October 26, 2011
Court Rejects Claim Against Municipality for Failure to Meet Pleading Standards
Judge Amy Berman Jackson (D.D.C.) yesterday dismissed a plaintiff's civil rights suit against the District of Columbia for failure to meet the pleading standard under Ashcroft v. Iqbal and Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly.
The plaintiff in the case, Garabis v. Unknown Officers, Elena Garabis, alleged assault and battery, excessive force, and unreasonable seizure in violation of the Fourth Amendment after District officers arrested her. As part of her claims, Garabis alleged that officers used Tasers excessively and unnecessarily. Garabis sued the officers and the District, alleging, under Monell v. Department of Social Services, that the District had a policy of deliberate indifference to the widespread use of Tasers. (Under Monell, a plaintiff may sue a municipality for civil rights violations, but only if the plaintiff can show that the municipality had an official policy that led to the violations. A plaintiff may not sue a municipality in vicarious liability, for the acts of its officers.)
But Garabis neglected to include this allegation in her complaint. Instead, Garabis only wrote that the District employed the officers and that it was responsible for the police department. Garabis offered more particular facts in support of her theory of Monell liability only in response to the motion to dismiss--too late for a ruling on a 12(b)(6) motion on the complaint.
Garabis can amend her complaint to include more particular facts in support of her Monell theory, and, in any event, the ruling does not affect her on-going case against the officers.
We only just recently posted on another Monell case that failed to meet the heightened pleading standard in Iqbal and Twombly, McCauley v. Chicago, out of the Seventh Circuit. That ruling includes a lengthy and scathing dissent that roundly criticizes the standard set in those cases.
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