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Koontz v. Kimberley

United States District Court, D. Maryland

September 17, 2019

DAVID KOONTZ Plaintiff,
v.
JULIA KIMBERLEY, et al, Defendants

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          J. MARK COULSON, UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE

         This suit arises from injuries sustained by David Koontz (“Plaintiff or “Mr. Koontz”) during an altercation between Mr. Koontz, eight employees of the Washington County Sheriffs Office, and two employees of Meritus Hospital. (ECF No. 1). Plaintiff asserts claims under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 for violations of the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments of the Federal Constitution, violations of Articles 24 and 26 of the Maryland Declaration of Rights, and various common law tort claims. The parties consented to proceed before a magistrate judge pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(c) and Local Rule 301.4.

         On August 13, 2019, Plaintiff filed an Amended Complaint. (ECF No. 67).[1] Pending before this Court are three dispositive motions. First, Defendants Julia Kimberley, Greg Alton, Howard Ward, Daniel Monn, Bryan Glines, Spencer Shank, Clayton Stottlemeyer and Ben Jones, all of whom are employees of the Washington County Sheriffs Office (collectively “Defendant Deputies”) filed a Motion to Dismiss All Claims for Failure to State a Claim, or in the Alternative for Summary Judgment in their favor.[2] (ECF No. 49). Second, Defendant Board of Commissioners of Washington County (the “Commissioners”) filed its own Motion to Dismiss, or in the Alternative to Bifurcate. (ECF No. 48). Finally, Defendant State of Maryland (the “State”) has filed a Motion to Dismiss. (ECF No. 54). The issues have been fully briefed and no hearing is necessary to resolve this motion. See Local Rule 105.6. For the reasons that follow, this Court will:

1. GRANT IN PART and DENY in PART the Defendant Deputies' Motion to Dismiss or in the Alternative for Summary Judgment;
2. GRANT the Commissioners' Motion to Dismiss and DENY the Commissioners' Motion to Bifurcate as moot; and
3. GRANT the State's Motion to Dismiss.

         I. FACTUAL BACKGROUND

         According to the Amended Complaint, on January 4, 2018, Plaintiff was driving a two-door gray Hyundai Sonata and running errands in Hagerstown, Maryland. (ECF No. 67 at p. 6). At some point during these errands, Plaintiff noticed that he was being surveilled by Defendant Deputies Monn, Kimberley and Ward. Id. at p. 7-8. For their part, the Defendant Deputies explain they were engaged in a directed enforcement operation targeting an area pawn shop, which was believed to be patronized by drug addicted individuals pawning stolen goods to obtain drug money, and began surveilling Plaintiff when he was observed exiting that pawn shop. (ECF No. 49-1 at p. 12-13).

         Plaintiff explains that eventually he pulled over at a Super 8 Hotel, 16805 Blake Road, and parked his vehicle in the gravel parking lot to urinate in a bottle that he kept in his vehicle. (ECF No. 67 at p. 8). To that point, Mr. Koontz had not been seen or alleged to be under the influence, or in possession of drugs or alcohol, issued any citation, or accused of committing or attempting to commit any crime. Id. at 7.

         The parties agree that Defendant Deputy Alton, using binoculars, allegedly observed Mr. Koontz lean forward in the driver's seat of his vehicle. (Id. at p. 8; ECF No. 49-1 at p. 13). By way of supporting affidavit, Defendant Deputy Alton states that this behavior “was similar to individuals who Alton had previously observed injecting drugs.”[3] (ECF No. 49-2 at p. 2). Defendant Deputy Alton then instructed Defendant Deputy Kimberley, by radio, to approach Plaintiff's vehicle. (ECF No. 67 at p. 8). Defendant Deputy Kimberley, by way of her own affidavit, corroborated that Defendant Deputy Alton radioed, and said that she should perform a well-being check on Plaintiff. (ECF No. 49-3 at p. 2).

         According to Plaintiff, Defendant Deputy Kimberley approached the driver's side of his vehicle and falsely stated to Plaintiff that his car matched the description of a suspicious vehicle in the area, asking for Plaintiff's identification.[4] (ECF No. 67 at p. 8). Plaintiff did not provide identification but instead rolled up his window, locked his car, and began to cover his windshield and windows with sun shades, to, according to Plaintiff, “prevent Defendant Kimberley from seeing Mr. Koontz urinate and to avoid a situation involving indecent exposure.” (Id.; ECF No. 49 Ex. A (body camera footage), at 0:45-1:14). While Plaintiff was covering his windshield, Defendant Deputy Kimberley radioed her colleagues and noted that Plaintiff had locked himself inside his vehicle and was putting up sun shades. (Id; ECF No. 49 Ex. A, at 0:50-1:04). According to Plaintiff, Defendant Deputy Ward, in plain clothes, then rushed towards Plaintiffs vehicle with his gun drawn and aggressively screamed at Plaintiff to “[o]pen the fu**ing window or it's getting busted!” (ECF No. 67 at p. 8). However, the body camera footage indicates that Defendant Deputy Ward instructed Plaintiff to open his window three times (all of which were ignored by Plaintiff) before he drew his weapon. (ECF No. 49 Ex. A, at 1:47-1:55).

         At this point, the parties' description of events, while somewhat consistent on key points, differ in the amount of detail provided. According to Plaintiff, he removed the sun shades, and upon command from Defendant Deputy Ward, slowly raised his hands. (ECF No. 67 at p. 9). He then “unlocked the driver side door, opened the door, ” and began exiting voluntary, but Defendant Deputy Ward grabbed him and pulled him from the car. Id. According to Plaintiff, because he was frightened by Defendant Ward's aggressive demeanor, Plaintiff tried to free himself of Defendant Deputy Ward's grasp by pulling away. However, he was tackled to the ground by Defendant Deputies Ward, Monn, and Glines, while Defendant Deputy Kimberley stood to the side and observed. Id. Thereafter, Plaintiff contends that Defendant Deputy Ward wrapped Plaintiffs legs together and Defendant Deputies Glines and Monn “took control of Mr. Koontz's arms and upper body.” Id. While restrained, Plaintiff stated that he was on medication and that he wanted to go retrieve the medication, but the Defendant Deputies did not respond to his request. Id. at p. 10. Next, Plaintiff was ordered to put his hands behind his back (while being restrained by Defendants Ward, Monn, and Glines) and “less than three seconds after the command, Defendant Kimberley deployed her taser and struck Mr. Koontz once in the middle of the back.” Id. Plaintiff was then “further physically restrained, ” and placed into handcuffs. Id.

         Defendants' version of these events, supported by affidavit and body camera footage, [5]adds important detail to Plaintiff's recital. Defendants state that after refusing Defendant Deputy Ward's third command to lower his window, Plaintiff had to be instructed twice to show his hands. (ECF No. 49-1 at p. 15; Ex. A, at 1:55-2:09). He was ordered twice to open the car door and, because he had his keys in his hand, was further ordered not to put the keys in the ignition but to exit the vehicle. Id. He was again ordered to show his hands, and then ordered four times to exit his vehicle. (Ex. A, at 1:55-2:21). Although Plaintiff opened the door and placed one foot outside the vehicle, he did not exit the vehicle completely, but instead twisted to reach back inside the vehicle towards the console. (ECF No. 49-1 at p. 15; Ex. A, at 2:11-2:34). At this point, Defendant Deputy Ward grabbed him to pull him out of the vehicle. Id. A struggle ensued between Plaintiff and Defendant Deputies Glines, Monn and Ward, resulting in Plaintiff and Defendant Deputy Ward falling to the ground. Id. The footage demonstrates that Plaintiff was actively noncompliant with requests to present his hands behind his back for handcuffing. (ECF No. 49 Ex. A, at 2:40- 2:50). At that point, Defendant Deputy Alton who had arrived at the scene, instructed Defendant Deputy Kimberley to use her taser on Plaintiff. (ECF No. 49-1 at p. 16; Ex. A, at 2:50-3:05).

         Once in custody, Plaintiff was charged with one count of common law obstructing and hindering and one count of resisting arrest in violation of Maryland Criminal Code § 9-408(b). Id. However, before booking, pursuant to the Washington County Sheriff's Office's Policy, Plaintiff was transported by EMS to Meritus Medical Center for an evaluation and removal of the taser probe.

         According to the Amended Complaint, Plaintiff was temporarily admitted to Meritus Medical Center for evaluation. (ECF No. 67 at p. 11). During this time, he was under the supervision and custody of Defendant Deputies Shank and Stottlemyer and “his hands and wrists” were handcuffed to the hospital bed. Id. At Defendant Deputy Stottlemeyer's request, Defendant Deputy Jones joined the other Defendant Deputies to assist in transporting Plaintiff from the hospital to the Washington County Detention Center. Id. Around 8:27 P.M. the hospital cleared Plaintiff for release. Id. At this time, Plaintiff contends that he was vulnerable, in severe pain from the previous altercation, and “confused and frightened by the presence and dominance being exerted by Defendants Jones, Shank, and Stottlemeyer.” Id. Due to this confusion and “upon a legitimate concern for his physical safety following the violent interaction near his vehicle, Mr. Koontz refused to leave Meritus Medical with the Defendant Deputies by holding on to the railings along the hospital bed.” Id.

         At this impasse, because Plaintiff refused to leave with the Defendant Deputies, Defendant Deputy Jones tried to pry Plaintiff's hands from the bed rail by pressing on various pressure points in his jaw. Id. at p. 12. Plaintiff contends that despite his legs being shackled and his being physically restrained by three law enforcement officers (Defendant Deputies Jones, Shank and Stottlemeyer), they also asked for additional assistance from two agents of Defendant Meritus Medical Center. Id. Because Plaintiff refused to let go of the bed, Defendant Shank asked Defendants Stottlemyer and Jones, “should I tase him?” Id. Plaintiff alleges that the Defendant Deputies in the room expressly or tacitly encouraged the discharge of Defendant Shank's taser. Consequently, around 8:45 p.m., Defendant Shank tased Plaintiff once in the abdomen. Id. At this time, Plaintiff was also allegedly being restrained by agents of Meritus Medical Center, Jones, and Stottlemyer, and his legs were bound by shackles. Id. “As an immediate and involuntary result of being tased for the second time that evening, Mr. Koontz fell back into the hospital bed and his legs flew upwards, allegedly striking Defendant Shank in the face.” Id. at p. 13. This resulted in him being tased a third time. Id. Plaintiff was examined by another physician and the taser probes were removed, which caused Plaintiff to further scream out in pain and to break down in tears and cry. Id. Then, Plaintiff “wearing only his tattered boxer-briefs, was aggressively and forcibly dragged from the Hospital, down a hallway and outside to the patrol vehicle.” (ECF No. 67 at p. 13).

         Defendants' version of these events- supported both by affidavit and additional body camera footage (ECF No. 49 Ex. D and E) - does not significantly depart from Plaintiffs basic narrative, other than to emphasize Plaintiffs continued hostility towards the Defendants and his active resistance towards being moved from the hospital into custody, despite repeated instructions and warnings. Id. at pp. 16 -17. Charges of second degree assault, resisting arrest and disorderly conduct were added to his existing charges. Id. at pp. at p. 18-19.

         Based upon these encounters, Plaintiff asserts thirty claims (and claims within claims) under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 for violations of the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments to the Federal Constitution, violations of Articles 24 and 26 of the Maryland Declaration of Rights, and various common law torts including false arrest, false imprisonment, malicious prosecution and intentional infliction of emotional distress.

         II. STANDARD OF REVIEW

         The Defendants' Motions are predicated on Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) and, as to the Defendant Deputies, alternatively Rule 56. (ECF No. 49). The purpose of Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 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) (quoting Edwards v. City of Goldsboro, 178 F.3d 231, 243 (4th Cir. 1999)). A Rule 12(b)(6) motion “constitutes an assertion by a defendant that, even if the facts alleged by plaintiff are true, the complaint fails as a matter of law, to state a claim upon which relief can be granted.” Jones v. Chapman, 2015 WL 4509871, at *5 (D. Md. July 24, 2015).

         Whether a complaint states a claim for relief is assessed in accordance with the pleading requirements of FRCP 8(a)(2). To survive a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss “detailed factual allegations are not required, but a ‘plaintiff must provide the grounds of his entitlement to relief' and this requires ‘more than labels and conclusions, or a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action.'” Petry v. Wells Fargo Bank, N.A., 597 F.Supp.2d 558, 561- 62 (D. Md. 2009) (quoting Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 545 (2007)). In reviewing a Rule 12(b)(6) Motion to Dismiss, “the Court must accept the complaint's allegations as true, and must liberally construe the complaint as a whole.” Humphrey v. National Flood Ins. Program, 885 F.Supp. 133, 136 (D. Md. 1995). Further, the Court must draw all reasonable inferences “derived therefrom in the light most favorable to the plaintiff.” Ibarra v. United States, 120 F.3d 472, 474 (4th Cir. 1997).

         In resolving a motion under Rule 12(b)(6), a court considers matters only within the pleadings. If matters outside the pleadings are presented, and are considered, the motion shall be treated as one for summary judgment pursuant to Rule 56. Humphrey, 885 F.Supp at 136. Federal Rule of Civil Procedure Rule 56(a) requires the Court to “grant summary judgment if the movant shows that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.” The moving party bears the burden “to demonstrate the absence of any genuine dispute of material fact.” Jones v. Hoffberger Moving Servs, 92 F.Supp.3d 405, 409 (D. Md. 2015). A “dispute as to a material fact ‘is genuine if the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party.'” J.E. Dunn Const. Co. v. S.R.P. Dev. Ltd. P 'ship, 115 F.Supp.3d 593, 600 (D. Md. 2015) (quoting Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986)).

         III. ...


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