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Dyer v. City of Boston

United States District Court, D. Massachusetts

March 27, 2018

JOSEPH DYER, Plaintiff,
v.
CITY OF BOSTON, STEWARD HEALTH CARE SYSTEM LLC, CARNEY HOSPITAL, MICHAEL RILEY, ZACHARY CROSSEN, THUAN LAI, WALTER J. RAMOS, Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

          Denise J. Casper, United States District Judge.

         I. Introduction

         Plaintiff Joseph Dyer (“Dyer”) has filed this lawsuit pro se pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and the Massachusetts Civil Rights Act against the City of Boston, Steward Health Care System LLC (“Steward Health”), Carney Hospital, Dr. Michael Riley (“Dr. Riley”), Zachary Crossen (“Crossen”), Thuan Lai (“Lai”) and Walter J. Ramos (“Ramos”) (collectively, the “Defendants”). D. 1-1. Dyer alleges that the Defendants violated his Fourth Amendment rights under the United States Constitution, the Massachusetts Constitution and Massachusetts Civil Rights Act (“MCRA”), committed medical malpractice and violated Mass. Gen. L. c. 258. D. 1-1 at 7. He seeks monetary relief from all Defendants. D. 1-1 at 18. The City of Boston, Crossen and Lai (collectively, “City Defendants”) now move for dismissal, D. 3, as do Steward, Carney Hospital, Ramos and Riley (collectively, “Healthcare Defendants”), D. 14. Dyer also moves to withdraw his medical malpractice claims. D. 16. For the reasons set forth below, the Court ALLOWS IN PART and DENIES IN PART both motions to dismiss, D. 3; D. 14. The Court ALLOWS Dyer's motion to withdraw his medical malpractice claims, D. 16.

         II. Standard of Review

         To survive a motion to dismiss under Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6), a complaint must “contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to ‘state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.'” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (quoting Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007)). The Court must distinguish between “the complaint's factual allegations (which must be accepted as true) from its conclusory legal allegations (which need not be credited).” Morales-Cruz v. Univ. of P.R., 676 F.3d 220, 224 (1st Cir. 2012). “[N]o single allegation need [establish] . . . some necessary element [of the cause of action], provided that, in sum, the allegations of the complaint make the claim as a whole at least plausible.” Garayalde-Rijos v. Mun. of Carolina, 747 F.3d 15, 24 (1st Cir. 2014) (quoting Ocasio-Hernández v. Fortuño-Burset, 640 F.3d 1, 14-15 (1st Cir. 2011)). The plaintiff must show that the combined allegations state “a plausible, not a merely conceivable, case for relief.” Sepúlveda-Villarini v. Dep't of Educ. of P.R., 628 F.3d 25, 29 (1st Cir. 2010).

         “[A] pro se complaint, however inartfully pleaded, must be held to less stringent standards than formal pleadings drafted by lawyers.” Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 94 (2007) (quoting Estelle v. Gamble, 429 U.S. 97, 106 (1976)) (internal quotation marks omitted). That said, a pro se complaint survives the motion to dismiss stage only if it “set[s] forth factual allegations, either direct or inferential, respecting each material element necessary to sustain recovery under some actionable legal theory.” Gooley v. Mobil Oil Corp., 851 F.2d 513, 515 (1st Cir. 1988).

         III. Factual Background

         The following factual summary is based upon the allegations in Dyer's complaint and attached exhibits, D. 1-1, which are accepted as true for the consideration of Defendants' motions to dismiss.

         On May 13, 2015, Dyer, an inmate at Donald W. Wyatt Detention Center, was arrested for drug possession. D. 1-1 ¶ 1; D. 1-1 at 19. After a “physical altercation, ” Dyer “began having chest pains.” D. 1-1 ¶ 2. Emergency medical technicians instructed police officers Crossen and Lai to escort Dyer to Carney Hospital. D. 1-1 ¶ 4. In the ambulance, Crossen told Dyer that he believed Dyer had drugs hidden in his rectum, and “that ‘he' was going to give [Dyer] a rectal exam.” D. 1-1 ¶¶ 5-6.

         When they arrived at Carney Hospital, Crossen told Dyer he would order a doctor to conduct an anal cavity search. D. 1-1 ¶ 7. Crossen instructed hospital staff to place Dyer on a gurney face-down, and Crossen and Lai handcuffed Riley to the bottom of the gurney. D. 1-1 ¶¶ 7-8. Crossen and Lai then removed Riley's clothes. D. 1-1 ¶ 9. Crossen then allegedly “slapped” Riley's bare buttocks and made offensive remarks referring to Dyer as his “bitch, ” at which point Riley screamed for help. D. 1-1 ¶¶ 10-11. Crossen then digitally penetrated Dyer's rectum. D. 1-1 ¶ 11. Dyer continued screaming for help. D. 1-1 ¶ 12.

         Dr. Riley entered the room and saw Crossen removing his fingers from Dyer. D. 1-1 ¶ 14. Dr. Riley then left the room with Crossen and Lai. D. 1-1 ¶ 15. Outside, Crossen and Lai informed Dr. Riley that Dyer had “a history of packing drugs, hypodermic needles and other weapons in his rectum.” D. 1-1 at 21 (internal quotation marks omitted). When they returned, Dr. Riley explained that Crossen and Lai told him that Dyer “got caught with drugs in [his] buttocks today” and that the officers had asked Dr. Riley to perform a rectal exam on Dyer. D. 1-1 ¶¶ 16-17. Dr. Riley asked Dyer if he had drugs in his rectum, and Dyer denied having any drugs. D. 1-1 ¶ 23. Dr. Riley asked Dyer to consent to an anal cavity search, but Dyer refused. D. 1-1 ¶ 24. Dr. Riley then “drugged or sedated” Dyer, told Lai and Crossen to hold Dyer down as Dyer continued to protest, and inserted two fingers into Dyer's rectum. D. 1-1 ¶¶ 25-32; D. 1-1 at 21. Nurses, hearing Dyer, occasionally “yell[ed] and open[ed] the curtain” to keep Dyer quiet. D. 1-1 ¶ 33. Dr. Riley then took an x-ray of Dyer's pelvis. D. 1-1 ¶ 38.

         As alleged in the complaint, Boston Police Department rules state that “[b]ody cavity searches may only be conducted when authorized by a warrant.” D. 1-1 at 25 (attaching an excerpt from Boston Police Department Rules and Procedures). A body cavity search, or an “internal manual inspection of any human body cavity, ” may not be conducted by a police officer. D. 1-1 at 24-25. Rather, only a qualified medical professional-subsequent to a Duty Supervisor's application for a warrant, issued by a judge-may conduct a body cavity search. D. 1-1 at 25. The search must then be recorded on an incident report. D. 1-1 at 26.

         Neither the officers nor Dr. Riley possessed a warrant to conduct an anal cavity search, D. 1-1 ¶¶ 18-20, and Dyer did not consent to the x-ray or Dr. Riley's communication of Dyer's x-ray results to Lai and Crossen, D. 1-1 ¶ 39. Lai and Crossen did not indicate on Dyer's incident report that they or Dr. Riley performed an anal cavity search. D. 1-1 ¶ 43. Dyer alleges that the Boston Police Department has a “custom, ” of which the Police Commissioner is aware, whereby officers bring arrested persons to hospitals and explain that the arrestee “swallowed something, ” compelling doctors to conduct warrantless searches and x-rays. D. 1-1 ¶¶ 40-41.

         IV. Procedural History

         Riley instituted this action in Suffolk Superior Court on May 16, 2017. D. 1. Defendants subsequently removed the case to this Court on August 7, 2017. Id. The City Defendants have now filed their motion to dismiss, D. 3, and the Healthcare Defendants have also moved to dismiss, D. 14.

         V. Discussion

         Dyer has not alleged distinct, enumerated counts in his amended complaint, but has rather stated them in his opening paragraphs, asserting the following claims: violations of 42 U.S.C. § 1983 (“§ 1983”), on the basis of an unlawful body cavity search, in violation of the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments of the U.S. Constitution and Article 14 of the Massachusetts Constitution; medical negligence; and Mass. Gen. L. c. 258. D. 1-1 at 8-10. After the Healthcare Defendants moved to stay discovery pending review by a medical malpractice tribunal, D. 15, Dyer moved to withdraw his claims of medical negligence and malpractice. D. 16.

         A. Ci ...


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