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Manuel v. State

United States District Court, D. Maine

November 2, 2018

GARY MANUEL, Plaintiff
STATE OF MAINE, et al., Defendants


          John C. Nivison U.S. Magistrate Judge

         In this action, Plaintiff seeks monetary damages and injunctive relief against the State of Maine (the State), and the City of Bangor, certain Bangor police officers, and the Bangor police and fire departments (collectively, the Bangor Defendants) for an alleged conspiracy against Plaintiff and his family. Plaintiff alleges Defendants' conduct resulted in the death of his adult son, Peter Manuel. (Complaint, ECF No. 1.)

         The matter is before the Court on Defendants' motions to dismiss. (Motions, ECF Nos. 5, 6.) The State of Maine contends Plaintiff has failed to assert an actionable claim against the State. The State also contends Plaintiff's claim is barred by the immunity afforded by the Eleventh Amendment of the United States Constitution. The Bangor Defendants challenge Plaintiff's ability to assert a claim on behalf of his deceased son, and argue Plaintiff's allegations are too vague to state an actionable claim.

         Following a review of the complaint and the parties' written arguments, I recommend the Court grant the motions to dismiss.


         The following facts are derived from Plaintiff's complaint and are accepted as true for purposes of evaluating the pending motions to dismiss. McKee v. Cosby, 874 F.3d 54, 59 (1st Cir. 2017).

         Plaintiff and Eunice Manuel, are the parents of Athea, Maverick, and Peter Manuel. Plaintiff alleges Defendants have retaliated against him and his family members because Plaintiff previously filed several lawsuits against Defendants.[1] Plaintiff contends Defendants deprived Plaintiff and his family of certain benefits, opportunities and property.

         Plaintiff also alleges that Defendants unfairly treated his son, Peter, and as a result, are responsible for Peter's death. Plaintiff asserts that in the early morning hours of March 2, 2018, near a nightclub in Bangor, members of the Bangor Police Department, without probable cause, chased Peter into the Kenduskeag Stream, where he lost his life by drowning or exposure to the elements. (Complaint, ECF No. 1, at 17.) Plaintiff alleges the incident is the culmination of a long history of oppression directed at his family. (Id.)

         Plaintiff cites numerous statutes and constitutional amendments as the bases for his claim. (Complaint at 12 - 13.)


         A. Motion to Dismiss Standard

         Pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6), a party may seek dismissal of “a claim for relief in any pleading” if that party believes that the pleading fails “to state a claim upon which relief can be granted.” In its assessment of the motion, a court must “assume the truth of all well-plead facts and give the plaintiff[] the benefit of all reasonable inferences therefrom.” Blanco v. Bath Iron Works Corp., 802 F.Supp.2d 215, 221 (D. Me. 2011) (quoting Genzyme Corp. v. Fed. Ins. Co., 622 F.3d 62, 68 (1st Cir. 2010)). To overcome the motion, a plaintiff must establish that the allegations raise a plausible basis for a fact finder to conclude that the defendant is legally responsible for the claim at issue. Id.

         Although a pro se plaintiff's complaint is subject to “less stringent standards than formal pleadings drafted by lawyers, ” Haines v. Kerner, 404 U.S. 519, 520 (1972), this is “not to say that pro se plaintiffs are not required to plead basic facts sufficient to state a claim, Ferranti v. Moran, 618 F.2d 888, 890 (1st Cir. 1980). To allege a civil action in federal court, it is not enough for a plaintiff merely to allege that a defendant acted unlawfully; a plaintiff must affirmatively allege facts that identify the manner by which the defendant subjected the plaintiff to a harm for which the law affords a remedy. Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009).

         B. Failure to State a Claim

          The State and the Bangor Defendants contend Plaintiff has failed to state an actionable claim. In response to Defendants' motions, Plaintiff argues he has asserted a claim that Defendants conspired to deprive Plaintiff of constitutional rights, specifically, rights under the First Amendment, Fourth Amendment, and the Fourteenth Amendment, made actionable pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. (Opposition to Motion to Dismiss, ECF No. 8, at 4.) Plaintiff also argues that the City of Bangor is liable under the Maine Tort Claims Act because the harms inflicted by the police department occurred pursuant to negligent operation of vehicles, machinery, and equipment. (Id.)

         1. Federal ...

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