United States District Court, D. Maryland
THEODORE D. CHUANG UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
Christopher Moore has filed a civil action against Montgomery
County, Maryland (the "County") and Montgomery
County Police Officers Michael Peitzmeier, Joseph Alvarez,
Douglas Miller, Yvesdider Nkodia, and Nathan Lenhart (the
"Officer Defendants") alleging that the Officer
Defendants used excessive force against him, unlawfully
searched and arrested him, and charged him with crimes
without probable cause. Moore asserts claims for violations
of his rights under the Fourth Amendment to the United States
Constitution, as well as state common law tort claims.
Presently pending before the Court is the County's
Partial Motion to Dismiss. 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 Motion is GRANTED.
August 21, 2016, Moore, a 41-year-old African-American
veteran of the Maryland National Guard, was sitting on the
steps outside his home in Montgomery County, Maryland. Moore
had been discharged from the Maryland National Guard after
his neck and spine were injured during his service, and he
had previously undergone spinal fusion surgery to address
this injury. That night, the Officer Defendants responded to
a report of an apparent disturbance at Moore's home.
Moore, who was not wearing a shirt or shoes and was not
armed, was alarmed when Alvarez approached him as he sat on
his steps. According to Moore, Alvarez began to punch Moore
in the face again and again, while the other Officer
Defendants both encouraged Alvarez and joined in the assault.
The other Officer Defendants pushed Moore off the steps,
shoved his face into the steps, restrained him, and put
pressure on his injured neck. Moore cried out in pain,
drawing attention to his neck. The Officer Defendants then
searched Moore, arrested him, and charged him with crimes.
alleges that the Officer Defendants had neither probable
cause to believe he had committed a crime, nor reasonable
suspicion that he was armed. In the criminal case against him
in the District Court of Maryland for Montgomery County, the
prosecutor abandoned the charges through a nolle
prosequi. The beating reinjured Moore's spine and
left him bloodied with cuts and bruises on his face, and he
required stitches to his forehead and further treatment for
his spinal Injury.
16, 2018, Moore filed his Complaint in this Court, in which
he alleges that the Officer Defendants violated his rights
under the Fourth Amendment to be free from an unreasonable
stops, frisks, seizures, and searches (Count I) and from
excessive force (Count II). Also remaining in the Complaint
are state common law tort claims of negligence (Count IV),
gross negligence (Count V), malicious prosecution (Count VI),
and battery (Count VII) against all Defendants. Moore seeks
compensatory and punitive damages, injunctive relief, and an
order that the Court will retain jurisdiction to assure
compliance with any court orders. Moore does not seek
punitive damages against the County.
Motion, the County seeks dismissal of all remaining counts of
the Complaint brought against it, Counts IV-VI,, pursuant to
Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6). The County argues
that under Maryland law it is immune from common law tort
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
Cly., 407 F.3d 266, 268 (4th Cir. 2005).
Counts IV through VII, Moore brings Maryland common law tort
claims of negligence, gross negligence, malicious
prosecution, and battery against the County based on the
conduct of the Officer Defendants on the night of August 16,
2016. The County argues that it cannot be held liable in
tort, whether on a direct or indirect theory of liability.
Maryland, a local government enjoys governmental immunity if
the Maryland General Assembly has not specifically waived
that immunity. Md. -Nat'l Capital Park & Planning
Comm'n v. Kranz, 521 A.2d 729, 731 (Md. 1996);
Williams v. Prince George's Cly., 685 A.2d 884,
898 (Md. Ct. Spec. App. 1996). Pursuant to this immunity, a
local government is "immune from liability" for
common law torts when the conduct was committed in a
"governmental capacity," but can be liable for
common law torts arising from conduct in its "private or
proprietary capacity." DiPino v. Davis, 729
A.2d 354, 369-70 (Md. 1999); Kranz, 521 A.2d at 731;
Fowler v. Ed. of Cty. Comm'rs, 187 A.2d 856, 858
(Md. 1963). A law enforcement officer "purporting to
enforce the State criminal law" acts in a
"quintessentially governmental" capacity.
DiPino, 729 A.2d at 370; see Gray-Hopkins v.
Prince George's Cty., 309 F.3d 224, 234 (4th Cir.
2002); see also Tadjer v. Montgomery Cty., 479 A.2d
1321, 1325-26 (Md. 1984) (describing the distinction between
governmental and proprietary functions). The immunity applies
when the theory of the local government's liability is
based on direct acts by the government. See, e.g., Clark
v. Prince George's Cty., 65 A.3d 785, 790 (Md. Ct.
Spec. App. 2013) (finding that a county had immunity from a
claim of negligent hiring). It also applies when the claim is
that the local government was vicariously liable for actions
by its employees engaged in a governmental function. See,
e.g., DiPino, 729 A.2d at 370 (finding immunity from a
claim of malicious prosecution against a county based on the
conduct of its police officer); Williams, 685 A.2d
at 897-98 (finding immunity from a claim of negligence
against a county based on the conduct of its police
officers); see also Gray-Hopkins, 309 F.3d at 231,
234 (holding that Maryland local government immunity applies
to claims seeking "to impose respondeat
superior liability" on a county for intentional
torts committed by a police officer).
the Local Government Tort Claims Act ("LGTCA"), Md.
Code Ann. Cts. & Jud. Proc. §§ 5-301 to 5-304
(West 2011), a local government is liable "for any
judgment against its employee for damages resulting from
tortious acts or omissions committed by the employee within
the scope of employment with the local government."
Id. S 5-303(b)(1). However, in creating this
"duty to defend or indemnify" an employee against
tort claims, the LGTCA does not operate as a waiver of
governmental immunity and does not create a cause of action
against a local government. Round ...