United States District Court, S.D. West Virginia, Charleston Division
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
E. JOHNSTON, CHIEF JUDGE
this Court are motions to dismiss filed by Defendants Joey
Shepard ("Shepard") and Nick Tucker
("Tucker"), (ECF No. 8), and by Defendants City of
Logan/City of Logan Police Department ("LPD"), P.D.
Clemens ("Clemens"), J.D. Tincher
("Tincher"), and Kevin Conley ("Conley"),
(ECF No. 10). For the reasons explained more fully herein,
the motion to dismiss filed by Shepard and Tucker, (ECF No.
8), is DENIED. The motion to dismiss filed
by LPD, Clemens, Tincher, and Conley, (ECF No. 10), is
GRANTED IN PART and DENIED IN PART.
Frank Morgan ("Plaintiff) brings this action pursuant to
42 U.S.C. § 1983 and West Virginia state law, alleging
that he suffered serious injuries after he was beaten
"[w]ithout provocation" by LPD officers on April
20, 2018. (ECF No. 1 at 1, 4.) Plaintiff further avers that
the officers denied him medical treatment while
"frantically attempt[ing] to devise a plan in which
Plaintiff was at fault in causing his life-threatening
injuries." (Id. at 5.)
and Tucker filed their motion to dismiss on December 21,
2018. (ECF No. 8.) Plaintiff filed a timely response, (ECF
No. 12), and Shepard and Tucker filed a timely reply, (ECF
No. 14). LPD, Clemens, Tincher, and Conley also filed their
motion to dismiss on December 21, 2018. (ECF No. 10.)
Plaintiff filed a response, (ECF No. 18), and LPD, Clemens,
Tincher, and Conley filed a timely reply, (ECF No. 19).
Accordingly, the motions to dismiss are fully briefed and
ripe for adjudication.
general, a pleading must include "a short and plain
statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled
to relief." Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2); see McCleary-Evans
v. Md. Dep 't of Tramp., State Highway Admin., 780
F.3d 582, 585 (4th Cir. 2015) (stating that this requirement
exists "to give the defendant fair notice of what the .
. . claim is and the grounds upon which it rests"
(quoting Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544,
555 (2007))). However, to withstand a motion to dismiss made
pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6), a
complaint must plead enough facts "to state a claim to
relief that is plausible on its face." Wikimedia
Found, v. Nat'l Sec. Agency, 857 F.3d 193, 208 (4th
Cir. 2017) (quoting Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662,
678 (2009)). "A claim has facial plausibility when the
plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to
draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable
for the misconduct alleged." Iqbal, 556 U.S. at
678. Stated another way, the factual allegations in the
complaint "must be sufficient 'to raise a right to
relief above the speculative level.'" Woods v.
City of Greensboro, 855 F.3d 639, 647 (4th Cir. 2017)
(quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555). A complaint that
alleges enough facts "to satisfy the elements of a cause
of action created by [the relevant] statute" will
survive a motion to dismiss. Id. at 648 (quoting
McCleary-Evans, 780 F.3d at 585).
evaluating the sufficiency of a complaint, this Court first
"identifies] pleadings that, because they are no more
than conclusions, are not entitled to the assumption of
truth." Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 679. This Court then
"assume[s] the veracity" of the complaint's
"well-pleaded factual allegations" and
"determine[s] whether they plausibly give rise to an
entitlement to relief." Id. Review of the
complaint is "a context-specific task that requires
[this Court] to draw on its judicial experience and common
sense." Id. "[T]o satisfy the plausibility
standard, a plaintiff is not required to plead factual
allegations in great detail, but the allegations must contain
sufficient factual heft to allow a court, drawing on judicial
experience and common sense, to infer more than the mere
possibility of that which is alleged." Nanni v.
Aberdeen Marketplace, Inc., 878 F.3d 447, 452 (4th Cir.
2017) (internal quotation marks omitted).
Shepard and Tucker
and Tucker urge this Court to dismiss Plaintiffs claims
against them as barred by qualified immunity. (ECF No. 9 at
"Qualified immunity shields officials from civil
liability so long as their conduct does not violate clearly
established statutory or constitutional rights of which a
reasonable person would have known." Adams v.
Ferguson, 884 F.3d 219, 226 (4th Cir. 2018) (internal
quotation marks omitted). "In order for a plaintiff to
overcome an official's qualified immunity defense, the
plaintiff must demonstrate (1) that the official violated a
statutory or constitutional right, and (2) that the right was
'clearly established' at the time of the challenged
conduct." Martin v. Duffy, 858 F.3d 239, 251
(4th Cir. 2017) (internal quotation marks omitted). "A
clearly established right is one that is 'sufficiently
clear that every reasonable official would have understood
that what he is doing violates that right.'"
Adams, 884 F.3d at 226 (alteration omitted) (quoting
Mullenix v. Luna, 136 S.Ct. 305, 308 (2015) (per
curiam)). "In other words, existing precedent must have
placed the statutory or constitutional question beyond
debate." Id. (internal quotation marks omitted)
(quoting Reichle v. Howards, 566 U.S. 658, 664
and Tucker fail to elaborate on either prong of the qualified
immunity analysis; rather, they assert that "this Court
[cannot] infer that constitutional violations were committed
by them" because Plaintiffs complaint makes only
"general allegations of excessive force." (ECF No.
14 at 2.) Although the complaint does not name the specific
officers responsible for each aspect of Plaintiff s allegedly
unconstitutional treatment, Plaintiff avers that
"Defendant officers" beat him with their
"hands, feet and ... a metal pipe,"
"develop[ed] a 'cover-up' plan" to blame
Plaintiff for his own injuries, and failed to provide him
with immediate medical treatment for those injuries. (ECF No.
1 at 4-5.) Quite simply, Plaintiff alleges that all
the officers he names as Defendants in this action
participated in the beating and delay of medical care.
(See id.) These allegations are sufficient at the
motion-to-dismiss stage. See Wright v. North
Carolina, 787 F.3d 256, 265 (4th Cir. 2015) (noting that
the "core requirement" of Federal Rule of Civil
Procedure 8(a)(2) is to provide "fair notice of [the
plaintiffs] claims" (internal quotation marks omitted)).
importantly, Plaintiffs allegations compel the denial of
qualified immunity in this phase of the
proceedings. Plaintiff alleges that after being
"confronted" by LPD officers and beaten
"[w]ithout provocation"-that is, without suspicion
of committing any crime-he was apprehended and placed in
restraints. (ECF No. 1 at 4.) He then alleges that
"while restrained," he "was shoved to the
deck" and "was beaten with hands, feet and ... a
metal pipe" by "Defendant officers."
(Id. at 4-5.) As of April 20, 2018, it was clearly
established that a police officer's use of
"unnecessary, gratuitous, and disproportionate force
against a handcuffed, secured citizen, who posed no threat to
the officer or others and had neither committed, nor was
suspected of committing, any crime" constitutes
excessive force. Bailey v. Kennedy, 349 F.3d 731,
745 (4th Cir. 2003) (quoting Jones v. Buchanan, 325
F.3d 520, 534 (4th Cir. 2003)). Therefore, Shepard and Tucker
are not entitled, at least at this stage, to qualified
immunity as to Plaintiffs excessive force claim.
same is true for Plaintiffs due process claim for
"failure to provide timely medical care."
(See ECF No. 1 at 6.) Plaintiff alleges that he
suffered from "life-threatening injuries" that
"required immediate medical treatment" and that
"Defendant officers knew [he] was severely injured based
upon their own observations [and] remarks . . . and
Plaintiffs complaints." (Id. at 5, 7.)
Plaintiff further avers that instead of providing medical
care or "transporting] Plaintiff for emergency medical
services," "Defendant officers . . . develop[ed] a
'cover-up' plan" to blame Plaintiff for his own
injuries, "placed Plaintiff in a squad car, called for
an ambulance, drove Plaintiff around ... for a few minutes[,
] then returned to City Hall where the ambulance was
waiting." (Id.) As of April 20, 2018, it was
clearly established that "unreasonable delay in
providing medical treatment [to a pretrial detainee] where
the need for such treatment is apparent" constitutes a
due process violation. Gray v. Farley,13 F.3d 142,
146 (4th Cir. 1993) ...