United States District Court, E.D. Virginia, Alexandria Division
M. HILTON UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
MATTER comes before the Court on Defendants' Motions to
Dismiss pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6} for failure to state a
case arises from a series of events beginning November 11,
2015, when Mr. Pineda, a maintenance worker at The Exchange
at Van Dorn condominium complex (where Plaintiff Peggy Chu
resided), reported to Defendant Tammy Fredrickson, the
general manager at the complex, that he had seen a woman take
a package from the doorstep of one of the condominium units.
Defendant Fredrickson allegedly instructed Mr. Pineda to
inform the police that the woman he had seen take the package
was Plaintiff. Defendant Stephen Riley, an officer employed
by the City of Alexandria Police Department, arrived to
investigate the theft and Defendant Fredrickson and Mr.
Pineda informed him that Plaintiff had taken the package.
Based on the accounts of these two witnesses, Defendant Riley
procured a warrant for petit larceny against Plaintiff on
December 3, 2015, without Plaintiffs knowledge.
28, 2016, Defendants Michael Ceglio and Mark Aeisi, also
police officers employed by the City of Alexandria Police
Department, detained and arrested Plaintiff on the warrant
after a traffic stop. On October 24, 2016, the charges
against Plaintiff were nol prossed.
filed suit on November 3, 2C17. Her complaint asserted a
claim under § 1983 against Defendants Riley, Ceglio, and
Aiesi for depriving her of constitutionally protected rights
against unreasonable seizure and arrest by obtaining and
executing the arrest warrant at issue. She also asserted
claims under Virginia common law against Defendant
Fredrickson and her employer, FirstService Residential, for
negligent or intentional infliction of emotional distress and
malicious prosecution. She bases all of her claims on the
allegations that Fredrickson falsely identified her to the
police as the person who had taken the package, that Officer
Riley obtained a warrant on the basis of only two witness
statements without verifying the witnesses' credibility,
and that Officers Ceglio and Aiesi arrested her on a warrant
that did not require physical detention in violation of
Virginia law. The Defendants each filed Motions to Dismiss
for Failure to State a Claim. Plaintiff has failed to timely
respond to these motions.
motion to dismiss tests the sufficiency of the complaint.
See Republican Party of N.C. v. Martin, 980 F.2d
943, 952 (4th Cir. 1992). In a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to
dismiss, the court must accept all well-pled facts as true
and construe those facts in the light most favorable to the
plaintiff. Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678
(2009). The complaint must provide a short and plain
statement showing that the pleader is entitled to relief,
Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2), and it must state a plausible claim for
relief to survive a motion to dismiss, Iqbal, 556
U.S. at 679. The court does not accept as true any
"unwarranted inferences, unreasonable conclusions, or
arguments." E. Shore Markets, Inc. v. J.D.
Associates Ltd., 213 F.3d 175, 180 (4th Cir. 2000). If
the complaint does not state a plausible claim for relief,
the court should dismiss the claim. Bell Atl. Corp. v.
Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007).
their respective motions to dismiss, the police officer
Defendants have each claimed qualified immunity. The doctrine
of qualified immunity shields government officials performing
discretionary functions from liability for civil damages
unless the unlawfulness of the official's conduct is
apparent in light of pre-existing law. Anderson v.
Creighton, 483 U.S. 635, 639 (1987). In order to
overcome the protection of qualified immunity, a plaintiff
must show that the official's conduct violated a clearly
established statutory or constitutional right of which a
reasonable person would have known. Harlow v.
Fitzgerald, 457 U.S. 800, 818 (1982). Because Plaintiff
has brought a § 1983 action, the crux of her claim rests
on whether the Officers' acts deprived Plaintiff of the
rights, privileges, or immunities secured by the U.S.
Constitution and federal laws. Clipper v. Takorna
Park, 876 F.2d 17, 19 (4th Cir. 1989).
Complaint alleges that Officer Riley relied on the statements
of two witnesses who both told him they saw Plaintiff steal a
package from another condominium unit's doorstep.
Plaintiff asserts that Defendant should have developed
further evidence or conducted an investigation into the
veracity of the two witness statements before obtaining a
warrant. However, all that is required of Officer Riley for
him to claim the protection of qualified immunity is that he
acted with "objective reasonableness."
Torchinsky v. Siwinski, 942 F.2d 257, 260 (4th Cir.
1991). Officer Riley was presented with the consistent
testimony of two eye witnesses, and Plaintiff has not alleged
any facts to establish a reason why Officer Riley should have
been suspicious of their testimony. Thus, the Complaint fails
to overcome Officer Riley's qualified immunity
protection, and he is thus shielded from liability.
Fourth Amendment requires that an arrest "must be
reasonable under the circumstances." Ashcroft v.
Al-Kidd, 563 U.S. 731, 736 (2011). Although Plaintiff
alleges that Officers Ceglio and Aiesi violated Virginia law
by arresting her for an offense that did not require physical
detention, a § 1983 claim "is not predicated on the
legality or illegality of an act under state law."
Clipper, 876 F.2d at 19. Additional state
restrictions on arrest do not alter the Fourth
Amendment's protections. See Virginia v. Moore,
553 U.S. 164, 167-174 (2008). Thus, to overcome qualified
immunity for Officers Ceglio and Aeisi, Plaintiff must
demonstrate that their actions constituted a clear violation
of rights guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution, not merely a
violation of Virginia law. Plaintiff s Complaint fails to
identify a settled Fourth Amendment principle that was
violated by the officers, and fails to allege any facts to
support the contention that Plaintiff's arrest pursuant
to a validly executed warrant was unreasonable. The Complaint
therefore cannot overcome the qualified immunity protection
to which Officers Ceglio and Aeisi are entitled.
only claims Plaintiff asserts against Defendant Fredrickson
and Defendant FirstService Residential are Virginia common
law claims for intentional infliction of emotional distress,
negligent infliction of emotional distress, and malicious
prosecution. For the reasons explained below, each of these
order to state a claim for the intentional infliction of
emotional distress, a plaintiff must allege that (1) the
defendant's conduct was intentional or reckless, (2) the
alleged conduct is outrageous and intolerable, (3) the
alleged conduct and the plaintiffs emotional distress are
casually connected, and (4) the plaintiff's emotional
distress is severe. Delk v. Columbia/HCA Healthcare
Corp., 259 Va. 125, 136, 523 S.E.2d 826, 833 (2000) .
regard to the requirement that the alleged conduct be
outrageous and intolerable, the Supreme Court of Virginia has
held that liability will only be found "where the
conduct has been so outrageous in character, and so extreme
in degree, as to go beyond all possible bounds of decency,
and to be regarded as atrocious, and utterly intolerable in a
civilized community." Harris v. Kreutzer, 271
Va. 188, 204, 624 S.E.2d 24, 33 (2006). With regard to the
severity requirement, "liability arises only where the
distress inflicted is so severe that no reasonable person
could be expected to endure it." Plaintiff has failed to
plead facts sufficient to state a prima facie claim of
intentional infliction of emotional distress. First,
Plaintiff has not alleged that Ms. Fredrickson's conduct
was either intentional or reckless. The Complaint merely
alleges that Ms. Fredrickson falsely identified Plaintiff to
the police and instructed Mr. Pineda to identify her to the
police. There is no allegation that she intended to cause
Plaintiff emotional distress or that she should have known
that emotional distress would likely result, other than the
bare assertion that her conduct was "negligent,
intentional, and/or malicious."
Plaintiff fails to allege that Ms. Fredrickson's conduct
was outrageous or that Plaintiff's distress was severe.
Plaintiff's allegation that Ms. Fredrickson falsely
identified her and told Mr, Pineda to identify her to the
police as the package thief does not meet the high bar
prescribed by Virginia law for outrageous conduct. Plaintiff
also fails to allege she suffered any severe injuries. In
fact, nowhere in the Complaint does she provide any details
as to the nature of her injuries. Thus, Plaintiff fails to
state a claim against Defendants for intentional infliction
of emotional distress. See Harris v. Kreutzer, 271
Va. 202, 204, 624 S.E.2d 24, 33-34 (2006) (upholding
dismissal of an intentional infliction of emotional distress
claim for failure to state facts sufficient to establish
outrageous conduct or severe distress).
the claim for negligent infliction of emotional distress,
Virginia law requires that the emotional disturbance must be
accompanied by some physical injury and that the plaintiff
demonstrate a causal connection between the defendant's
negligent act, the emotional disturbance, and the physical
injury. See Womack v. Eldridge, 215 Va. 338, 340,
210 S.E.2d 145, 147 (1974). Plaintiff fails to state facts
supporting her contention that she suffered emotional and
physical injuries. Instead, Plaintiff merely requests in her
prayer for relief that she be awarded damages "for her
physical and mental pain and suffering, and medical and
psychological expenses, both past and future." The
Complaint does not identify a single injury suffered by rhe
Plaintiff. Additionally, Plaintiff ...