United States District Court, D. Maryland, Southern Division
Honorable Gina L. Simms United States Magistrate Judge.
before this Court, by the parties' consent, is a Motion
to Dismiss, or in the alternative, a Motion for Summary
Judgment filed by Defendants, the State of Maryland and
Senior Trooper Oliver Okafor and Trooper First Class Robert
Hobbs of the Maryland State Police, and the responses
thereto. (ECF Nos. 125, 131 and 135). The issues having been
fully briefed, the Court finds that no hearing is necessary.
Local Rule (L.R.) 105.6. For the reasons set forth more fully
below, Defendants' motion is DENIED.
exhaustive factual background is set forth in the Court's
memorandum opinion from the first consideration of
Defendants' motion to dismiss, or alternatively, a motion
for summary judgment. (ECF No. 30 at pp. 2-4). At this juncture,
the facts alleged by the parties remain relatively the same.
to Alexis Burno-Whalen (“Plaintiff), on the morning of
February 26, 2012, she ended her work shift and proceeded to
drive along Route 5 in Prince George's County toward her
sister's residence. (ECF No. 16, ¶ ¶ 7-8). As
Plaintiff drove onto an exit ramp toward Route 495, another
vehicle drove up next to her vehicle and struck the front
passenger side. ECF Nos. 16, ¶ 8; 131-2, Exh. B,
“Burno-Whalen Depo.”, pp. 30-31. Both drivers then
proceeded to pull over to the side of the road. (ECF No. 16,
¶ 8). At that time, the driver of the other vehicle
called for police assistance while Plaintiff remained in her
vehicle. (ECF Nos. 16, ¶ 8; 125-3, p. 33). Maryland
State Trooper Oliver Okafor (“Okafor”) responded
to the call, and first spoke with the other driver upon
arriving at the scene. (ECF Nos. 16, ¶ 9; 125-3, p. 34).
Okafor then approached Plaintiff's vehicle, asked her to
step out of her vehicle, and proceeded to administer a
breathalyzer test. (ECF Nos. 16, ¶ 9; 131-2, p. 39).
While Plaintiff attempted to perform the breathalyzer test,
Okafor became angry and yelled at her, demanding that she
blow harder. ECF Nos. 16, ¶ 9; 131-2, p. 45. After
Plaintiff's additional attempts failed, Okafor informed
Plaintiff that she was under arrest and placed her in
handcuffs without performing any field sobriety tests or
making further inquiry about how the accident occurred. (ECF
Nos. 16, ¶ 9; 131-2, p.44). Plaintiff was
placed in the passenger seat of Okafor's patrol vehicle
to be driven to the College Park Police Barracks
(“Police Barracks”). (Id.)
of “why . . . Okafor was taking her to College Park,
” Plaintiff started “screaming, ”
“rocking back and forth, ” and “kicking her
feet.” (Id.) Okafor then began grabbing
Plaintiff. (Id.) At this time, Plaintiff's
“nose and mouth were filled with mucus, ” and she
began spitting on the floor of the patrol car.
(Id.); see also, Exh. F, Dashcam
Video. Upon arriving at the Police Barracks,
Okafor grabbed Plaintiff, pulled her out of the patrol car,
and struck her in the mouth with his metal baton, as her
hands were handcuffed behind her back. (ECF Nos. 16, ¶
9; 131-2, pp. 54-55). Plaintiff could feel her upper and
lower teeth were broken while blood began
“gushing” from her nose and mouth. (Id.)
In response, Plaintiff screamed several times: “You
knocked all my teeth out of my mouth.” (Id.);
see also, Exh. F, Dashcam Video. Okafor then drove
Plaintiff to a hospital Emergency Room. (ECF Nos. 16, ¶
10; 131-2, p. 66). After she was treated, Okafor drove
Plaintiff back to the Police Barracks, where Trooper First
Class Hobbs (“Hobbs”) and an additional
unidentified Trooper met them. (ECF Nos. 16, ¶ 10;
131-2, p. 68). While Plaintiff was still handcuffed, Hobbs
placed Plaintiff in the backseat of his patrol car, lying
face up and “‘hogtied' [her] by tying a rope
around her legs and pulling and wedging the rope between the
door of the patrol car and the door jamb of the patrol
car.” (ECF Nos. 16, ¶ 10; 131-2, p. 71). During
this time, Plaintiff was not resisting arrest or trying to
escape, but remained in a “hogtied” position for
approximately forty minutes while being transported to a jail
in Upper Marlboro. (Id.)
February 27, 2015, the case was removed to this Court. (ECF
No. 1). A series of procedural events preceded the June 4,
2015 filing of Plaintiff's Amended Complaint. (ECF No.
16). Plaintiff's Amended Complaint asserts four counts:
two tort claims arising under State law, and two
constitutional claims pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983.
(Id.) On June 18, 2015, Defendants filed an amended
motion to dismiss, or in the alternative, motion for summary
judgment pursuant to Federal Rules of Civil Procedure
(“Fed. R. Civ. P.”) 12(b)(6) and 56. (ECF No.
17). Plaintiff's Opposition thereto was filed on June 21,
2015. (ECF No. 19). In a Memorandum Opinion and Order, the
Honorable George J. Hazel denied Defendants' motion. (ECF
Nos. 30 and 31).
the parties' consent, the instant case was transferred to
the undersigned for all further proceedings. (ECF No. 79).
Following the close of discovery, the Defendants filed a
Motion to Dismiss/Motion for Summary Judgment (the
“Motion”). (ECF Nos. 94, 104, and 108). After
referring the parties to mediation, the undersigned
terminated the motions without prejudice, giving the parties
the opportunity to re-file in the event mediation was
unsuccessful. (ECF No.120). Because mediation was
unsuccessful, the parties refiled their motions. (ECF Nos.
125, 131, and 135). Defendants' motion is ripe for
Standard of Review
can grant summary judgment only when, construing the evidence
as a whole and in the light most favorable to the non-moving
party, no genuine issue of material fact exists such that the
moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.
Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 331 (1986).
A material fact is one that “might affect the outcome
of the suit under the governing law.” Anderson v.
Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986). A genuine
issue over a material fact exists “if the evidence is
such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the
nonmoving party.” Id.
moving party has established the absence of a genuine issue
of material fact, the nonmoving party must present evidence
in the record demonstrating an issue of fact to be resolved
at trial. Pension Ben. Guar. Corp. v. Beverly, 404
F.3d 243, 246-47 (4th Cir. 2005) (citing Pine
Ridge Coal Co. v. Local 8377, UMW, 187 F.3d 415, 422
(4th Cir. 1999)). The burden can be satisfied through the
submission of discovery materials. Barwick v. Celotex
Corp., 736 F.2d 946, 958 (4th Cir. 1984).
considering a motion for summary judgment, a court's role
is limited to determining whether sufficient evidence exists
on a claimed factual dispute to warrant submission of the
matter to a jury for resolution at trial. Anderson,
477 U.S. at 249. A court must construe the facts and
documentary materials submitted by the parties, including the
credibility and weight of particular evidence, in the light
most favorable to the party opposing the motion. Masson
v. N.Y. Magazine, Inc., 501 U.S. 495, 520 (1991) (citing
Anderson, 477 U.S. at 255). A court “may not
‘weigh the evidence or make credibility
determinations,' and is not in the position ‘to
disregard stories that seem hard to believe.'”
Harris v. Pittman, 927 F.3d 266, 272 (4th Cir. 2019)
(quoting Gray v. Spillman, 925 F.2d 90, 95 (4th Cir.
1991)) (internal citations omitted).
Common Law Tort Claims: Battery and False Arrest (Counts I
alleges common law tort claims for battery (Count I) and
false arrest (Count II) against Okafor and Hobbs in their
official capacity as Maryland State Troopers, and also
against the State of Maryland through the doctrine of
respondeat superior, as their employer. (ECF No. 16).
seek dismissal of both counts, claiming that the doctrine of
state sovereign ...