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Maldonado v. District of Columbia

United States District Court, District of Columbia

February 21, 2013

Jose Luis MALDONADO, Plaintiff,
DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA, et al., Defendants.

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[Copyrighted Material Omitted]

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Raleigh W. Bynum, II, Bynum Firm, PLLC, Washington, DC, for Plaintiff.

James Anthony Towns, Sr., Darrell Chambers, Office of the Attorney General for DC, Washington, DC, for Defendants.


BERYL A. HOWELL, District Judge.

Plaintiff Jose Luis Maldonado brings this action against the District of Columbia (" the District" ) and Metropolitan Police Department (" MPD" ) Officers D. Hong, L. Webb, A. Salleh, and other unknown officers (the " Defendant Officers" ), seeking recovery for injuries allegedly sustained when the Defendant Officers arrested the plaintiff following an altercation on the streets of Washington, D.C. in August 2008. Second Am. Compl. (" SAC" ) ¶¶ 6-11, ECF No. 18. The plaintiff alleges four separate causes of action: use of excessive force (Count I) and unlawful arrest (Count II) in violation of the Fourth Amendment, as well as negligent supervision (Count III) and negligent failure to train (Count IV) by the District. Id. ¶¶ 36-56. The plaintiff seeks compensatory damages of not less than $250,000 and punitive damages of not less than $250,000. Id. at 8.

The District has filed a motion to dismiss, or in the alternative for summary judgment,[1] seeking to dismiss all claims against it. Def.'s Mot. to Dismiss or in the Alternative for Summ. J. (" Def.'s Mot." ) at 1, ECF No. 22. As to Counts I and II, the District argues that the plaintiff has failed to plead adequately that a government policy, practice, or custom caused the alleged constitutional violations, as required to secure municipal liability under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. See Mem. of P & A in Supp. of Def.'s Mot. to Dismiss (" Def.'s Mem." ) at

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5, ECF No. 22-1 (citing Monell v. Dep't of Soc. Servs., 436 U.S. 658, 691-94, 98 S.Ct. 2018, 56 L.Ed.2d 611 (1978)); Def.'s Reply to Pl.'s Opp'n to Def.'s Mot. to Dismiss (" Def.'s Reply" ), at 3, ECF No. 26. As to Counts III and IV, the District argues that the plaintiff failed to comply with D.C. CODE § 12-309, which requires a plaintiff to notify the Mayor of the District of Columbia " within six months after the injury or damage was sustained ... of the approximate time, place, cause, and circumstances of the injury or damage." Def.'s Mem. at 7 (citing D.C. CODE § 12-309). Finally, the District contends that it is immune from the plaintiff's claim to punitive damages. Id. at 8-9. For the reasons discussed below, the Court grants in part and denies in part the District's motion to dismiss.


On or about August 15, 2008,[2] the plaintiff was walking with a group of co-workers along 7th Street, NW, in Washington, D.C. SAC ¶¶ 12-13. The plaintiff alleges that, while walking together, one member of the group named Jeff Kenny made " loud and disparaging comments regarding ... a group of transvestites," and a verbal confrontation ensued. Id. ¶¶ 14-15. The plaintiff says that he told Kenny to leave the group alone, but as he " was in the midst of calming the situation, the transvestites inexplicably sprayed him with mace." Id. ¶¶ 16-17. The plaintiff was escorted to a nearby McDonald's to attempt to wash his eyes out with water, but this was unsuccessful, leaving the plaintiff " essentially blind and defenseless." Id. ¶¶ 19, 22. The plaintiff was then allegedly " led back outside to an escalating confrontation, then altercation" between certain members of his group and the group of transvestites that had allegedly sprayed the plaintiff with mace. Id. ¶ 20. The SAC alleges that the plaintiff then found himself " in the midst of a violent physical altercation between two parties involving multiple people." Id. ¶ 22. During this altercation, the plaintiff claims to have " shouted some profanities as he attempted to protect himself and retrieve personal items dropped in the melee, including monies, a work knife, and a phone." Id. ¶ 23.

The plaintiff says that a chase ensued, with members of his group pursuing the transvestites, but he claims that he did not participate in this chase " due mainly to his effective blindness." Id. ¶¶ 24-25. At this point, the plaintiff alleges that he was tackled by Defendant Officers and was arrested for assault with a deadly weapon (knife), assault on a police officer, and simple assault, and placed in a police transport van. Id. ¶¶ 26-27. The plaintiff also alleges that, following his detention, the Defendant Officers " became violent and excessively physical" while one of his associates— Marcus Moulcrie— tried to explain to the officers that the plaintiff had not been involved in the physical altercation. Id. ¶ 29. Relatedly, the plaintiff claims that Moulcrie tried to record the arrest on his cellular phone— which led to Moulcrie's arrest and the confiscation of his phone— and, after Moulcrie's phone was returned to him, " all saved pictures and video had been removed." Id. ¶¶ 30-31. The plaintiff alleges that he was taken out of the transport van and " assaulted and battered" by the Defendant Officers. Id. ¶ 32. In particular, while the plaintiff was in detention, he alleges that Defendant Officers " violently struck [him] in the rib area, twisted his arms, and ... kicked

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him in the face, resulting in severe mouth trauma and tooth avulsion." Id. ¶ 33. He was then allegedly taken to George Washington Hospital for treatment. Id. ¶ 34. The charges of assault with a deadly weapon and assault on a police officer were later dropped, and on January 26, 2009, the plaintiff was acquitted, at trial, of simple assault. Id. ¶ 35.

On February 10, 2009, the plaintiff, through counsel, sent a pre-suit notification letter to then-Mayor Adrian Fenty, which notified the District that, as a result of the events on August 16, 2008, the plaintiff " may assert civil claims for assault, battery, false imprisonment, negligence and/or intentional infliction of emotional distress." See Letter from Raleigh W. Bynum, II to Adrian M. Fenty (Feb. 10, 2009) (" Notice Letter" ) at 1, ECF No. 22-2. The plaintiff originally filed his Complaint on August 15, 2011. See Compl., ECF No. 1. After the District filed a motion to dismiss the Complaint on January 3, 2012, see ECF No. 5, the plaintiff filed an Amended Complaint on January 20, 2012, see ECF No. 9. The District once again filed a motion to dismiss the Amended ...

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