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Henderson v. Huling

United States District Court, E.D. Virginia, Newport News Division

September 19, 2017

QUEWAUNE HENDERSON, Plaintiff,
v.
OFFICER JAMES HULING, Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

          Raymond A. Jackson, United stales District Judge

         Before this court is Officer James Huling's ("Defendant") Motion to Dismiss Quewaune Henderson's ("Plaintiff") Complaint pursuant to Federal Rules of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6). Having reviewed the Parties' filings in this case, the Court finds this matter is ripe for judicial determination. For the reasons set forth below, Defendant's Motion to Dismiss is GRANTED.

         I. FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

         Plaintiff filed a successive complaint against Defendants on two counts[1] on November 10, 2016. ECF No. 1 at 1-5. Count One charges Defendant with violating 42 U.S.C. § 1983, and the Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution. Id. at 2-5. Count Two charges Defendants with negligence and gross negligence under the laws of the Commonwealth of Virginia. Id. at 4-5. Plaintiff also moved for judgment against Defendants, jointly and severally, for compensatory and punitive damages. Id. at 5.

         Defendant Spence filed a motion to dismiss pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure on December 9, 2016. ECF No. 4. Defendant Huling also filed a motion to dismiss pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure on December 12, 2016. ECF No. 10. Plaintiff filed a response to both motions on December 22, 2016. ECF Nos. 14, 15. Defendants filed rebuttal briefs to Plaintiffs response on January 10, 2017. ECF Nos. 16, 17. Defendants also requested a hearing on January 10, 2017, and January 30, 2017. ECF Nos. 18, 19. The Court granted Defendants' request for a hearing and held the hearing on April 24, 2017. ECF No. 20-21. The Court dismissed with prejudice all claims as to Officer Thomas Spence. Id. The Court also dismissed with prejudice all claims as to Officer James Huling, but granted Plaintiff leave to file an amended complaint, within 15 days, as to excessive force and gross negligence. Id.

         Plaintiff filed his amended complaint against Officer Huling on May 8, 2017. ECF No. 22. Officer Huling filed the answer to the complaint on May 24, 2017. ECF No. 29. Officer Huling also filed this Motion to Dismiss pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure on May 24, 2017. ECF No. 27. Plaintiff filed his response on June 6, 2017. ECF No. 30. Officer Huling filed his rebuttal brief on June 12, 2017, and requested a hearing on this matter. ECF No. 31-32.

         II. LEGAL STANDARD

         Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) provides for the dismissal of actions that fail to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. For purposes of a Rule 12(b)(6) motion, courts may only rely upon the complaint's allegations and those documents attached as exhibits or incorporated by reference. See Simons v. Montgomery Cty. Police Officers, 762 F.2d 30, 31 (4th Cir. 1985). Courts will favorably construe the allegations of the complainant and assume that the facts alleged in the complaint are true. See Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 93-94 (2007); Mylan Laboratories, Inc. v. Matkari, 7 F.3d 1130, 1134 (4th Cir. 1993). A court will only grant a motion to dismiss if "it appears to a certainty that the plaintiff would be entitled to no relief under any state of facts which could be proved in support of his claim." Johnson v. Mueller, 415 F.2d 354, 355 (4th Cir. 1969).

         Although a complaint need not contain detailed factual allegations, "[f]actual allegations must be enough to raise a right to relief above the speculative level on the assumption that all the allegations in the complaint are true." Bell All. Corp. v. Twomhly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007). If the factual allegations alleged by the plaintiff do not nudge the plaintiffs claims "across the line from conceivable to plausible, their complaint must be dismissed." Id. at 570.

         III. DISCUSSION

         Count One: Eight & Fourteenth Amendments (Cruel and Unusual Punishment)

         In the Complaint, Plaintiff alleges Defendant violated his Eighth Amendment rights.

         The Eighth Amendment, which applies to the states through the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment, prohibits the infliction of cruel and unusual punishment. U.S. Const, amend. VIII. Accordingly, the Due Process Clause governs a pretrial detainee's excessive force claims. Sawyer v. Asbury, 537 F.App'x 283, 290 (4th Cir. 2013) (citing Carr v. Deeds, 453 F.3d 593, 605 (4th Cir. 2006)). To prevail on an excessive force claim, a plaintiff must prove '"that Defendants inflicted unnecessary and wanton pain and suffering' upon the detainee." Id. (quoting Taylor v. McDuffie, 155 F.3d 479, 483 (4th Cir. 1998)). "The proper inquiry is whether the force applied was in a good faith effort to maintain or restore discipline or maliciously and sadistically for the very purpose of causing harm." Id. (quoting McDuffie, 155 F.3d at 483). A plaintiff is no longer required to demonstrate that his injuries are not de minimis. Id. (quoting Wilkins v. Gaddy, 559 U.S. 34, 35 (2010)).

         In determining whether an officer's actions have violated due process, a court must consider "the need for the application of force, the relationship between the need and the amount of force used, the extent of the injury inflicted, and whether the force was applied in a good faith effort to maintain and restore discipline or maliciously and sadistically for the very purpose of causing harm." Id. (quoting Orem v. Rephann, 523 F.3d 442, 446 (4th Cir.2008)).

         Here, Plaintiff never directly claims that Defendant used excessive force in arresting him. Plaintiff simply suggests that Defendant used excessive force by stating, "[w]hile Plaintiff was restrained in handcuffs, Defendant Huling, unlawfully and without just cause or provocation slammed the Plaintiff with force to the ground and began beating on him and tased him." Compl.¶ 13.

         With regard to Plaintiff's medical claims, Plaintiff never alleges any specific injury. In fact, Plaintiff simply says that after he was "brutally beaten, " the "police" called an ambulance to examine Plaintiff. Compl. ¶ 14. Shortly after the paramedics assessed and "acknowledged his injuries without treating Plaintiff... [a] Newport News patrol police officer proceeded to take the plaintiff to jail. . . ." Although Plaintiff claims he demanded to be taken to the emergency room, Plaintiff never specifies the type of injury he endured, and never claims to have visited the doctor after being released from jail to address said injuries. Accordingly, the Complaint admits that the Plaintiff received attention from a medical provider at the time of the incident. Compl. ¶ 14 ("The paramedic opened the door to the police car, looked at ...


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