Spiller v. Dist. of Columbia, Civil Action No. 16–2059 (RDM)

CourtUnited States District Courts. United States District Court (Columbia)
Citation302 F.Supp.3d 240
Docket NumberCivil Action No. 16–2059 (RDM)
Parties Perry SPILLER, et al., Plaintiffs, v. DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA, et al., Defendants.
Decision Date23 March 2018

Jacqueline Rebecca Williams, Law Office of Jacqueline Williams, Washington, DC, for Plaintiffs

Philip Alexander Medley, David A. Jackson, Office of the Attorney General for the District of Columbia, Washington, DC, for Defendants


RANDOLPH D. MOSS, United States District Judge

Plaintiffs Perry Spiller and James McCray bring this action against the District of Columbia and two Metropolitan Police Department Officers, who are identified in the complaint as Timothy Murphy and Robert Barillaro. Spiller and McCray allege that they were unlawfully arrested, injured, and detained, and that Spiller was maliciously prosecuted, after police officers observed them laughing at a fight outside a nightclub in Washington, D.C. The two men bring suit under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and various provisions of the Constitution, and they also assert common law claims for false arrest, false imprisonment, negligent supervision and training, and negligent infliction of emotional distress.

Defendants move to dismiss Plaintiffs' claims in part pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6), or in the alternative, for summary judgment in part under Rule 56. For the reasons explained below, the Court concludes that (1) Plaintiffs fail to state a substantive due process claim; (2) Spiller fails to state a claim for "malicious prosecution" under § 19831 but does so under D.C. law; (3) Plaintiffs' § 1983"negligent infliction of emotional distress" claim is duplicative of their § 1983"negligent supervision and training" claims; and (4) Plaintiffs fail to state claims for negligent supervision and training, regardless of whether those claims are premised on the common law or § 1983.

The Court will, accordingly, GRANT in part and DENY in part Defendants' motion to dismiss, or in the alternative, for summary judgment.


In considering Defendants' motion to dismiss, the Court will accept Plaintiffs' factual allegations as true. See Ashcroft v. Iqbal , 556 U.S. 662, 679, 129 S.Ct. 1937, 173 L.Ed.2d 868 (2009). Although Plaintiffs' allegations are not entitled to that same deference for purposes of Defendants' motion for summary judgment, Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc. , 477 U.S. 242, 248–49, 106 S.Ct. 2505, 91 L.Ed.2d 202 (1986), the facts relevant to the determination of that motion—namely, the content and date of the notices sent to the District—are undisputed.

On May 30, 2015, McCray and Spiller stood outside a nightclub, which was closing for the night. Dkt. 1 at 6 (Compl. ¶ 19). Around midnight, they observed two people begin to fight in a "loud and violent" manner. Id. (Compl. ¶ 19). Barillaro and his partner were in a police car down the block and were soon approached by one of the individuals involved in the fight. Id. (Compl. ¶ 19). Spiller and McCray "stood nearby and laughed at the incident taking place." Id. (Compl. ¶ 20). The police officers came over to the two men, and "asked [them] to leave the scene where the fight took place." Id. (Compl. ¶ 20). The police did not arrest either of the individuals involved in the fight. Id. (Comp. ¶ 20). McCray and Spiller relocated to two "chairs in an alleyway adjacent to the street where the incident took place." Id. (Compl. ¶ 21). The officers "then re-approached and grabbed the Plaintiffs and said ... ‘You're under arrest for noise violation!’ " Id. (Compl. ¶ 21). After a brief conversation in which Spiller insisted that he and McCray had had nothing to do with the earlier fight, Barillaro "tackled ... Spiller by using his hands and arms to ... forcefully conduct a takedown of [Spiller]." Id. at 7 (Compl. ¶ 22). Spiller "suffered swelling and abrasions to his legs, [a] sore throat, and ... numbness on the left side of his body" as a result of the "takedown." Id. at 7, 8 (Compl. ¶¶ 22, 25). The other officer, "using his arms and hands and full force of his weight," also "tackl[ed] ... McCray to the ground using an unnecessary and excessive amount of force." Id. at 7 (Compl. ¶ 22). While Barillaro's partner "held down" McCray, Barillaro "grabbed ... McCray's hands and with full force ... yanked ... McCray's right hand and slammed [it] on the hard ground causing ... McCray to suffer a broken hand." Id. (Compl. ¶ 23).

Both men required treatment for the injuries they sustained when the officers tackled them. Id. at 7–8 (Compl. ¶¶ 24–25). McCray was arrested for "Making Noise at Night," despite having "made no noise." Id. at 8 (Compl. ¶ 26). He was "shackled and handcuffed and sent to D.C. Superior Court for processing," but "[a]fter spending several hours in jail for having committed no offense," he was released without being charged. Id. (Compl. ¶ 26). Spiller was arrested for "Making Noise at Night" and for "Assault on a Police Officer," although he was not charged with the former. Id. (Compl. ¶ 27). He was, however, charged with "Assault on a Police Officer" and "Carrying a Dangerous Weapon" (nunchucks "allegedly recovered from his backpack pursuant to a search incident to arrest"). Id. (Compl. ¶ 27). On October 5, 2015, all charges were dismissed by the United States Attorney's Office, and "the assigned prosecuting attorney informed" Spiller's attorney that the office "had opened an internal investigation against" the two officers involved in the arrest.2 Id. at 8–9 (Compl. ¶ 27). Four days later, Spiller and McCray's counsel sent letters to the Mayor of the District of Columbia asserting their "intention to file suit against the District of Columbia for [their] unlawful arrest[s] and for the intentional, unjustifiable, and brutal physical assault of [their] person[s] by Metropolitan Police Department (MPD) officers." Dkt. 19 at 29; id. at 31.


"To survive a motion to dismiss, a complaint must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to ‘state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.’ " Iqbal , 556 U.S. at 678, 129 S.Ct. 1937 (quoting Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly , 550 U.S. 544, 570, 127 S.Ct. 1955, 167 L.Ed.2d 929 (2007) ). A claim is plausible if "the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged." Id. Although "detailed factual allegations" are not required, the complaint must contain "more than labels and conclusions, [or] a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action." Twombly , 550 U.S. at 555, 127 S.Ct. 1955. The Court must "assume [the] veracity" of "well-pleaded factual allegations," Iqbal , 556 U.S. at 679, 129 S.Ct. 1937, and must "grant [the] plaintiff the benefit of all inferences that can be derived from the facts alleged," Sparrow v. United Air Lines, Inc. , 216 F.3d 1111, 1113 (D.C. Cir. 2000) (internal quotation marks omitted). The Court, however, need not accept "a legal conclusion couched as a factual allegation." Iqbal , 556 U.S. at 678, 129 S.Ct. 1937 (quoting Twombly , 550 U.S. at 555, 127 S.Ct. 1955 ).

Summary judgment is granted "if the movant shows that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(a) ; see Liberty Lobby , 477 U.S. at 247–48, 106 S.Ct. 2505 ; Holcomb v. Powell , 433 F.3d 889, 895 (D.C. Cir. 2006). A fact is "material" if it is capable of affecting the outcome of the litigation. Holcomb , 433 F.3d at 895 ; Liberty Lobby , 477 U.S. at 248, 106 S.Ct. 2505. A dispute is "genuine" if the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party. See Scott v. Harris , 550 U.S. 372, 380, 127 S.Ct. 1769, 167 L.Ed.2d 686 (2007) ; Liberty Lobby , 477 U.S. at 248, 106 S.Ct. 2505 ; Holcomb , 433 F.3d at 895. "A party asserting that a fact cannot be or is genuinely disputed must support the assertion by ... citing to particular parts of materials in the record ...." Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(c)(1)(A). The party seeking summary judgment "bears the heavy burden of establishing that the merits of his case are so clear that expedited action is justified." See Taxpayers Watchdog, Inc. v. Stanley , 819 F.2d 294, 297 (D.C. Cir. 1987).


Both sides have, at least modestly, narrowed the issues for decision at this early stage of the litigation. As an initial matter, although Plaintiffs initially named Timothy Murphy as one of the two individual defendants, no one by that name works for MPD. Plaintiffs acknowledge as much, and suggest they will seek leave to amend their complaint to name the correct officer in the future. See Dkt. 18. For now, the Court will dismiss "Timothy Murphy" from the suit by virtue of Plaintiffs' concession.3 Plaintiffs also concede that Count I, alleging false arrest, and Count II, alleging false imprisonment, should be merged. Dkt. 19 at 12. For their part, Defendants have not moved to dismiss Count VII, alleging "gross negligent excessive force," and they concede that Count VIII, insofar as it alleges a common law negligent infliction of emotional distress claim, states a claim. Dkt. 13 at 21–22; Dkt. 21 at 5. The remaining claims are discussed below.

A. Substantive Due Process

Count III alleges "that the Defendants denied the Plaintiffs substantive due process;" "that the negligent conduct of the officers ‘shocks the conscience;’ " and that the officers "conducted a reckless investigation" by failing to establish probable cause prior to arresting Spiller and McCray because they "failed to properly investigate the arrest area, scene and location." Dkt. 1 at 12 (Compl. ¶¶ 50–51). Defendants, in response, assert that the officers' alleged actions are not "so egregious, so outrageous, that [they] may fairly be said to shock the contemporary conscience." Abdelfattah v. U.S. Dep't of Homeland Sec. , 787 F.3d 524, 540 (D.C. Cir. 2015) (quoting County of Sacramento v. Lewis , 523 U.S. 833,...

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