United States District Court, E.D. Virginia, Norfolk Division
ROXANNE ADAMS, ADMINISTRATOR OF THE ESTATE OF JAMYCHEAL M. MITCHELL, Plaintiff,
NAPHCARE, INC., et al., Defendants.
REBECCA BEACH SMITH CHIEF JUDGE
matter comes before the court on the Motion to Dismiss
("Motion") and Memorandum in Support filed by
Defendants Kelly Boyd ("Boyd") and Lenna Jo Davis
("Davis") on June 8, 2016. ECF Nos. 12, 13. The
Plaintiff filed a Response on June 22, 2016, ECF No. 23, and
Boyd and Davis filed a Reply and a Request for Hearing on
June 29, 2016. ECF Nos. 32, 33.
5, 2016, this court referred the Motion to a
United States Magistrate Judge, pursuant to the provisions of
28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(B) and Federal Rule of Civil
Procedure 72(b), to conduct hearings, including evidentiary
hearings, if necessary, and to submit to the undersigned
District Judge proposed findings of fact, if applicable, and
recommendations for the disposition of the Motion. ECF No.
conducted a hearing regarding the Motion on October 19, 2016,
ECF No. 139, the Magistrate Judge filed the Report and
Recommendation ("R&R") on January 24, 2017. ECF
No. 151. The Magistrate Judge recommended granting the
Motion. R&R at 1. By copy of the R&R, the parties
were advised of their right to file written objections to the
findings and recommendations made by the Magistrate Judge.
See id. at 21. On February 3, 2017, the Plaintiff
filed an Objection, ECF No. 153, and on February 6, 2017,
Davis and Boyd filed Objections. ECF No. 154. On February 14,
2017, the Plaintiff responded to the Objections by Davis and
Boyd. ECF No. 160. On February 16, 2017, Boyd filed a
response to the Plaintiff's Objection. ECF No. 161. The
matter has been fully briefed and is ripe for review.
action was brought by the Plaintiff in her capacity as the
administrator of the estate of Jamycheal Mitchell
("Mitchell"), who died as a pretrial detainee in
the Hampton Roads Regional Jail ("HRRJ"). Compl.
¶¶ 1, 20. Relevant here, the Complaint alleges that
Davis, as Clerk of the General District Court of Portsmouth,
and Boyd, as a deputy clerk of that court, failed to send a
judge's competency restoration order ("CRO") to
Eastern State Hospital for Mitchell's mental health
treatment, and that, as a result, Davis and Boyd were
negligent and grossly negligent in causing Mitchell's
death, as well as injury to him and his surviving
beneficiaries. Id. ¶¶ 2, 34, 172, 194,
203, 205, 206, 208-210.
instant Motion, filed pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil
Procedure 12(b)(6), seeks dismissal of the claims against
Davis and Boyd because "[t]he Complaint fails to state
sufficient and plausible claims of simple negligence and
gross negligence against [Davis and Boyd], and the doctrine
of absolute quasi-judicial immunity bars these claims."
Mem. Supp. at 1. Davis and Boyd further argue that the claims
are barred by statutory immunity under Virginia Code §
16.1-69.40. Id. at 13.
R&R, the Magistrate Judge found that neither
quasi-judicial immunity nor statutory immunity bars the
Plaintiff's claims against Davis and Boyd, but
nonetheless recommended that the claims against them be
dismissed. R&R at 1, 8-10. Davis and Boyd have objected
to the Magistrate Judge's findings on quasi-judicial
immunity and statutory immunity, see Defs.'
Obj., and the Plaintiff has objected to the Magistrate
Judge's recommendation of dismissing the claims against
Boyd, though not to the recommendation of dismissing the
claims against Davis. See Pl's Obj.
to Rule 72(b) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, the
court, having reviewed the record in its entirety, shall make
a de novo determination of those portions of the
R&R to which a party has specifically objected.
Fed.R.Civ.P. 72(b). The court may accept, reject, or modify,
in whole or in part, the recommendation of the magistrate
judge, or recommit the matter to him with instructions. 28
U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(C).
to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6), a complaint must
be dismissed when a plaintiff's allegations fail to state
a claim upon which relief can be granted. Fed.R.Civ.P.
12(b)(6). "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). "To survive a motion to dismiss, a complaint must
contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to
'state a claim to relief that is plausible on its
face.'" Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662,
678 (2009) (quoting Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550
U.S. 544, 570 (2007)). Facial plausibility means that a
"plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court
to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable
for the misconduct alleged." Id. (citing
Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556) . It is, therefore, not
enough for a plaintiff to allege facts demonstrating a
"sheer possibility" or "mere consist
[ency]" with unlawful conduct. Id. (citing
Twombly, 550 U.S. at 557).
Supreme Court has offered the following guidance to courts
evaluating a motion to dismiss:
[A] court considering a motion to dismiss can choose to begin
by identifying pleadings that, because they are no more than
conclusions, are not entitled to the assumption of truth.
While legal conclusions can provide the framework of a
complaint, they must be supported by factual allegations.
When there are well-pleaded factual allegations, a court
should assume their veracity and then determine whether they
plausibly give rise to an entitlement to relief.
Id. at 679. That is, the court accepts facts alleged
in the complaint as true and views those facts in the light
most favorable to the plaintiff. See, e.g.,
Venkatraman v. REI Sys., Inc., 417 F.3d
418, 420 (4th Cir. 2005). After doing so, the court should
not grant the defendant's motion if the plaintiff
"demonstrate[s] more than 'a sheer
possibility'" that the defendant has violated his
rights, by "articulat[ing] facts, when accepted as true,
that 'show' that the plaintiff has stated a claim
entitling him to relief . . . ." Francis v.
Giacomelli, 588 F.3d 186, 193 (4th Cir. 2009) (quoting
Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678) (as only quoting "a
Davis and Boyd have both objected to the Magistrate
Judge's findings that neither quasi-judicial immunity nor
statutory immunity shields them from liability in this
action. On the issue of quasi-judicial immunity, the
Magistrate Judge found that Davis and Boyd are not protected
because "they are alleged to have failed to perform a
ministerial act for which they had no discretion"-that
is, the transmission of the CRO. R&R at 9 (citing
McCray v. Maryland, 456 F.2d 1, 4 (4th Cir. 1972)).
On the issue of statutory immunity, the Magistrate Judge
found that Davis and Boyd are not protected because the
statute in question "reserves such immunity to
circumstances where clerks 'provid[e] information or
assistance, '" while, " [a] s alleged here, the
court clerks purportedly did not provide
assistance." Id. at 10 (quoting Va. Code §
court will address the issues of quasi-judicial immunity and
statutory immunity in turn. Moreover, as stated above, the
court reviews de novo each part of the Magistrate
Judge's R&R to which the parties object. See
Fed.R.Civ.P. 72(b)(3). Due to the court's ruling below on
the Plaintiff's Objection, the court ...