United States District Court, D. New Hampshire
McCafferty United States District Judge
Joshua Martineau alleges that, while he was awaiting trial,
three corrections officers assaulted him in his cell at the
Hillsborough County Department of Corrections
(“Jail”). Martineau brings suit against the
officers and Hillsborough County, alleging various state and
federal claims. Hillsborough County moves for judgment on the
pleadings on all claims asserted against it. Martineau
objects. On May 8, 2017, the court heard oral argument on
Hillsborough County's motion. For the reasons that
follow, Hillsborough County's motion is granted in part
and denied in part.
standard of review of a motion for judgment on the pleadings
under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(c) is the
same as that for a motion to dismiss under Rule
12(b)(6).” Frappier v. Countrywide Home Loans,
Inc., 750 F.3d 91, 96 (1st Cir. 2014) (quoting
Marrero-Gutierrez v. Molina, 491 F.3d 1, 5 (1st Cir.
2007)). Under Rule 12(b)(6), the court must accept the
factual allegations in the complaint as true, construe
reasonable inferences in the plaintiff's favor, and
“determine whether the factual allegations in the
plaintiff's complaint set forth a plausible claim upon
which relief may be granted.” Foley v. Wells Fargo
Bank, N.A., 772 F.3d 63, 71 (1st Cir. 2014) (citation
omitted). A claim is facially plausible “when the
plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to
draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable
for the misconduct alleged.” Ashcroft v.
Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009). “Judgment on the
pleadings is proper ‘only if the uncontested and
properly considered facts conclusively establish the
movant's entitlement to a favorable judgment.'”
Zipperer v. Raytheon Co., 493 F.3d 50, 53 (1st Cir.
2007) (quoting Aponte-Torres v. Univ. of P.R., 445
F.3d 50, 54 (1st Cir. 2006)).
Hillsborough County owns and operates the Jail in Manchester,
New Hampshire. In November 2013, Martineau was a pretrial
detainee at the Jail. At that time, defendants Sergeant
George Antilus, Corrections Officer Joshua Caisse, and
Corrections Officer Spencer Vrouhas (collectively,
“Officers”) worked at the Jail and, as such, were
employed by Hillsborough County.
November 3, 2013, the Officers approached Martineau's
cell and claimed that he was yelling and banging. Martineau
alleges that he was not yelling and banging and did not pose
a threat to anyone when the Officers assaulted him. Antilus
sprayed mace in Martineau's face several times; Caisse
and Vrouhas then held Martineau down while Antilus pulled
down Martineau's underwear and sprayed his genitals and
rectum with mace. After that, Caisse and Vrouhas placed
Martineau in arm and leg restraints and kicked, punched, and
kneed him and slammed his head against the cement floor.
Officers did not clean Martineau or get him medical
treatment, but instead moved him to a “safety
cell” to wait in restraints. Doc. no. 1-1 at
¶ 16. Later that night, a nurse examined Martineau and
noted that he had a bloody nose, an abrasion on his nose, a
cut above his eye, and a lump on the back of his head. The
nurse placed Martineau on “neurological watch”
from November 3 through November 4. See Id. at
the medical examination, the Officers removed Martineau's
mace-soaked clothes and conducted a nude contraband search.
The Officers told Martineau that “they had to teach all
of [the inmates] a lesson that they were not messing around
with [the inmates], ” and Vrouhas asked Martineau how
his “balls and ass were feeling.” Id. at
¶ 22. Martineau remained in restraints until November 5
and was not allowed to shower or clean the mace off his body
during that time. The Officers later taunted Martineau about
the November 3 incident, and one of the Officers bragged to
Martineau that he had received a promotion for “beating
[his] ass.” Id. at ¶ 30.
October 6, 2016, Martineau filed a complaint in state court
against the Officers and Hillsborough County. Defendants
removed the case to this court and Hillsborough County now
moves for judgment on the pleadings on the three claims
asserted against it. See doc. no. 9.
alleges that Hillsborough County is liable under 42 U.S.C.
§ 1983 because it maintained a policy or custom that
caused the deprivation of his constitutional rights (Count
III). He also asserts two state law claims against the
county, one based on respondeat superior (Count VI) and the
other for negligent supervision, training, and retention
(Count VII). The court analyzes Martineau's § 1983
claim before turning to his state law claims.
Section 1983 Claim
Count III of his complaint, Martineau brings a claim against
Hillsborough County under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, alleging
that a county policy or custom caused the deprivation of his
constitutional rights. Hillsborough County argues that
Martineau has not alleged sufficient facts to state a policy
or custom claim under § 1983.
cannot be held liable under § 1983 on a theory of
respondeat superior. Monell v. Dep't of Soc.
Servs., 436 U.S. 658, 691 (1978). Rather, a plaintiff
who brings a § 1983 action against a municipality must
“identify a municipal ‘policy' or
‘custom'” that was the cause of and
“‘moving force' behind the injury
alleged.” Haley v. City of Boston, 657 F.3d
39, 51 (1st Cir. 2011) (quoting Bd. of Comm'rs of
Bryan Cty. v. Brown, 520 U.S. 397, 403-04 (1997)).
“[U]nlike a policy, which comes into existence because
of the top-down affirmative decision of a policymaker, a
custom develops from the bottom-up.” Baron v.
Suffolk Cty. Sheriff's Dep't, 402 F.3d 225, 236
(1st Cir. 2005) (internal quotation marks omitted). To be
actionable, the custom or practice must “be so
well-settled and widespread that the policy making officials
of the municipality can be said to have either actual or
constructive knowledge of it yet did nothing to end
it.” Walden v. City of Providence, 596 F.3d
38, 57-58 (1st Cir. 2010) (internal quotation marks omitted).
complaint is not a model of artful pleading, as Count III
itself contains conclusory statements and merely recites the
elements of a Monell claim. See doc. no. 1-1 at ¶¶
42-44. However, Martineau alleges that one of the Officers
bragged about being promoted for “beating [his]
ass.” Doc. no. 1-1 at ¶ 30. Construed generously,
this allegation permits a reasonable inference that
Hillsborough County decisionmakers knew about the alleged
assault and ratified it by promoting one of the Officers
because of it. Cf. St. Louis v. Praprotnik, 485 U.S.
112, 127 (1988) (recognizing that where “the authorized
policymakers approve a subordinate's decision and the
basis for it, their ratification would be chargeable to the
municipality because their decision is final”).
early stage, the court finds that the complaint contains
sufficient facts to allege a plausible Monell claim against
Hillsborough County. See Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678
(claim is facially plausible “when the plaintiff pleads
factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable
inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct
alleged”). The court will be in a better position to
address the ultimate viability of Martineau's Monell
claim on a more complete record at the ...