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Bumgardner v. Taylor

United States District Court, D. Maryland

March 28, 2019

KENNETH BUMGARDNER, Plaintiff,
v.
MARCUS TAYLOR, et al, Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          RICHARD D. BENNETT UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         This case[1] arises from allegations that Baltimore City police officers unlawfully stopped Plaintiff Kennedi Bumgardner ("Bumgardner" or "Plaintiff) and used excessive force against him. Plaintiff has brought a 535-paragraph, 53-Count, 95-page Second Amended Complaint against Defendants Officer Marcus Taylor ("Taylor"), Officer Evodio Hendrix ("Hendrix"), Officer Maurice Ward ("Ward"), Sergeant Wayne Jenkins ("Jenkins"), Baltimore City State's Attorney Marilyn Mosby ("Mosby"), the Baltimore Police Department ("BPD"), [2] Major Ian Dombrowski ("Dombrowski"), and Deputy Police Commissioner Dean Palmere ("Palmere"), alleging state and federal constitutional rights violations, as well as Maryland state common law claims. Now pending are Defendant BPD's Motion to Dismiss (ECF No. 24); Defendant Dombrowski's Motion to Dismiss (ECF No. 25); and Defendant Palmere's Motion to Dismiss (ECF No. 26).[3] The parties' submissions have been reviewed and no hearing is necessary. See Local Rule 105.6 (D. Md. 2018).

         For the following reasons, Defendant BPD's Motion to Dismiss (ECF No. 24) is GRANTED. Specifically, Plaintiffs civil conspiracy claims asserted against the BPD pursuant to 42 U.S.C. §§ 1983, 1985, and 1988 are DISMISSED WITH PREJUDICE. Furthermore, Plaintiffs state law claims of assault, battery, intentional infliction of emotional distress, and violations of Article 24 of the Maryland Declaration of Rights asserted against the BPD are also DISMISSED WITH PREJUDICE. Finally, Defendant Dombrowski's Motion to Dismiss (ECF No. 25) is DENIED AS MOOT; and Defendant Palmere's Motion to Dismiss (ECF No. 26) is DENIED AS MOOT.

         BACKGROUND

         In ruling on a motion to dismiss, this Court must accept the factual allegations in the plaintiffs complaint as true and construe those facts in the light most favorable to the plaintiff. See, e.g., Edwards v. City of Goldsboro, 178 F.3d 231, 244 (4th Cir. 1999). In this case, Plaintiff alleges that several Baltimore City police officers unlawfully stopped his vehicle and hit him with a blunt instrument, causing serious wounds. He accuses the non-officer Defendants with facilitating Plaintiffs illegal activity.

         Bumgardner alleges that his encounter with police began on February 9, 2016 at about 6:30 p.m. (Second Amended Complaint at ¶ 93, ECF No. 79.) That evening, Bumgardner was allegedly sitting in his vehicle at the 5000 block of Dickey Hill in Baltimore City and conversing with a friend standing nearby. (Id.) It is alleged that suddenly, Defendants Hendrix, Ward, Jenkins, and Taylor reversed their police vehicle into the front of Plaintiffs automobile. (Id. at ¶ 94.) Fearing for his life, Bumgardner attempted to flee. (Id. at ¶ 95.) As he fled, he was struck with a blunt object, causing him to fall and lose consciousness. (Id.) Bumgardner avers, upon information and belief, that witnesses saw Defendant Taylor strike him and cause the fall. (7iat¶96.)

         Bumgardner alleges that the Defendants failed to provide adequate medical attention after his fall despite suffering serious injuries. He claims that Defendants Hendrix, Ward, Jenkins, and Taylor failed to call for medical assistance and declined to render any themselves for nearly two hours. (Id. at ¶ 97.) At about 8:17 p.m., one of the Defendant officers dispatched for paramedics and two emergency medical technicians responded. (Id. at ¶ 98.) When they arrived, Bumgardner refused medical treatment. (Id. at ¶ 99.) On the following day, he admitted himself to the Mercy Medical Center's Emergency Department, where physicians diagnosed him with a fractured mandible and sprained back. (Id.) Subsequently, on February 16, 2016, Dr. Bernard Krupp performed surgery to repair Bumgardner's fractured mandible (jaw). (Id. at ¶ 101.) Following this procedure, Bumgardner's jaw was wired shut for nearly two months. (Id.)

         According to Bumgardner, the Defendants have provided a different account of his police encounter. Defendants allegedly claimed that they suspected that Bumgardner was partaking in an illegal drug transaction based upon their observation that Bumgardner had stopped his car next to an unidentified person. (Id. at ¶ 104.) According to this version of events, Bumgardner placed his vehicle in reverse, drove down the 5000 block of Dickey Hill, and fled after police attempted to speak with. him. (Id. at ¶ 105.) Defendant Taylor allegedly claimed that, after giving chase, Bumgardner fell and struck his head. (Id. at ¶ 106.)

         Plaintiff alleges that the events of February19, 2016 took place pursuant to a larger conspiracy perpetuated by members of the Baltimore Police Department's Gun Trace Task Force. To this end, the Second Amended Complaint recounts numerous illegal acts committed by the organization. (Id. at ¶¶ 47-79.) Bumgardner also recounts that all the officers allegedly on the scene of Bumgardner's encounter were the targets of a March 2017 Indictment, which brought charges against seven members of the Gun Trace Task Force for, inter alia, conspiracy to commit racketeering. (Id. at ¶¶ 87-91.) Defendants Hendrix, Ward, Jenkins, and Taylor either pled guilty to the charges pending against them or stood trial and were convicted. (Id. at ¶¶ 89-92.)

         In the fifty-three counts enumerated in the Second Amended Complaint, Bumgardner alleges state and federal constitutional rights violations and state common law claims not only against Officers Marcus Taylor ("Taylor"), Evodio Hendrix ("Hendrix"), Maurice Ward ("Ward"), and Sergeant Wayne Jenkins ("Jenkins"), but also against Major Ian Dombrowski ("Dombrowski"), the Deputy Police Commissioner for the Baltimore Police Department, Dean Palmere ("Palmere"), the Baltimore Police Department ("BPD"), and the Maryland State's Attorney for Baltimore City, Marilyn Mosby ("Mosby"). The Second Amended Complaint is organized by Defendant, such that Counts 1-8 are asserted against Taylor; Counts 9-16 against Hendrix; Counts 17-24 against Ward; Counts 25-32 against Jenkins; Count 33 against Taylor, Hendrix, Ward, and Jenkins; Counts 34-39 against Mosby; Counts 40-44 against the BPD; Counts 49-50 against Dombrowski; and Counts 51-53 against Palmere.[4] As to Dombrowski and Palmere, it is alleged that both were engaged in a pattern of allowing the named officers to use excessive force and conduct unlawful arrests, and generally failed to investigate or discipline the named officers. Each individual Defendant is sued in his or her individual and official capacity. Defendants Baltimore Police Department, Ian Dombrowski, Dean Palmere, Evodio Hendrix, and Maurice Ward have moved to dismiss Plaintiffs complaint in whole or in part.[5] (ECF Nos. 24, 25, 26, and 72.)

         STANDARD OF REVIEW

         Under Rule 8(a)(2) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, a complaint must contain a "short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief." Fed. R. Civ. P 8(a)(2). Rule 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure authorizes the dismissal of a complaint if it fails to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. The purpose of Rule 12(b)(6) is "to test the sufficiency of a complaint and not to resolve contests surrounding the facts, the merits of a claim, or the applicability of defenses." Presley v. City of Charlottesville, 464 F.3d 480, 483 (4th Cir. 2006).

         The Supreme Court's recent opinions in Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twmbly, 550 U.S. 544 (2007), and Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662 (2009), "require that complaints in civil actions be alleged with greater specificity than previously was required." Walters v. McMahen, 684 F.3d 435, 439 (4th Cir. 2012) (citation omitted). In Twombly, the Supreme Court articulated "[t]wo working principles" that courts must employ when ruling on Rule 12(b)(6) motions to dismiss. Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678. First, while a court must accept as true all the factual allegations contained in the complaint, legal conclusions drawn from those facts are not afforded such deference. Id. (stating that "[t]hreadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action, supported by mere conclusory statements, do not suffice" to plead a claim); see also Wag More Dogs, LLC v. Cozart, 680 F.3d 359, 365 (4th Cir. 2012) ("Although we are constrained to take the facts in the light most' favorable to the plaintiff, we need not accept legal conclusions couched as facts or unwarranted inferences, unreasonable conclusions, or arguments." (internal quotation marks omitted)).

         Second, a complaint must be dismissed if it does not allege "a plausible claim for relief." Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 679. Although a "plaintiff need not plead the evidentiary standard for proving" her claim, he may no longer rely on the mere possibility that he could later establish her claim. McCleary-Evans v. Maryland Department of Transportation, State Highway Administration,780 F.3d 582, 584 (4th Cir. 2015) (emphasis omitted) (discussing Swierkiewiczv. Sorema N.A.,534 U.S. 506 (2002) in light of Twombly and Iqbal). Under the plausibility standard, a complaint must contain "more than labels and conclusions" or a "formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action." Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555. While the plausibility requirement does not impose a "probability requirement," Id. at 556, "[a] claim has facial plausibility when the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged." Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678; see also Robertson v. Sea Pines Real Estate Cos.,679 F.3d 278, 291 (4th Cir. 2012) ("A complaint need not make a case against a defendant or forecast evidence sufficient to prove an element of the claim. It need only allege fads sufficient to state elements of the claim." (emphasis in original) (internal quotation marks and citation omitted)). In making this assessment, a court must "draw on its judicial experience and common ...


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