United States District Court, E.D. Virginia, Richmond Division
EVE M. DAVIS, Plaintiff,
WAL-MART STORES EAST, L.P., et al. Defendants.
MEMORANDUM OPINION (GRANTING MOTIONS TO DISMISS BY DEFENDANTS WAL-MART AND GREER)
Henry E. Hudson United States District Judge
This matter arises from the arrest of Plaintiff Eve M. Davis ("Plaintiff or "Davis") on October 5, 2013, following her attempt to fill a prescription at a Wal-Mart store. Brenda Greer ("Greer"), the Wal-Mart pharmacist assisting Davis, suspected the prescription was fraudulent and notified law enforcement. Spotsylvania County Sheriffs Deputy James V. Harney, Jr. ("Deputy Harney" or "the Deputy") responded to the Wal-Mart store and eventually arrested Davis, who was subsequently prosecuted by Assistant Commonwealth's Attorney Stephanie C. Fitzgerald ("Fitzgerald") in Spotsylvania County Circuit Court. The charges were ultimately dismissed. Davis now brings this action against Defendants Wal-Mart Stores East, L.P. ("Wal-Mart"), Greer, and Deputy Harney in a thirteen-count Amended Complaint (ECF No. 93),  which includes causes of action under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 for violations of her Fourth Amendment rights and various state law claims.
The matter is presently before the Court on Motions to Dismiss filed by Defendants Greer and Wal-Mart (ECF Nos. 96, 100) pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. For the reasons stated herein, the Motions to Dismiss will be granted.
As required by Rule 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, the Court assumes Plaintiffs well-pleaded allegations to be true, and views all facts in the light most favorable to her. T.G. Slater & Son v. Donald P. & Patricia A. Brennan, LLC, 385 F.3d 836, 841 (4th Cir. 2004) (citing Mylan Labs, Inc. v. Matkari, 7 F.3d 1130, 1134 (4th Cir. 1993)). Viewed through this lens, the essential allegations in the Amended Complaint are as follows.
Davis, a former government contractor with a security clearance, suffers from attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder and mild depression, for which she is prescribed and takes Adderall pills. (Am. Compl. ¶¶ 9-10.) Because Davis did not have medical insurance, her prescribing physician, Dr. Syed Ahmed ("Dr. Ahmed"), agreed to provide Davis with two one-month prescriptions every other month to reduce the frequency of Davis's office visits and ultimately save Davis money. (Id. ¶¶ 11-14.) At approximately 9:15 a.m. on Saturday, October 5, 2013, Davis visited a Wal-Mart store to fill her prescription. (Id. ¶15.) Davis presented her prescription to a pharmacy technician, who informed Davis that it would take approximately an hour to fill the prescription. (Id. ¶¶ 17-18.) The technician then gave the prescription to Greer, the Wal-Mart pharmacist. (Id. ¶ 20.) Davis remained in Wal-Mart, waiting for the prescription to be filled. (Id. ¶ 19.) Allegedly, the prescription appeared facially valid to Greer. (Id. ¶ 23.) Greer ran Davis's prescription through the Prescription Monitoring Program ("PMP"), administered by the Commonwealth of Virginia, which allows various medical professionals to record and view an individual's prescription history, as well as the date and location of a transaction. (Id. ¶¶ 24-27.) Greer determined that Davis had filled an Adderall prescription for the same amount on October 1, 2013, only four days prior. (Id. ¶ 28.) But Greer allegedly also observed a pattern of Davis filling two prescriptions for a one month supply of Adderall within a few days of each other, followed by a hiatus of approximately two months before filling any other Adderall prescriptions. The pattern never exceeded a frequency of one prescription per month from April of 2013 to October of 2013. (Id. ¶¶ 29-30.)
Davis alleges that Greer apparently concluded that Davis had a proper patient-provider relationship with Dr. Ahmed and that the prescription was valid, but she was attempting to fill it too soon. (Id. ¶¶ 31-33.) Therefore, Greer "called Dr. Ahmed's office and left a voicemail inquiring whether [he] approved of [Davis] filling the prescription at that time"; she also faxed a copy of the prescription to his office. (Id. ¶ 34.) Around the same time, the technician called Davis's cell phone and left her a voicemail noting that Wal-Mart would be unable to fill the prescription until Monday. (Id. ¶ 35.)
At 11:14 a.m., Greer called the non-emergency number for the Spotsylvania Sheriffs Office and spoke to a dispatcher, expressing her concern over the prescription, stating: "I have a patient that is turning in prescriptions with the same date on it for the same medicine at two pharmacies, she tried to give me one and she just got it filled at CVS." (Id. ¶¶ 36-39.) Davis alleges that Greer made knowingly untrue statements when she described the prescription as a "fake, " a "duplicate, " and said the signature "looked funny, " while not questioning that it appeared to be a facially valid prescription. (Id. ¶¶ 39-47.) Greer told the dispatcher that she could get Davis to "come in" but "wanted to wait and see what the deputy wanted to do." (Id. ¶ 49.) Greer provided the dispatcher with Davis's name, date of birth, and address. (Id. ¶ 52.) The dispatcher told Greer that a deputy was on his way and that the deputy would have Greer summon Davis to the pharmacy upon his arrival. (Id. ¶ 53.) Greer never discussed her concerns as to the timing of the prescription with Davis. (Id. ¶ 54.)
Deputy Harney was under the impression that Davis was "one of the ones [he had] been looking for." (Id. ¶ 67.) He asked the dispatcher to have Wal-Mart locate Davis by using their store cameras, but a Wal-Mart employee was unable to do so. (Id. ¶¶ 69-70.) He then called Greer to discuss the situation. (Id. ¶ 71.) During the conversation, Greer told Deputy Harney that the pharmacy needed more time to verify the prescription with Dr. Ahmed. (Id. ¶ 72.) Further, Greer did not tell Deputy Harney the prescription was fraudulent, but did say that the PMP history was raising some "red flags" and "maybe we should check it out." (Id. ¶¶ 73-75.) The Amended Complaint also alleges that, during this conversation, Deputy Harney asked Greer to call Davis back to Wal-Mart, to stall her at the pharmacy, to have someone meet him upon his arrival on one particular side of the building, and to assist him in arresting Davis by identifying her at the pharmacy counter. (Id. ¶¶ 179-81, 83-85.)
Greer sent a pharmacy technician to meet Deputy Harney. (Id. ¶ 91.) However, Greer apparently never called Davis back to the pharmacy. (Id., Ex. A, Greer Dep. 105:14-15, Nov. 3, 2015, ECF No. 93-1.) Shortly thereafter, Davis returned to the pharmacy unprompted and Greer asked her to wait a few minutes because purportedly, Greer didn't know if her prescription was ready yet. (Id. ¶¶ 101-02.) This was intended to stall Davis until Deputy Harney arrived at the store. (Id. ¶¶ 107-08.) Once Deputy Harney arrived, he got in the pharmacy line behind Davis. (Id. ¶ 113.) Greer then announced Davis's name loudly and nodded at Deputy Harney. (Id. ¶ 114.) Deputy Harney then handcuffed Davis, "escorted [her] to the loss prevention room at Wal-Mart with the assistance of another Wal-Mart employee, " and interviewed her concerning the prescription. (Id. ¶ 116.) Before the arrest, Deputy Harney did not confer with Greer in person, examine the prescription, speak with Davis, speak with Dr. Ahmed, or perform any other independent analysis of the PMP information. (Id. ¶ 120.)
Following his interview of Davis, Deputy Harney took her to the Sheriffs Office where she was "booked for violating Virginia Code Section 18.2-258.1(A) and, specifically, attempting to obtain Adderall by fraud." (Id. ¶ 128.) Plaintiff alleges that Deputy Harney did not perform any independent investigation before arresting her and made false statements concerning his purported knowledge of other criminal matters involving Plaintiff. (Id. ¶¶ 122, 127.)
On Monday, October 7, 2013, two days after Davis's arrest, Dr. Ahmed informed Wal-Mart pharmacy staff by phone and fax that Davis's prescription was valid and that he approved of it being filled at that time. (Id. ¶ 136.) Greer did not attempt to contact the Sheriffs Office after receiving this information from Dr. Ahmed. (Id. ¶ 137.) However, about two weeks later, Greer apparently did bring "all that information" to the attention of the Commonwealth's Attorney handling the case. (Greer Dep. 86:1-11.)
After being denied bond, Davis spent sixteen days in jail and suffered from medication withdrawal, allegedly causing her to attempt suicide. (Am. Compl. ¶¶ 141-43.) Deputy Harney allegedly misinformed the Assistant Commonwealth's Attorney ("ACA") that the Deputy had intelligence suggesting that Davis had been involved in other prescription fraud activity, which the ACA allegedly relied upon. (Id. ¶¶ 144-47.) The Spotsylvania County Commonwealth's Attorney initiated prosecution of Davis for prescription fraud in the Spotsylvania County Circuit Court, but the charges were ultimately dismissed. (Id. ¶¶ 148-50.) Plaintiff alleges that before the charges were dismissed, the circuit court judge stated that he had "no doubt that... [Ms. Davis's] constitutional rights were violated by the precipitous arrest." (Id. ¶ 150.) These events caused Davis to lose her security clearance and the government contracts she had been working on. (Id. ¶ 151.)
Davis now brings this civil action against Wal-Mart, Greer, and Deputy Harney for alleged violations of her Fourth Amendment rights resulting from this incident. Plaintiff alleges that Deputy Harney failed to conduct an adequate investigation of the prescription's validity before placing her under arrest. (Id. ¶ 120.)
In her Amended Complaint, Plaintiff brings thirteen claims, the following seven of which are against Wal-Mart and Greer jointly: (1) Count I: False Imprisonment; (2) Count II: Intentional Infliction of Emotional Distress; (3) Count III: Negligence, Gross Negligence, and Willful and Wanton Negligence; (4) Count VII: Malicious Prosecution; (5) Count VIII: 42 U.S.C. § 1983 Civil Conspiracy; (6) Count IX: Medical Malpractice; and (7) Count X: Negligence Per Se. Count IV is a Negligence claim against Wal-Mart. Counts V and VI assert Assumption of Duty Claims against Greer and Wal-Mart, respectively. Count XI asserts a 42 U.S.C. § 1983 claim against Deputy Harney. Counts XII and XIII seek punitive damages against Wal-Mart, Greer, and Deputy Harney.
Greer and Wal-Mart filed their Motions to Dismiss with briefs in support thereof on December 23 and 26 of 2015 (ECF Nos. 96, 100). Deputy Harney has not filed a motion to dismiss. Plaintiff filed briefs in opposition to the motions on January 4 and 8 of 2016 (ECF Nos. 103, 105), to which Wal-Mart and Greer have replied (ECF Nos. 104, 108). The Court held oral argument on March 22, 2016. The Motions to Dismiss are now ripe for decision.
II. LEGAL STANDARD
"A motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6) tests the sufficiency of a complaint; importantly, it does not resolve contests surrounding the facts, the merits of a claim, or the applicability of defenses." Republican Party of N.C. v. Martin, 980 F.2d 943, 952 (4th Cir. 1992) (citation omitted). The Federal Rules of Civil Procedure "require only '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 rests.'" Bell All. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007) (quoting Conley v. Gibson, 355 U.S. 41, 47 (1957)). A complaint need not assert "detailed factual allegations, " but 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 (citations omitted). The "[f]actual allegations must be enough to raise a right to relief above the speculative level" to one that is "plausible on its face." Id. at 555, 570 (citation omitted).
To survive Rule 12(b)(6) scrutiny, a complaint only need contain "enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face." Id. at 570. A complaint achieves facial plausibility when the facts contained therein support a reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged. Id. at 556; see also Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009). This analysis is context-specific and requires "the reviewing court to draw on its judicial experience and common sense." Francis v. Giacomelli, 588 F.3d 186, 193 (4th Cir. 2009) (quoting Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 679). In considering such a motion, a plaintiffs ...