Barry Doe v. Meron, Civil Action No. PX-17-812

Decision Date30 July 2018
Docket NumberCivil Action No. PX-17-812
PartiesBARRY DOE, On behalf of himself and as Next Friend of his minor children; M.D. (2006); E.D. (2008); and K.D. (2009) Plaintiffs, v. DAVID J. MERON, et al. Defendants.
CourtUnited States District Courts. 4th Circuit. United States District Court (Maryland)
MEMORANDUM OPINION

Pending in this case is a motion to dismiss or for summary judgment filed by Defendants Barbara R. Craig, Terry Greene, Clark Jackson, David LaSpisa, David J. Meron, John Scorby, Steven Stutzman, and Kristen E. Webb, ECF No. 15, as well as a motion to dismiss filed by the United States of America. ECF No. 17. Also pending is Plaintiff Barry Doe's motion to set aside Defendants' scope of employment certification, ECF No. 24. The motions are fully briefed, and the Court now rules because no hearing is necessary. Loc. R. 105.6. For the following reasons, the motion to set aside the scope of employment certification, ECF No. 24, is DENIED, and Defendants' motions to dismiss are GRANTED.

I. Background1

Plaintiff Barry Doe ("Doe"), proceeding pseudonymously, brings this action on behalf of himself and his three minor children, Martin Doe ("M.D."), Erica Doe ("E.D."), and Kimberly Doe ("K.D.") against Defendants Barbara R. Craig, Terry Greene, Clark Jackson, David Laspisa,David J. Meron, John Scorby, Steven Stutzman, and Kristen E. Webb. ECF No. 1. At all times relevant to the Complaint, Doe was a United States citizen and civil servant employed by the United States Navy ("Navy") at Naval Support Activity Bahrain ("NSA Bahrain"), in the Kingdom of Bahrain. ECF No. 1 at ¶¶ 28, 41. The vast majority of the events alleged in the Complaint took place at NSA Bahrain. See ECF No. 1.

Defendants David J. Meron ("Meron"), David LaSpisa ("LaSpisa"), and John Scorby ("Scorby") are Navy officers. ECF No. 1 at ¶ 32, 37, 39. Specifically, Meron is a resident of Kansas and, at all times relevant to the Complaint, a naval officer who served as the Installation Commanding Officer ("Commanding Officer") at NSA Bahrain. ECF No. 1 at ¶¶ 32, 37. LaSpisa is a resident of Florida and commissioned naval officer at NSA Bahrain. ECF No. 1 at ¶¶ 32, 37. Scorby was an American citizen domiciled in Italy and Rear Admiral, serving as the Commander, Navy Region Europe, Africa, and Southwest Asia, whose authority extended to NSA Bahrain. ECF No. 1 at ¶ 39.

Defendants Clark Jackson ("Jackson") and Steven Stutzman ("Stutzman") are adult American citizens employed by the Navy. ECF Nos. 1 at ¶¶ 36, 38. Jackson is a resident of Washington based at NSA Bahrain, and Stutzman is an American citizen domiciled in Italy. ECF No. 1 at ¶¶ 36, 38. Defendant Terry Greene ("Greene") is an adult American citizen domiciled in the Kingdom of Bahrain and employed by the Department of Defense Education Activity (DODEA) as the principal of the Bahrain School, which is operated by the Department of Defense (DOD). ECF No. 1 at ¶ 35. Defendants Barbara R. Craig ("Craig") and Kristen E. Webb ("Webb") are residents of Maryland and were employed by or affiliated with DOD or the Defense Health Agency (DHA). ECF Nos. 1 at ¶¶ 33-34. DHA is based in Bethesda, Maryland. ECF No. 1 at ¶¶ 33-34.

On or about June 2014, Doe began an assignment with the Navy at NSA Bahrain. ECF No. 1 at ¶ 40. Doe's three minor children, M.D. (2006), E.D. (2008), and K.D. (2009) (collectively, "minor Plaintiffs"), went to Bahrain with him. ECF No. 1 at ¶ 40. All three minor Plaintiffs attended the Bahrain School, which is operated by DOD, from 2014 through 2015. ECF No. 1 at ¶ 42.

The events giving rise to this suit concern DOD's 2015 investigation into allegations that Doe abused and neglected his children. Taking serious issue with the manner in which the investigation was handled, Doe alleges that "a group consisting of Defendants Greene, Craig, Jackson, LaSpisa, Meron, Webb, and others in Maryland, Bahrain, Europe, and the National Capital Region (NCR) conceived of a plot to seize" his three children, the minor Plaintiffs. ECF No. 1 at ¶ 43. Doe asserts that Meron, Jackson, LaSpisa, Stutzman and Scorby acted in concert to conduct a baseless investigation that caused physician Craig and social worker Webb to "seize, interrogate, and batter the three minor Plaintiffs." See generally ECF No. 1.

Among the other claimed violations, Doe avers that Defendants interrogated his children without his permission. Doe particularly avers that in response to requests to interview five-year-old K.D. outside Doe's presence, Doe "warned Jackson clearly that no one was to contact any of his three children without him being present." ECF No. 1 at ¶¶ 51, 53. Doe further alleges that on "information or belief," Meron falsely averred in signed correspondence that Meron had obtained consent from Doe to speak to the minor Plaintiffs, even though no such consent was given. ECF No. 1 at ¶¶ 54, 59.

With regard to DOD's examination of the children, Doe avers that during the investigation, Craig and Webb traveled from Maryland to Bahrain at the direction of the other Defendants to "seize, detain, and interrogate all three minor children at the Bahrain School."ECF No. 1 at ¶ 66. With Defendant Greene's assistance, Craig and Webb interrogated the children at the School but outside the presence of Doe and without counsel. Craig and Webb also filmed this interrogation without consent. ECF No. 1 at ¶¶ 67, 68. While Craig and Webb questioned the children, Meron ordered Naval Security Forces (NSF) to exclude Doe from the Bahrain School should he attempt to enter. ECF No. 1 at ¶¶ 72-73.

Later that same day, the children were seized a second time while at the NSA Bahrain Child Youth Program. ECF No. 1 at ¶ 74. Doe contends that Craig medically evaluated the children in a manner that "breached" their clothing and involved touching their genitals, rectums, and breasts. ECF No. 1 at ¶ 74, 77-78. The minor Plaintiffs "believed they had been abducted by strangers with deadly weapons and would be killed if they did not submit" to Craig's evaluation. ECF No. 1 at ¶ 79. During this evaluation, Greene specifically denied to Doe that she knew where the minor Plaintiffs were located. ECF No. 1 at ¶¶ 80, 81.

The next day, Doe was seized and handcuffed by NSF officers while taking his children to school. ECF No. 1 at ¶ 82. NSF did not have a key to the handcuffs, and Doe was restrained for several minutes and then released. ECF No. 1 at ¶ 85. No charges were filed against Doe. See ECF No.1. Doe then met with Meron in the presence of Naval Officer, Scott Cloyd during which time Meron purportedly admitted that he had "no lawful authority to seize" Doe or his children, and that "the higher superiors in the Navy had 'pressured' him to commit these acts." ECF No. 1 at ¶ 89. Meron further admitted that NSF's seizure of Doe was unlawful, and was part of the "plot to secretly seize [Doe's] children" without Doe's knowledge. ECF No. 1 at ¶ 90. A few days later, Doe met with Defendant Greene, Eldridge Groomes, and Calvin Caldwell to discuss the events that transpired at the Bahrain School. ECF No. 1 at ¶ 92. When pressedabout her role, Greene admitted that Meron had directed her to allow Craig and Webb "to seize the three minor Plaintiffs and film them against their will." ECF No. 1 at ¶ ¶ 92-93.

Based on this course of events, Doe feared for his life and the safety of his family. He departed Bahrain on August 6, 2015, and "hastily relocated to Texas at a significantly reduced rate of pay." ECF No. 1 at ¶ 88. According to Doe, the three minor Plaintiffs "continue to experience nightmares" and "serious emotional disturbances consistent [with] children who have been forcibly abducted and sexually molested by strangers." ECF No. 1 at ¶ 98.

On or about May 26, 2016, Plaintiffs filed administrative claims regarding these events with the Navy, DODEA, and DHA. ECF No. 1 at ¶ 94; see also ECF No. 18-7. Plaintiffs assert that "[b]y information or belief, none of the agencies or Defendants responded to or attempted to resolve the [MCA] administrative claim filed by the Plaintiffs." ECF No. 1 at ¶ 95. It was later clarified that on March 27, 2017 — three days after the Complaint was filed — the Navy tendered a settlement offer arising from that administrative claim. See ECF No. 25 at 28; see also ECF No. 15-19.

Having failed to resolve the case administratively, Doe filed suit against Defendants in this Court, asserting that all Defendants in their individual and official capacities violated Plaintiffs' Fourth Amendment right against unlawful searches and seizures (Counts I, II, and III), First and Fifth Amendment rights to "parentage and familial relations" (Count IV), their Fifth Amendment rights of due process and equal protection (Count V), and conspiracy in violation of 42 U.S.C. § 1985 (Count XI). Plaintiffs also bring common law tort claims for intentional infliction of emotional distress (Count VI), assault (Count VII), battery (Count VIII), false imprisonment (Count IX), false light invasion of privacy (Count X), and conspiracy under 42 U.S.C. § 1985 (Count XI). ECF No. 1.

On September 18, 2017, and pursuant to the Federal Tort Claims Act ("FTCA"), the United States of America ("United States") substituted itself as the proper party defendant for all claims against the Defendants in their official capacities, and all common law tort claims asserted against Defendants Meron, Craig, Webb, Greene, LaSpisa, Stutzman, Scorby, and Jackson. ECF No. 16. In connection with its substitution motion, the United States filed a certification attesting that Defendants acts as alleged in the Complaint were within the scope of Defendants' DOD employment, and thus substitution of the United States under the FTCA was proper.

The United States then moved to dismiss all claims, arguing that under the foreign country exception to the FTCA, the Government cannot be sued for events that occurred on foreign soil. ECF No. 17. The individual Defendants also moved to dismiss, or for summary judgment on the...

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