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Holloman v. Clarke

United States District Court, D. Massachusetts

September 22, 2016

HARDOLD CLARKE, et al., Defendants.


          Nathaniel M. Gorton United States District Judge

         This case involves claims brought under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 by plaintiff Tajuan Holloman (“Holloman”) against 26 defendants. Pending before the Court is the joint motion of six of the defendants to dismiss the complaint for failure to state claims upon which relief can be granted. For the reasons that follow, the motion will be allowed, in part, and denied, in part.

         I. Background

         Holloman is an inmate currently incarcerated in the Massachusetts Correctional Institution in Shirley, Massachusetts. Holloman's claims arise mostly from events that occurred while he was a pretrial detainee having been transferred from the Suffolk County Jail to the Massachusetts Correctional Institution at Concord (“MCI-Concord”). Holloman has also made claims relating to later events, which occurred while he was detained at the Souza Baranowski Correctional Center (“SBCC”).

         After his preliminary screening of the case, United States District Judge Douglas P. Woodlock of this Court issued a memorandum and order (Docket No. 15) directing the issuance of summons for service upon 11 of the defendants, including the six defendants moving to dismiss here. In doing so, Judge Woodlock found that, for purposes of a preliminary screening, Holloman had stated claims for excessive force, failure to intervene, retaliation and denial of due process. Judge Woodlock also directed Holloman to show cause why his claims against the other 15 defendants should not be dismissed. After Judge Woodlock took senior status, the action was reassigned to this session on June 9, 2015.

         This Court has granted Holloman several extensions of time to file his show cause response, denied his request for a subpoena, granted, in part, defendants' motion to stay the proceedings and denied plaintiff's motions for default judgment and reconsideration.

         In January, 2016, this Court issued a memorandum and order allowing Holloman to proceed against defendants David Deakin, Harold Clarke, James Bender, Lois Russo, John Brodbeck and Jorma Maenpaa. It also allowed the action to proceed against defendants Brian McDonald (“MacDonald”), Sergeant Fasoli, Michael Rodrigues, Gregory Bedard, James Thornton and Shelley Williams and denied the motions of defendants Anthony Mendosa, Luis Spencer, Pamela O'Dell, Kristie Ladouceur and Thomas Fedel to dismiss for lack of service. Holloman's claims against Nick Palodian, Thomas Tocci and f/n/u Wendover relating to interference with legal mail and denial of access to the courts were dismissed sua sponte because Holloman failed to show good cause why the claims should not be dismissed.

         Six of the defendants, namely, Aaron Gill, Lieutenant Ferrarra, Frank Maine, Bruce Gelb, Amy Owens and Jeffrey Daigneault, filed a joint motion to dismiss in October, 2015. That motion is the subject matter of this memorandum.

         II. Motion to Dismiss

         A. Legal Standard

         To survive a motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim under Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6), a complaint must contain “sufficient factual matter” to state a claim for relief that is actionable as a matter of law and “plausible on its face.” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 667 (2009) (quoting Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007)). A claim is facially plausible if, after accepting as true all non-conclusory factual allegations, the court can draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged. Ocasio-Hernandez v. Fortuno-Burset, 640 F.3d 1, 12 (1st Cir. 2011). A court may not disregard properly pled factual allegations even if actual proof of those facts is improbable. Id. Rather, the relevant inquiry focuses on the reasonableness of the inference of liability that the plaintiff is asking the court to draw. Id. at 13.

         When rendering that determination, a court may not look beyond the facts alleged in the complaint, documents incorporated by reference therein and facts susceptible to judicial notice. Haley v. City of Boston, 657 F.3d 39, 46 (1st Cir. 2011).

         B. Analysis

         1. Claims Against Gill, Ferrarra and Maine for Excessive Force

         Holloman alleges that defendant Gill ordered his team to beat Holloman while he was in handcuffs and that Gill participated in the alleged beating by kneeing Holloman in the groin multiple times. Holloman then asserts he was dragged to the booking area for transportation and that Ferrarra and Maine watched Gill and his team beat Holloman without intervening. Holloman contends that those actions (and failures to act) violated his due process rights under the Fourteenth Amendment and his Eighth Amendment right to be free from cruel and unusual punishment.

         Gill, Ferrarra and Maine respond that any use of force against the plaintiff was constitutionally “de minimis” and does not give rise to a claim for excessive force.

         At the time of the alleged incidents, Holloman was a pretrial detainee, so the Fourteenth Amendment's Due Process Clause governs Holloman's claims for excessive force. See Miranda-Rivera v. Toledo-Davila, 813 F.3d 64, 70 (1st Cir. 2016) (citing Kingsley v. Hendrickson, 135 S.Ct. 2466, 2473-74 (2015)). To establish a claim for excessive force, the plaintiff must show that the defendant ...

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