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Page v. Mancuso

United States District Court, District Circuit

December 4, 2013

DALE A. PAGE, Plaintiff,
v.
OFFICER ASHLEY C. MANCUSO and DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA, Defendants.

MEMORANDUM OPINION

KETANJI BROWN JACKSON United States District Judge

Plaintiff Dale Page filed the instant amended complaint pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, alleging that both the District of Columbia and Officer Ashley Mancuso of the D.C. Metropolitan Police Department violated his constitutional rights. Specifically, Plaintiff contends that (1) Officer Mancuso violated the Fourth Amendment when she arrested him unlawfully (Count I); (2) the District of Columbia was deliberately indifferent to Plaintiff’s over-detention and strip search in violation of his Fourth and Fifth Amendment rights (Count II); and (3) the District of Columbia is directly liable under the Fourth and Fifth Amendments for maintaining a custom and practice of strip searches (Count III) and over-detention (Count IV). (First Amended Compl. (“Compl.”), ECF No. 6, ¶¶ 54-69.)

Presently before the Court is Defendants’ partial motion to dismiss. (Defs.’ Partial Mot. to Dismiss the Compl. (“Defs.’ Mot.”), ECF No. 7.) In that motion, Defendants argue that the first three counts of the amended complaint must be dismissed for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. (Id. at 1.) At the motion hearing, Defendants also argued that their partial motion to dismiss should be treated as a motion for summary judgment with respect to Plaintiff’s false arrest claim (Count I), given that Plaintiff had submitted various documents—including the official arrest report—as part of his opposition. For the reasons that follow, the Court GRANTS Defendants’ partial motion, dismissing Counts II and III of the amended complaint and entering summary judgment in favor of Defendants on Count I. A separate order will follow.

I. BACKGROUND

A. Facts Alleged In The Complaint

Plaintiff’s amended complaint alleges the following facts. On July 26, 2009, Dale Page (“Plaintiff” or “Page”) was involved in an argument with two men, Casey Lucas and Urian Murray, in the District of Columbia around 4:00 a.m. (Compl. ¶¶ 10-11.) Lucas punched Page in the nose, causing Page to bleed profusely and prompting Page to call the police. (Id. ¶¶ 11-13.) Lucas threatened to hit Page again, and then got into the front passenger’s seat of Murray’s vehicle. (Id. ¶¶ 13-14.)

Page alleges that while he was on his cellphone reporting the assault to a 911 dispatcher, Murray drove towards him, striking him with the car. (Id. ¶ 15.) Page allegedly flew into the windshield, flipped over the roof, and landed on the street behind the trunk of the car. (Id. ¶¶ 15-17.) According to Page, his conversation with the 911 dispatcher was recorded, and another eyewitness also called 911 to notify authorities and to report that Page was “breathing and unconscious.” (Id. ¶ 18.) Because Murray and Lucas drove away, Page’s complaint describes the incident as a “hit and run” in which he suffered serious injuries, including damage to his head, neck, and ribs. (Id. ¶¶ 18-19.)

Officer Mancuso responded to the dispatcher’s call and arrived at the scene a short time later. (See Id . ¶ 21.) Page alleges that Officer Mancuso arrested him for “misdemeanor destruction of property” relating to “the windshield of the vehicle that hit him” (id. ¶ 21), and an ambulance brought Page to the hospital (id. ¶ 26). On July 29, 2009, three days after his arrest, the United States Attorney’s Office allegedly filed an information in D.C. Superior Court charging Page with destruction of property in violation of D.C. Code § 22-303. (Id. ¶ 25.)

According to the complaint, Page was remanded directly to the D.C. jail upon his release from the hospital on August 6, 2009, and while at the jail, he was placed in the general prison population and “subjected to a blanket strip search[].” (Id. ¶¶ 28-31.) Two days later, on Sunday, August 8, 2009, a Superior Court judge ordered Page released from jail. (Id. ¶ 35.) According to Page, although he had no other cases, warrants, or detainers, he was sent back to the D.C. jail after his release, strip searched again without individualized suspicion, and was not actually released until Monday, August 10, 2009. (Id. ¶¶ 36-42.) A judge on the Superior Court eventually dismissed the charges against Page for want of prosecution. (Id. ¶ 51.)

B. Procedural History

Page initially filed an action against Officer Mancuso and the District of Columbia in Superior Court on July 25, 2012. Defendants removed the case to federal court on September 27, 2012. (Notice of Removal, ECF No. 1, at 1-2.) Page’s complaint, amended in January, alleges various constitutional violations as a result of Page’s arrest and subsequent treatment at the D.C. jail. (See Compl. ¶¶ 54-69.) Specifically, in Count I, Page contends that Officer Mancuso violated his Fourth Amendment rights by unlawfully arresting him. (Id. ¶¶ 54-56.) In Counts II and III, Page contends that the District of Columbia is liable for strip searching and over-detaining him in violation of the Fourth and Fifth Amendments through principles of municipal liability as established in Monell v. Department of Social Services of New York, 436 U.S. 658, 663 (1978). (Id. ¶¶ 57-65.) In Count IV, Page alleges that the District of Columbia is directly liable for over-detaining him in violation of the Fourth and Fifth Amendments, also through Monell municipal liability. (Id. ¶¶ 66-69.)

Defendants filed the instant partial motion to dismiss on January 18, 2013, seeking to dismiss the first three counts of the complaint for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6). (Defs.’ Mot. at 1.) With respect to Count I, Defendants first maintain that the facts set forth in the complaint do not allege that Officer Mancuso actually arrested Page, so she cannot be held liable. (Id. at 4-5.) In their reply, Defendants argue that even if Officer Mancuso did actually arrest Page, she is entitled to qualified immunity because she had probable cause for the arrest. (Defs.’ Reply to Pl.’s Opp’n to Mot. to Dismiss (“Defs.’ Reply”), ECF No. 11, at 2.) Defendants further argue that Counts II and III should be dismissed because Page has failed to allege sufficient facts to establish either supervisory municipal liability or direct municipal liability for the strip searches and over-detention. (Defs.’ Mot. at 10-14.)

In his opposition to Defendants’ motion to dismiss, Page attached a copy of the arrest reports that Officer Mancuso completed in connection with Page’s arrest. According to her report, Officer Mancuso responded to a dispatch call to assist another officer. (Arrest Report, Ex. 1 to Pl.’s Opp’n to Defs.’ Partial Mot. to Dismiss (“Pl.’s Opp’n”), ECF No. 10-1, at 2; Incident-Based Event Report (“Event Report”), Ex. 2 to Pl.’s Opp’n, ECF No. 10-2, at 1.) Upon arrival on the scene, Officer Mancuso and another officer observed Murray’s car “with the front windshield shattered.” (Arrest Report at 2; Event Report at 2.) According to the arrest report, there were three men in the car, not two, as the complaint alleged. (Compare Arrest Report at 2; Event Report at 2, with Compl. ¶¶ 10-20.) Officer Mancuso then interviewed the men in the car, who told her that “while inside of a club [Page] made num[]erous contacts and harassed them. When [they] left and started walking to their car, [Page] began to follow them.” (Arrest Report at 2; Event Report at 2.) The report states that the men told Officer Mancuso that, when they refused to give Page a ride home, he “got on the hood of the car and started smashing in the windshield with his foot.” (Arrest Report at 2; Event Report at 2.) The driver of the car, “in fear of his life . . . started the vehicle and fled, ” which caused Page to fall to the ground. (Arrest Report at 2; Event Report at 1-2.) The report also specifies that Officer Mancuso arrested Page for felony destruction of property. (Arrest Report at 1.)

Page now contends that Count I survives Defendants’ motion to dismiss because the police report makes clear that Officer Mancuso was the arresting officer. Page also maintains that Officer Mancuso’s failure to investigate fully prior to arresting Page (who was unconscious when she arrived at the scene) negated probable cause for his arrest, and that, even if there were probable cause, the arrest was unlawful because it was a warrantless arrest for a misdemeanor committed outside the presence of an officer. (Pl.’s Opp’n at 4-6.) Page further contends that Counts II and III survive Defendants’ challenge because strip searches and over-detention are actionable constitutional violations. (Id. at 9.)

The Court held a hearing on Defendants’ motion to dismiss on August 29, 2013.

II. LEGAL STANDARDS

A. Motion to Dismiss

Defendants seek partial dismissal of Plaintiff’s amended complaint pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6). (Defs.’ Mot. at 1.) A court must dismiss a claim for relief under Rule 12(b)(6) when the complaint “fail[s] to state a claim upon which relief can be granted[.]” Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6). In evaluating a motion to dismiss, the court must accept as true all factual allegations in the complaint, and the plaintiff should receive the benefit of all inferences that can be derived from the facts alleged. See Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009); Sparrow v. United Air Lines, Inc., 216 F.3d 1111, 1113 (D.C. Cir. 2000). “While the complaint is to be construed liberally in plaintiff’s favor, the Court need not accept inferences drawn by the plaintiff if those inferences are unsupported by facts alleged in the complaint, nor must the Court accept plaintiff’s legal conclusions.” Kramer v. United States, 460 F.Supp.2d 108, 110 (D.D.C. 2006) (citing Kowal v. MCI Commc’ns Corp., 16 F.3d 1271, 1276 (D.C. Cir. 1994)). Moreover, although “detailed factual allegations” are not necessary to withstand a Rule 12(b)(6) motion, Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007), a plaintiff must plead enough facts to make the claim seem plausible on its face. Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678; see also Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555 (the facts alleged in the complaint “must be enough to raise a right to relief above the speculative level” (citation omitted)).

When evaluating a motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6), a court generally does not consider matters beyond the pleadings. Ward v. D.C. Dep’t of Youth Rehab. Servs., 768 F.Supp.2d 117, 119-20 (D.D.C. 2011). However, the court may consider “the facts alleged in the complaint, documents attached as exhibits or incorporated by reference in the complaint, or documents upon which the plaintiff’s complaint necessarily relies even if the document is produced not by the plaintiff in the complaint but by the defendant in a motion to dismiss[.]” Id. at 119 (internal quotation marks and citations omitted); Vanover v. Hantman, 77 F.Supp.2d 91, 98 (D.D.C. 1999) (same). For example, a plaintiff’s complaint “necessarily relies” on a document when the complaint “quote[s] from and discuss[es a document] extensively.” W. Wood Preservers Inst. v. McHugh, 292 F.R.D. 145, 149 (D.D.C. 2013) (citation omitted). Even if a court considers a document attached to a motion to dismiss, the court must still “construe all well-pleaded factual allegations in the plaintiff’s favor[, ]” especially if the parties disagree about the nature of the ...


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