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Roberts v. Town of Bridgewater

United States District Court, D. Massachusetts

July 28, 2015

DYLAN ROBERTS, Plaintiff,
v.
TOWN OF BRIDGEWATER, ROBERT GRAY, JR., and LISA M. MITTON, Defendants.

MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

DENISE J. CASPER, District Judge.

I. Introduction

Plaintiff Dylan Roberts ("Roberts") has filed this lawsuit against Defendants Town of Bridgewater, Robert Gray, Jr. ("Gray") and Lisa M. Mitton ("Mitton") (collectively, "Defendants") alleging violations of 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and § 1985(3) and the Massachusetts Civil Rights Act ("MCRA"), Mass. Gen. L. c. 12, § 11, as well as claims of negligence and abuse of process. D. 1-1. Defendants have moved to dismiss several counts of the complaint. D. 5. For the reasons stated below, the Court ALLOWS IN PART and DENIES IN PART the motion.

II. Standard of Review

In considering a motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6), the Court will dismiss a pleading that fails to plead "enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face." Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007); see Sec. & Exch. Comm'n v. Tambone, 597 F.3d 436, 442 (1st Cir. 2010) (noting that "[i]f the factual allegations in the complaint are too meager, vague, or conclusory to remove the possibility of relief from the realm of mere conjecture, the complaint is open to dismissal"). To state a plausible claim, it need not contain detailed factual allegations, but the claim must recite facts sufficient to at least "raise a right to relief above the speculative level... on the assumption that all the allegations in the complaint are true (even if doubtful in fact)." Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555 (internal citation omitted). This determination requires a two-step inquiry. García-Catalán v. United States, 734 F.3d 100, 103 (1st Cir. 2013).

First, the Court must distinguish between the factual allegations and the conclusory legal allegations in the complaint. Id . Second, taking the plaintiff's allegations as true, the Court should be able to draw "the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged." Id . (quoting Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009)). In sum, a claim must at the very least contain sufficient factual matter that, accepted as true, would allow the Court to draw "the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged." Id . However, "[i]n determining whether a complaint crosses the plausibility threshold, the reviewing court [must] draw on its judicial experience and common sense.'... This context-specific inquiry does not demand a high degree of factual specificity.'" Id . (internal citations omitted) (alteration in original).

III. Factual Background

Unless otherwise indicated, the following facts are as alleged in the complaint, D. 1-1, and are taken as true for the purposes of this motion.

On March 17, 2012, Roberts was a customer at the Broad Street Pub in the Town of Bridgewater. Id . ¶ 5. That evening a fight broke out in the pub that led to more fights outside on the sidewalks and street. Id . ¶ 6. Roberts was not a participant in the fights, did not throw any punches and was not struck with any punches. Id . ¶¶ 7-8. At some point during the fights, the Bridgewater Police Department was called and multiple officers were dispatched to the scene. Id . ¶ 9. Officers Mitton and Gray were the first officers to arrive. Id . ¶ 10. Shortly after arriving at the scene, Officers Mitton and Gray tackled Roberts to the ground and Officer Gray, with the assistance of Officer Mitton, used excessive force to break Roberts's left arm. Id . ¶¶ 11, 12. Although Roberts did not resist the officers, he was later charged with resisting arrest. Id . ¶¶ 13, 16-17. Sometime later, an ambulance arrived and Roberts was taken to Brockton Hospital where he had surgery to insert a rod and multiple screws into the humerus bone of his left arm to repair a spiral fracture. Id . ¶ 14.

Roberts alleges that after Officers Mitton and Gray graduated from the police academy, the Town of Bridgewater did not provide them any additional training on proper and legal takedown methods. Id . ¶ 15. Roberts further alleges that, in an attempt to cover up their actions, the officers wrote false police reports that led to Roberts being wrongly charged with resisting arrest. Id . ¶¶ 16-17.

Subsequently, Sergeant Lawrence J. Bresciani of the Bridgewater Police Department, who was also present at the scene, conducted an internal affairs investigation into Roberts's injury and arrest. Id . ¶ 18. At the beginning of his investigation, Sergeant Bresciani determined that his relative, Andrew Bresciani, a police officer with the Town of Hull, was a witness to the events and asked him to provide a statement. Id . ¶ 19. Sergeant Bresciani did not disclose any potential conflict of interest to his superiors or remove himself from the investigation. Id . ¶ 20. Andrew Bresciani provided a written statement that was "highly exculpatory" regarding Roberts's innocence, stating, for example, that Roberts did not resist arrest. Id . ¶ 21. Nevertheless, Sergeant Bresciani concluded that Officers Mitton and Gray used reasonable force and neither officer was disciplined. Id . ¶¶ 23-24.

The criminal charges filed against Roberts were eventually dismissed after more than seven court appearances. Id . ¶ 25. The charges were dismissed for lack of probable cause and because the Bridgewater Police Department intentionally and deliberately failed to provide Roberts with Andrew Bresciani's statement despite a direct order from the presiding judge to do so. Id . During discovery, Roberts also learned that the Town of Bridgewater has had a custom and policy for the past ten years of not providing exculpatory evidence. Id . ¶ 26.

IV. Procedural History

Roberts instituted this action in Plymouth Superior Court on January 12, 2015, D. 1-1, and Defendants removed the action on February 4, 2015, D. 1. Defendants subsequently moved to dismiss the majority of Roberts's claims. D. 5. Specifically, Defendants seek to dismiss Roberts's claims of negligence (count I), violation of § 1983 for failure to train and discipline against the Town of Bridgewater (count II(b)), violation of § 1985(3) (count III), violation of the MCRA (count IV) and abuse of process (count V). Id . The Defendants do not seek dismissal of Roberts's allegation of excessive force ...


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