United States District Court, D. Maryland
THEODORE D. CHUANG UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
Arthur Stutzman of St. Mary's County, Maryland has filed
a civil action against Maryland State Police Troopers Evan
Krenik and Marcus Manning alleging that during a traffic stop
on the night of January 7, 2016, Defendants arrested him
without legal justification and used excessive and
unreasonable force in handcuffing, moving, and transporting
him after that arrest. Stutzman asserts claims for violations
of his rights under the Fourth Amendment to the United States
Constitution and Article 26 of the Maryland State
Constitution, as well as state common law claims of false
arrest, battery, and gross negligence. Presently pending
before the Court is Defendants' Motion to Dismiss, or, in
the Alternative, Motion for Summary Judgment. Upon review of
the submitted materials, the Court finds that no hearing is
necessary. See D. Md. Local R. 105.6. For the
reasons set forth below, the Defendants' motion is
GRANTED IN PART and DENIED IN PART.
January 7, 2016, Stutzman was driving on Maryland State Route
5 south of its junction with Maryland State Route 231. He
noticed Manning in a police car zigzagging through traffic,
tailgating another vehicle, and speeding at approximately 90
miles per hour, even though the posted speed limit was 55
miles per hour. The police car's emergency lights were
not activated. After Manning drove by him, Stutzman called
the Maryland State Police ("MSP") barracks in La
Plata, Maryland and reported Manning's apparently
reckless driving. Stutzman then followed Manning, catching up
to him at a red traffic light. He got Manning's attention
by flashing his headlights and asked Manning to pull into a
nearby gas station, where he confronted Manning peacefully
about his driving. Manning "acted dismissively" and
drove away from the gas station. Am. Compl. ¶ 13, ECF
Stutzman drove home from the gas station, Manning pulled
behind him and activated his police lights to signal for
Stutzman to pull over. Stutzman asserts that he "had not
been speeding or breaking any traffic laws" and that the
stop was in retaliation for his "reprimand" of
Manning. Id. ¶¶ 15-16. Rather than
stopping at Manning's signal, Stutzman continued driving
toward his home and called the MSP barracks to report where
he was driving and to "request assistance."
Id. ¶¶ 18-20. Because of Manning's
"aggressive behavior," Stutzman believed that
Manning was angry that Stutzman had confronted him and was
therefore afraid to be alone with Manning. Id.
Stutzman and Manning arrived at Stutzman's home, Manning
got out of his vehicle and began to yell at Stutzman. Other
state and county police officers arrived as well, including
Krenik. Both Defendants were visibly angry at Stutzman. At
that point, Defendants decided to arrest Stutzman for fleeing
or eluding the police.
is 59 years old and suffers from a severe physical disability
due to spinal conditions and multiple surgeries and thus
walks and moves "in a way manifesting genuine physical
disability." Id. ¶ 29. When Krenik
arrested him, Stutzman requested that Krenik handcuff him
with his hands in front of his body because he has
"metal and screws" in his lower back,
"thoracic issues," and he had had two prior
cervical surgeries. Id. ¶ 30. Krenik refused.
Stutzman explained that he could not physically put his hands
behind his back, stated that doing so would injure him, and
again asked to be handcuffed in front. Krenik again refused.
As Krenik went to handcuff Stutzman with his hands behind his
back, Stutzman screamed in pain. Stutzman remained "in
visibly obvious and severe pain" as they walked to
Krenik's vehicle. Id. ¶ 30. When Krenik
ordered him to sit in the front passenger seat, Stuzman told
Krenik that he would not be able to get into the front seat
with handcuffs behind his back without incurring injury and
asked to be transported in the backseat of another police
cruiser. Although another police officer offered to have
Stutzman transported while lying down in the back of his
police cruiser, Krenik refused to allow it. When Stutzman
tried to get into Krenik's vehicle, he physically could
not place his legs into the car and was in obvious and severe
pain. Krenik then tried to force Stutzman's legs into the
car, injuring Stutzman and causing him to scream out in pain
and begin to cry. Krenik then took Stutzman out of the
vehicle, applied a second set of handcuffs to him from
behind, and placed Stutzman in the back of another police
cruiser, lying down, to be transported to the police station.
the ride, Stutzman was in such "excruciating pain"
that the police car stopped at one point. Id.
¶¶ 35-38. When Stutzman told Krenik that the
transport was causing him such pain, Krenik yelled at him and
ordered that the car to continue. At the station, Krenik
booked Stutzman. Booking took several hours, during which
Stutzman was seated on a stool and handcuffed in a way that
caused severe pain in his arms. Although Stutzman told Krenik
about the pain caused by the stool and handcuffing, Krenik
refused to allow him to sit elsewhere and slowed down the
booking process. Krenik used "a sarcastic and
intimidating tone of voice" throughout booking and
ordered a drug test that Stutzman considered frivolous.
Id. ¶ 40. Stutzman was charged with fleeing or
eluding a police officer, in violation of Md. Code Ann.,
Transp. § 21-904(c) (West 2010). He was fined $500,
received a suspended sentence of 180 days of imprisonment,
and received a disposition of probation before judgment.
to Stutzman, as a result of his treatment during the arrest,
handcuffing, and transport to the station, he has suffered
"additional, serious, disabling, and permanent injury to
his back and worsening of his pre-existing condition,
including but not limited to one disc bulging and another
disc pressing on a nerve." Am. Compl. ¶ 38. Since
the arrest, Stutzman has experienced deterioration in his
mobility, chronic back pain that has not responded to pain
management, chronic headaches, and lower neck and shoulder
December 29, 2017, Stutzman filed this case in this Court. On
March 9, 2018, Stutzman filed an Amended Complaint, in which
he alleges that Defendants violated his rights under the
Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution (Count 1)
and under Article 26 of the Maryland Declaration of Rights
("Article 26") (Count 5) to be free from an
unreasonable seizure and excessive force. He also asserts
state law tort claims of false arrest (Count 2), battery
(Count 3), and gross negligence (Count 4). Stutzman seeks
compensatory and punitive damages.
their Motion, Defendants seek dismissal of all counts of the
Amended Complaint pursuant to Federal Rules of Civil
Procedure 12(b)(6) and 56. First, they argue that
Stutzman's claims in Counts 1, 2, and 5 alleging an
unreasonable seizure and false arrest fail to state a claim
because the facts as stated in the Amended Complaint
establish that Manning had probable cause to arrest him.
Second, they argue that the probation before judgment
disposition of the fleeing-or-eluding charge against Stutzman
necessarily established probable cause and thus bars
consideration of the unreasonable seizure and false arrest
claims. Third, they argue that Stutzman has failed to allege
sufficient facts to support the excessive force, battery, and
gross negligence claims in Counts 1, 3, 4, and 5 and that the
facts as alleged actually establish that Defendants used
reasonable force. Finally, Defendants assert the defenses of
federal qualified immunity to the claims in Count 1 and
Maryland statutory immunity to the claims in Counts 2-5.
defeat a motion to dismiss under Federal Rule of Civil
Procedure 12(b)(6), the complaint must allege enough facts to
state a plausible claim for relief. Ashcroft v.
Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009). A claim is plausible
when the facts pleaded allow "the court to draw the
reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the
misconduct alleged." Id. Legal conclusions or
conclusory statements do not suffice. Id. The 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).
may consider facts and documents subject to judicial notice
without converting a motion to dismiss into a motion for
summary judgment. Clatterbuck v. City of
Charlottesville, 708 F.3d 549, 557 (4th Cir. 2013),
abrogated on other grounds, Reed v. Town of Gilbert,
135 S.Ct. 2218 (2015). "Under this exception, courts may
consider 'relevant facts obtained from the public
record,' so long as these facts are construed in the
light most favorable to the plaintiff along with the
well-pleaded allegations of the complaint." Id.
(quoting B.H. Papasan v. Allain, 578 U.S. 265, 283
(1986)); see also Zak v. Chelsea Therapeutics Int'l,
Ltd., 780 F.3d 597, 607 (4th Cir. 2015) ("[C]ourts
at any stage of a proceeding may judicially notice a fact
that is not subject to reasonable dispute, provided that the
fact is generally known within the court's territorial
jurisdiction or can be accurately and readily determined from
sources whose accuracy cannot reasonably be questioned."
(quoting Fed.R.Evid. 201)). The Court therefore takes
judicial notice of the true test copy of Stutzman's plea
and sentence in the proceedings before the District Court of
Maryland for Saint Mary's County, Case Summ., State
v. Stutzman, Mot. Dismiss Ex. 1, ECF No. 16-2, and the
audio recording of those proceedings, Audio Recording,
State v. Stutzman, Mot. Dismiss Ex. 2, ECF No. 16-3.
Counts 1, 2, and 5, Stutzman alleges that Defendants arrested
him without legal justification, in violation of his federal
and state constitutional rights against an unreasonable
seizure and his state law right against false arrest. In
response, Defendants argue that the facts as alleged in the
Complaint establish that Defendants had probable cause to
arrest Stutzman for fleeing or eluding a police officer, that
the state court's imposition of a probation before
judgment disposition in Stutzman's criminal case
establishes probable cause as a matter of law, and that
Stutzman is judicially estopped from asserting these claims.
courts construe Article 26 in para materia with the
Fourth Amendment, such that its comparable provisions are
essentially equated to the Fourth Amendment's protections
against unreasonable searches and seizures. Scott v.
State, 782 A.2d 862, 873 & n.2 (Md. 2001). Thus, the
resolution of Stutzman's § 1983 claim dictates the
outcome of his claim under Article 26. See Mazuz v.
Maryland, 442 F.3d 217, 231 (4th Cir. 2006),
abrogated on other grounds by Pearson v. Callahan,
555 U.S. 223 (2009). Accordingly, the Court analyzes the
Fourth Amendment and Article 26 claims together.
Fourth Amendment protects "[t]he right of the people to
be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects,
against unreasonable searches and seizures." U.S. Const,
amend. IV. As a "seizure" of a "person,"
an arrest of a person must be "reasonable under the
circumstances" in order to comply with the Fourth
Amendment. District of Columbia v. Wesby, 138 S.Ct.