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Winfield v. Lawrence General Hospital

United States District Court, D. Massachusetts

March 27, 2017



          Indira Talwani United States District Judge

         Plaintiff Marie Winfield filed this civil rights action for damages arising from an incident at Lawrence General Hospital. For the following reasons, the Motion of the Defendants, Lawrence General Hospital, Michael Fornesi, and Gregory Henderson, to Dismiss the Plaintiff's Complaint Pursuant to F.R.C.P. Rule 12(b)(6) [#8] is ALLOWED, and Defendants Timothy Dube and Robert Dibenedetto's Motion to Dismiss Pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6) [#25] is ALLOWED IN PART and DENIED IN PART.

         I. Standard

         To defeat a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss, the plaintiff must allege sufficient facts “to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.” Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007). While the court construes pro se complaints liberally, Foley v. Wells Fargo Bank, N.A., 772 F.3d 63, 75 (1st Cir. 2014), “[t]hreadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action, supported by mere conclusory statements, do not suffice, ” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009). Therefore, in passing on a motion to dismiss, the court first “distinguish[es] the complaint's factual allegations (which must be accepted as true) from its conclusory legal allegations (which need not be credited).” Saldivar v. Racine, 818 F.3d 14, 18 (1st Cir. 2016) (quoting García-Catalán v. United States, 734 F.3d 100, 103 (1st Cir. 2013)). Next, the court “determine[s] whether the factual allegations are sufficient to support the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable.” Id. (quoting García-Catalán, 734 F.3d at 103).

         “Exhibits attached to the complaint are properly considered part of the pleading ‘for all purposes, ' including Rule 12(b)(6), ” Trans-Spec Truck Serv., Inc. v. Caterpillar Inc., 524 F.3d 315, 321 (1st Cir. 2008) (quoting Fed.R.Civ.P. 10(c)). Whether statements contained in such exhibits are considered as true, however, depends on the purpose for which they are attached; where the exhibits are attached for the purpose of contesting their accuracy or demonstrating their falsity, the court does not accept the exhibits as true for the purposes of a motion to dismiss. See Saunders v. Duke, 766 F.3d 1262, 1270 (11th Cir. 2014).

         II. Background

         According to the Complaint [#1], [1] on May 15, 2016, Plaintiff arrived at the hospital and spoke with the receptionist stationed at the main entrance. Compl. ¶¶ 8-10. Shortly thereafter, three hospital security guards, including Michael Fornesi, and three police officers from the Lawrence Police Department surrounded Plaintiff. Id. ¶ 11. At the time, a separate civil rights action brought by Plaintiff against Lawrence General Hospital, Fornesi, and a City of Lawrence police officer was pending. Id. ¶ 7; see also Winfield v. Perocchi, No. 14-cv-12219-IT.

         Plaintiff alleges that Fornesi “obviously saw the Plaintiff on his close circuit monitor[]

         and summoned the Lawrence [P]olice.” Id. ¶ 12. She alleges that the police officers “brutally grabbed” her and “proceeded to pull [her] by the arm, and push and drag her, ” rendering her unconscious. Id. ¶ 13. She alleges that, when she came to, the officers were “push[ing] [her] violently” into her husband's car and thereafter closed the door on her right foot. Id. ¶¶ 14, 15.

         After the incident, Plaintiff allegedly suffered pain throughout her body, swelling in her foot, post-traumatic stress, and complications to her pre-existing spinal conditions. Id. ¶¶ 15, 26. Plaintiff further alleges that false reports were made regarding the event, that a surveillance video was altered, and that her medical records were improperly accessed. Id. ¶¶ 18, 20, 22-25.

         On July 13, 2016, Plaintiff filed this action against Fornesi, Lawrence General Hospital, Gregory Henderson (whom she alleges is the Director of Security of the Lawrence General Hospital), Lawrence Police Sergeant Robert Dibenedetto, and Officer Timothy Dube. Count I of the complaint alleges that Sgt. Dibenedetto and Officer Dube used excessive force in violation of the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution and the Massachusetts Civil Rights Act. Count II alleges that Fornesi, Sgt. Dibenedetto, and Officer Dube retaliated against Plaintiff for exercising her rights under the First Amendment. Count III alleges that Fornesi, Sgt. Dibenedetto, and Officer Dube engaged in concerted action to violate Plaintiff's rights under the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment and the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Count IV alleges that Henderson and Lawrence General Hospital are vicariously liable for Plaintiff's injuries.

         III. Discussion

         A. Count I

         Plaintiff claims use of excessive force in violation of the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments[2] and the Massachusetts Civil Rights Act, Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 12, § 11I, by Sgt. Dibenedetto and Officer Dube (Count I). Defendants Sgt. Dibenedetto and Officer Dube argue that they are entitled to qualified immunity on these claims. “‘Qualified immunity shields government officials from civil damages liability unless the official violated a statutory or constitutional right that was clearly established at the time of the challenged conduct.'” Taylor v. Barkes, 135 S.Ct. 2042, 2044 (2015) (quotation marks and citation omitted). A qualified immunity analysis is two-fold: the court must first decide whether the facts, taken in light most favorable to the plaintiff, “make out a violation of a constitutional right, ” and then decide “whether the right at issue was ‘clearly established' at the time of [the] defendant's alleged misconduct.” Pearson v. Callahan, 555 U.S. 223, 232 (2009) (citation omitted). The second step of the analysis involves ‚Äúconsider[ing] both whether the contours of the ...

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