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Angela Mcalister v. John E. Potter

February 21, 2012


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Rosemary M. Collyer United States District Judge


Angela McAlister was arrested in November 2005 for allegedly assaulting her supervisor at the United States Postal Service. Ms. McAlister alleges that two Postal Service Inspectors used excessive force when they "dropped" her several times and dragged her up a set of stairs while assisting District of Columbia Metropolitan Police Department Officers with her arrest. Ms. McAlister states that she was injured and embarrassed by the arrest and seeks one million dollars in damages against the unnamed Postal Service Inspectors and against John E. Potter, the former Postmaster General of the United States Postal Service. Plaintiff filed a similar complaint in 2008 which was dismissed by this Court on August 23, 2010. The Court will likewise dismiss this Complaint.


The facts are set forth in greater detail in this Court's August 23, 2010 memorandum opinion. See McAlister v. Potter, 570 F. Supp. 2d 24 (D.D.C. 2008) ("McAlister I"). On September 1, 2005, Ms. McAlister got into a fight with her supervisor, Robert Fauntleroy over a leave slip. According to the Defendants, "Ms. McAlister . . . pushed Mr. Fauntleroy in his upper-body and proceeded to hit him multiple times in the shoulder with enough force [to] knock[] him backward. Ms. McAlister continued pushing and hitting Mr. Fauntleroy and swung at him in a slapping motion . . . ." McAlister I at 138. As a result, Ms. McAlister was eventually terminated from her job and criminal charges were filed against her.

In November 2005, two Postal Service Inspectors sought to have Ms. McAlister arrested. According to her Complaint, the inspectors followed her home from her therapist's office and "cut her off in traffic and nearly caused an accident." Compl. ¶ 6. After they arrived, the inspectors allegedly "screamed through her front door, broke her storm door, and started pounding on her wooden door." Id. Eventually, Ms. McAlister agreed to drive to a District of Columbia Metropolitan Police Department ("MPD") station where she was arrested. Ms. McAlister suffers from degenerative hip disease and cannot walk without a cane. While she was being arrested and taken into the MPD Station, Ms. McAlister fell three times, injuring her legs and hips. "After she fell a third time, the Postal Service inspectors dragged her up a set of stairs on her backside into the station and placed her in a chair." Id. She was later taken to a hospital and treated for trauma to her lower body.

Ms. McAlister claims that Defendants' conduct violated her Fourth Amendment right against unreasonable searches and seizures and that it also violated her civil rights under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Defendants respond that the Complaint should be dismissed because it is barred by both collateral estoppel and res judicata; Plaintiff has failed to identify a valid waiver of sovereign immunity; Plaintiff has failed to state a claim for relief; and Plaintiff failed to serve the Defendants properly.


A. Insufficient Service of Process

Pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(5), "[i]f the plaintiff does not properly effect service on a defendant, then the defendant may move to dismiss the complaint . . . Upon such a motion, the plaintiff carries the burden of establishing that he has properly effected service." Hilska v. Jones, 217 F.R.D. 16, 20 (D.D.C. 2003). Personal service of process (or waiver of service) is a prerequisite to the Court's exercise of personal jurisdiction over a defendant. Murphy Bros. Inc. v. Michetti Pipe Stringing Inc., 526 U.S. 344, 350 (1999). The requirement is meant to ensure that defendants receive adequate notice of proceedings against them. See Dusenbery v. United States, 534 U.S. 161, 167 (2002). Failure of service is a jurisdictional defect which is fatal. Cambridge Holdings Group v. Fed. Ins. Co., 489 F.3d 1356, 1361 (D.C. Cir. 2007) (noting that "unless the procedural requirements of effective service of process have been satisfied, the court lacks personal jurisdiction to act with respect to that defendant at all.") (citing Omni Capital Int'l v. Rudolf Wolff & Co., Ltd., 484 U.S. 97, 104 (1987)). Accordingly, courts routinely dismiss actions when service is improper. See, e.g., Light v. Wolf, 816 F.2d 746, 750 (D.C. Cir. 1987).

B. Failure to State a Claim

A motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim challenges the adequacy of a complaint on its face. Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(6). A complaint must be sufficient "to give a defendant fair notice of what the . . . claim is and the grounds upon which it rests." Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007) (internal citations omitted). Although a complaint does not need detailed factual allegations, a plaintiff's obligation to provide the grounds of his entitlement to relief "requires more than labels and conclusions, and a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action will not do." Id. To survive a motion to dismiss, a complaint must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to state a claim for relief that is "plausible on its face." Twombly, 550 U.S. at 570.

A court must treat the complaint's factual allegations as true "even if doubtful in fact." Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555. But a court need not accept as true legal conclusions set forth in a complaint. Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 129 S. Ct. 1937, 1949 (2009). In deciding a motion under Rule 12(b)(6), a court may consider the facts alleged in the complaint, documents attached to the complaint as exhibits or incorporated by reference, and matters about which the court may take judicial notice. Abhe & Svoboda, Inc. v. Chao, 508 F.3d 1052, 1059 (D.C. Cir. 2007).


A. 42 U.S.C. ...

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