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Williams v. Dix

United States District Court, D. Maryland

December 27, 2018

TANYA WILLIAMS, Individually and a Personal Representative of the Estate of ARVEL DOUGLAS WILLIAMS, et al. Plaintiff
v.
ANTHONY DIX, et al. Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          ELLEN L. HOLLANDER UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         This litigation arises from the unfortunate death of 30-year-old Arvel Douglas Williams ("Mr. Williams" or the "Decedent"). ECF 1 (the "Complaint"). He died on August 20, 2014, while in the custody of the Harford County Sheriffs Office, following a high-speed chase, collision, and the use of tasers. Id. Tanya Williams, the Decedent's mother, individually and as the personal representative of the Estate of Mr. Williams, and his seven minor children, initiated this suit on August 19, 2017. Id. The Complaint asserts, pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, violations of Mr. Williams' rights under the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments to the Constitution. Id. ¶¶ 34-36.

         Plaintiffs initially filed the action as a "Doe" suit against seven unidentified Harford County Deputy Sheriffs. Id. ¶¶ 11-17. The Doe defendants were not identified by name until February 5, 2018, when plaintiffs filed an Amended Complaint. ECF 11.

         Pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6), defendants have moved to dismiss the Amended Complaint (ECF 29), supported by a memorandum of law. ECF 29-1 (collectively, the "Motion"). They contend that, under Maryland's statute of limitations, the suit was untimely filed as to the named defendants. ECF 29-1 at 2. Plaintiffs oppose the Motion (ECF 34, the "Opposition"), and included an exhibit that contains two letters. ECF 34-1. No. reply has been filed, and the time to do so has expired. See Local Rule 105.2.

         A hearing is unnecessary to resolve the Motion. See Local Rules 105.6. For the reasons that follow, I shall grant the Motion.

         I. Procedural and Factual Background

         A.

         As noted, suit was filed on August 19, 2017. By November 17, 2017, plaintiffs failed to serve the defendants. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 4(m); ECF 3. Accordingly, on November 20, 2017, 1 directed plaintiffs to effect service upon defendants by December 4, 2017, or show cause why the claims against defendants should not be dismissed. Id. Plaintiffs moved for an extension of time to effect service until February 2, 2018. ECF 5. I granted the motion for extension. ECF 6. On February 2, 2018, 1 granted plaintiffs' motion for leave to file an Amended Complaint, substituting named defendants for the previously unnamed Deputy Sheriffs. ECF 10.

         In an Amended Complaint filed on February 5, 2018 (ECF 11), plaintiffs identified the Doe defendants as Harford County Sheriff Deputies First Class Anthony Dix, Keith Jackson, Steve Minton, Vincent Denardi, Amanda McCormack, Donnie Gividen, and Chris Gibbons (collectively, the "Deputy Sheriffs"). By Order of April 2, 2018, I directed plaintiffs to effect service of process upon the named Deputy Sheriffs by April 16, 2018, or show cause as to why the claims against the defendants should not be dismissed. ECF 12.

         On April 16, 2018, plaintiffs filed an "Answer to Show Cause and Motion for Enlargement of Time." ECF 24. In the motion, plaintiffs advised that Deputies Dix, Jackson, Minton, and Denardi were served on April 12, 2018. But, plaintiffs requested additional time to serve the remaining three defendants: Deputies McCormack, Gividen, and Gibbons. Id. I granted plaintiffs' motion, directing them to effect service by April 27, 2018. ECF25. Thereafter, defense counsel ■■ agreed to accept service for the three remaining defendants. ECF 27.

         B.

         The factual summary that follows is derived from the Amended Complaint. ECF 11.

         At approximately 8 p.m. on August 20, 2014, Mr. Williams was driving his Ford pickup truck at or near the intersection of Routes 7 and 152 in Harford County, Maryland. Id. ¶ 18. Plaintiffs assert that at that time, Deputy Minter observed Mr. Williams's vehicle and "attempted to initiate a car stop," without "any cause or justification." Id. ¶ 19. Mr. Williams did not heed Deputy Minter's directive. Id. ¶ 20. Instead, Mr. Williams drove westbound on Route 7 from Route 152, and "was closely followed by Deputy Minter." Id. Plaintiffs maintain that Mr. . Williams was not traveling at a high rate of speed. Id. Despite this fact, plaintiffs say, Deputy Minter "called for additional officers to intercept Williams' vehicle . . .." Id. ¶ 21.

         Mr. Williams turned right onto Cowenton Avenue from Philadelphia Road toward Joppa Road. Id. ¶ 22. At or near the roundabout of Joppa Road and Cowenton Avenue, Mr. Williams "then encountered a Baltimore county police cruiser, #914 ... ." Id. The "police cruiser collided with Williams' vehicle causing it to become disabled." Id. ¶ 23. Once Mr. Williams's vehicle was disabled, Deputies Dix, Jackson, Minter, Denardi, McCormack, Gividen, and Gibbons "all approached Williams' vehicle on foot." Id. ¶ 24. Plaintiffs contend that "[s]everal of the Defendants drew their firearms upon approaching Williams." Id.

         According to plaintiffs, Mr. Williams was "forcefully removed from his vehicle," "maliciously" thrown to the ground, and "violently and maliciously beat[en] . . . about his face and body causing severe injury, pain and suffering." Id. ¶¶ 25, 26. As other defendants continued to beat Mr. Williams, Deputies Dix and Johnson "deployed their taser guns" and, "without cause or justification," used their tasers against Mr. Williams, "striking him in his upper torso three times . ..." /J.¶¶27, 28.

         Plaintiffs maintain that Mr. Williams "then exclaimed that he was in medical distress and exhibited physical signs to that effect." Id. ¶ 29. "Paramedics responded to the scene," but Mr. Williams "died a short time later." Id. ¶ 30. Plaintiffs allege that Mr. Williams "was unarmed and posed no threat of harm to any of the Defendants or any other person." Id. ¶ 31.

         Following Mr. Williams's death, "all seven of the Defendants were temporarily suspended from duty" by the Harford County Sheriffs Office, "pending an investigation by [the] Baltimore County Police Department." Id. ¶ 32.

         II. Standard of Review

         A. ...


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