United States District Court, District of Columbia
ALEXANDER OTIS MATTHEWS, as Personal Representative for the Estate of Ezana Alexander Matthews, Plaintiff,
DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA, Defendant.
RANDOLPH D. MOSS, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
matter is before the Court on Defendant District of
Columbia's motion to dismiss. Dkt. 5. Plaintiff Alexander
Otis Matthews, proceeding pro se, is suing the
District under the District's Survival Statute, D.C. Code
§ 12-101, as the personal representative of his son,
Ezana Alexander Matthews (“Mr. Matthews”).
Plaintiff alleges that a Metropolitan Police Department
(“MPD”) first responder and MPD detective acted
tortiously and violated Mr. Matthews's constitutional
rights when they failed to render medical aid and failed to
investigate the circumstances surrounding his death. Although
Plaintiff has undoubtedly suffered a great loss, the Court
concludes that he has failed to state a claim for relief. The
Court will, accordingly, GRANT the
District's motion to dismiss. Dkt. 5.
purposes of the pending motion, the Court accepts as true the
facts alleged in the complaint, Dkt. 1. See Wood v.
Moss, 572 U.S. 744, 755 n.5 (2014); see also
Williams v. Ellerbe, 317 F.Supp.3d 144, 146 (D.D.C.
son, Ezana Alexander Matthews, served in the United States
Army. Dkt. 1-1 at 6 (Compl. ¶ 7). Mr. Matthews returned
home to the District after being honorably discharged and
lived with his paternal grandmother on Capitol Hill.
Id. (Compl. ¶¶ 7-8). Upon his return, Mr.
Matthews's family and friends noticed that he was
“socially withdrawn” for “long
periods” of time and “affected by bouts of
extreme paranoia and anxiety.” Id. (Compl.
¶ 8). Nevertheless, Mr. Matthews
“downplayed” his condition and refused to seek
4, 2017, Mr. Matthews's grandmother returned home to find
Mr. Matthews hanging in a bedroom. Id. (Compl.
¶ 9). She called 911 and was “told to cut [Mr.
Matthews] down immediately.” Id. (Compl.
¶ 10). She “ran to a neighbor's home across
the street and came back with a group of young men who were
able to physically perform the task.” Id. She
then waited for “the responding authorities.”
arriving at the scene, the responding MPD officer allegedly
“made no effort to provide oxygen to Mr. Matthews, to
employ a ventibreather or automatic external defibrillator,
to check his core body temperature, or to attempt CPR.”
Id. at 7 (Compl. ¶ 11). The officer's
conduct, according to Plaintiff, was “in clear
violation of all applicable laws, statutes, regulations,
[and] MPD special and general orders when encountering
unconscious persons.” Id. Plaintiff further
claims that the responding officer and a “detective
assigned to the case” were “wholly negligent in
their investigation of the circumstances surrounding [his
son's] death.” Id. (Compl. ¶ 12). The
officers allegedly “made no effort to inquire into the
possible causes or circumstances” of Mr. Matthews's
suicide. Id. They did not, for example,
“examine the contents of his electronic devices or . .
. his notebooks where he kept daily journals of his thoughts
and activities.” Id. Finally, Plaintiff
alleges that the police report failed to provide “an
accurate record of the circumstances regarding Mr.
Matthews's suicide and death.” Id. at 8
(Compl. ¶ 13).
complaint asserts three sets of claims. First, Plaintiff
alleges that the District violated Mr. Matthews's Fifth
and Eighth Amendment rights by failing adequately to train
and supervise MPD officers in responding to emergency
situations, id. at 10 (Compl. ¶¶ i, k),
and Mr. Matthews's Fifth Amendment rights by failing to
investigate the cause and circumstances of his death,
id. (Compl. ¶ l). Second, he alleges
that the District was negligent in failing adequately to
train and supervise its officers in responding to emergency
situations, id. at 9 (Compl. ¶ g); that it was
negligent and grossly negligent in failing to provide proper
assistance upon arriving at the scene, id. at 9-10
(Compl. ¶¶ h-i); and that it was negligent and
negligent per se in failing to investigate the cause and
circumstances of Mr. Matthews's death, id. at 10
(Compl. ¶ m). Third, he alleges that the responding
officer's failure to administer medical assistance
constitutes intentional infliction of emotional distress.
Id. (Compl. ¶ j).
29, 2018, the District moved to dismiss the case. Dkt. 5.
Plaintiff opposed the motion. Dkt. 13. He also moved to serve
Cathy Lanier-who he believed to be the MPD Chief at the time
of his son's death-and to compel limited discovery to
obtain the identities of the responding officer and his or
her supervisor. Id. at 5. The Court construed
Plaintiff's motion to serve as a motion to amend the
complaint to add Lanier as a defendant and denied the motion
as futile because the District represented that she was not
employed by the MPD at the time of the events at issue.
See Minute Order (Oct. 4, 2018). The Court, however,
granted Plaintiff's motion for limited discovery and
ordered that the District disclose the identities of the
first responder and his or her supervising officer.
Id. The District turned over this information on
October 30, 2018. Dkt. 20. On January 4, 2019, Plaintiff
filed a motion to amend his complaint to add Officer Zachary
Powell, Sergeant Michael Cashman, and Chief Peter Newsham as
defendants. Dkt. 22. The Court granted that motion on the
condition that Plaintiff file his amended complaint on or
before February 1, 2019. Minute Order (Jan. 11, 2019). The
Court now turns to the District's motion to dismiss. Dkt.
motion to dismiss brought under Federal Rule of Civil
Procedure 12(b)(6) is designed to “test[ ] the legal
sufficiency of a complaint.” Browning v.
Clinton, 292 F.3d 235, 242 (D.C. Cir. 2002). In
evaluating a motion to dismiss, the Court “must first
‘tak[e] note of the elements a plaintiff must plead to
state [the] claim' to relief, and then determine whether
the plaintiff has pleaded those elements with adequate
factual support to ‘state a claim to relief that is
plausible on its face.'” Blue v. District of
Columbia, 811 F.3d 14, 20 (D.C. Cir. 2015) (alterations
in original) (internal citation omitted) (quoting
Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 675, 678 (2009)).
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 (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 570).
reasons set forth below, the Court concludes that Plaintiff
has failed to state a claim for relief under the U.S.
Constitution or D.C. common law.