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Moses v. District of Columbia

September 28, 2010

JULIE V. MOSES, PLAINTIFF,
v.
DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA, DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Ellen Segal Huvelle United States District Judge

MEMORANDUM OPINION

Plaintiff Julie Moses, mother of the deceased Andre P. Rudder, has sued the District of Columbia alleging that her son's death was caused by defendant's inadequate provision of emergency medical treatment. Plaintiff's claims include: (1) wrongful death, (2) survival action, (3) negligence, (4) negligent training and supervision, and (5) a 42 U.S.C. § 1983 action for the violation of Mr. Rudder's Fifth Amendment Due Process rights. Defendant has moved to dismiss the complaint for failure to state a claim. For the reasons explained herein, the Court grants defendant's motion.

BACKGROUND

Plaintiff alleges the following facts. On the evening of May 16, 2009, Andre P. Rudder drove to a District of Columbia Fire and Emergency Medical Services (FEMS) station seeking medical attention. (Compl. ¶ 8.) After parking his vehicle, Mr. Rudder walked into the station clutching his chest and sweating profusely. He informed FEMS personnel that he was experiencing chest pains and difficulty breathing. A FEMS employee called for an ambulance because the station lacked standard emergency equipment. (Id. ¶¶ 9-10.) Thereafter, the FEMS employee and her co-worker, both of whom were either licensed paramedics or Emergency Medical Technicians (EMTs), did not monitor, assist, or render any form of medical aid to Mr. Rudder. (Id. ¶¶ 11, 19.) Nor did they attempt to obtain emergency equipment from the FEMS Apparatus Division that abutted the station and contained an external heart defibrillator. (Id. ¶¶ 17-18.) Instead, they returned Mr. Rudder to his car and left him unattended to await the ambulance. (Id. ¶¶ 13, 20.) The ambulance arrived 10 to 20 minutes after being called, but by that time, Mr. Rudder had no pulse. He was taken to George Washington Hospital, where he was pronounced dead as a result of hypertensive and atherosclerotic heart disease. Mr. Rudder was thirty-six years old. (Id. ¶¶ 15, 21-22.)

Plaintiff, individually and as the personal representative of Mr. Rudder's estate, filed a complaint against the District of Columbia and FEMS alleging six causes of action. Five of the counts were brought under state tort law and allege that defendant's negligence caused Mr. Rudder's death. (Compl. ¶¶ 27-28, 34-36, 53-54, 71-73, 78-80.) Plaintiff's remaining count, brought under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, alleges that defendant violated Mr. Rudder's Fifth Amendment Due Process rights by inadequately caring for him, and that this violation occurred pursuant to defendant's policy or custom of inadequate training of its EMTs and insufficiently supplying its stations with emergency equipment. (Id. ¶¶ 38-41.)

Defendants have moved to dismiss plaintiff's complaint for failure to state a claim. (Mem. of P. & A. in Supp. of Def.'s Mot. at 1.) Plaintiff voluntarily agreed to dismiss her medical malpractice claim and FEMS as a defendant, but otherwise she opposes defendant's motion.*fn1 (Pl.'s Opp'n. at 12, 20).

ANALYSIS

I. STANDARD OF REVIEW

Under Rule 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, a complaint may be dismissed for "failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted." Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b). Rule 8(a)(2) requires pleadings to contain a "short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief." Fed. R. Civ. P. 8(a)(2). "[D]etailed factual allegations" are not necessary, Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007), and when ruling on a motion to dismiss, a court "must accept as true all of the factual allegations contained in the complaint." Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 94 (2007).

However, a complaint must provide "more than labels and conclusions;" a "formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action will not do." Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555. Instead, to survive a motion to dismiss, "a complaint must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to 'state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.'" Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 129 S.Ct. 1937, 1949 (2009) (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 570). It must plead factual content from which a court can draw a "reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged." Id.

II. 42 U.S.C. § 1983 CLAIM

42 U.S.C. § 1983 provides civil and equitable remedies to persons whose constitutional or federal rights have been violated by another acting under the color of law. See People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals v. Gittens, 396 F.3d 416, 424-25 (D.C. Cir. 2005); Butera v. District of Columbia, 235 F.3d 637, 645 (D.C. Cir. 2001). Thus, in order to state a claim under § 1983, a plaintiff must, as an initial matter, sufficiently plead a violation of a federal or constitutional right. Here, plaintiff alleges that defendant's inadequate provision of emergency care caused Mr. Rudder's death, thereby violating Mr. Rudder's rights under the Due Process Clause of the Fifth Amendment, which provides that "[n]o person shall be . . . deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law." U.S. Const. amend. V.

The Due Process Clause encompasses both a substantive and a procedural component. See Zinermon v. Burch, 494 U.S. 113, 125 (1990) ("The Due Process Clause contains a substantive component . . . [and] a guarantee of fair procedure."). Substantive due process prohibits "arbitrary, wrongful government actions 'regardless of the fairness of the procedures used to implement them.'" Id. (quoting Daniels v. Williams, 474 U.S. 327, 331 (1986)). Thus, state action that wrongfully deprives a person of life, liberty, or property violates substantive due process. Id. By contrast, a procedural due process violation only occurs when such interests are deprived without due process of law. Id. (citing Carey v. Piphus, 435 U.S. 247, 259 ...


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