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Lin v. District of Columbia

United States District Court, District of Columbia

April 15, 2019

XINGRU LIN, Plaintiff
v.
DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA, et al., Defendants

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          COLLEEN KOLLAR-KOTELLY UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         Plaintiff, a bus company ticket agent, alleges that the District of Columbia Metropolitan Police Department (“MPD”) violated her rights in various ways during two separate arrests, occurring February 15, 2016 and April 12, 2016. Pending before the Court is Defendant District of Columbia's [71] Motion for Partial Dismissal of Plaintiff's Third Amended Complaint. Upon consideration of the pleadings, [1] the relevant legal authorities, and the record as a whole, the Court will GRANT IN PART and DENY IN PART Defendant's motion. The Court GRANTS Defendant's Motion and will DISMISS Plaintiff's:

• Count 3 negligence per se claim under the Language Access Act (“LAA”);
• Count 4 negligence per se claim under the Interpreter Act insofar as that claim is based on Plaintiff's February 15, 2019 arrest;
• Count 7 claim for the negligent infliction of emotional distress insofar as that claim is based on Plaintiff's April 12, 2016 arrest;
• Count 8 claim for the intentional infliction of emotional distress insofar as that claim is based on Plaintiff's April 12, 2016 arrest; and
• Request for expungement of her arrest record held by the Superior Court of the District of Columbia.

         However, the Court otherwise DENIES Defendant's Motion, and rules that Plaintiff may proceed with the remainder of her claims.

         I. BACKGROUND

         A. Factual Allegations

         During all relevant times, Plaintiff worked as a ticket agent for a bus company called Focus Travel Agency in Washington, D.C. Pl.'s Third Amended Complaint (“TAC”), ECF No. 70, ¶ 4. Her duties included selling tickets and checking the tickets of passengers. Id. at ¶¶ 4, 5. She is of Chinese descent and has a limited understanding of English. She is fluent in Fuzhou and Mandarin Chinese. Id. at ¶ 2.

         Plaintiff's Third Amended Complaint contains allegations regarding two different encounters with the MPD that took place on February 15, 2016 and April 12, 2016. Plaintiff states that, as a result of these encounters with the MPD, she is “fearful and anxious when she encounters police.” Id. at ¶ 70. She “is now too afraid to call MPD for help in case of emergency.” Id. at ¶ 71. Plaintiff alleges that both of her arrests, detentions, and any use of force by the MPD was without legal cause. Id. at ¶¶ 88-89. Plaintiff claims that Defendant knew or should have known that MPD officers commonly use excessive force, arrest individuals without probable cause, and violate individuals' First Amendment rights, but has demonstrated deliberate indifference by failing to adequately train, supervise, and discipline officers. Id. at ¶ 92.

         1. The February 15, 2016 Arrest

         On February 15, 2016, Plaintiff alleges that a woman boarded a bus without paying. Id. at ¶ 11. Plaintiff asked the woman to leave. Id. The woman initially left but then continued to attempt to sneak onto the bus multiple times. Id. Plaintiff took the woman's photograph with a cell phone “to alert other employees to her attempted fare evasion.” Id. at ¶ 12. The woman, not pleased at having been photographed, jumped up and grabbed Plaintiff. Id. at ¶ 13. Plaintiff alleges that she then pushed the woman away. Id. Both women called the police. Id. at ¶ 14.

         Plaintiff alleges that two MPD officers arrived at the Agency and encountered the woman outside. The woman told the officers that Plaintiff had attacked her for no reason. Id. at ¶ 15. One of the officers entered the Agency where Plaintiff was on her cell phone waiting to be connected to the MPD's Language Line interpretation service. Id. at ¶ 17. Despite telling the officer that she was unable to speak English, Plaintiff alleges that the officer told her to hang up the phone. Plaintiff complied. Id.

         At this point, the other officer came into the Agency. Almost immediately, this officer grabbed Plaintiff's right arm and told her to turn around. But, Plaintiff did not understand the instruction. The officer continued to pull Plaintiff's arm and yell at her so that Plaintiff was forced onto a bench. Id. at ¶ 19. Plaintiff then alleges that each of the officers grabbed one of Plaintiff's arms, lifted her up from the bench, rushed her across the room, and pushed her face into the wall. Id. at ¶ 20.

         Two other officers then entered the Agency. The officers allegedly forced Plaintiff to the ground and handcuffed her. Plaintiff “felt as if the officers were kicking her in the back and shoulders, and she screamed with pain.” Id. at ¶ 21. The officers then lifted Plaintiff onto a bench and requested an interpreter. Id. at ¶ 23.

         Minutes later, two officers from the MPD Asian Liaison Unit arrived. An officer began to interpret for Plaintiff. Plaintiff explained the incident to the officer. Id. at ¶ 24. While Plaintiff was speaking with the interpreter, other officers reviewed the Agency's closed-circuit video and determined that Plaintiff had not acted unlawfully. Id. at ¶ 25. The officers removed Plaintiff's handcuffs. Id. at ¶ 26. Plaintiff had been handcuffed for 18 minutes. Id. at ¶ 27.

         Supervising sergeants then arrived and began to review the closed-circuit footage. Id. at ¶ 29. Plaintiff asked for the name and badge number of each officer present. Two officers provided their information. But, when Plaintiff moved to ask the officers outside the Agency for their information, Plaintiff was told she could not leave. Plaintiff responded by saying, “I will sue you.” Id. at ¶ 31. Several minutes later, Plaintiff claims that an officer again handcuffed her and told her that she was being arrested for assaulting an officer. Id. at ¶ 32. Plaintiff claims that the officer arrested her on his supervising sergeant's order. Id. at ¶ 34. Plaintiff was then taken to the police station without an interpreter present. Id. at ¶ 35. Once at the station, Plaintiff was processed by English-speaking officers. Id. at ¶ 36. After being processed, Plaintiff was visited by her interpreter who took a statement from her. Id. at ¶ 38. While in detention, Plaintiff alleges that she complained about pain in her arms, shoulder, and back. Plaintiff was taken to Howard University Hospital. Id. at ¶ 40. Plaintiff alleges that an officer watched her while she undressed for her examination. Id. at ¶ 43. Following her examination, Plaintiff was given painkillers. Id. at ¶ 45.

         Plaintiff was then brought back to the police station and detained overnight. Id. at ¶ 46. She was not able to access an interpreter. Id. The next day, Plaintiff was brought to Superior Court where she learned that the government had dropped the charges against her. Id. at ¶ 47. In total, Plaintiff was held in custody for approximately 20 hours. Id. at ¶ 49.

         2. The April 12, 2016 Arrest

         On April 12, 2016, Plaintiff refused to allow a customer to board a bus with an expired ticket. Id. at ¶ 51. The customer “pushed past [Plaintiff] to board the bus” regardless. Id. He eventually left the bus voluntarily, and, unbeknownst to Plaintiff called the police. Id. at ¶ 52.

         When Plaintiff returned to her office later that day, an MPD officer arrived. Id. at ¶ 53. The officer attempted to communicate with Plaintiff in English and ignored Plaintiff's requests for an interpreter. Id. at ¶¶ 54-55. Plaintiff eventually sought the help of her neighbor to communicate with the officer. Id. at ¶ 57. Plaintiff alleges that, through her neighbor, the officer told her that she should follow him to the police station to give a statement, after which she would be released. Id. at ¶ 58. Plaintiff exited her enclosed office space and was arrested and transported to the police station. Id. at ¶ 60.

         At the police station, an officer communicated with Plaintiff through a Language Line telephonic interpreter, asking her basic information and informing her of the charge against her. Id. at ¶ 61. After being held at the station for about an hour, a Cantonese-speaking officer arrived and attempted to communicate with Plaintiff. However, due to differences in dialect, they were “barely able to communicate.” Id. at ¶ 62. Two hours after her arrival at the station, Plaintiff was released with a citation for simple assault instructing her to appear in Superior Court on May 12, 2016. Id. at ¶ 63.

         During the April 12, 2016 incident, Plaintiff was handcuffed for a total of ten minutes and detained for approximately two hours. Id. at ¶ 64. Plaintiff retained an attorney for her court appearance. But, when she arrived at court, she was told that the government would not press charges. Id. at ¶ 65.

         B. Causes of Action

         Plaintiff's Third Amended Complaint contains a number of counts, which purport to assert a long list of claims. Plaintiff asserts claims for:

• Count 1: Violation of civil rights under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 arising out of February 15, 2016 and April 12, 2016 arrests;
• Count 2: False arrest arising out of February 15, 2016 and April 12, 2016 arrests;
• Count 3: Negligence per se for violations of the LAA arising out of February 15, 2016 and April 12, 2016 arrests;
• Count 4: Negligence per se for violations of the Interpreter Act arising out of February 15, 2016 and April 12, 2016 arrests;
• Count 5: Negligent training and supervision of officers arising out of February 15, 2016 and April 12, 2016 arrests;
• Count 6: Assault and battery arising out of February 15, 2016 arrest;
• Count 7: Negligent infliction of emotional distress arising out of February 15, 2016 and April 12, 2016 arrests;
• Count 8: Intentional infliction of emotional distress arising out of February 15, 2016 and April 12, 2016 arrests;
• Count 9: Respondeat superior;
• Count 10: Violation of Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 arising out of February 15, 2016 and April 12, 2016 arrests; and
• Count 11: Violation of the District of Columbia Human Rights Act (“DCHRA”) arising out of February 15, 2016 and April 12, 2016 arrests;

Id. at ¶¶ 93-207.

         C. Procedural History

         Plaintiff originally filed this case in Superior Court, and it was removed to this Court by Defendant District of Columbia. Notice of Removal, ECF No. 1. Defendant then promptly filed a partial motion to dismiss. See ECF No. 7. Before the Court could rule on Defendant's motion, however, Plaintiff filed a Motion for Leave to File an Amended/Supplemental Complaint, seeking to add allegations to her complaint concerning additional encounters Plaintiff has had with the MPD. ECF No. 13. The Court granted Plaintiff's motion to amend, and Defendant then filed a Motion to Dismiss Plaintiff's Amended Complaint. ECF No. 20. The Court granted in part and denied in part Defendant's motion, dismissing Plaintiff's 42 U.S.C. § 1983, negligence, and malicious prosecution claims. However, the Court refused to dismiss Plaintiff's claims for intentional infliction of emotional distress arising out of her February 15, 2016 arrest and negligent supervision and training. Aug. 2, 2017 Memorandum Opinion, ECF No. 24.

         Following the partial dismissal of Plaintiff's claims, the Court then granted Plaintiff leave to file a Second Amended Complaint adding additional Defendants and claims. ECF No. 58. Defendant moved to dismiss Plaintiff's Second Amended Complaint, and the parties fully briefed Defendant's Motion. However, before the Court ruled on that motion, Plaintiff moved to file a Third Amended Complaint. ECF No. 68. The Court granted Plaintiff leave to amend again her complaint in order to add and substitute Defendants and ruled that Defendant's Motion to Dismiss Plaintiff's Second Amended Complaint was moot. Approximately ten days after Plaintiff filed her Third Amended Complaint, Defendant again moved to dismiss. ECF No. 71. The parties have completed briefing Defendant's Motion to Dismiss Plaintiff's Third Amended Complaint, and that is the issue currently pending before the Court.

         II. LEGAL STANDARD

         Defendant moves to dismiss Plaintiff's claims in her Third Amended Complaint under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6). Pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6), a party may move to dismiss a complaint on the grounds that it “fail[s] to state a claim upon which relief can be granted.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6). “[A] complaint [does not] suffice if it tenders ‘naked assertion[s]' devoid of ‘further factual enhancement.'” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (quoting Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 557 (2007)). Rather, a complaint must contain sufficient factual allegations that, if accepted as true, “state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.” Twombly, 550 U.S. at 570. “A claim has ...


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