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Lin v. District of Columbia

United States District Court, District of Columbia

August 2, 2017

XINGRU LIN, Plaintiff
v.
DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA, et al., Defendants

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          COLLEEN KOLLAR-KOTELLY United States District Judge

         Plaintiff, a bus company ticket agent, alleges that the District of Columbia Metropolitan Police Department (“MPD”) violated her rights in various different ways during four separate encounters between December 2015 and April 2016. Pending before the Court is Defendant District of Columbia's [20] Motion for Partial Dismissal, or in the Alternative Partial Summary Judgment. Upon consideration of the pleadings, [1] the relevant legal authorities, and the record as a whole, the Court will GRANT-IN-PART and DENY-IN-PART Defendant's motion. The Court will dismiss Plaintiff's claim under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against the District of Columbia, as well as Plaintiff's negligence and malicious prosecution claims. However, the Court will not dismiss Plaintiff's intentional infliction of emotional distress or negligent training and supervision claim.

         I. BACKGROUND

         A. Factual Allegations

         Plaintiff works as a ticket agent for a bus company called Focus Travel Agency in Washington, D.C. See Pl.'s Am. Compl. for 1983 Civil Rights Violation, Conspiracies to Violate Civil Rights, False Arrests and Personal Injuries, ECF No. 16 (“Am. Compl.”), ¶ 30. She works the night shift, and her duties include selling tickets and checking the tickets of passengers. Id. ¶¶ 18, 30. She is of Chinese decent and “can barely speak English, although she understands some.” Id. ¶ 8.

         Plaintiff's Amended Complaint contains allegations regarding four different encounters with the MPD that took place between December 2015 and April 2016. Plaintiff states that she “has experienced all the four unfortunate incidents within six-months, ” including “two arrests within such a short period of time, ” and that she is accordingly “extremely anxious whenever she sees an MPD officer.” Id. ¶ 118. She “believes that she did not have any right[s] in this country and [is] afraid to be arrested again, ” and feels “threatened by the D.C. MPD all the time.” Id. Plaintiff alleges that “[a]t no time did [she] commit any offense in violation of the laws of” the District of Columbia or the United States, and that accordingly all of the arrests, detentions and uses of force described below were without legal cause. Id. ¶¶ 122-24. Plaintiff claims that all Defendants acted willfully, recklessly, and with disregard to Plaintiff's rights, and that “[t]he actions and conduct of the defendant officers and D.C. MPD are the result of a policy, practice, custom and deliberate indifference on the part of Defendant Washington, D.C. and individual officers and D.C. M.P.D.” Id. ¶ 13.

         1. The December 2015 Incident

         According to the Amended Complaint, Plaintiff alleges that in mid-December 2015 she got into a dispute with a customer who “cussed Plaintiff out.” Id. ¶¶ 63-65. Plaintiff refused to sell the customer a ticket, but he nonetheless continued to attempt to board a bus. Id. The would-be passenger called the police. Id. ¶ 66.

         Plaintiff alleges that two officers interviewed the individual who had called them and then ordered Plaintiff to sell him a bus ticket. Id. ¶ 67. Plaintiff refused. Id. ¶ 68. Plaintiff demanded a Chinese police officer be present, and eventually a female Chinese officer was called to the scene. Id. ¶ 72. She instructed Plaintiff that Plaintiff had to show the police officers the video tape of what had occurred, or the bus would not be allowed to leave. Id. ¶ 73. Plaintiff did so, and the officers agreed that she had done nothing wrong. Id. ¶¶ 74-75. In the meantime, however, the bus was delayed leaving for almost two hours. Id. ¶ 76.

         Plaintiff filed a complaint with the D.C. police department, but was given “a whole array of lame excuses” from a supervisor, including that the officers involved were junior traffic officers, were not familiar with proper procedure, and “did not know anything about Chinatown.” Id. ¶¶ 77-78. The supervisor promised to provide a patrol in the area, but that patrol allegedly only lasted for two weeks. Id. ¶¶ 78-79.

         2. The February 15, 2016 Arrest

         On February 15, 2016, Plaintiff alleges that a drunk woman boarded a bus without paying. Id. ¶ 31. Plaintiff asked the woman to leave. Id. The woman initially left, but then continued to attempt to sneak onto the bus multiple times. Id. ¶ 32. Eventually, defeated, the apparently drunken woman sat on the steps of a nearby building and “curs[ed] Plaintiff continuously.” Id. Plaintiff then took the woman's photograph with a cell phone “for the company's records[s].” Id. ¶ 33. The woman, not pleased at having been photographed, chased and assaulted Plaintiff. Id. ¶¶ 34-35. Both women called the police. Id. ¶ 36.

         Plaintiff alleges that when the “D.C. MPD finally sent some officer, ” he was a “white male” and “could not communicate with Plaintiff.” Id. ¶ 37. Other officers quickly arrived on the scene. Id. ¶ 38. One, “a African American male officer (Officer X), ” grabbed Plaintiff's hand as she was trying to make another 911 call. Id. ¶ 39. Officer X and another male officer (Officer Y) then pushed Plaintiff against a wall and then down onto the floor. Id. ¶ 40. One of the officers (Officer Z) stepped on Plaintiff's back and two others (Officers X and Y) twisted Plaintiff's arms “in the back.” Id. The officers then picked Plaintiff up off the ground and “forced Plaintiff to sit on the chairs in the waiting room, still with hand-cuffed behind her back.” Id. ¶ 41. Plaintiff alleges that during this time-approximately 15-20 minutes-there was no MPD officer who spoke Chinese, and no one asked her if she spoke English. Id. ¶¶ 42, 48. An interpreter was provided after 15 or 20 minutes. Id. ¶ 48.

         Plaintiff alleges she was upset and experienced pain. Id. ¶ 43. Plaintiff also alleges her constitutional rights were violated when one officer placed his card into her jacket pocket, briefly took it back out and then put it back in. Id. ¶ 45. Plaintiff claims that “officers X, Y and Z[ ] conducted unlawful arresting, maliciously prosecuting and using excessive and unreasonable force, ” and that “[t]he actions and conduct of the Defendant officers are the result of a policy, practice, custom, and deliberate indifference on the part of Defendant MPD of D.C.” Id. ¶ 46.

         Eventually, a “higher-ranking officer/sergeant” (Sergeant A) arrived, reviewed video of the incident and “confirmed that Plaintiff was not the aggressor.” Id. ¶¶ 49-50. As a result, Plaintiff's handcuffs were removed. Id. ¶ 50. However, after Plaintiff “took paper and pen to take police officer badge numbers, ” the officers placed her back in handcuffs, falsely claiming that she was “assaulting” the officers. Id. ¶¶ 51-53. Plaintiff was subsequently arrested and charged with three counts of assaulting a police officer. Id. ¶ 54. Plaintiff claims this charge is “false[ ] and malicious[ ].” Id. ¶ 119. At the police station, Plaintiff was searched and then locked up without the assistance of a Chinese interpreter. Id. ¶ 55. A Chinese translating officer later helped Plaintiff write a statement of the events. Id. ¶ 56.

         The police officers then sent Plaintiff to a hospital to have her injuries checked. Id. ¶ 57. Plaintiff alleges that she was sent with two “white male officers, ” (Officers B and C) who were present while a doctor or nurse examined her. Id. ¶¶ 57-58. No female officers were present. Id. ¶ 2. Plaintiff was embarrassed and humiliated by this event, because she had never before been unrobed in front of a man other than her husband. Id. ¶ 58. Plaintiff complains that she was never informed what hospital she had been taken to and did not receive any paperwork from the hospital. Id. ¶ 2. Plaintiff then spent the night in jail. Id. ¶ 61. The next morning, February 16, 2016, Plaintiff went to the Superior Court of the District of Columbia, where she was “finally released because of ‘No Paper.'” Id. ¶¶ 61-62. In sum, Plaintiff was detained for almost 19 hours. Id. ¶ 62.

         3. The April 6, 2016 Incident

         On April 6, 2016, two “would-be robbers” came into the bus company's basement office and ordered Plaintiff to open the door to the booth where she was stationed. Id. ¶ 80. Plaintiff was frightened but refused to open the door. Id. ¶ 82. She shouted “911 coming, ” which caused the individuals to flee the scene. Id. ¶ 83. Plaintiff did not call the police during this incident. Id. ¶ 84.

         Plaintiff did however call the police-via the “D.C. M.P.D. Asian Liaison office”-after the individuals left. Id. ¶ 85. The police came, but did not review the videotape of the incident, and simply asked Plaintiff “What do you want us to do?” Id. ¶ 86. The officers told Plaintiff that “they could do nothing other than issue citations.” Id. Plaintiff alleges that, in stark contrast to how she was treated “like a real criminal” during the February 15, 2016 incident, the police did not show any real effort to pursue these suspects. Id. She also alleges that the “MPD did not pay attention to her report as a form of retaliation and reprisal.” Id. More generally, Plaintiff alleges that the MPD does not patrol the area around her business from midnight to 4:00 a.m., takes too long to respond to Plaintiff's calls, and that Plaintiff has to rely on English-speaking intermediaries to get the police's attention. Id. ¶¶ 87-88.

         4. The April 12, 2016 Incident

         On April 12, 2016, Plaintiff refused to allow a customer to board a bus with an expired ticket. Id. ¶¶ 89-91. The customer “dashed up to the bus” regardless. Id. ¶ 91. He eventually left the bus voluntarily, but said he would call the police. Id.

         When Plaintiff returned to her office later that day, a police officer, (Officer E) was waiting and told Plaintiff she needed to come with him to submit a report. Id. ¶¶ 93-94. Officer E ignored Plaintiff's request for a Chinese translator and did not ask her if she spoke English. Id. ¶¶ 95-96. He also refused to view the bus company's close-circuit video, and refused to listen to a tenant from above the bus company office who offered to act as an interpreter. Id. ¶¶ 97-98. Plaintiff, feeling “under the pressure, ” agreed to go to the police station with the officer and his female partner (Officer F). Id. ¶¶ 100-01. When she was leaving the office waiting area with the officer, however, he allegedly handcuffed Plaintiff without giving any explanation or reading Plaintiff Miranda ...


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