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Robinson v. District of Columbia

United States District Court, District Circuit

August 30, 2013

CAROLINE ROBINSON, the Personal Representative of the Estate of Arnell Robinson, Plaintiff,


EMMET G. SULLIVAN, District Judge.

Pending before the Court is the District of Columbia's Motion for Partial Summary Judgment and Judgment on the Pleadings. The District of Columbia argues, inter alia, that plaintiff's claim under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 should be dismissed. Upon consideration of the motion, the response and reply thereto, the relevant case law, and the entire record, the motion is GRANTED IN PART and DENIED WITHOUT PREJUDICE in part. Specifically, the Court shall grant the motion insofar as it requests dismissal of plaintiff's Section 1983 claim. The Court will REMAND the remaining claims to the Superior Court of the District of Columbia.


Arnell Robinson filed a complaint on October 3, 2007, alleging various claims against the District of Columbia, Officer Earl Brown, and various "John Doe" officers. Mr. Robinson alleged that defendants violated his rights in connection with an arrest at the 400 Block of O Street, N.W. in Washington, DC on October 4, 2006. Specifically, Mr. Robinson alleged that while he was walking home from school, Officer Brown stopped his police cruiser, exited the vehicle, and began to verbally harass Mr. Robinson. Compl. ¶¶ 7-9. Mr. Robinson alleged that Officer Brown forcefully grabbed his right arm and twisted it behind him, throwing him face first into an iron fence. Compl. ¶ 10. Officer Brown also allegedly slammed his arm across Mr. Robinson's neck. Compl. ¶ 11. Several years earlier, Mr. Robinson had been shot in the face and neck area and this injury prevented Mr. Robinson from being able to yell, scream, or speak in a loud voice, and also affected his ability to hear in his right ear. Compl. ¶¶ 11, 16-17. Although Mr. Robinson's friends allegedly told Officer Brown about this injury, Officer Brown refused to remove his arm from Mr. Robinson's neck. After he was arrested, Mr. Robinson was allegedly treated for pain in his neck and ribs and for ringing in his ears. Compl. ¶¶ 17-22.

Upon the unrelated death of Mr. Robinson in early 2009, the Court granted plaintiff's motion to substitute a party, and substituted Caroline Robinson, Mr. Robinson's mother, as the Personal Representative of the Estate of Arnell Robinson. Jun. 1, 2009 Minute Order. On November 18, 2009, the Court granted as conceded Officer Brown's motion to dismiss for failure to serve Officer Brown with process in accordance with the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. Nov. 18, 2009 Minute Order. On January 11, 2013, the District of Columbia, the only remaining defendant in this case, filed the instant motion.


A. Motion for Judgment on the Pleadings

Under Rule 12(c) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, "[a]fter the pleadings are closed-but early enough not to delay trial-a party may move for judgment on the pleadings." Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(c). A motion pursuant to Rule 12(c) is appropriately granted when, at the close of the pleadings, "no material issue of fact remains to be resolved, and [the movant] is clearly entitled to judgment as a matter of law." Montanans for Multiple Use v. Barbouletos, 542 F.Supp.2d 9, 13 (D.D.C. 2008) (citations omitted).

When evaluating a motion for judgment on the pleadings under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(c), courts employ the same standard that governs a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss. Jung v. Ass'n of Am. Med. Colls., 339 F.Supp.2d 26, 35-36 (D.D.C. 2004). A court must treat the complaint's factual allegations as true, "even if doubtful in fact, " Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007), but it need not accept as true legal conclusions set forth in a complaint. Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009). Accordingly, a court must accept the plaintiff's well-pleaded factual allegations to the extent that "they plausibly give rise to an entitlement to relief, " id. at 679, and "may thus only grant judgment on the pleadings if it appears, even accepting as true all inferences from the complaint's factual allegations, that the plaintiff cannot prove any set of facts entitling him to relief." Lans v. Adduci Mastriani & Schaumberg LLP, 786 F.Supp.2d 240, 265 (D.D.C. 2011).

B. Motion for Summary Judgment

Summary judgment is appropriate "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." Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). The party seeking summary judgment bears the "initial responsibility of informing the district court of the basis for its motion, and identifying those portions of the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with the affidavits, if any, which it believes demonstrate the absence of a genuine issue of material fact." Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323 (1986) (internal quotation marks omitted). To defeat summary judgment, the non-moving party must "designate specific facts showing there is a genuine issue for trial." Id. at 324 (internal quotation marks omitted). The existence of a factual dispute is insufficient to preclude summary judgment. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 247-48 (1986). A dispute is "genuine" only if a reasonable fact-finder could find for the non-moving party; a fact is only "material" if it is capable of affecting the outcome of the litigation. Id. at 248; Laningham v. U.S. Navy, 813 F.2d 1236, 1241 (D.C. Cir. 1987). In assessing a party's motion, "[a]ll underlying facts and inferences are analyzed in the light most favorable to the non-moving party." N.S. ex rel. Stein v. District of Columbia, 709 F.Supp.2d 57, 65 (D.D.C. 2010), citing Anderson, 477 U.S. at 247.


A. Conceded Claims

In its motion, the District argues that plaintiff's claims for punitive damages should be dismissed because a plaintiff cannot recover punitive damages against the District. The District also argues that plaintiff's claims for injunctive relief must be dismissed because Mr. Robinson is deceased and thus cannot be in danger of sustaining a direct injury from Officer Brown. In his opposition, plaintiff agreed to dismiss those claims. ...

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