United States District Court, D. Maryland
L. RUSSELL, III UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
MATTER is before the Court on Defendants Baltimore Police
Department and Former Baltimore Police Commissioner Anthony
Batts's (collectively, “BPD”)Motion to Dismiss
(ECF No. 9). The Motion is ripe for disposition, and no
hearing is necessary. See Local Rule 105.6 (D.Md.
2016). For the reasons outlined below, the Court will grant
in part and deny in part the Motion.
August 4, 2014, near the intersection of Patterson Park and
Ashland Avenue in Baltimore, Maryland, Defendant Baltimore
Police Officer Charles Grimes (“Officer Grimes”)
and an unidentified female officer were investigating a
report of a woman with a gun. (Compl. ¶¶ 15, 17,
ECF No. 2). Plaintiff Brenda McDowell's granddaughter was
playing near the intersection. (See id. ¶ 13).
While walking from her porch to retrieve her granddaughter,
Officer Grimes “aggressively grab[bed]”
McDowell's arm from behind. (Id. ¶ 15). He
then called her a racial slur and told her about the report
of a woman with a gun in the area. (Id. ¶ 17).
Officer Grimes then ordered a female police officer to search
McDowell. (Id. ¶ 18). After the search failed
to reveal a weapon or other contraband, Officer Grimes began
choking McDowell while yelling “give me the gun, give
me the gun.” (Id. ¶¶ 20-21).
McDowell escaped Officer Grimes' chokehold, at which
point Officer Grimes pushed her onto a parked car, causing
her to lose her balance and fall onto the street.
(Id. ¶ 22). McDowell stood up and Officer
Grimes choked her again to the point that she lost
consciousness and had a seizure. (Id. ¶¶
24, 27). McDowell sustained bruising to her arm and neck and
lost her front tooth. (Id. ¶ 28).
McDowell was being treated for her injuries in the back of an
ambulance, Officer Grimes arrested her. (Id.
¶¶ 31-33). During her arrest, Officer Grimes again
called her a racial slur. (Id. ¶ 33). Officer
Grimes also told McDowell that he “did not intend to
arrest her, but his Sergeant had directed him” to do
so. (Id.). McDowell was detained overnight and
released on August 5, 2014. (Id. ¶ 35). Officer
Grimes later falsified the statement of charges used to
charge McDowell with second-degree assault and resisting
arrest. (Id. ¶¶ 36-37). In January 2015,
the Baltimore City State's Attorney dismissed the charges
against McDowell when Officer Grimes failed to show up to
McDowell's court proceeding. (Id. ¶ 38).
August 3, 2017, McDowell sued Officer Grimes, Batts, the
Baltimore Police Department, and the Mayor & City Council
of Baltimore in the Circuit Court for Baltimore City,
Maryland. (Notice Removal ¶ 1, ECF No. 1). On October
30, 2017, Defendants removed the case to this Court. (ECF No.
Complaint, McDowell brings ten counts alleging: (1) Battery
against Officer Grimes (Count One); (2) Assault against
Officer Grimes (Count Two); (3) Gross Negligence against
Officer Grimes (Count Three); (4) Negligence against Officer
Grimes (Count Four); (5) False Imprisonment against Officer
Grimes (Count Five); (6) Intentional Infliction of Emotional
Distress against Officer Grimes (Count Six); (7) violations
of Articles 16, 19, and 24 of the Maryland Declaration of
Rights against Officer Grimes (Count Seven); (8) False Arrest
against Officer Grimes (Count Eight); (9) Malicious
Prosecution against Officer Grimes (Count Nine); and (10)
municipal liability for violations of her constitutional
rights under § 1983 against the Baltimore Police
Department, Batts, and the Mayor & City Council of
Baltimore (Count Ten). (Compl. ¶¶ 43-89). McDowell
seeks compensatory and punitive damages and attorney's
fees and costs. (See, e.g., id. at 10
November 6, 2017, BPD filed a Motion to Dismiss. (ECF No. 9).
McDowell filed an Opposition on November 20, 2017. (ECF No.
17). BPD filed a Reply on December 11, 2017. (ECF No. 21).
Standard of Review
purpose of a Rule 12(b)(6) motion is to test the sufficiency
of a complaint, ” not to “resolve contests
surrounding the facts, the merits of a claim, or the
applicability of defenses.” King v.
Rubenstein, 825 F.3d 206, 214 (4th Cir. 2016) (quoting
Edwards v. City of Goldsboro, 178 F.3d 231, 243-44
(4th Cir. 1999)). A complaint fails to state a claim if it
does not contain “a short and plain statement of the
claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief, ”
Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2), or does not “state a claim to
relief that is plausible on its face, ” Ashcroft v.
Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (quoting Bell Atl.
Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007)). A claim is
facially 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.” Id. (citing Twombly, 550
U.S. at 556). “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). Though the plaintiff is not required to
forecast evidence to prove the elements of the claim, the
complaint must allege sufficient facts to establish each
element. Goss v. Bank of Am., N.A., 917 F.Supp.2d
445, 449 (D.Md. 2013) (quoting Walters v. McMahen,
684 F.3d 435, 439 (4th Cir. 2012)), aff'd sub
nom., Goss v. Bank of Am., NA, 546 Fed.Appx.
165 (4th Cir. 2013).
considering a Rule 12(b)(6) motion, a court must examine the
complaint as a whole, consider the factual allegations in the
complaint as true, and construe the factual allegations in
the light most favorable to the plaintiff. 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) (citing Scheuer v. Rhodes, 416 U.S. 232,
236 (1974)). But, the court need not accept unsupported or
conclusory factual allegations devoid of any reference to
actual events, United Black Firefighters v. Hirst,
604 F.2d 844, 847 (4th Cir. 1979), or legal conclusions
couched as factual allegations, Iqbal, 556 U.S. at
maintains that McDowell's § 1983 claims against BPD
premised on municipal liability fail as a matter of law.
Monell v. Department of Social Services, a
municipality, such as the Baltimore Police Department, is
subject to suit under § 1983. 436 U.S. 658, 690 (1978).
A plaintiff may sue a municipality under § 1983 if she
suffered a constitutional violation at the hands of an
employee acting under color of a municipal policy.
Id. at 692. Under Monell, however, “a
municipality is liable only for its own illegal acts.”
Owens v. Balt. City State's Attorney's
Office, 767 F.3d 379, 402 (4th Cir. 2014). As a result,
“[o]nly if a municipality subscribes to a custom,
policy, or practice can it be said to have committed an
independent act, the sine qua non of Monell
liability.” Id. at 402. Respondeat
superior liability does not satisfy the Monell
standard. Monell, 436 U.S. at 693-94.
§ 1983 Monell claims have three elements:
“(1) identifying the specific ‘policy' or
‘custom'[;] (2) fairly attributing the policy and
fault for its creation to the municipality; and (3) finding
the necessary ‘affirmative link' between identified
policy or custom and specific violation.” Spell v.
McDaniel, 824 F.2d 1380, 1389 (4th Cir. 1987), cert.
denied sub nom., City of Fayetteville v. Spell,
484 U.S. 1027 (1988); see also Jones v. Chapman, No.
ELH-14-2627, 2015 WL 4509871, at *12 (D.Md. July 24, 2015)
(“[A] municipality is liable when a policy or custom is