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Bunch v. District of Columbia

United States District Court, D. Columbia.

December 23, 2015

TERRIE BUNCH, et al., Plaintiffs,
v.
DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA, et al., Defendants

          For TERRIE BUNCH, TIARA HAMMOND, LARA HAMMOND, ALYSSA HAMMOND, EUGENE FUTRELL, DERRICK BROOKS, Plaintiffs: Jay B. Dorsey, LEAD ATTORNEY, J.B. DORSEY & ASSOCIATES, Washington, DC.

         For WASHINGTON D.C. POLICE DEPARTMENT, DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA WASHINGTON D.C., MAYOR DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA, Defendants: Michael K. Addo, OFFICE OF ATTORNEY GENERAL/DC, Washington, DC.

         MEMORANDUM OPINION

         ELLEN SEGAL HUVELLE, United States District Judge.

         Plaintiffs allege that, in May 2012, a hot pursuit police chase resulted in a collision between the fleeing suspect's car and the car in which plaintiffs were travelling. (Am. Compl. [ECF No. 5] ¶ 8.) They claim that the officers responsible for the pursuit, two unidentified members of the D.C. Metropolitan Police Department (the " Doe defendants" ), violated their Fourth, Fifth, and Eleventh Amendment rights. ( Id. ¶ 7.) As such, they bring constitutional claims against the Doe defendants under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, as well as common law claims of gross negligence. ( Id. ¶¶ 39-46.) In addition, they claim that the District of Columbia is also liable for the constitutional violations, because the accident was " a direct consequence of [the District's] policies and practices." ( Id. ¶ 28.) Finally, they assert common law claims against the District for its alleged negligent supervision, retention and training of the Doe defendants ( id. ¶¶ 37-38), and for vicarious liability arising from the Doe defendants' alleged gross negligence ( id. ¶¶ 35-36).

         The District has moved to dismiss plaintiffs' amended complaint. (Def.'s Mot. to Dismiss [ECF No. 6].)[1] For the reasons that follow, plaintiffs' constitutional claims lack merit and will be dismissed as to all defendants. Because these claims formed the sole basis for the Court's jurisdiction, the Court declines to exercise supplemental jurisdiction over the remaining state law claims, and thus it remands the case back to D.C. Superior Court.

         BACKGROUND

         On or about May 12, 2012, plaintiffs were travelling in a car that was struck by the car of a suspect who was then fleeing D.C. Metropolitan Police in a high-speed chase, causing plaintiffs to suffer unspecified injuries. (Am. Compl. ¶¶ 8, 16.) They allege that the officers involved in the pursuit " grossly violated the police general order" regarding high-speed police chases ( id. ¶ 27), but also that the same general order is " facially flawed" because, inter alia, it allows officers too much discretion to initiate pursuits, inadequately discourages or restricts pursuits, and fails to consider such factors as driving conditions and officer capability in determining whether pursuit is appropriate ( see id. ¶ 18). Furthermore, plaintiffs allege that the District has inadequately trained its officers ( id. ¶¶ 19-20), that it has done nothing in response to its officers " routinely, flagrantly ignoring the edicts" restricting high-speed chases ( id. ¶ 10, 15), that it lacks a Critical Incident Review Board to review all high-speed pursuits ( id. ¶ 23), that its officers do not recall the general order on police pursuits ( id. ¶ 25), and that its policymakers are " deliberate[ly] indifferen[t] . . . to the constitutional rights of persons within the District" ( id. ¶ 34).

         Plaintiffs initially filed this suit in D.C. Superior Court on May 11, 2015, and it was removed to this Court on August 7, 2015, pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1441. ( See Joint Notice of Removal [ECF No. 1].)

         ANALYSIS

         I. LEGAL STANDARD

         To survive a motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim under Rule 12(b)(6), a complaint " must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to 'state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face,'" such that a court may " draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged." Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678, 129 S.Ct. 1937, 173 L.Ed.2d 868 (2009) (quoting Bell A. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570, 127 S.Ct. 1955, 167 L.Ed.2d 929 (2007)). The plausibility standard " asks for more than a sheer possibility that a defendant has acted unlawfully." Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678. Thus, " [f]actual allegations must be enough to raise a right to relief above the speculative level, on the assumption that all the allegations in the complaint are true (even if doubtful in fact)." Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555 (citations omitted). In ruling on a 12(b)(6) motion, a court may consider facts alleged in the complaint, documents attached to or incorporated in the complaint, matters of which courts may take judicial notice, and documents appended to a motion to dismiss whose authenticity is not disputed, if they are referred to in the complaint and integral to a claim. U.S. ex rel. Folliard v. CDW Tech. Servs., Inc., 722 F.Supp.2d 20, 24-25 (D.D.C. 2010).

         II. CONSTITUTIONAL CLAIMS

         Plaintiffs allege " blatant and egregious constitutional violations under the 4th, 5th, and 11th amendments of the United States Constitution." (Am. Compl. ¶ 7.) The District argues that plaintiffs fail to state a claim for any predicate constitutional violation by the Doe defendants, and that their related claim for municipal liability against the District also necessarily fails. (Def.'s Mot. to Dismiss at 3-6.) The Court will address each provision in turn.

         A. ...


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