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Geiger v. Minnesota Department of Human Services

United States District Court, D. Minnesota

January 9, 2015

Charles Michael Geiger, et al., Plaintiffs,
v.
Minnesota Department of Human Services, et al., Defendants.

REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION

LEO I. BRISBOIS, Magistrate Judge.

This matter comes before the undersigned United States Magistrate Judge upon Defendants' Motion to Dismiss, [Docket No. 18]. The present case has been referred to the undersigned Magistrate Judge for report and recommendation, pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1) and Local Rule 72.1. For reasons articulated herein, the Court recommends GRANTING Defendants' Motion to Dismiss, [Docket No. 18].

I. STATEMENT OF ALLEGED FACTS

Plaintiff Charles Michael Geiger ("Plaintiff"), a patient civilly committed to the Minnesota Sex Offender Program ("MSOP"), proceeding pro se, initiated the present case on or about May 19, 2014, naming as Defendants the Minnesota Department of Human Services, the Minnesota Sex Offender Program, Lucinda Jesson, Jannine Hebert, Kevin Moser, Peter Puffer, Jim Berg, Ann Zimmerman, Terry Kneisel, Troy Basaraba, Pat Grundmeier, Craig Berg, Scott Niemeyer, and unidentified John and Jane Does (collectively, "Defendants"). (Compl. [Docket No. 1]). In his May 19, 2014 Complaint, Plaintiff demands relief pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, alleging that Defendants "have and continue to deprive Plaintiffs'[1] of rights and privileges." (Id. ¶ 1). Plaintiff generally references causes of action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, the Minnesota State Constitution, the Patient's Bill of Rights, the Civil Commitment and Treatment Act, and "administrative rules and internal agency policies." (Id. ¶ 2). Plaintiff sues all named Defendants in both their individual and official capacities. (Id. § V, ¶ 9M).

Specifically, Plaintiff alleges that Defendants, collectively, were deliberately indifferent to and failed to protect Plaintiff from a sexual assault. Plaintiff alleges that on April 19, 2014, MSOP Security Counselors Pat Grundmeier and Craig Berg were training Security Counselor Scott Niemeyer to perform pat-down searches of MSOP patients. (Id. ¶ 11). Plaintiff alleges that Defendant Niemeyer stated, "I choose you first, " referring to Plaintiff, and proceeded to tightly grip Plaintiff's skin to the point of causing Plaintiff pain. (Id. ¶ 12). Defendant Niemeyer allegedly moved his hands down Plaintiff's waist, touched Plaintiff's buttocks and butt crack, and pulled the waist of Plaintiff's pants so as to see down his pants. (Id.) Plaintiff alleges that Defendant Niemeyer grabbed Plaintiff's buttocks and groin area and touched Plaintiff's penis and testicles. (Id.) Defendant Niemeyer allegedly pinched Plaintiff's chest, stomach, and buttocks, and while attempting to "wand" Plaintiff between his legs, Defendant Niemeyer "struck him in the groin, and the buttocks." (Id.) Plaintiff alleges that he complained during the pendency of the search and that Security Counselors Grundmeier and C. Berg were present during the search but said nothing. (Id.) Plaintiff alleges that "due to the extreme demonstration of deliberate indifference to the Plaintiffs' safety at the hands of the Defendants', the Plaintiffs' were senselessly and sexually assaulted at the hands of S.C. Scott Niemeyer." (Id. ¶ 14). Plaintiff alleges that as a direct result of the above-described sexual assault, Plaintiff has experienced and continues to experience migraines, post-traumatic stress disorder, flashbacks, nightmares, depression, and emotional and psychological distress. (Id. ¶ 15).

Plaintiff's May 19, 2014 Complaint specifically alleges four (4) claims against Defendants collectively: one count of deliberate indifference to an extreme risk of sexual assault, in violation of the Fourteenth Amendment and the Minnesota State Constitution; one count of failure to equally protect Plaintiff from sexual assault, in violation of the Fourteenth Amendment and the Minnesota State Constitution; one count of common law intentional and negligent infliction of emotional distress; and one count of common law negligence. (Id. at Counts I-IV). Additionally, Plaintiff makes passing, superficial references to the First Amendment, the Fourth Amendment, and Defendants' general failure to train and supervise MSOP employees.

On August 8, 2014, in response to Defendants' Motion to Dismiss, [Docket No. 18], Plaintiff filed an Amended Complaint.[2] (Amended Compl. [Docket No. 27]). In his Amended Complaint, Plaintiff names two previously unnamed individuals as Defendants, Nancy Johnston and Matthew Brown.[3] (Id.) Plaintiff removes all mention of previously named Defendants Jannine Hebert, Peter Puffer, Jim Berg, Ann Zimmerman, and Craig Berg. (Id.)

Aside from changes to the named Defendants, Plaintiff's Amended Complaint largely replicates the allegations contained in Plaintiff's original Complaint. Plaintiff generally alleges violations of his procedural and substantive due process rights; violations of his Fourth Amendment rights; and causes of action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, the Minnesota State Constitution, the Patient's Bill of Rights, the Civil Commitment and Treatment Act, and "administrative rules and internal agency policies." (Id. ¶¶ 1-2). Again, Plaintiff sues all individual Defendants in both their individual and official capacities. (Id. § V, ¶ 9J).

Plaintiff alleges a virtually identical set of facts surrounding the April 19, 2014 sexual assault as alleged in the original Complaint. Plaintiff alleges that on April 19, 2014, MSOP Security Counselors Pat Grundmeier and Matthew Brown (as opposed to Craig Berg) were training Security Counselor Scott Niemeyer to perform pat-down searches of MSOP patients. (Id. ¶ 12). Plaintiff alleges that Defendant Niemeyer selected Plaintiff and proceeded to conduct a "pat-down search" (i.e., the alleged sexual assault) as alleged in the original Complaint. (Id. ¶¶ 13-16). Plaintiff alleges that both Defendant Grundmeier and Defendant Brown were present for the duration of Defendant Niemeyer's actions and that neither made any attempt to intervene, despite Plaintiff's objections and complaints during the alleged assault. (Id. ¶¶ 17, 28-29). As a result of the alleged sexual assault, Plaintiff alleges that he has experienced flashbacks concerning sexual assaults he experienced as a child. (Id. ¶¶ 19-25).

In his Amended Complaint, Plaintiff specifically alleges five (5) claims against Defendants collectively: one count of unreasonable search and seizure, in violation of the Fourth Amendment and the Minnesota State Constitution; one count of deliberate indifference to Plaintiff's sexual assault, in violation of the Fourteenth Amendment, the Minnesota State Constitution, and various Minnesota statutes; one count of common law failure to protect/breach of duty/negligence; one count of failure to equally protect Plaintiff from the sexual assault; and one count of common law intentional and negligent infliction of emotional distress. (Id. at Counts I-V).

II. DEFENDANTS' MOTION TO DISMISS, [DOCKET NO. 18]

Defendants move the Court for an order dismissing Plaintiff's Complaint with prejudice for lack of subject matter jurisdiction and failure to state a claim upon which relief may be granted, pursuant to Federal Rules of Civil Procedure 12(b)(1) and 12(b)(6). (Defs.' Motion to Dismiss, [Docket No. 18]).

Upon review of Plaintiff's now-operative Amended Complaint, [Docket No. 27], the Court finds that Plaintiff has not incorporated any new, previously unalleged claims against the Defendants. Additionally, to the extent the Amended Complaint makes factual adjustments and clarifications to Plaintiff's original allegations, the Court concludes that the amendments do not significantly or materially alter the original Complaint but rather serve simply to clarify Plaintiff's existing claims. Therefore, as indicated in its August 11, 2014 Order, in the interests of judicial efficiency, the Court considers Defendants' Motion to Dismiss, [Docket No. 18], originally directed towards Plaintiff's Complaint, as redirected towards Plaintiff's now-operative Amended Complaint.[4]

A. Standards of Review

1. Lack of Subject Matter Jurisdiction

"A court must dismiss an action over which it lacks subject matter jurisdiction." Pomerenke v. Bird, No. 12-cv-1757 (DSD/JJG), 2014 WL 30363, at *1 (D. Minn. Jan. 3, 2014) (citing Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(h)(3)). Rule 12(b)(1) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure provides that a party may move to dismiss a pleading for lack of subject matter jurisdiction. Such a motion may challenge at any time the sufficiency of the pleading on its face or may challenge the factual truthfulness of its allegations. See Titus v. Sullivan, 4 F.3d 590, 593 (8th Cir. 1993); Osborn v. United States, 918 F.2d 724, 729, n.6 (8th Cir. 1990). In a factual challenge, courts may consider matters outside of the pleadings, and no presumptive truthfulness attaches to the plaintiff's factual allegations. Osborn, 918 F.2d at 729-30, n.6.

2. Failure to State a Claim upon Which Relief May Be Granted

Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 8(a)(2) requires a complaint articulate "a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief." Fed.R.Civ.P. 8. When evaluating a motion to dismiss pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6) for failure to state a claim upon which relief may be granted, "[courts] look only to the facts alleged in the complaint and construe those facts in the light most favorable to the plaintiff." Riley v. St. Louis County of Mo., 153 F.3d 627, 629 (8th Cir. 1998) (citing Double D Spotting Serv., Inc. v. Supervalu, Inc., 136 F.3d 554, 556 (8th Cir. 1998)), cert. denied 525 U.S. 1178 (1999). Courts draw all reasonable inferences in favor of the nonmoving party. See Maki v. Allete, Inc., 383 F.3d 740, 742 (8th Cir. 2004).

"While a complaint attacked by a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss does not need detailed factual allegations, a plaintiff's obligation to provide the grounds of his entitlement to relief requires more than labels and conclusions, and a formulistic recitation of the elements of a cause of action will not do." Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007) (internal quotations and citations omitted). "A claim has facial plausibility when the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged, " and "[w]here a complaint pleads facts that are merely consistent with' a defendant's liability, it stops short of the line between possibility and plausibility of entitlement to relief.'" Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556-67). "While legal conclusions can provide the framework of a complaint, they must be supported by factual allegations." Id. at 664.

Courts undertake the "context-specific task" of determining whether a plaintiff's allegations "nudge" its claims against a defendant "across the line from conceivable to plausible." See id. at 679-81. The plaintiff must "plead[] factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged." Id. at 678. "The plausibility standard is not akin to a probability requirement, ' but it asks for more than a sheer possibility that a defendant has acted unlawfully." Id .; see also Farnam Street Fin., Inc. v. Pump Media, Inc., No. 09-cv-233 (MJD/FLN), 2009 WL 4672668, at *3 (D. Minn. Dec. 8, 2009) (citing Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678).

Even considering the liberal construction courts give pro se plaintiffs' pleadings, the facts alleged in a complaint must state a claim for relief as a matter of law. Sorenson v. Minnesota Dep't of Corr., No. 12-cv-1336 (ADM/AJB), 2012 WL 3143927, at *2 (D. Minn. Aug. 2, 2012) (citing Martin v. Aubuchon, 623 F.2d 1282, 1286 (8th Cir. 1980)). "Though pro se complaints are to be construed liberally, they still must allege sufficient facts to support the claims advanced." Stone v. Harry, 364 F.3d 912, 914 (8th Cir. 2004) (internal citations omitted). See, e.g., Dunn v. White, 880 F.2d 1188, 1197 (10th Cir. 1989) (regarding a pro se plaintiff, "we will not supply additional facts, nor will we construct a legal theory for plaintiff that assumes facts that have not been pleaded"); Cunningham v. Ray, 648 F.2d 1185, 1186 (8th Cir. 1981) ("[P]ro se litigants must set [a claim] forth in a manner which, taking the pleaded facts as true, ...


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