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Abdisamad v. City of Lewiston

United States District Court, D. Maine

July 23, 2019

ALI ABDISAMAD, Plaintiff
v.
CITY OF LEWISTON, LEWISTON SCHOOL DEPARTMENT, and STATE OF MAINE, DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE, CONSERVATION AND FORESTRY Defendants

          DECISION AND ORDER ON DEFENDANT CITY OF LEWISTON'S MOTION TO DISMISS AMENDED COMPLAINT

          Lance E. Walker United States District Judge

         Plaintiff Ali Abdisamad filed this action on behalf of his deceased son, R.I., against Defendants the City of Lewiston, the Lewiston School Department, and the State of Maine Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry alleging claims arising from the death of R.I. The matter is before me on a motion to dismiss filed by the City of Lewiston, which motion has been joined by the Lewiston School Department.[1] Mot. Dismiss Am. Compl. (ECF No. 22); Sch. Dep't. Response in Support of Motion (ECF No. 25). For reasons that follow, the motion is granted.

         FACTS

         The following facts are drawn from Plaintiff's amended complaint. I accept as true the Plaintiff's well-pleaded allegations and will draw all reasonable inferences in the Plaintiff's favor. Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6); Washington Legal Found. v. Massachusetts Bar Found., 993 F.2d 962, 971 (1st Cir. 1993); Sanchez v. Pereira-Castillo, 590 F.3d 31, 41 (1st Cir. 2009). I will reject “unsupported conclusions or interpretations of law.” Washington Legal Found., 993 F.2d at 971.

         On June 12, 2018, the City of Lewiston and the Lewiston School Department sponsored a field trip to Range Pond State Park in Poland, Maine for a group of seventh graders. The field trip involved approximately 111 students and was chaperoned by 11 adults employed by the School Department. When the group arrived at the park, the team leader discussed ground rules with the students. In addition to the chaperones, one lifeguard employed by the Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry was also present. Am. Compl. ¶¶ 7, 9-12.

         Plaintiff's minor son, R.I., participated in the field trip. Sometime after 11:00 a.m., another student reported that R.I. was missing. The lifeguard asked chaperones to enter the pond and look for R.I. Rescue personnel who arrived on the scene were able to locate R.I., but efforts to resuscitate R.I. ultimately failed. Id. ¶¶ 8, 13-16.

         DISCUSSION

         Plaintiff seeks to hold the City of Lewiston and its School Department liable in damages for deprivation of R.I.'s civil rights, pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and the Maine Civil Rights Act, 5 M.R.S. § 4682 (“Count I - Due Process Violation”); and for “wrongful death, ” pursuant the Maine wrongful death statute, 18-A M.R.S. § 2-804, and the Maine Tort Claims Act, to 14 M.R.S. § 8104-C (“Count III - Wrongful Death”).

         In support of the civil rights claim, Plaintiff asserts that the City and School Department failed to follow unidentified “protocols” and thereby “created a danger to R.I. from which they had a duty to protect him.” Id. ¶ 17. Plaintiff also contends the City and School Department engaged in unidentified “actions and deliberate indifference” that were “so egregious and outrageous that they shock the contemporary conscience.” Id. ¶ 21.[2]

         Through the motion to dismiss, the City Defendants[3] argue that Plaintiff's amended complaint fails to allege a plausible basis for relief. Pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12, a defendant may assert that a plaintiff's complaint “fail[s] to state a claim upon which relief can be granted, ” and thereby attempt to obtain an order of dismissal at or near the outset of the litigation. Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6). To avoid dismissal, a plaintiff's complaint must provide “a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2). While the allegations do not need to be “detailed” to show entitlement to relief, Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007), “something beyond the mere possibility of loss causation must be alleged.” Id. at 557-58. “Factual allegations must be enough to raise a right to relief above the speculative level, ” id. at 555, such that a basis for liability appears “plausible.” Id. at 556. This standard “requires more than labels and conclusions.” Id. at 555.

         I will consider the claims in turn, mindful that a motion to dismiss is not a crucible in which to resolve the merits, but rather a means to test whether Plaintiff has alleged “sufficient facts to show that [s]he has a plausible entitlement to relief.” Sanchez, 590 F.3d at 41.

         A. Federal Civil Rights Claim - Substantive Due Process

         Plaintiff's first cause of action is captioned as a claim for deprivation of due process. The due process claim is necessarily a claim for deprivation of “substantive due process.”[4]In support of the claim, Plaintiff alleges, “upon information and belief, ” that Defendants did not observe some unspecified “protocols and standards under the circumstances, creating [the] danger to Plaintiff.” Am. Compl. ¶ 20. Plaintiff further alleges that Defendants' “actions and deliberate indifference were so egregious and outrageous that they shock the contemporary conscience.” Id. ¶ 21.

         In its substantive component, the Due Process Clause protects persons from deprivations of life, fundamental[5] liberty interests, or property, regardless of the procedure employed, where the deprivation results from a transgression “so extreme and egregious as to shock the contemporary conscience.” DePoutot v. Raffaelly, 424 F.3d 112, ...


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