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Spiller v. District of Columbia

United States District Court, District of Columbia

February 19, 2019

PERRY SPILLER, et al., Plaintiffs,
DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA, et al., Defendants.



         The matter is before the Court on the District of Columbia's motion for partial dismissal of Plaintiffs' amended complaint.[1] Dkt. 30. Plaintiffs Perry Spiller and James McCray are suing the District and two officers of the Metropolitan Police Department (“MPD”) for various constitutional and common law torts stemming from an encounter in which the officers allegedly used excessive force. Spiller and McCray allege that they were unlawfully arrested, injured, and detained, and that Spiller was maliciously prosecuted. Previously, the Court dismissed without prejudice various counts of Plaintiffs' complaint. Spiller v. District of Columbia, 302 F.Supp.3d 240 (D.D.C. 2018) (“Spiller I”), and Plaintiffs filed an amended complaint, Dkt. 29 (Amd. Compl.). Defendants now move to dismiss two counts of Plaintiffs' amended complaint: negligent supervision (count IV) and abuse of process (count VI). For the reasons explained below, the Court will GRANT the District's partial motion to dismiss.

         I. BACKGROUND

         Plaintiffs' factual allegations, which the Court must accept as true for purposes of the present motion, see Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009), are set forth in the Court's prior opinion, see Spiller I, 302 F.Supp.3d at 243-44. To summarize, on May 30, 2015, two individuals unassociated with this case engaged in a loud-and eventually violent-argument outside of a nightclub as it closed for the night. Dkt. 29 at 5 (Amd. Compl. ¶ 19). Spiller and McCray maintain that they did not participate in the argument but, rather, “stood nearby and laughed at the incident.” Id. at 5-6 (Amd. Compl. ¶ 20). Officers Robert Barillaro and Sean Murphy asked Spiller and McCray “to leave the scene where the fight took place.” Id. Spiller and McCray, in turn, walked a short distance away “and sat on chairs in an alleyway adjacent to the street where the incident took place.” Id. at 6 (Amd. Compl. ¶ 21). “Defendant Barillaro then re-approached the Plaintiffs and” informed them that he was placing them under arise for a “noise violation.” Id.

         Plaintiffs maintain that they “were not making loud noises.” Id. (Amd. Compl. ¶ 20). They further allege that, after a brief verbal exchange, Officer Barillaro “tackled” Spiller by “using his hands and arms to negligently and forcefully conduct a reckless takedown.” Id. (Amd. Compl. ¶ 22). Officer Murphy allegedly followed suit by tackling McCray. Id. Plaintiffs allege that the encounter resulted in “McCray suffer[ing] a fracture to his wrist and a dislocated finger” and “Spiller suffer[ing] swelling and abrasions to his legs, [a] sore throat, and . . . numbness on the left side of his body.” Id. at 7 (Amd. Compl. ¶¶ 24-25). Plaintiffs also allege that, “as a result of the officers' . . . conduct, ” they lost their jobs. Id. at 7-8 (Amd. Compl. ¶¶ 26-27).

         Although both Plaintiffs were arrested for “Making Noise at Night, ” the District declined to prosecute the offense. Id. The U.S. Attorney's Office, however, charged Spiller with Assault on a Police Officer and Carrying a Dangerous Weapon because, according to the officers, Spiller used “nunchucks” during the encounter. Id. at 8 (Amd. Compl. ¶ 27). Spiller pled not guilty and continues to maintain that “he did not display the nunchucks or use [them] against any officer.” Id. The U.S. Attorney's Office dropped the charges against Spiller “on the eve of trial.” Id.

         On October 14, 2016, Plaintiffs filed suit, asserting eight counts: false arrest, false imprisonment, violation of substantive due process, negligent training, negligent supervision, violation of the Fourth Amendment for malicious prosecution, gross negligent excessive force, and negligent infliction of emotional distress. Dkt. 1 at 9-16 (Compl. ¶¶ 32-76). In its prior opinion, the Court merged the false arrest and false imprisonment claims; dismissed the substantive due process, negligent training, and negligent supervision claims without prejudice; and dismissed the malicious prosecution and negligent infliction of emotional distress claims to the extent they were premised on 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Spiller I, 302 F.Supp.3d at 257. Plaintiffs then filed an amended complaint on May 30, 2018, re-alleging their claims for false arrest (count I), malicious prosecution (counts II and III), negligent supervision (count IV), gross negligent excessive force (count V), and negligent infliction of emotional distress (count VII). See Dkt. 29 at 9-14 (Amd. Compl. ¶¶ 32-66). They also added a claim for abuse of process (count VI). Id. at 13 (Amd. Compl. ¶¶ 59-62). The District now moves to dismiss Plaintiffs' negligent supervision and abuse of process clams pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6). See Dkt. 30.


         To survive a motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim, a complaint “must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to ‘state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.'” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678 (quoting Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007)). A claim is plausible if the plaintiff pleads “factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged.” Id. Although “detailed factual allegations” are not required, the complaint must contain “more than labels and conclusions, [or] a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action.” Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555. The Court must “assume [the] veracity” of “well-pleaded factual allegations, ” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 679, and must “grant [the] 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 omitted). But the Court should not assume that “a legal conclusion couched as a factual allegation” is correct. Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678 (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555).

         III. ANALYSIS

         The District moves to dismiss two counts of the amended complaint: Plaintiffs' negligent supervision and abuse of process claims. The Court will address each in turn.

         A. Negligent Supervision

         Under D.C. law, a party asserting a claim for negligent supervision must establish that “[the] employer knew or should have known its employee behaved in a dangerous or otherwise incompetent manner” and that, “armed with that actual or constructive knowledge, ” the employer nevertheless “failed to adequately supervise the employee.” District of Columbia v. Tulin, 994 A.2d 788, 794 (D.C. 2010); see also Blakeney v. O'Donnell, 117 F.Supp.3d 6, 20-21 (D.D.C. 2015) (applying D.C. law). Previously, the Court held that Plaintiffs' original complaint failed to state a claim for negligent supervision because their “bare allegations” did not support a reasonable inference that the “District or MPD officials were on constructive notice of dangerous or incompetent behavior by the officers in question prior to when Spiller and McCray were arrested.” Spiller I, 302 F.Supp.3d at 255. In an effort to cure this defect, Plaintiffs added the following allegations to the amended complaint:

Before this incident, the District of Columbia knew or should have known, apparent from the opening of [an] internal investigation of these Defendant Officers, that Defendant [Officers] engaged in a dangerous and incompetent manner of arresting and charging ...

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