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Patrick v. District of Columbia

United States District Court, District of Columbia

April 12, 2016

TAMBU PATRICK, Plaintiff,
v.
DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA, et al., Defendants. Re Document Nos. 34, 35

MEMORANDUM OPINION

RUDOLPH CONTRERAS UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

I. INTRODUCTION

In this action, Plaintiff Tambu Patrick has brought suit against Defendants District of Columbia (the “District”) and Metropolitan Police Department (“MPD”) Officers Tony Covington, Kristopher Plumley, Ursula Tutt, James Chastanet, Seth Anderson, and Sean Hodges (the “Officers”) for damages resulting from injuries he sustained from a physical confrontation with the Officers on April 10, 2013. See Am. Compl., ECF No. 31. The Court’s previous decision granted the District’s motion to dismiss Mr. Patrick’s original complaint, but granted him leave to file an amended complaint that complies with the law set forth in Monell v. Department of Social Services, 136 U.S. 658 (1978). See Patrick v. District of Columbia, No. 14-1687, 2015 WL 5185845, at *6, *7 (D.D.C. Sept. 4, 2015). The District now moves to dismiss Mr. Patrick’s claim made under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 (Count I of the Amended Complaint) and alleges that the amended complaint fails to establish the municipal custom or policy Monell requires. See Mem. Supp. District of Columbia’s Mot. Dismiss Count 1 Am. Compl., at 3-7, ECF No. 34-1 [hereinafter D.C.’s Mem. Supp.]. Meanwhile, the Officers move to dismiss some of Mr. Patrick’s false imprisonment and abuse of process claims (Counts II and V of the Amended Complaint) and allege that Mr. Patrick failed to bring those claims within the applicable limitations period. See Mem. Supp. MPD Officers’ Mot. Dismiss Counts 2 & 5 Am. Compl., at 3-5, ECF No. 35-1 [hereinafter Officers’ Mem. Supp.].

The Court will grant the District’s motion to dismiss Mr. Patrick’s § 1983 claim because the amended complaint does not contain the factual allegations required to survive a motion to dismiss under the standard set by Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544 (2007), and Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662 (2009). The Court will also grant the Officers’ motion to dismiss Mr. Patrick’s false imprisonment and abuse of process claims because Mr. Patrick failed to bring those claims within the applicable limitations period.

II. BACKGROUND[1]

According to the Amended Complaint, an altercation happened on April 10, 2013, between Mr. Patrick and the Officers in the parking lot of his residence in Southeast Washington, D.C. See Am. Compl. ¶¶ 10-15. Mr. Patrick contends that the Officers searched and beat him without cause. See Id . ¶¶ 12-15. Mr. Patrick suffered injuries to his face and back. See Id . ¶¶ 12-18. The Officers then arrested Mr. Patrick and charged him with illegal possession of a firearm, possession of PCP, [2] and possession of heroin with intent to distribute. See id. ¶¶ 17, 20.

Mr. Patrick was held in jail until May 3, 2013, when the criminal charges against him were dismissed. Id . ¶ 21. Three days later, on May 6, 2013, he was arrested and incarcerated for violating parole. Id. ¶ 22. He was released on December 4, 2014. Id.

While incarcerated, Mr. Patrick filed the complaint triggering this lawsuit on October 8, 2014. Compl., at 1, ECF No. 1 (showing that Mr. Patrick filed suit while still incarcerated). This Court granted the District’s motion to dismiss that complaint, but also granted Mr. Patrick’s motion for leave to file an amended complaint that would better assert his Fourth Amendment claim. See Patrick v. District of Columbia, No. 14-1687, 2015 WL 5185845, at *2-7 (D.D.C. Sept. 4, 2015). After Mr. Patrick filed his amended complaint, the District and the Officers filed motions to dismiss, which are before the Court now. See District of Columbia’s Mot. Dismiss Count 1 Am. Compl., ECF No. 34; Officers’ Mot. Dismiss Counts 2 & 5 Am. Compl., ECF No. 35. The District argues that Mr. Patrick’s § 1983 claim (Count I of the Amended Complaint) should be dismissed because his amended complaint fails to show the requisite causal link between the injuries he sustained and a District custom or policy, which Monell v. Department of Social Services, 436 U.S. 658, 694-95 (1978), requires. See D.C.’s Mem. Supp., at 3-7. The Officers argue that Mr. Patrick’s false imprisonment and malicious prosecution claims (Counts II and V of the Amended Complaint) are barred by a one-year statute of limitations. See Officers’ Mem. Supp., at 3-5.

III. LEGAL STANDARD

The Federal Rules of Civil Procedure require that a complaint contain “a short and plain statement of the claim” in order to give the defendant fair notice of the claim and the grounds upon which it rests. Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2); accord Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 93 (2007) (per curiam). A motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6) does not test a plaintiff’s ultimate likelihood of success on the merits; rather, it tests whether a plaintiff has properly stated a claim. See Scheuer v. Rhodes, 416 U.S. 232, 236 (1974), abrogated on other grounds by Harlow v. Fitzgerald, 457 U.S. 800 (1982); Brewer v. District of Columbia, 891 F.Supp.2d 126, 130 (D.D.C. 2012). A court considering such a motion presumes that the complaint’s factual allegations are true and construes them liberally in the plaintiff’s favor. See, e.g., United States v. Philip Morris, Inc., 116 F.Supp.2d 131, 135 (D.D.C. 2000).

Nevertheless, “[t]o survive a motion to dismiss, a complaint must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to ‘state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.’” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (quoting Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007)). This means that a plaintiff’s factual 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 555-56 (citations and footnote omitted). “Threadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action, supported by mere conclusory statements, ” are therefore insufficient to withstand a motion to dismiss. Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678. A court need not accept a plaintiff’s legal conclusions as true, see id., nor must a court presume the veracity of legal conclusions that are couched as factual allegations, see Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555.

IV. ANALYSIS

A. Count I: Municipal Liability under 42 U.S.C. § 1983

42 U.S.C. § 1983 provides a private cause of action against municipalities, such as the District, for the deprivation of a federal constitutional or statutory right. See 42 U.S.C. § 1983; Mitchum v. Foster, 407 U.S. 225, 239 (1972). To hold a municipality liable for the constitutionally objectionable actions of its employees under § 1983, however, a plaintiff must show how that municipality’s policy or custom was the “moving force” behind a constitutional violation. See Monell v. Dep’t of Soc. Servs., 436 U.S. 658, 694-95 (1978); Baker v. District ofColumbia, 326 F.3d 1302, 1306 (D.C. Cir. 2003) (setting forth the two-part test for determining whether a local government may be held liable under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and Monell). First, the plaintiff’s complaint must ...


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