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Johnson v. Paragon Systems, Inc.

United States District Court, District of Columbia

March 29, 2018

DENNIS JOHNSON, Plaintiff,
v.
PARAGON SYSTEMS, INC., et al., Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          Emmet G. Sullivan United States District Judge

         Plaintiff Dennis Johnson, a retired law enforcement officer, claims that he was improperly detained and harassed after he entered an Immigration and Customs Enforcement (“ICE”) facility with a handgun. He has sued the private security contractors - MVM, Inc. (“MVM”) and Paragon Systems, Inc. (“Paragon”) - allegedly responsible for security at that ICE facility, along with Federal Protective Services (“FPS”) and one of its employees, Christopher Addams (collectively, “Federal Defendants”). Pending before the Court are MVM and the Federal Defendants' motions to dismiss the amended complaint. For the reasons articulated below, the Court GRANTS defendants' motions and dismisses Mr. Johnson's complaint.

         I. BACKGROUND

         On October 31, 2012, Mr. Johnson arrived at an ICE facility and entered the building with a loaded handgun in his briefcase.Am. Compl., ECF No. 12 ¶ 10.[1] As a retired federal law enforcement officer, Mr. Johnson asserts that he is entitled to carry a firearm on federal property at any time. Id. ¶ 10.

         Nonetheless - perhaps because Mr. Johnson inadvertently entered the ICE facility through the visitors' entrance and not the employees' entrance - Mr. Johnson was immediately detained by security guards allegedly employed or supervised by defendants. Id. ¶¶ 10-13. According to Mr. Johnson, even though he promptly displayed his law-enforcement badge to the security guards, and even though the security guards were allegedly notified that Mr. Johnson was entitled to bring his weapon into the building, the security guards "handcuffed Plaintiff for over two hours." Id. ¶¶ 13-15.

         Mr. Johnson further alleges that Christopher Addams - a FPS employee who supposedly supervised "either a Paragon Systems employee or MVM employee" - threatened to initiate criminal proceedings against Mr. Johnson for his conduct. Id. ¶¶ 16-17. Mr. Addams purportedly continued to threaten Mr. Johnson with legal action for a period of over two months after the incident, through December 2012. Id.

         Based on these allegations, Mr. Johnson filed suit on October 31, 2015 against Paragon. See Compl., ECF No. 1. In that complaint, Mr. Johnson asserted four causes of action: (1) a "Civil Rights Violation" pursuant to section 1983; (2) assault and battery; (3) intentional infliction of emotional distress; and (4) common-law negligence. Id. ¶¶ 18-35.

         On July 1, 2016, the Court granted Paragon's partial motion to dismiss, dismissing Mr. Johnson's claim for intentional infliction of emotional distress after concluding that Mr. Johnson had failed to sufficiently allege that his injury resulted from "extreme and outrageous conduct." See Johnson v. Paragon Sys., Inc., 195 F.Supp.3d 96 (D.D.C. 2016).

         Almost a year after initially filing suit, on October 21, 2016, Mr. Johnson filed an amended complaint that omitted his previously-dismissed claim for intentional infliction of emotional distress and added MVM, FPS, and Mr. Addams as co-defendants. See Am. Compl., ECF No. 12. On September 27, 2017, the Court granted Paragon summary judgment after finding that Mr. Johnson had failed to adduce evidence suggesting that Paragon took any action that caused Mr. Johnson's alleged injuries. See Johnson v. Paragon Systems Inc., 272 F.Supp.3d 1 (D.D.C. 2017).

         Both MVM and the Federal Defendants now move to dismiss Mr. Johnson's amended complaint pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12. Specifically, MVM argues that the amended complaint should be dismissed for insufficient service of process, because Mr. Johnson's claims are barred by the relevant statutes of limitations, and because Mr. Johnson fails to state a claim for negligence. See MVM Mem. in Supp. Mot. to Dismiss (“MVM Mot.”), ECF No. 22-1 at 5-13. The Federal Defendants move to dismiss Mr. Johnson's complaint for insufficient service of process, lack of subject-matter jurisdiction, qualified immunity, lack of personal jurisdiction, and for failure to state a claim. See Fed. Defs.' Mem. in Supp. Mot. to Dismiss (“Fed. Mot.”), ECF No. 23-1 at 6-18. For the following reasons, the Court GRANTS those motions and dismisses Mr. Johnson's amended complaint.[2]

         II. LEGAL STANDARD

         A. Rule 12(b)(1) - Subject-Matter Jurisdiction

         "A federal district court may only hear a claim over which [it] has subject-matter jurisdiction; therefore, a Rule 12(b)(1) motion for dismissal is a threshold challenge to a court's jurisdiction." Gregorio v. Hoover, 238 F.Supp.3d 37 (D.D.C. 2017) (citation and internal quotation marks omitted). To survive a Rule 12(b)(1) motion, the plaintiff bears the burden of establishing that the court has jurisdiction by a preponderance of the evidence. Lujan v. Defenders of Wildlife, 504 U.S. 555, 561 (1992). Because Rule 12(b)(1) concerns a court's ability to hear a particular claim, "the court must scrutinize the plaintiff's allegations more closely when considering a motion to dismiss pursuant to Rule 12(b)(1) than it would under a motion to dismiss pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6)." Schmidt v. U.S. Capitol Police Bd., 826 F.Supp.2d 59, 65 (D.D.C. 2011). In so doing, the court must accept as true all of the factual allegations in the complaint and draw all reasonable inferences in favor of the plaintiff, but the court need not "accept inferences unsupported by the facts alleged or legal conclusions that are cast as factual allegations." Rann v. Chao, 154 F.Supp.2d 61, 64 (D.D.C. 2001).

         In reviewing a motion to dismiss pursuant to Rule 12(b)(1), the court "may consider such materials outside the pleadings as it deems appropriate to resolve the question whether it has jurisdiction to hear the case." Scolaro v. D.C. Bd. of Elections & Ethics, 104 F.Supp.2d 18, 22 (D.D.C. 2000); see also Jerome Stevens Pharm., Inc. v. Food and Drug Admin., 402 F.3d 1249, 1253 (D.C. Cir. 2005). Faced with motions to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(1) and Rule 12(b)(6), a court should first consider the Rule 12(b)(1) motion because "[o]nce a court determines that it lacks subject matter jurisdiction, it can proceed no further." Ctr. for Biological Diversity v. Jackson, 815 F.Supp.2d 85, 90 (D.D.C. 2011) (citations and internal quotation marks omitted).

         B. Rule 12(b)(6) - Failure to State a Claim

         A motion to dismiss pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) tests the legal sufficiency of a complaint. Browning v. Clinton, 292 F.3d 235, 242 (D.C. Cir. 2002). A complaint must contain "a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief, in order to give the defendant fair notice of what the . . . claim is and the grounds upon which it ...


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