United States District Court, District of Columbia
E. BOASBERG JUDGE
pro se Plaintiff Darrell Prince, Amtrak Police's
motto “Protecting America in Transit” must ring
hollow. After his bag and laptop were stolen while he was
sleeping at Union Station, his attempts to enlist the aid of
Amtrak Police officers to find his belongings and apprehend a
suspect were repeatedly rebuffed. Frustrated by their
unwillingness to assist him, Prince is suing Eleanor Acheson
(General Counsel for Amtrak), Amtrak Police, and the National
Railroad Passenger Corporation (Amtrak) for “gross
negligence of duty, and theft of honest government
services.” Defendants, believing Prince has failed to
state a viable claim, now move to dismiss the Complaint.
Notwithstanding their motto, Amtrak Police officers - like
other law-enforcement officers in all but a few scenarios -
have no affirmative duty to protect, and Prince cannot hold
them liable for failing to do so here. As such, this Court
will grant Defendants' Motion.
to the Complaint, which the Court must presume true at this
stage, this case arises from the January 8, 2017, theft of a
laptop and bag from Plaintiff after he fell asleep in the
District of Columbia's Union Station. See Compl.
at 1; Opp. at 6. Immediately following the incident, Prince
attempted to report the theft to several Amtrak Police
officers. See Compl. at 1. After assistance was
twice refused, he was finally allowed to file a report but
was denied access to the station's security-camera
footage, as the cameras were allegedly not operating.
Id. Plaintiff then proceeded to search the station
and located an individual using what appeared to be his
laptop. Id. at 2. After filming the likely culprit,
Prince attempted to turn in “said evidence” but
was rebuffed by Amtrak Police officers. Id. Adding
insult to injury, the report he allegedly filed was later
lost, leaving Plaintiff deeply unsatisfied with the
officers' response to his predicament. Id.
replacement costs for his bag and laptop, damages for pain
and suffering, and several million dollars in punitives,
Prince filed this suit against General Counsel Acheson,
Amtrak Police, and Amtrak itself. See Compl. at 1,
2. Invoking 28 U.S.C. § 1343 and 42 U.S.C. § 1983
and alleging “gross negligence of duty, and theft of
honest government services, ” Compl. at 2, Prince
claims that the officers failed to assist him, repeatedly
misled him, and neglected their basic “responsibility
to investigate property loss or theft.” Opp. at 2.
Defendants now move to dismiss all of Plaintiff's claims.
Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6), a court must
dismiss a suit when the complaint “fail[s] to state a
claim upon which relief can be granted.” In evaluating
a motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6), the Court must
“treat the complaint's factual allegations as true
and must grant plaintiff the benefit of all inferences that
can be derived from the facts alleged.” Sparrow v.
United Air Lines, Inc., 216 F.3d 1111, 1113 (D.C. Cir.
2000) (internal quotation marks and citation omitted);
see also Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678
(2009). A court need not accept as true, however, “a
legal conclusion couched as a factual allegation, ” or
an inference unsupported by the facts set forth in the
complaint. Trudeau v. FTC, 456 F.3d 178, 193 (D.C.
Cir. 2006) (quoting Papasan v. Allain, 478 U.S. 265,
286 (1986)). Although “detailed factual
allegations” are not necessary to withstand a Rule
12(b)(6) motion, Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550
U.S. 544, 555 (2007), “a complaint must contain
sufficient factual matter, [if] accepted as true, to state a
claim to relief that is plausible on its face.”
Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678 (internal quotation marks
omitted). Though a plaintiff may survive a Rule 12(b)(6)
motion even if “recovery is very remote and unlikely,
” the facts alleged in the complaint “must be
enough to raise a right to relief above the speculative
level.” Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555-56 (quoting
Scheuer v. Rhodes, 416 U.S. 232, 236 (1974)). Where
the action is brought by a pro se plaintiff, the
Court must construe his filings liberally and hold the
complaint to “less stringent standards than formal
pleadings drafted by lawyers.” Haines v.
Kerner, 404 U.S. 519, 520-21 (1972); see also
Schnitzler v. United States, 761 F.3d 33, 38 (D.C. Cir.
the legal theories set out in Plaintiff's Complaint are
somewhat difficult to parse, it appears that his claims for
negligence are brought pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1343 and
42 U.S.C. § 1983. See Compl. at 1. His
Opposition to the Motion to Dismiss explains that he is
relying on his Fifth and Fourteenth Amendment Due Process
rights. See Opp. at 2 (“The 5th and
the 14th amendment's [sic] due
process clauses cover this.”). Reading his Complaint
generously, Plaintiff might be asserting a negligence claim
under D.C. law as well. See Compl. at 1. Regardless,
Defendants correctly argue his suit is infirm.
the only conceivable subpart of 28 U.S.C. § 1343 he
could invoke is § 1343(a)(3), which, like 42 U.S.C.
§ 1983, limits its jurisdictional grant to suits seeking
to redress the deprivation of constitutional rights
“under color of any State law.” Even if Amtrak is
a state entity - a debatable proposition - Prince never
alleges that Acheson, the General Counsel, has herself
violated his rights in any way. Similarly, Plaintiff has not
alleged that the entity Defendants (Amtrak and Amtrak Police)
implemented or executed any policy to violate his
constitutional rights. See Monell v. Dep't of Soc.
Servs. of New York, 436 U.S. 658, 690-91 (1978) (finding
no vicarious liability for employing tortfeasor).
event, even if Prince were to seek to amend his Complaint to
name the actual officers, he would still fail to state a
valid claim as such officers cannot breach a duty they never
owed him in the first place. “[N]othing in the language
of the Due Process Clause itself requires the State to
protect the life, liberty, and property of its citizens
against invasion by private actors.” DeShaney v.
Winnebago Cty. Dep't of Soc. Servs., 489 U.S. 189,
195 (1989). Government officials do not have an affirmative
duty to protect individuals from harm, and individuals do not
have a right to governmental aid. Id. at 196
(“[T]he Due Process Clauses generally confer no
affirmative right to governmental aid, even where such aid
may be necessary to secure life, liberty, or property
interests of which the government itself may not deprive the
individual.”). To the extent Prince means to allege
negligence under D.C. law, he fares no better. See Warren
v. Dist. of Columbia, 444 A.2d 1, 3 (D.C. 1981) (en
banc) (“[A] government and its agents are under no
general duty to provide public services, such as police
protection, to any particular individual citizen. The duty to
provide public services is owed to the public at large, and,
absent a special relationship between the police and an
individual, no specific legal duty exists.”) (quotation
marks and citation omitted).
are only two circumstances in which officials may have an
affirmative duty to protect an individual from harm: if they
(1) restrain the personal liberty of a victim, see
DeShaney, 489 U.S. at 199-200, or (2) in some way
affirmatively create or increase the danger faced by a
victim. Butera v. Dist. of Columbia, 235 F.3d 637,
651 (D.C. Cir. 2001) (finding police liable for murder of
undercover operative they enlisted for drug buy). As nothing
in Prince's pleadings indicates that either exception is
applicable here, the Court's conclusion is quite clear:
the officers simply could not be found liable for any harm
Plaintiff suffered. While they may not have provided him and
his possessions with the level of protection he sought or
offered him any meaningful investigative aid, they
nonetheless did not violate his due-process rights. As such,
even if Prince were to seek leave to name the officers in a
properly amended Complaint, he could not proceed.
foregoing reasons, the Court will grant Defendants'
Motion to Dismiss. It will issue a ...