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Pearson v. Thompson

United States District Court, S.D. West Virginia, Charleston Division

August 29, 2019

MARIO PEARSON, Plaintiff,
v.
CAPTAIN THOMPSON, et al., Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

          THOMAS E. JOHNSTON, CHIEF JUDGE

         Pending before the Court is Defendants' Motion to Dismiss Count II of Plaintiff's Complaint Alleging Infliction of Emotional Distress and Outrageous Conduct. (ECF No. 6.) For the reasons discussed more fully below, the Court GRANTS the motion. (ECF No. 6.)

         I. BACKGROUND

         In his Complaint, Plaintiff alleges that Defendants, Correctional Officers employed by the West Virginia Regional Jail and Correctional Facility Authority and assigned to South Central Regional Jail where Plaintiff is housed, used excessive force against Plaintiff on or about October 28, 2017. (ECF No. 1-1 at 1, ¶ 2.) Specifically, Plaintiff alleges that Defendants unnecessarily sprayed him with Oleoresin Capsicum (“O.C.”), restrained him, and then placed him in a restraint chair for an excessive period of time. (See Id. at 2, ¶ 7.)

         On January 30, 2019, Plaintiff filed this action in the Circuit Court of Kanawha County West Virginia, against Defendants regarding the above alleged excessive force incident alleging the following claims: assault and battery (Count I); intentional infliction of emotional distress/outrageous conduct (“IIED”) (Count II); and Violations of 18 U.S.C. § 1983 (Count IV)[1]. (See Id. at 5-7.) Further, at the end of his Complaint, Plaintiff requests general damages, including those for “emotional and mental distress, among others.” (Id. at 7.)

         Defendants subsequently removed the action to this Court, (ECF No. 1), and filed the present motion to dismiss Count II. (ECF No. 6.) Plaintiff timely responded to the motion. (ECF No. 8.) Defendants did not file a reply. As such, the motion is fully briefed and ripe for adjudication.

         II. LEGAL STANDARD

         In 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 Transp., 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))). 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). Well-pleaded factual allegations are required; labels, conclusions, and a “formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action will not do.” Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555; see also King v. Rubenstein, 825 F.3d 206, 214 (4th Cir. 2016) (“Bare legal conclusions ‘are not entitled to the assumption of truth' and are insufficient to state a claim.” (quoting Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 679)).

         III. DISCUSSION

         In their motion to dismiss, Defendants argue that any emotional damages claims must be dismissed as a matter of law because they are duplicative of Plaintiff's assault and battery claims as, under West Virginia law, emotional damages are recoverable under assault and battery claims. (ECF No. 7 at 4.) The Supreme Court of Appeals of West Virginia has stated that “the law does not permit a double satisfaction for a single injury simply because [the plaintiff] has two legal theories.” Harless v. First Nat'l Bank, 289 S.E.2d 692, Syl. Pt. 7 ( W.Va. 1982). The Court further held in Criss v. Criss, 356 S.E.2d 620 ( W.Va. 1987), that “[b]ecause an action for assault and battery allows for recovery of damages due to resulting emotional distress, a claim for the tort of outrageous conduct is duplicitous of a claim for assault and battery.” Id. at Syl. Pt. 4.

         This District has applied the above precedent to motions to dismiss in cases in which the plaintiff pled both assault and battery and IIED from the same event. For example, in Kelly v. West Virginia Regional Jail, No. 2:18-cv-01074, 2019 WL 2865863, at *1 (S.D. W.Va. July 2, 2019), this District dismissed the plaintiff's “outrage/intentional and/or reckless infliction of emotional distress claims” stemming from an alleged beating he received from the defendant correctional officers for being duplicative of the plaintiff's assault and battery claims. See Id. at *3. In so finding, the Court, applying Criss, stated the following:

In Count I, plaintiff claims the defendant correctional officers committed an assault and battery. Under that count [the plaintiff] may recover damages resulting from the emotional distress caused by the intentional torts committed by the defendant correctional officers. Accordingly, plaintiff's Count II claim for intentional infliction of emotional distress or outrageous conduct is duplicative and is dismissed as to all defendants.

See id.

         Similarly, in Searls v. West Virginia Regional Jail & Correctional Facility, No. 3:15-cv-9133, 2016 WL 4698547, at *1 (S.D. W.Va. Sept. 7, 2016), this District dismissed the plaintiff's outrage claims as duplicative of the plaintiff's assault and battery claim at the motion to dismiss where both claims stemmed from the same event-i.e., ...


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