238 F.3d 567 (4th Cir. 2001), 99-1269, Young v City of Mount Ranier

Docket Nº:99-1269.
Citation:238 F.3d 567
Party Name:GENE A. YOUNG, SR., INDIVIDUALLY, AND AS EXECUTOR OF THE ESTATE OF GENE A. YOUNG, JR.; PHYLLIS YOUNG, PLAINTIFFS-APPELLANTS, V. CITY OF MOUNT RANIER; JODY SHEGAN, SERGEANT, MOUNT RANIER POLICE DEPARTMENT; PRINCE GEORGE'S COUNTY SHERIFF'S OFFICE; RAYMOND BUNNER, DEPUTY SHERIFF, PRINCE GEORGE'S COUNTY SHERIFF'S DEPARTMENT; CITY OF COTTAGE CITY; ROBER
Case Date:January 31, 2001
Court:United States Courts of Appeals, Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit
 
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238 F.3d 567 (4th Cir. 2001)

GENE A. YOUNG, SR., INDIVIDUALLY, AND AS EXECUTOR OF THE ESTATE OF GENE A. YOUNG, JR.; PHYLLIS YOUNG, PLAINTIFFS-APPELLANTS,

V.

CITY OF MOUNT RANIER; JODY SHEGAN, SERGEANT, MOUNT RANIER POLICE DEPARTMENT; PRINCE GEORGE'S COUNTY SHERIFF'S OFFICE; RAYMOND BUNNER, DEPUTY SHERIFF, PRINCE GEORGE'S COUNTY SHERIFF'S DEPARTMENT; CITY OF COTTAGE CITY; ROBERT SZABO, DEFENDANTS-APPELLEES,

AND

PRINCE GEORGE'S COUNTY; COTTAGE CITY POLICE DEPARTMENT; PRINCE GEORGE'S HOSPITAL CENTER, DEFENDANTS.

No. 99-1269.

United States Court of Appeals, Fourth Circuit

January 31, 2001

Argued: September 27, 2000.

Appeal from the United States District Court for the District of Maryland, at Greenbelt.

Peter J. Messitte, District Judge. (CA-98-1792-PJM)

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[Copyrighted Material Omitted]

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Argued: Thomas James Gagliardo, Gagliardo & Zipin, Silver Spring, Maryland, for Appellants. Frank William Mann, III, Special Assistant Attorney General, Baltimore, Maryland; Daniel Karp, Allen, Johnson, Alexander & Karp, Baltimore, Maryland; Samuel Maddox Riley, West & Moore, L.L.C., Baltimore, Maryland, for Appellees. On Brief: J.

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Joseph Curran, Jr., Attorney General of Maryland, Baltimore, Maryland, for Appellees.

Before Motz and Traxler, Circuit Judges, and Frederick P. Stamp, Jr., Chief United States District Judge for the Northern District of West Virginia, sitting by designation.

Affirmed in part and dismissed in part by published opinion. Judge Traxler wrote the opinion, in which Judge Motz and Chief Judge Stamp joined.

OPINION

Traxler, Circuit Judge

Appellants Gene A. Young, Sr., individually and as executor of the estate of Gene A. Young, Jr., and Phyllis Young (together, the "Parents") appeal from the dismissal of their state and federal claims against various law enforcement officers and their employers. We affirm in part and dismiss in part.

I. BACKGROUND

According to the allegations of the original complaint filed by the Parents, Mount Rainier police officer Jody Shegan and Prince George's County Deputy Raymond Bunner responded to a call about a disturbance in Mount Rainier, Maryland. When they arrived, the officers found Gene Young lying in the road yelling "get it off me." J.A. 14. The officers decided to detain Young for an emergency psychiatric evaluation. Young resisted when the officers tried to take him into custody, and the officers used pepper spray to subdue him. They handcuffed Young, shackled his legs, and placed him face down in the back seat of the car belonging to Cottage City police officer Robert Szabo, who had arrived on the scene. The officers transported Young to Prince George's County Hospital emergency room. At some point thereafter, a nurse observed that Young was lying face down on the floor in the emergency room. Young had no pulse when the nurse turned him over, and efforts to resuscitate him failed. An autopsy revealed the presence of PCP in Young's system and indicated that Young died from sudden cardiac arrhythmia.

The Parents sued the individual law enforcement officers and their employers. Although the theory of liability is not apparent from the allegations of the original complaint, the Parents contend that Young died from "positional asphyxiation" caused by a combination of the use of pepper spray, which swells the airways, and his placement in the police cruiser and the emergency room in a face-down position, which compresses the airways and can further restrict the ability to breathe.1

The original complaint asserted state law negligence, wrongful death, and survival claims, as well as constitutional claims under 42 U.S.C.A. § 1983 (West Supp. 2000). The claims were asserted against Mount Rainier and Officer Jody Shegan; Prince George's County, Prince George's County Sheriff's Department, and Deputy Raymond Bunner; Cottage City and Officer Robert Szabo; and Prince George's Hospital Center.

In the state law causes of action, the Parents alleged that the defendants failed to protect Young from harm while he was in their custody and care. As to the section 1983 claims, the Parents alleged that officers committed "outrageous and malicious physical abuse" against Young and that the governmental employers "knew or should have known of the dangers of physical restraint and the use of pepper spray upon drug users, especially those using phencyclidine (PCP)" and should have developed adequate safety measures to be used which would maximize the safety of individuals like Plaintiffs' son.

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After the action was removed to federal court, motions to dismiss were filed by the City of Mount Rainier, the Office of the Sheriff of Prince George's County, and Deputy Bunner. A few days before the hearing was scheduled on those motions, the Parents filed a motion seeking permission for "alternate service" on Officer Shegan. On the day of the hearing, the Parents sought leave to file an amended complaint, and Cottage City and Officer Szabo filed motions to dismiss the complaint.

At the hearing, the district court refused to consider the Parents' motion to amend2 and also refused to consider the motions to dismiss filed by Cottage City and Officer Szabo. As to the motion to amend, the court stated, "[w]e will see whether there's any cause of action that survives after [the disposition of the other motions to dismiss], there may or may not be leave to amend." J.A. 35. As to Cottage City's motions to dismiss, the court stated, "[i]f in fact this case survives and there is an amended complaint, you can file a motion to dismiss then." J.A. 34.

The district court then dismissed the section 1983 claim asserted against Mount Rainier with leave to amend the complaint to "be more specific as to the alleged policy, custom, or usage." J.A. 94. As to Deputy Bunner, the district court dismissed the section 1983 claim on the grounds that the facts alleged in the complaint failed to state a constitutional violation and, alternatively, that Deputy Bunner was entitled to qualified immunity. The district court also dismissed the state law claims, concluding that Maryland law granted Bunner immunity from the claims.

The district court dismissed the claims against the Office of the Sheriff of Prince George's County, noting that the"office of the sheriff" was not an entity capable of being sued. The court did, however, grant the Parents leave to amend their complaint to properly name the sheriff.

As to Officer Shegan, whom the Parents had been unable to serve, the district court granted the Parents leave to serve him by alternate means. The court suggested that any claims against Shegan would ultimately be dismissed under the same analysis used for the claims against Deputy Bunner, but the court indicated that it would be improper to dismiss the claims against Shegan without giving the Parents an opportunity to serve him and make their claims against him. The district court did not consider the viability of the claims against the other named defendants.

Sometime after this hearing, the Parents filed a second amended complaint (the "amended complaint"). The amended complaint asserted only section 1983 failure-to-train claims against Mount Rainier, Cottage City, and the Sheriff of Prince George's County (together, the "governmental employers"), omitting all claims against the individual law enforcement officers and all state law claims against any defendant. The governmental employers thereafter moved to dismiss the claims asserted in the amended complaint. The district court dismissed the amended complaint, concluding that there could be no liability on the part of the governmental employers in light of the previous dismissal of the claims against the individual defendants.

The Parents then filed this appeal. They challenge the district court's dismissal of the state and federal claims against the individual defendants asserted in the original complaint as well as the dismissal of the federal claims asserted against the governmental employers in the amended complaint.

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II. EFFECT OF AMENDED COMPLAINT

As a threshold matter, we must determine whether the Parents' challenges to the dismissal of the claims asserted against the individual law enforcement officers in the original complaint are properly before us.

As a general rule, "an amended pleading ordinarily supersedes the original and renders it of no legal effect." Crysen/Montenay Energy Co. v. Shell Oil Co. (In re Crysen/Montenay Energy Co.), 226 F.3d 160, 162 (2d Cir. 2000); see also 6 Charles Alan Wright, Arthur R. Miller & Mary Kay Kane, Federal Practice & Procedure § 1476 (2d ed. 1990) ("A pleading that has been amended... supersedes the pleading it modifies.... Once an amended pleading is interposed, the original pleading no longer performs any function in the case...."). According to the Appellees, because the Parents failed to include any claims against the individual officers in the amended complaint, which superseded the original complaint, the Parents have waived their right to challenge the dismissal of the claims against the individual defendants.3 We disagree.

Most circuits refuse to require a plaintiff to replead dismissed claims in order to preserve the right to appeal the dismissal. See Davis v. TXO Prod. Corp., 929 F.2d 1515, 1518 (10th Cir. 1991) ("We believe that a rule requiring plaintiffs who file amended complaints to replead claims previously dismissed on their merits in order to preserve those claims merely sets a trap for unsuspecting plaintiffs with no concomitant benefit to the opposing party.... The district court's dismissal of the claim made clear that any attempt by appellant to reallege that claim would be futile." (footnotes and internal citations omitted)); accord In re Crysen/Montenay, 226 F.3d at 162; Dunn v. Air Line Pilots Ass'n, 193 F.3d 1185, 1191 n.5 (11th Cir. 1999), cert. denied, 120 S.Ct...

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