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Annan-Yartey v. State Department of Transportation Airport

United States District Court, D. Hawaii

April 6, 2018

NAPOLEON T. ANNAN-YARTEY, SR., Plaintiff,
v.
STATE OF HAWAII DEPARTMENT OF TRANSPORTATION AIRPORT, ET AL., Defendants.

          FINDINGS AND RECOMMENDATION TO: (1) DISMISS COMPLAINT WITH LIMITED LEAVE TO AMEND; (2) DENY PLAINTIFF'S APPLICATION TO PROCEED IN DISTRICT COURT WITHOUT PREPAYING FEES OR COSTS

          Kenneth J. Mansfield, United States Magistrate Judge

         On March 19, 2018, Plaintiff Napoleon T. Annan-Yartey, Sr. (“Plaintiff”), proceeding pro se, filed a Civil Rights Complaint to 42 Section 1983 (“Complaint”) against Defendants State of Hawaii Department of Transportation Airport (“DOT”); (2) Securitas Security Service USA Inc. (“Securitas”); (3) Department of State of Hawaii, Department of Public Safety, Sheriff Division (DIS) (“DPS”); and (4) various doe defendants (collectively, “Defendants”). ECF No. 1. That same day, Plaintiff filed an Application to Proceed in District Court Without Prepaying Fees or Costs (“IFP Application”). ECF No. 2.

         For the reasons set forth below, the Court FINDS AND RECOMMENDS that the district court DISMISS Plaintiff's Complaint WITH LIMITED LEAVE TO AMEND as discussed below. The Court also RECOMMENDS that the district court DENY WITHOUT PREJUDICE Plaintiff's IFP Application.

         BACKGROUND

         The Complaint alleges that, at approximately 3:00 a.m. on July 4, 2017, Plaintiff was at Honolulu International Airport to board a flight to New York. ECF No. 1 at § II, ¶ 9. As Plaintiff was walking with his baggage towards the ticket counter, a Securitas security guard (“Securitas Doe 1”) blocked Plaintiff's path and asked him to stop. Id. at ¶ 11. Plaintiff alleges that a second Securitas security guard (“Securitas Doe 2”) then grabbed Plaintiff's arm and said, “I am detaining you.” Id. at ¶ 12.

         Plaintiff asked Securitas Does 1 and 2 on what basis they were detaining him “and what the probable cause was[.]” Id. at ¶ 13. Securitas Does 1 and 2 did not respond to Plaintiff and, instead, asked if the bags Plaintiff was carrying belonged to him. Id. at ¶ 14. When Plaintiff said the bags were his, Securitas Doe 1 asked Plaintiff to hand over the bags for inspection. Id. at ¶ 15. In response, Plaintiff said, “no by law the TSA is the authorized Agency allowed to search my bags[.]” Id. at ¶ 16.

         At that point, Securitas Doe 2 called a third Securitas security guard to the scene (“Securitas Doe 3”). Id. at ¶¶ 17-18. Securitas Doe 3 asked to see Plaintiff's airline ticket, and Plaintiff showed it to him. Id. at ¶ 19. Securitas Doe 3 then asked to inspect Plaintiff's bags, and said he would prevent Plaintiff from boarding his flight if he did not comply. Id. at ¶ 20. Plaintiff again refused, and asked Securitas Does 1, 2, and 3 whether they were authorized by TSA to inspect his bags. Id. at ¶ 21.

         Plaintiff alleges that when he refused to surrender his bags for inspection, Securitas Does 1, 2, and 3 began beating Plaintiff.[1] Id. at ¶¶ 23-26. Plaintiff alleges that Securitas Doe 3 put Plaintiff in a choke hold, which caused Plaintiff to suffer a heart attack, among other injuries. Id. at ¶¶ 23, 29. Plaintiff alleges that “approximately four Guards jumped him” and continued to beat him for about an hour before handcuffing him. See Id. at ¶¶ 26, 31.

         Plaintiff alleges that the Securitas security guards “used excessive and unreasonable force” against him, and “subsequently arrested and detained him without a probable cause or legal justification.” Id. at ¶¶ 41, 35. Securitas also “issued a criminal citation against plaintiff without any legal basis . . . .” Id. at ¶ 36.

         On March 19, 2018, Plaintiff filed the Complaint against Defendants and the IFP Application. The Complaint asserts the following claims against all Defendants: (1) Count 1 - Assault and Battery; (2) Count 2 - False Arrest; (3) Count 3 - False Imprisonment; (4) Count 4 - Malicious Prosecution; (5) Count 5 -Abuse of Process; (6) Count 6 - Negligence; (7) Count 7 - Gross Negligence; (8) Count 8 - Intentional Infliction of Emotional Distress; (9) Count 9 - Negligent Infliction of Emotional Distress; (10) Count 10 - Negligent Training and Supervision; and (11) Count 11 - Respondeat Superior and Vicarious Liability.

         DISCUSSION

         I. The Complaint

         A. Standards of Review

         1. Subject-Matter Jurisdiction

         The court may dismiss sua sponte a complaint for lack of subject-matter jurisdiction. Fiedler v. Clark, 714 F.2d 77, 78-79 (9th Cir. 1983); Belleville Catering Co. v. Champaign Mkt. Place, LLC, 350 F.3d 691, 693 (7th Cir. 2003) (“[I]nquiring whether the court has jurisdiction is a federal judge's first duty in every case.”); Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(h)(3). “Federal courts are courts of limited jurisdiction, ” possessing “only that power authorized by Constitution and statute.” United States v. Marks, 530 F.3d 799, 810 (9th Cir. 2008) (internal quotation marks omitted) (quoting Kokkonen v. Guardian Life Ins. Co., 511 U.S. 375, 377 (1994)). Plaintiff bears the burden of establishing subject-matter jurisdiction. Kokkonen, 511 U.S. at 377. Plaintiff must allege sufficient facts to show a proper basis for the court to assert subject-matter jurisdiction over the action. See Smith v. McCullough, 270 U.S. 456, 459 (1926) (“The established rule is that a plaintiff, suing in federal court, must show in his pleading, affirmatively and distinctly, the existence of whatever is essential to federal jurisdiction, and, if he does not do so, the court, on having the defect called to its attention or on discovering the same, must dismiss the case, unless the defect be corrected by amendment.”); see also Fed. R. Civ. P. 8(a)(1).

         Because Plaintiff is appearing pro se, the Court liberally construes the Complaint. See Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 94 (2007); see also Eldridge v. Block, 832 F.2d 1132, 1137 (9th Cir. 1987) (citing Boag v. MacDougall, 454 U.S. 364, 365 (1982) (per curiuam)) (“The Supreme Court has instructed the federal courts to liberally construe the ‘inartful pleading' of pro se litigants.”). The Court also recognizes that “[u]nless it is absolutely clear that no amendment can cure the defect . . . a pro se litigant is entitled to notice of the complaint's deficiencies and an opportunity to amend prior to dismissal of the action.” Lucas v. Dep't of Corr., 66 F.3d 245, 248 (9th Cir. 1995); see also Crowley v. Bannister, 734 F.3d 967, 977-78 (9th Cir. 2013).

         2. Screening the Complaint

         The Court must subject each civil action commenced pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915(a) to a mandatory screening, and order the dismissal of any claims it finds “frivolous, malicious, failing to state a claim upon which relief can be granted, or seeking monetary relief from a defendant immune from such relief.” 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B); Lopez v. Smith, 203 F.3d 1122, 1126-27 (9th Cir. 2000) (en banc) (stating that 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e) “not only permits but requires” the court to dismiss sua sponte an in forma pauperis complaint that fails to state a claim); Calhoun v. Stahl, 254 F.3d 845 (9th Cir. 2001) (per curiam) (holding that “the provisions of 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B) are not limited to prisoners”).

         To avoid dismissal for failure to a state a claim, “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. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007)); see also Weber v. Dep't of Veterans Affairs, 521 F.3d 1061, 1065 (9th Cir. 2008). This tenet--that the court must accept as true all of the allegations contained in the complaint--“is inapplicable to legal conclusions.” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678. Accordingly, “[t]hreadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action, supported by mere conclusory statements, do not suffice.” Id. (citing Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555). Rather, “[a] claim has facial plausibility when the plaintiff pleads sufficient content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged.” Id. (citing Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556). Factual allegations that permit the court to infer only “the mere possibility of misconduct” do not show that the pleader is entitled to relief as required by Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 8. Id. at 679.

         A complaint must also meet Rule 8's requirements that a complaint include a “short and plain statement of the claim, ” and that “each allegation must be simple, concise, and direct.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2), (d)(1). A district court may dismiss a complaint for failure to comply with Rule 8 where the Complaint fails to provide the defendant fair notice of the wrongs allegedly committed. See McHenry v. Renne, 84 F.3d 1172, 1178-80 (9th Cir. 1996) (affirming dismissal of complaint where “one cannot determine from the complaint who is being sued, for what relief, and on what theory, with enough detail to guide discovery”); cf. Mendiondo v. Centinela Hosp. Med. Ctr., 521 F.3d 1097, 1105 n.4 (9th Cir. 2008) (finding dismissal under Rule 8 was in error where “the complaint provide[d] fair notice of the wrongs allegedly committed by defendants and [did] not qualify as overly verbose, confusing, or rambling”).

         “The propriety of dismissal for failure to comply with Rule 8 does not depend on whether the complaint is wholly without merit.” McHenry, 84 F.3d at 1179. Rule 8 does, however, require more than “the-defendant-unlawfully-harmed-me accusation[s]” and “[a] pleading that offers labels and conclusions or a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action will not do.” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678 (citations and internal quotation marks omitted). ...


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