp. of Am., 673 F.3d 323, 330
(4th Cir. 2012)). "A fact is material if it 'might
affect the outcome of the suit under the governing
law.'" Id. (quoting Anderson v. Liberty
Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986)). Accordingly,
"the mere existence of some alleged factual
dispute between the parties will not defeat an otherwise
properly supported motion for summary judgment[.]"
Anderson, 477 U.S. at 247-48. The court must view
the evidence in the light most favorable to the nonmoving
party, Tolan v. Cotton, 134 S.Ct. 1861, 1866 (2014)
(per curiam), and draw all reasonable inferences in that
party's favor, Scott v. Harris, 550 U.S. 372,
378 (2007) (citations omitted); see also Jacobs v. N.C.
Admin. Office of the Courts, 780 F.3d 562, 568-69 (4th
Cir. 2015). At the same time, the court must "prevent
factually unsupported claims and defenses from proceeding to
trial." Bouchat v. Bait. Ravens Football Club,
Inc., 346 F.3d 514, 526 (4th Cir. 2003) (quoting
Drewitt v. Pratt, 999 F.2d 774, 778-79 (4th Cir.
asserts seven claims-IIED; defamation; wrongful discharge;
wrongful termination; malicious prosecution; civil
conspiracy; violation of the 14th Amendment; and breach of
contract-against the defendants. Because Hussy fails to
support his claims with anything more than bare allegations,
and failed to meet threshold requirements for suing HABC and
its employees, the defendants' motions for summary
judgment will be granted as to each claim.
Local Government Tort Claims Act
threshold matter, HABC and Walton argue that Hussy's
claims have not met the requirements under the Local
Government Tort Claims Act ("LGTCA"). The LGTCA
opens local governments to "liability] for any judgment
against its employee[s] for damages resulting from tortious
acts or omissions committed by the employee[s] within the
scope of employment with the local government." Md. Code
Cts. & Jud. Proc. § 5-303(b)(1). The Act defines
"local government" broadly, including all
"[h]ousing authorities created under Division II of the
Housing and Community Development Article." Md. Code
Cts. & Jud. Proc. § 5-301(d)(15). HABC is one such
housing authority. Mitchell v. Housing Authority of
Baltimore City, 26 A.3d 1012, 1020 (Md.App. 2011).
waiver of immunity, however, comes with conditions. The Act
caps money damages for any individual claim at $400, 000, and
damages across all claims arising from the same occurrence at
$800, 000, Md. Code Cts. & Jud. Proc. § 5-303(a)(1),
and bars the recovery of punitive damages, Md. Code Cts.
& Jud. Proc. § 5-303(c)(1). The Act also requires a
plaintiff to give the local government or its employee notice
of his claim within one year of the plaintiffs injury. Md.
Code Cts. & Jud. Proc. § 5-304(b)(1). Still, a court
"may entertain [a] suit even though the required notice
was not given" if the plaintiff moves the court to
excuse its mistake for good cause, and still then only if the
defendant has not "affirmatively show[n] that its
defense has been prejudiced by lack of required notice."
Md. Code Cts. & Jud. Proc. § 5-3 04(d).
courts also excuse failure to strictly comply with the
technical aspects of the LGTCA notice requirement if the
plaintiff shows substantial compliance by: (1) making
"some effort to provide the requisite notice; (2)....
"in fact give[s] some kind of notice; (3) the notice
provides ... requisite and timely notice of facts and
circumstances giving rise to the claim; and (4) the notice
fulfills the LGTCA notice requirement's
purpose"-"to apprise [the] local government of its
possible liability at a time when [the local government]
could conduct its own investigations, i.e., while
the evidence was still fresh and the recollection of the
witnesses was undiminished by time, sufficient to ascertain
the character and extent of the injury and [the local
government's] responsibility in connection with it."
Ellis v. Housing Authority of Baltimore City, 82
A.3d 161, 342-43 (Md. 2013) (internal quotation marks
omitted); see also Faulk v. Ewing, 808 A.2d 1262,
1272 (Md. 2002) (finding the LGTCA may be satisfied
"[w]here the purpose of the notice requirements is
fulfilled, but not necessarily in a manner technically
compliant with all of the terms of the statute").
and Walton claim that all seven of Hussy's claims-IIED;
defamation; wrongful discharge; wrongful termination;
malicious prosecution; civil conspiracy; and breach of
contract-are deficient because Hussy failed to notify them of
his intent to sue within one year of the injuries he alleges.
Although they do not dispute that Hussy sent notice of his
claims to HABC on April 21, 2017,  they insist the letter was
not received by HABC until July 25, 2017. (ECF No. 6, Ex. 2).
And that is a problem because the injuries Hussy alleges
occurred more than one year before the letter was received,
and almost all of them occurred one year before the letter
was sent: (1) the injury from Cooper's allegations was
suffered in September 2015; (2) the injuries from his
termination and the alleged start of the civil conspiracy
were suffered in October and November of 2015; (3) the injury
from the start of his first criminal trial was suffered in
November 2015; (4) the injury from the civil settlement was
suffered in February 2016; and (5) the injury from his second
indictment was suffered in June 2016. Thus, in the defendants'
view, they should be granted summary judgment on each of
defendants are correct that any claim against HABC or Walton
that relies on Cooper's allegedly false statements,
Hussy's termination, the civil settlement, or his first
criminal trial are deficient because Hussy failed to fulfill
the notice requirement of the LGTCA.Hussy has not provided good
cause for the delay in notifying the defendants of his
claims, and considering a letter filed months too late as
"substantial compliance" would undermine the
LGTCA's purpose which is to provide the local government
with timely notice of potential liability. As a result, the
HABC's and Walton's motion for summary judgment will
be granted as to Hussy's claims for wrongful termination
and civil conspiracy because notice of the . injuries on
which they rely occurred outside the one year Hussy had to
provide the defendants with notice.
claims related to injuries arising from his second criminal
indictment, however, will survive, because HABC and Walton
were put on notice of this injury within one year of its
happening (June 2016), so long as the court treats the
operative date of notice as the day the letter was sent
(April 21, 2017) rather than the day it was received (July
25, 2017). And there is good reason to do so in
this case. First, it is undisputed that Hussy sent the letter
before the deadline and that the delay in HABC receiving it
three months later was not attributable to Hussy. Second,
neither HABC nor Walton has alleged that they were prejudiced
by the late notice. As a result, Hussy's claims for IIED
and malicious prosecution survive only insofar as they may be
supported by injuries related to Hussy's second criminal
Intentional Infliction of Emotional Distress
first claims that the defendants, except HARRG, are liable
for intentional infliction of emotional distress
(IIED)-Cooper by falsely accusing him of sexual misconduct,
and HABC and Walton for participating in his second criminal
proceeding. (Compl. at ¶¶ 62, 65). Because Hussy
has not alleged extreme and outrageous conduct, the
defendants' motion for summary judgment will be granted
as to this claim.
prove IIED in Maryland a plaintiff must allege that the
defendants' conduct was (1) intentional or reckless; (2)
extreme and outrageous; and (3) causally connected to the
emotional distress alleged; and (4) that the plaintiff
suffered severe emotional distress. Figueiredo-Torres v.
Nickel, 584 A.2d 69, 74-75 (Md. 1991). Maryland
has been "clear that liability for the tort of
intentional infliction of emotional distress should be
imposed sparingly." Caldor, Inc. v. Bowden, 625
A.2d 959, 963 (Md. 1993). As of 2010, the Maryland Court of
Appeals had only recognized the existence of a sufficient
IIED claim four times. Lasater v. Guttmann, 5 A.3d
79, 90 (Md. Ct. Spec. App. 2010); see also Doe v.
Salisbury University, 123 F.Supp.3d 748, 759 (D. Md.
doubt, a false accusation, particularly a false accusation of
sexual misconduct, can have terrible costs. But the tort of
IIED exists only to remedy the most outrageous and
intolerable behavior. Thus, the Maryland high court has
permitted an IIED claim to proceed where a psychologist,
counseling a plaintiff on his marital problems, began an
affair with the plaintiffs wife, Figueiredo-Torres,
584 A.2d at 75-77, and where a plaintiff alleged that the
defendant's sole purpose in subjecting her to a
psychological examination "was to harass the [p]laintiff
into abandoning her claim, or into committing suicide, "
Young v. Hartford Ace. & Indem. Co, 492 A.2d
1270, 1277-78 (Md. 1985).
courts have rejected IIED claims in equally instructive ways.
In Mines v. French, 852 A.2d 1047 (Md. Ct. Spec.
App. 2004), for example, the Maryland Court of Special
Appeals affirmed dismissal of an IIED claim pressed by a
plaintiff who alleged that a police officer, after pulling
her over, approached her car with his gun raised,
"grabbed her and threw her up against the side of [her
car] and, after slamming her head into the side of the truck,
while laughing, " told the plaintiff "that it must
have really hurt when her face hit the side of the" car
because of recent surgery she had on her jaw. 852 A.2d at
1052-53 (internal quotation marks omitted). The officer then
"pulled [the plaintiffs] crippled left arm up behind her
back and handcuffed her hands so tightly that" the
plaintiff "suffered lacerations on her wrists and
hands." Id. at 1053. The court held that
"[a]lthough such behavior, if true, was inappropriate,
it is not tantamount to "atrocious  and utterly
intolerable behavior that goes beyond all possible bounds of
decency." Id. at 1060 (internal quotation marks
Hussy alleges that Cooper falsely accused him of sexual
misconduct, and as a result he suffered "severe
emotional distress and depression." But Hussy has
not alleged that he was in a special relationship with the
defendants, as was present in Figueiredo, nor is
there any indication that Cooper intended her conduct to
result in harm approaching the seriousness of suicide, as in
Young, much less indication that the other
defendants intended to cause emotional distress. According to
the complaint, Hussy has certainly suffered, and Cooper's
alleged conduct is worthy of condemnation, but her ...