United States District Court, W.D. Virginia, Lynchburg Division
K. MOON, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
case, brought by Plaintiff Tersahud Savoryea Rose, seeks
compensatory and punitive damages against numerous defendants
involved in the pursuit, arrest, and prosecution of Plaintiff
following his departure from the hospital on February 4,
2016. The matter is before the Court upon three partial
motions to dismiss for failure to state a claim. The first
motion was filed by the City of Lynchburg (“the
City”), and the police officers employed by it
(Defendants Clark, Bragg, and Miller). (Dkt. 24). The second
motion was filed by Centra Health, Inc.
(“Centra”)-the hospital where Plaintiff was
treated prior to the incident. (Dkt. 25). The third motion
was filed by Rudolph Tidwell-the supervising security guard
at Centra the night of the incident. (Dkt. 28).
motion filed by the City, Clark, Bragg, and Miller will be
granted. All Counts will be dismissed against the City
because Plaintiff has failed to plead facts sufficient to
establish a Monell-style claim against it. Counts 1,
3, and 4 will be dismissed against Defendants Miller, Bragg,
and Clark because they are entitled to qualified immunity.
motion filed by Centra will be granted in part and denied in
part. Counts 1-4 will be dismissed as to Centra because
Plaintiff has failed to plead a plausible
Monell-style claim against it. Count 12 will be
dismissed because it fails to state a claim for negligent
entrustment of a taser. Centra's request for dismissal of
Plaintiff's punitive damages claims will be denied
because Rule 12(b)(6) is not the proper mechanism for
dismissing prayers for relief. Nevertheless, the punitive
damages request will be capped at $350, 000 for Counts 5-9,
in accordance with Virginia law.
Defendant Tidwell's motion will be granted in part and
denied in part. The motion will be denied as to Counts 1-4
because Plaintiff has pled facts sufficient to support §
1983 claims against him, and it will be denied as to Counts 4
and 9 because Plaintiff has properly pled a conspiracy to
maliciously prosecute under § 1983 and Virginia common
law. The motion will be granted as to Count 10, however,
because Plaintiff has not pled facts sufficient to support a
finding of intentional infliction of emotional distress by
Tidwell. In fact, Count 10 will be dismissed in full.
has conceded that Count 11 should be dismissed in its
entirety, so it will be dismissed. Additionally, LPD John
Does 1-10, LPD Jane Does 1-10, Centra John Does 1-10, and
Centra Jane Does 1-10 will be dismissed and terminated from
the case, pursuant to Rule 4(m), because they have not been
served. (See dkts. 18, 34).
motion to dismiss pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6) tests the
legal sufficiency of a complaint to determine whether the
plaintiff has properly stated a claim; “it does not
resolve contests surrounding the facts, the merits of a
claim, or the applicability of defenses.”
Republican Party of North Carolina v. Martin, 980
F.2d 943, 952 (4th Cir. 1992). Although a complaint
“does not need detailed factual allegations, a
plaintiff's obligation to provide the ‘grounds'
of his entitle[ment] to relief requires more than labels and
conclusions, and a formulaic recitation of the elements of a
cause of action will not do.” Bell Atl. Corp. v.
Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007) (citations omitted).
need not “accept the legal conclusions drawn from the
facts” or “accept as true unwarranted inferences,
unreasonable conclusions, or arguments.” Eastern
Shore Markets, Inc. v. J.D. Assocs. Ltd. P'ship, 213
F.3d 175, 180 (4th Cir. 2000). “Factual allegations
must be enough to raise a right to relief above the
speculative level, ” Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555,
with all allegations in the complaint taken as true and all
reasonable inferences drawn in the plaintiff's favor.
Chao v. Rivendell Woods, Inc., 415 F.3d 342, 346
(4th Cir. 2005). Rule 12(b)(6) does “not require
heightened fact pleading of specifics, but only enough facts
to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its
face.” Twombly, 550 U.S. at 570. Consequently,
“only a complaint that states a plausible claim for
relief survives a motion to dismiss.” Ashcroft v.
Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 679 (2009).
Facts as Alleged
122-page, 619-paragraph Complaint in this case contains far
more allegations than can be summarized here. Instead, the
Court will limit itself to a brief summary of the facts
relevant to the resolution of the instant motions.
February 4, 2016, after falling off a bench, Plaintiff was
transported to the emergency room at Lynchburg General
Hospital, which is owned and operated by Defendant Centra.
(Dkt 1 ¶¶ 22-25). While at the hospital, Plaintiff
was transferred to a room and an intravenous lock (“IV
lock”) was placed in his right hand. (Id.
¶ 28). He was treated for abrasions and given Versed, a
sedative, which rendered him unconscious. (Id.
¶¶ 26-28). Sometime before 7:00 p.m., Plaintiff was
cleared for release after being examined by a physician and a
mental health worker. (Id. ¶ 29).
Plaintiff awoke, he decided to leave the hospital. He dressed
himself and walked out of the room. The IV lock in his hand
was not attached to any equipment at that time. (Id.
¶¶ 30-31). Christopher Woody, a hospital security
guard, saw Plaintiff and informed him that he needed to have
the IV lock removed before leaving. (Id. ¶ 31).
Plaintiff stated he would take it out himself and continued
his search for an exit. (Id. ¶ 31). When Woody
began to pursue him, Plaintiff ran to an elevator with hopes
of reaching the cafeteria. (Id. ¶ 33).
Plaintiff then rode the elevator to the basement and left
through the cafeteria. (Id. ¶ 34).
Miller, an off-duty Lynchburg Police Department
(“LPD”) officer working at the hospital, used his
police radio to request assistance from on-duty officers.
(Id. ¶ 37). Based on information he received
from an unidentified nurse who had received information from
an unidentified person, Miller described Plaintiff as a
“black male subject” with “possible
warrants” outstanding. (Id. ¶¶ 37,
86). Defendants Clark and Bragg, both LPD officers, were
off-duty nearby and received Miller's radio call for
assistance; they joined the pursuit in an unmarked car.
(Id. ¶ 45). Meanwhile, Defendant Tidwell, a
security supervisor employed by Centra, called 9-1-1 and
requested police assistance in detaining Plaintiff.
(Id. ¶¶ 39-40). He had also ordered his
subordinate security guards to detain Plaintiff.
(Id. ¶ 40).
Cooper, a Centra security guard, drove a marked security
vehicle onto public streets in pursuit of Plaintiff.
(Id. ¶¶ 41-42). Cooper spotted Plaintiff
in a nearby parking lot, but Plaintiff eluded him by running
up a hill. (Id. ¶ 43). Defendants Clark and
Bragg arrived in the parking lot shortly after Plaintiff had
escaped Cooper. (Id. ¶ 48). As they were
continuing their search, Clark observed Plaintiff run into
the parking lot of a nearby bank. (Id.). Clark
exited his vehicle and drew his taser and threatened to fire
it if Plaintiff did not stop running. (Id. ¶
50). Plaintiff stopped and turned around; he told Clark that
he had no authority to stop him. (Id. ¶ 51).
Plaintiff turned around and began walking away.
time, Bragg pulled his vehicle ahead of Plaintiff's path,
exited his vehicle, grabbed Plaintiff, and pushed him up
against the vehicle. (Id. ¶ 52). Bragg and
Clark then attempted to handcuff Plaintiff, but he resisted
by stiffening his arms without striking either officer.
(Id. ¶ 55). Tidwell and Cooper arrived on the
scene at this time, and Tidwell began to assist.
(Id. ¶¶ 56, 60). Clark then knocked
Plaintiff's legs out from under him, bringing all four
men to the ground; Plaintiff incurred lacerations as a
result. (Id. ¶ 61).
climbed on top of Plaintiff's back and grabbed his right
arm. (Id. ¶ 62). Tidwell then used the
“drive stun mode” of the taser to administer two
five-second bursts to Plaintiff's back. (Id.
¶ 63). These bursts left scars on Plaintiff's back
and caused significant pain. (Id.). Clark then
placed Plaintiff in a chokehold. (Id. ¶ 67).
Meanwhile, Bragg punched and pinched Plaintiff several times.
(Id. ¶ 64). Clark told Plaintiff he was
“under arrest, ” and along with help from other
officers, Plaintiff was handcuffed. (Id.
was placed in a marked police car and transported back to the
emergency room. (Id. ¶¶ 71, 73). Bragg and
Clark sought an arrest warrant for Plaintiff for disorderly
conduct, but the magistrate refused to issue a warrant.
(Id. ¶ 77). Tidwell, after conversing with
Bragg or Clark, obtained a misdemeanor warrant against
Plaintiff for trespassing on Centra's property.
(Id. ¶ 78). Bragg then obtained a misdemeanor
warrant against Plaintiff for obstruction of justice.
(Id.). Plaintiff was arrested and held without bond
on these charges for fourteen days before he was granted
bail. (Id. ¶ 79). The misdemeanor trespass
charge was dismissed on March 10, 2016, for lack of probable
cause. (Id. ¶ 80). On September 26, 2016, a
jury found Plaintiff not guilty of obstruction of justice.
(Id. ¶ 81).
Complaint contains twelve counts: (1) unlawful seizure, false
imprisonment, and false arrest in violation of the Fourth
Amendment; (2) excessive force in violation of the Fourth
Amendment; (3) malicious prosecution in violation of the
Fourth Amendment; (4) conspiracy to maliciously prosecute in
violation of the Fourth Amendment; (5) common law assault;
(6) common law battery; (7) common law false imprisonment;
(8) common law malicious prosecution; (9) common law
conspiracy to maliciously prosecute; (10) intentional
infliction of emotional distress; (11) statutory conspiracy
to maliciously prosecute; and (12) negligent entrustment of a
Motion #1: Defendants Clark, Bragg, Miller, and the City
seek partial dismissal of Counts 1-4 and full dismissal of
Count 11. Plaintiff has conceded and withdrawn Count 11.
(Dkt. 36 at ECF 20). The remaining Counts will be considered
Count 1: Unlawful Seizure, False Imprisonment, and False
Arrest (§ 1983)
alleges that Defendants Clark, Bragg, and Miller violated
Plaintiff's Fourth Amendment right by detaining him
without probable cause. (Dkt. 1 ¶ 99-112). Furthermore,
Count 1 alleges that the City is liable as a municipality for
its failure to train and supervise its officers with regards
to detention and arrest. (Id. ¶ 121-34).
Defendants Clark, Bragg, Miller, and the City ask the Court
to dismiss Count 1 against them. Clark, Bragg, and Miller
assert that they are entitled to qualified immunity, while
the City argues that Plaintiff has failed to state a claim of
municipal liability. (Dkt. 26 at 1).
Qualified Immunity: Defendants Bragg and Clark
immunity protects “government officials performing
discretionary functions . . . insofar as their conduct does
not violate clearly established statutory or constitutional
rights of which a reasonable person would have known.”
Wilson v. Layne, 526 U.S. 603, 609 (1999) (citing
Harlow v. Fitzgerald, 457 U.S. 800, 818 (1982));
see also Occupy Columbia v. Haley, 738 F.3d 107, 118
(4th Cir. 2013). To be entitled to qualified immunity, a
defendant must show that even if there was a constitutional
violation, the right in question was not clearly established
at the time that the defendant acted. Henry v.
Purnell, 652 F.3d 524, 531 (4th Cir. 2011) (en banc);
Ridpath v. Bd. of Governors Marshall Univ., 447 F.3d
292, 306 (4th Cir. 2006).
Bragg and Clark assert that they are entitled to qualified
immunity because they reasonably relied on information from
Defendant Miller, a fellow officer. (Dkt. 26 at 3). They
argue that, regardless of whether there was probable cause to
arrest Plaintiff, they had reason to believe probable cause
existed because they were told my Miller that Plaintiff had
“possible warrants” outstanding and should be
apprehended. (Dkt. 1 ¶ 37).
officers routinely rely on information from other officers,
and reliance-absent clear, contradictory evidence-is
reasonable. See, e.g., Whiteley v. Warden, Wyo.
State Penitentiary, 401 U.S. 560, 568 (1971)
(“Certainly police officers called upon to aid other
officers in executing arrest warrants are entitled to assume
that the officers requesting aid” have established
probable cause.); Lucas v. Shivley, 31 F.Supp.3d
800, 813 (W.D. Va. 2014) (“Indeed, a police force could
not function without reasonable reliance on the statements
and efforts of others.” (citations omitted)).
the arrest may ultimately be found to be in violation of the
Fourth Amendment, see, e.g., Whiteley, 401
U.S. at 568-69, the officers who reasonably relied on fellow
law enforcement are shielded from individual liability.
See, e.g., United States v. Hensley, 469
U.S. 221, 232 (1985) (“In such a situation, of course,
the officers making the stop may have a good-faith defense to
any civil suit.”); Liu v. Phillips, 234 F.3d
55, 57 (1st Cir. 2000) (“Where the authorizing officer
has made a factual mistake but the mistake is not apparent,
immunity for the officer who reasonably assisted is well
settled.” (citations omitted)); Lucas v.
Shively, 31 F.Supp.3d 800, 813-17 (W.D. Va. 2014),
aff'd, 596 F. App'x 236 (4th Cir. 2015).
This is because qualified immunity protects officers who
“could reasonably believe that their actions were
lawful.” Henry v. Purnell, 652 F.3d 524, 531
(4th Cir. 2011). Defendants Bragg and Clark could reasonably
believe that their actions were lawful because they
reasonably relied in good faith on information from a fellow
even if Defendants Bragg and Clark violated Plaintiff's
Fourth Amendment rights, they were not being “plainly
incompetent” by “transgressing bright
lines” when they decided to arrest Plaintiff.
Wilson v. Layne, 141 F.3d 111, 114 (4th Cir. 1998).
A reasonable officer would have relied on Miller's call
for help in the absence of clear contradictory evidence. In
fact, Plaintiff's evasive actions would have served to
confirm Miller's statement that Plaintiff was wanted for
criminal conduct. Cf. Illinois v. Wardlow, 528 U.S.
119, 124 (2000) (explaining that unprovoked flight, when
combined with other circumstances, can lead to reasonable
suspicion). Simply put, the conduct of Defendants Bragg and
Clark did not “violate clearly established statutory or
constitutional rights of which a reasonable person would have
known.” Id. Accordingly, they are entitled to
qualified immunity on Count 1.
Qualified Immunity: Defendant Miller
Miller's role in the incident was meaningfully different
from that of Defendants Bragg and Clark, and it warrants
separate consideration. Based on information he received from
an unidentified nurse who had received information from an
unidentified person, Miller was the one who requested Bragg
and Clark's assistance that ultimately led to
Plaintiff's arrest. (Dkt. 1 ¶¶ 37, 86). The
Complaint does not allege that Miller actually arrested
Plaintiff, but Plaintiff contends that Miller is liable
because he “request[ed] or direct[ed] another to do
so.” (Id. ¶ 101).
problem with this argument, however, is that the Complaint
does not allege that Miller directed Bragg and Clark
specifically to arrest Plaintiff. It merely states
that Miller requested aid in “apprehending”
Plaintiff. (Id. ¶ 37). Miller can be held
liable only for conduct that he specifically
directed or had knowledge of, see Shaw v.
Stroud, 13 F.3d 791, 799 (4th Cir. 1994), and not every
apprehension is an arrest. See, e.g., Terry v.
Ohio, 392 U.S. 1, 22 (1968). Miller's request would
certainly include an apprehension short of an arrest, such as
a brief investigatory stop.
the facts demonstrate that Miller possessed reasonable
articulable suspicion to support such an apprehension when he
called for backup. From Miller's perspective, he was
aware of an individual with an IV lock in his arm who was
running through the hospital to evade a Centra security
guard, and he had been told that the individual had possible
warrants out against him. (Id. ¶¶ 31-37,
86). Although in a perfect world Miller would have had time
to verify this information, what he knew justified at least a
Terry stop of Plaintiff to investigate the situation
further, especially considering the heightened security
concerns in hospitals. If Miller had simply ignored the
information he received and a patient or employee was
injured, he likely would have been viewed as negligent. In
this era of active-shooter incidents and acts of public
violence, Miller had an obligation to investigate these
claims of a man acting erratically in the hospital. Even if
Miller was ultimately incorrect in his assessment, the Court
cannot second guess his split-second judgments based on the
benefit hindsight. See Maciariello v. Sumner, 973
F.2d 295, 298 (4th Cir. 1992) (“Officials are not
liable for bad guesses in gray areas; they are liable for
transgressing bright lines.”).
the Court will dismiss Count 1 because Plaintiff has failed
to plead a constitutional violation by Miller. There are no
allegations that he actually conducted the arrest, and the
Complaint states that he requested assistance in apprehending
Plaintiff after developing reasonable articulable suspicion.
He cannot be held liable for ...