United States District Court, S.D. West Virginia, Beckley Division
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
C. BERGER UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
Court has reviewed the Defendants' Motion to Dismiss
Plaintiff's Complaint (Document 7), the
Defendants' Memorandum of Law in Support of Their
Motion to Dismiss Plaintiff's Complaint (Document
8), and the Plaintiff's Response to Defendants'
Motion to Dismiss Complaint (Document 10). In addition,
the Court has reviewed the Plaintiff's Complaint
(Document 1). For the reasons stated herein, the Court finds
that the motion should be granted in part and denied in part.
Plaintiff, Raymond Joseph Gaylord, Jr., initiated this action
with a complaint filed on January 30, 2018. He named as
Defendants the City of Beckley, West Virginia, and Officer
Dean R. Bailey.
Gaylord was employed as a contracted special investigator for
the federal Office of Personnel Management during the
relevant time period. Although his primary residence was in
North Carolina, he rented a temporary residence in Beckley,
West Virginia, for his work. The lease agreement provided
that the landlord would pay for utilities. On or about
October 14, 2016, the utilities were cut off, and Mr. Gaylord
contacted the landlord. The landlord became belligerent and
threatened to call the police. Mr. Gaylord then discovered
that the landlord did not own the property.
same day, Officer Bailey of the Beckley Police Department
responded to a call about the issue, describing a verbal
disturbance. Officer Bailey explained the procedure for
seeking an eviction to the landlord, then proceeded to Mr.
Gaylord's residence. Mr. Gaylord was standing in his
doorway speaking to another officer when Officer Bailey
arrived. He spoke to Officer Bailey through the screen door,
but declined to exit his home when requested. Officer Bailey
then “busted through the screen door and attacked Mr.
Gaylord.” (Compl. at ¶ 10.) Mr. Gaylord suffered
“a severe laceration to the head.” (Id.)
Officer Bailey charged Mr. Gaylord with obstruction, which
led to the termination of Mr. Gaylord's employment
contract, although the charge was later dismissed.
Gaylord asserts that Officer Bailey is liable under 42 U.S.C.
§ 1983 for excessive force, unlawful seizure of a
person, and unlawful entry of home. He asserts a § 1983
claim against the City of Beckley Police Department for
“engag[ing] in a pattern, practice or custom of using
obstruction as a charge when no facts support it, ” to
“provid[e] a pretextual reason for using excessive
force and…to arrest without any criminal
activity.” (Id. at ¶ 23-24.) Finally, Mr.
Gaylord asserts state law claims of assault and battery and
negligence against Officer Bailey, and state law claims of
negligent hiring, retention, supervision, and general
negligence against the City of Beckley.
motion to dismiss filed pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil
Procedure 12(b)(6) for failure to state a claim upon which
relief can be granted tests the legal sufficiency of a
complaint or pleading. Francis v. Giacomelli, 588
F.3d 186, 192 (4th Cir. 2009); Giarratano v.
Johnson, 521 F.3d 298, 302 (4th Cir. 2008). Federal Rule
of Civil Procedure 8(a)(2) requires that a pleading contain
“a short and plain statement of the claim showing that
the pleader is entitled to relief.” Fed.R.Civ.P.
8(a)(2). Additionally, allegations “must be simple,
concise, and direct.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(d)(1).
“[T]he pleading standard Rule 8 announces does not
require ‘detailed factual allegations,' but it
demands more than an unadorned,
Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009)
(quoting Bell Atlantic Corp v. Twombly, 550 U.S.
544, 555 (2007)). In other words, “a complaint must
contain “more than labels and conclusions, and a
formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action
will not do.” Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555.
Moreover, “a complaint [will not] suffice if it tenders
naked assertions devoid of further factual
enhancements.” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678
(quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 557) (internal
quotation marks omitted).
Court must “accept as true all of the factual
allegations contained in the complaint.” Erickson
v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 93 (2007). The Court must also
“draw[ ] all reasonable factual inferences from those
facts in the plaintiff's favor.” Edwards v.
City of Goldsboro, 178 F.3d 231, 244 (4th Cir. 1999).
However, statements of bare legal conclusions “are not
entitled to the assumption of truth” and are
insufficient to state a claim. Iqbal, 556 U.S. at
679. Furthermore, the court need not “accept as true
unwarranted inferences, unreasonable conclusions, or
arguments.” E. Shore Mkts., v. J.D. Assocs. Ltd.
P'ship, 213 F.3d 175, 180 (4th Cir. 2000).
“Threadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of
action, supported by mere conclusory statements, do not
suffice . . . [because courts] ‘are not bound to accept
as true a legal conclusion couched as a factual
allegation.'” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678
(quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555).
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 (quoting Twombly,
550 U.S. at 570). In other words, this “plausibility
standard requires a plaintiff to demonstrate more than
‘a sheer possibility that a defendant has acted
unlawfully.'” Francis, 588 F.3d at 193
(quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 570). A plaintiff
must, using the complaint, “articulate facts, when
accepted as true, that ‘show' that the plaintiff
has stated a claim entitling him to relief.”
Francis, 588 F.3d at 193 (quoting Twombly,
550 U.S. at 557). “Determining whether a complaint
states [on its face] a plausible claim for relief [which can
survive a motion to dismiss] will . . . be a context-specific
task that requires the reviewing court to draw on its
judicial experience and common sense.” Iqbal,
556 U.S. at 679.
Defendants argue that the complaint does not sufficiently
detail the “specific force used by Defendant Bailey,
how the Plaintiff sustained a laceration to his head, or how
Defendant's conduct was objectively unreasonable.”
(Def.s' Mem. at 6.) The Defendants next assert that the
Plaintiff's unlawful seizure and unlawful entry claims
are barred by a one-year statute of limitations. The
Defendants argue that the § 1983 claim against the City
of Beckley does not adequately allege an official policy to
charge people with obstruction in order to conceal police
misconduct. Next, the Defendants contend that the state law
claims contain only bare legal conclusions without adequate
factual allegations. If the Court finds the state law claims
sufficient, Defendant Bailey asserts that he is immune from
liability for such claims because he was acting within the
scope of his employment and not with malicious purpose, in
bad faith, or in a wanton or reckless manner. Finally, the
Defendants seek dismissal of any claim for punitive damages.
response, Mr. Gaylord stresses that Officer Bailey was
responding to a civil matter when he became
aggressive and attacked and injured Mr. Gaylord. He argues
that the factual allegations, in combination with reasonable
inferences, are sufficient to state a plausible excessive
force claim. Mr. Gaylord further contends that a two-year
statute of limitations is applicable to §1983 claims in
West Virginia. He argues that his allegations against the
City of Beckley are sufficient to state a §1983 claim
that the Beckley Police Department has a policy, established
by training or general practice, of charging obstruction
without probable cause. Mr. Gaylord next argues that his
complaint contains sufficient factual allegations to support
his state law causes of action against both Defendant Bailey
and the City of Beckley. Finally, Mr. Gaylord argues that
Defendant Bailey is not entitled to immunity for the state
law claims because his ...