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Saldivar v. Racine

United States Court of Appeals, First Circuit

March 25, 2016

ELBA SALDIVAR, Plaintiff, Appellant,

Page 15


         Edward J. McCormick, III, with whom McCormick & Maitland was on brief, for appellant.

         Andrew J. Gambaccini, with whom Reardon, Joyce & Akerson, P.C. was on brief, for appellee Daniel Racine.

         Gary P. Howayeck, Office of the Corporation Counsel, City of Fall River, for appellee the City of Fall River.

         Before Kayatta, Stahl, and Barron, Circuit Judges.


Page 16

          BARRON, Circuit Judge.

          Elba Saldivar appeals the dismissal of her federal civil rights and state law negligence claims against the City of Fall River, Massachusetts, and Fall River Police Chief Daniel Racine. The District Court dismissed those claims pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) for failure to state a claim. We affirm.


         The allegations set forth in Saldivar's complaint[1] are very disturbing. As we are reviewing a dismissal for failure to state a claim, we accept the complaint's factual allegations as true and draw all reasonable inferences from those facts in favor of Saldivar. See Gargano v. Liberty Int'l Underwriters, Inc., 572 F.3d 45, 48 (1st Cir. 2009). So read, the complaint offers the following account.

         In early June 2011, Elba Saldivar, a resident of Fall River, contacted the Fall River Police Department and reported that her child had been harassed at school. The Police Department assigned Officer Anthony Pridgen to investigate the incident.

         Pridgen arrived at Saldivar's apartment in his marked police cruiser and in full uniform and told Saldivar he needed to question her as part of his investigation. Saldivar allowed Pridgen into her apartment.

         Upon entering the apartment, Pridgen pulled out his service handgun and pointed it at Saldivar. He then grabbed Saldivar and assaulted, battered, and raped her. He told Saldivar he would kill her and her children if she reported the assault.

         Despite Pridgen's threats, Saldivar reported the assault to the Police Department, and the Department conducted an investigation. The investigation uncovered security camera footage at Saldivar's housing complex that showed a police cruiser parked next to one of the buildings in that complex and Pridgen entering and leaving that building. A subsequent search of Pridgen's police locker led to the seizure of various items, including two condoms and two packages of " Extenze" tablets.

         Pridgen resigned from his job as a Fall River police officer on June 28, 2011. In September of that same year, the Bristol County, Massachusetts, District Attorney's office informed Saldivar that it would not prosecute Pridgen.

Page 17

          The complaint also sets forth the following allegations concerning how Pridgen had been disciplined by the Police Department on various occasions prior to the alleged assault.[2] In February 2007, he was suspended for thirty days --a punishment later reduced to a written warning and training -- for failing to abide by Department policy in handling a domestic violence call.[3] A few months later, in October 2007, Pridgen was suspended for five days without pay for violating the Department's sick leave policy. And, according to his disciplinary record, in January 2011, he was suspended for a day for violating the " [r]oll call/[leave benefit] policy." Pridgen was also reprimanded seven times between September 2003 and June 2011 for " [f]ailure to log & submit [e]vidence [f]orm," " attention to duty," " absence from duty/late," " cruiser accident," " pursuit policy," " tardiness," and " reports."

         Pridgen's final disciplinary action came in June of 2011, shortly after the alleged rape and assault. At that time, he was suspended for five days without pay for allowing his license to carry his service handgun to lapse for five years.[4]

         Saldivar brought suit against Pridgen, Fall River Chief of Police Daniel Racine, and the City of Fall River for (1) assault and battery by Pridgen; (2) violation of the Massachusetts Civil Rights Act by Pridgen and the City; (3) violation of 42 U.S.C. § 1983 by all defendants, and (4) negligent hiring, training, and supervision by the City.

         Pridgen never entered an appearance in this case, and the District Court granted default judgment of $600,000 to Saldivar on her claims against him. Racine and the City then moved to dismiss all of Saldivar's claims against them for failure to state a claim. See Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6). The District Court granted those motions and dismissed the complaint. See Saldivar v. Pridgen, 91 F.Supp.3d 134 (D. Mass. 2015).

         Saldivar appeals the dismissal of her § 1983 claim against Racine, her § 1983 claim against the City, and her negligent hiring, ...

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