United States District Court, District of Columbia
MARK K. BOWSER, Plaintiff,
SERGEANT D. Smith et al., Defendants.
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
N. MCFADDEN UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
Mark K. Bowser is an inmate at the District of Columbia Jail.
He alleges that he was “severely assaulted” by
another inmate being escorted by defendant Sergeant Douglas
Smith. Am. Compl. at 1 [Dkt. # 6]. Appearing pro se,
plaintiff has sued Sgt. Smith and the District of Columbia
under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, seeking equitable relief and
monetary damages. Each defendant has moved separately to
dismiss the complaint under Rule 12(b)(6) of the Federal
Rules of Civil Procedure. The District contends that no claim
of municipal liability has been stated [Dkt. # 12]; Sgt.
Smith contends that he is entitled to qualified immunity
[Dkt. # 17]. For the reasons explained below, I will grant
the District's motion and deny Defendant Smith's
motion without prejudice.
alleged facts, accepted for present purposes as true, are
taken from plaintiff's amended complaint and addendum
filed on February 28, 2017 [Dkt. # 15] (hereinafter
“Addendum”).0F In April 2016, while assigned to a cell
block “as an inmate detail worker, ” plaintiff
was attacked by an inmate being escorted by Sgt. Smith. The
inmate was “handcuff[ed] from the front, ” but
otherwise “had no restraints, and was allowed to walk
freely from [the] Sally Port[.]” Addendum at 2. The
inmate “was able to strike and assault the plaintiff by
sneaking from behind using the handcuffs as a weapon pounding
like a sledge hammer[.]” Id. As a result,
plaintiff “suffered injuries to the neck, head, and
upper right side of his shoulder and face, ” and he
“remains in continuing pain.” Am. Compl. at 1.
Plaintiff alleges that “the District of Columbia
refused to treat [his] injuries, ” id., but
that the medical staff gave him ibuprofen for “pain and
suffering, ” Addendum at 2.
invokes the Fifth and Eighth Amendments to the Constitution,
claiming (1) that Sgt. Smith “failed to properly
control and escort” the other inmate in accordance with
“hands on policy[, ] which enabled [the inmate] to
assault” him, and (2) that the District of Columbia
“failed to properly train Sgt. D. Smith” and was
deliberately indifferent to plaintiff's medical needs.
Am. Compl. at 1.
motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6) “tests the legal
sufficiency of a complaint.” Browning v.
Clinton, 292 F.3d 235, 242 (D.C. Cir. 2002). The motion
does not test a plaintiff's ultimate likelihood of
success on the merits, but only forces the court to determine
whether a plaintiff has properly stated a claim. ACLU
Found. of S. Cal. v. Barr, 952 F.2d 457, 467 (D.C. Cir.
1991). The court “must construe the complaint ‘in
favor of the plaintiff, who must be granted the benefit of
all inferences that can be derived from the facts
alleged.'” Hettinga v. United States, 677
F.3d 471, 476 (D.C. Cir. 2012) (quoting Schuler v. United
States, 617 F.2d 605, 608 (D.C. Cir. 1979)). But
“the Court need not accept inferences drawn by
plaintiff if those inferences are not supported by the facts
set out in the complaint, nor must the court accept legal
conclusions cast as factual allegations.” Id.
complaint survives a motion to dismiss if it
“contain[s] sufficient factual matter, accepted as
true, to ‘state a claim to relief that is plausible on
its face.'” Hurd v. District of Columbia,
864 F.3d 671, 678 (D.C. Cir. 2017) (quoting Ashcroft v.
Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (other citation
omitted)). “A claim crosses from conceivable to
plausible when it contains factual allegations that, if
proved, would allow the court to draw the reasonable
inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct
alleged.” Id. (citation and internal quotation
marks omitted). Thus, a complaint containing only
“[t]hreadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of
action, supported by mere conclusory statements” and
factually void legal conclusions cannot withstand a motion to
dismiss. Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678-79. Although a
pro se complaint, such as here “must be held
to less stringent standards than formal pleadings drafted by
lawyers[, ]” the plaintiff still “must plead
‘factual matter' that permits the court to infer
‘more than the mere possibility of
misconduct.'” Atherton v. D.C. Office of
Mayor, 567 F.3d 672, 681-82 (D.C. Cir. 2009) (quoting
Iqbal, 556 U.S. 679).
1983 provides a remedy against
[e]very person who, under color of any statute, ordinance,
regulation, custom, or usage, of any State or Territory or
the District of Columbia, subjects, or causes to be
subjected, any citizen of the United States or other person
within the jurisdiction thereof to the deprivation of any
rights, privileges, or immunities secured by the Constitution
42 U.S.C. § 1983. “[T]he statute creates no
substantive rights; it merely provides remedies for
deprivations of rights established elsewhere.” City
of Oklahoma City v. Tuttle, 471 U.S. 808, 816 (1985)
(citation omitted). Therefore, a plaintiff bringing a §
1983 claim “must allege both (1) that he was deprived
of a right secured by the Constitution or laws of the United
States, and (2) that the defendant acted ‘under color
of' the law of a state, territory or the District of
Columbia.” Hoai v. Vo, 935 F.2d 308, 312 (D.C.
Cir. 1991) (quotation marks and citation omitted).
1983 claims are typically brought against government actors
in their personal capacity, see Simpkins v. District of
Columbia Gov't, 108 F.3d 366, 369 (D.C. Cir. 1997),
such that “a plaintiff must plead that each
Government-official defendant, through the official's own
individual actions, has violated the Constitution.”
Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 676. But a municipal corporation
like the District is a “person” within the
meaning of § 1983 “when [its] official policy or
custom causes [a] ...