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Young v. District of Columbia

United States District Court, District of Columbia

June 2, 2015

DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA, et al., Defendants.


BERYL A. HOWELL, District Judge.

The plaintiff, Lamont Andre Young, alleges that the defendants, the District of Columbia and D.C. Metropolitan Police Department ("MPD") Officer Thurman Powell, violated the plaintiff's constitutional and common law rights when, in 2013, MPD Officers stopped the plaintiff, shot him in the back, and then restrained him with shackles and a belly chain during hospital treatment. See generally Compl., ECF No. 1. The defendants have moved for partial dismissal of the Complaint, pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6). Defs.' Mot. Dismiss Compl. ("Defs.' Mot.") at 1, ECF No. 5; Defs.' Mem. Supp. Mot. Dismiss ("Defs.' Mem.") at 4, ECF No. 5; Def. Powell's Mot. Partial Dismissal of Compl. ("Def. Powell's Mot.") at 1, ECF No. 12; Def. Powell's Mem. Supp. Mot. Dismiss ("Def. Powell's Mem.") at 3, ECF No. 12; Defs.' Reply Pl.'s Opp'n Mot. Dismiss ("Defs.' Reply"), at 1 n.1, ECF No. 11 (noting that "the Defendants' motion to dismiss should now be deemed a motion for partial dismissal").[1] For the reasons set forth below, the defendants' motions are granted in part and denied in part.


As alleged in the Complaint, the plaintiff, who is currently incarcerated, Compl. ¶ 3, [2] was standing near the front of 3218 22nd Street, SE, in Washington, D.C. on December 27, 2013, when MPD officers approached him, id. ¶ 9-10. Even though the plaintiff was unarmed, did not run from the police, did not strike or injure any law enforcement officer, "did not pose a threat, " and "raised both hands into the air, " he was "shot in the back" by defendant Powell and "suffered a gunshot wound." Id. ¶¶ 12-19.

After being shot, the MPD officers handcuffed and searched the plaintiff and arranged for him to be taken by ambulance to the hospital. Id. ¶¶ 20-21. While the plaintiff was in the hospital being treated for the gunshot wound that resulted in "an injury to his kidney... [and] liver, acute blood loss, hemothorax, systemic inflammatory response syndrome, a rib fracture, pleural effusion, a lung injury, an open wound to his back, hypopotassemia and emotional distress, " id. ¶ 22, he was restrained "in shackles and a belly chain, " id. ¶ 23.
Almost one year later, on December 16, 2014, the plaintiff filed his Complaint alleging in seven counts against both defendants that (1) they violated his Fourth Amendment rights, under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, by seizing him without probable cause and using excessive force, id. ¶¶ 24-31 (Count I), and his Eighth Amendment rights, under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, by engaging in cruel and unusual punishment in handcuffing him, ordering him to remain on the ground, and restraining him in shackles and a belly chain after he had been shot, id. ¶¶ 32-34 (Count II); and (2) they are liable under common law claims of assault and battery for shooting him and using excessive force, id. ¶¶ 35-46 (Counts III and IV), negligent failure to properly train and supervise defendant Powell, id. ¶¶ 47-55 (Count V), and both intentional and negligent infliction of emotional distress, id. ¶¶ 56-64 (Counts VI and VII). Pending before the Court are the defendants' motions to dismiss the constitutional claims in Counts I and II against the District of Columbia, the constitutional claim in Count II against defendant Powell, and the common law claim in Count IV of use of excessive force against both defendants. Defs.' Mot. at 1-2; Def. Powell's Mot. at 1.[3]


Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 8(a)(2) requires that a complaint contain "a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief, " to encourage brevity and, at the same time, "give the 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) (alteration in original; internal quotation marks and citation omitted); Tellabs, Inc. v. Makor Issues & Rights, Ltd., 551 U.S. 308, 319 (2007). The Supreme Court has cautioned that although "Rule 8 marks a notable and generous departure from the hypertechnical, code-pleading regime of a prior era, ... it does not unlock the doors of discovery for a plaintiff armed with nothing more than conclusions." Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678-79 (2009). To survive a motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6), the "complaint must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face." Wood v. Moss, 134 S.Ct. 2056, 2067 (2014) (quoting Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678) (internal quotation marks omitted).

A claim is facially plausible when the plaintiff pleads factual content that is more than "merely consistent with a defendant's liability, " and "allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged." Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678 (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556) (internal quotation marks omitted); see also Rudder v. Williams, 666 F.3d 790, 794 (D.C. Cir. 2012). Although "detailed factual allegations" are not required to withstand a Rule 12(b)(6) motion, a complaint must offer "more than labels and conclusions" or a "formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action" to provide "grounds" of "entitle[ment] to relief, " Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555 (alteration in original), and "nudge[] [the] claims across the line from conceivable to plausible, " id. at 570. Thus, "a complaint [does not] suffice if it tenders naked assertion[s]' devoid of further factual enhancement.'" Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678 (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 557) (second alteration in original). In considering a motion to dismiss for failure to plead a claim for which relief can be granted, the court must consider the complaint in its entirety, accepting all factual allegations in the complaint as true, even if doubtful in fact. Twombly at 555; Sissel v. U.S. Dep't of Health & Human Servs., 760 F.3d 1, 4 (D.C. Cir. 2014) (in considering Rule 12(b)(6) motion, the "court assumes the truth of all well-pleaded factual allegations in the complaint and construes reasonable inferences from those allegations in the plaintiff's favor, but is not required to accept the plaintiff's legal conclusions as correct" (internal citations omitted)). In addition, courts may "ordinarily examine" other sources "when ruling on Rule 12(b)(6) motions to dismiss, in particular, documents incorporated into the complaint by reference, and matters of which a court may take judicial notice." Tellabs, Inc., 551 U.S. at 322; see also English v. District of Columbia, 717 F.3d 968, 971 (D.C. Cir. 2013).


The defendants concede that the plaintiff "has successfully pled Fourth Amendment claims against Defendant Powell as well as assault and battery claims against Officer Powell and the District of Columbia, " in Counts I and III, respectively, Defs.' Reply at 1 n.1, but challenge three of the seven claims in the Complaint.[4] Specifically, in a joint motion to dismiss and in defendant Powell's motion for partial dismissal, the defendants contend that (1) defendant Powell "is entitled to qualified immunity as to Plaintiff's Eighth Amendment claim, " in Count II, Defs.' Mot. at ¶ 3; Def. Powell's Mot. at ¶ 2; (2) the District of Columbia is entitled to dismissal of the constitutional claims, under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, against the municipality, in Counts I and II, Defs.' Mot. at ¶ 4; and (3) since the plaintiff's common law claim of "excessive force" in Count IV is duplicative of the assault and battery claim in Count III, the former claim should be dismissed, id. at ¶ 5; Def. Powell's Mot. at ¶ 3.[5] The defendants' challenges to the Complaint are addressed seriatim below.


In Count II of the Complaint, the plaintiff alleges that the manner in which the defendants restrained him after he was shot, including during his hospital treatment, constituted cruel and unusual punishment in violation of the Eighth Amendment. Compl. ¶¶ 33-34. Specifically, the plaintiff cites the following actions by the defendants after he was shot: he "was handcuffed and searched and ordered to remain on the ground" and was "restrained [] in shackles and a belly chain while he was in the hospital being treated for his injuries." Id. The defendants seek dismissal of Count II against defendant Powell on grounds that this MPD Officer "enjoys qualified immunity as to this claim, " Defs.' Mem. at 9, "because the law regarding the handcuffing of arrestees who have been shot and shackling them in the hospital during treatment was not clearly established at the time of the incident in question, " id. at 11. The plaintiff counters that "this court should not consider the defendants' claim of qualified immunity at this stage of the litigation because it is an affirmative defense" and may "be raised in an answer." Pl.'s Opp'n at 7; Pl.'s Opp'n Def. Powell at 2 (incorporating "previously filed opposition in its entirety").[6]

"Qualified immunity exists to protect officers from undue interference with their duties and from potentially disabling threats of liability.'" Lash v. Lemke, No.13-5308, 2015 U.S.App. LEXIS 8011, at *6 (D.C. Cir. May 15, 2015) (quoting Harlow v. Fitzgerald, 457 U.S. 800, 806 (1982)). Since qualified immunity is "an immunity from suit rather than a mere defense to liability[, ]... it is effectively lost if a case is erroneously permitted to go to trial." Mitchell v. Forsyth, 472 U.S. 511, 526 (1985) (emphasis in original). Thus, contrary to the plaintiff's contention, ...

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