United States District Court, D. New Hampshire
McCafferty, United States District Judge
previous order, document no. 149, the court dismissed a
Fourteenth Amendment equal protection claim asserted by
Sanjeev Lath against the City of Manchester, New Hampshire
(“City”), through the vehicle of 42 U.S.C. §
the court ruled that Lath had not stated a claim for
municipal liability under the principles set out in
Monell v. Department of Social Services, 436 U.S.
658 (1978). However, dismissal was without prejudice to
Lath's moving for leave to amend his First Amended
Complaint. Now before the court is Lath' motion for leave
to file a Second Amended Complaint (“SAC”) in
which he proposes to assert, as Cause 1, a Monell claim
against the City. For the reasons that follow, Lath's
motion is denied and, as a consequence, the City, Gerard
Dufresne, and all of Lath's claims against those two
defendants are dismissed from this case.
The Legal Standard
the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, after the expiration of
the time for amending a complaint as a matter of course, see
Fed.R.Civ.P. 15(a)(1), leave to amend should be freely given
“when justice so requires, ” Fed.R.Civ.P.
15(a)(2). That general rule applies “absent an apparent
or declared reason such as ‘futility of
amendment.'” Rife v. One West Bank,
F.S.B., 873 F.3d 17, 20-21 (1st Cir. 2017) (quoting Foman
v. Davis, 371 U.S. 178, 182 (1962)). For the purposes of
a Rule 15(a)(2) analysis, “[f]utility means that the
complaint, as amended, would fail to state a claim upon which
relief could be granted.” Rife, 873 F.3d at 21 (quoting
Glassman v. Computervision Corp., 90 F.3d 617, 623
(1st Cir. 1996)) (internal quotation marks omitted). To state
a claim upon which relief can be granted, a complaint must
“contain sufficient factual material to state a
facially plausible claim.” Vargas-Colón v.
Fundación Damas, Inc., 864 F.3d 14, 23 (1st Cir.
2017) (citing O'Shea ex rel. O'Shea v. UPS Ret.
Plan, 837 F.3d 67, 77 (1st Cir. 2016)).
previous order, the court explained to Lath that to state a
cognizable Monell claim against the City, he “must
clearly identify (1) the alleged unconstitutional conduct of
the [City]'s employees; and (2) how the employees'
conduct was the result of a policy or custom of the
[City].” Doc. no. 149 at 5 (quoting Burnham v.
Dudley Dist. Court, Civ. Nos. 15-40031-DHH &
15-40032-DHH, 2015 WL 5698418, at *2 (D. Mass. Sept. 28,
2015)). However, even when this court “view[s] all the
factual allegations in [Cause 1 of Lath's proposed SAC]
as true, [and] draw[s] all reasonable inferences in [his]
favor, ” Vargas-Colón, 864 F.3d at 23, he does
not state a plausible Monell claim.
court of appeals for this circuit has recently described the
essential elements of a Monell claim:
In Monell . . . the Supreme Court taught that a
“[l]ocal governing body . . . can be sued directly
under § 1983 . . . [when it] unconstitutional[ly]
implements or executes a policy statement, ordinance,
regulation, or decision officially adopted and promulgated by
that body's officers.” [436 U.S. at 690]. However,
the Court went on to hold that
the language of § 1983, read against the background of
the legislative history . . . compels the conclusion that
Congress did not intend municipalities to be held liable
unless action pursuant to official municipal policy of some
nature caused a constitutional tort . . . . [I]t is when
execution of a government's policy or custom, whether
made by its lawmakers or by those whose edicts or acts may
fairly be said to represent official policy, inflicts the
injury that the government as an entity is responsible under
Massó-Torrellas v. Mun. of Toa Alta, 845 F.3d
461, 468-69 (1st Cir. 2017) (quoting Monell, 436
U.S. at 691-94).
those principles in mind, the court turns to the Monell claim
Lath asserts in his amended Cause 1. To begin, Lath alleges
that various members of the Board of Directors of the Oak
Brook Condominium Owners' Association “made several
calls to the chief of police alleging that Lath was
‘threatening' other residents and was
‘mentally unstable.'” Doc. no. 152-1 at
¶ 7. He further alleges that one Board member
“asked [the] Manchester Police [D]epartment
[“MPD”] for a ‘wellness check, '”
Id. at ¶ 8, and that “[s]imilar calls
were made by board members, both past and present . . . where
the board members alleged Lath to be ‘suicidal,
'” Id. at ¶ 11.
“when Officers Andrew Choi and Austin Goodman visited
Lath upon a complaint of stalking from Gail Labuda, Choi
stated in his report that ‘it has to be noted that Lath
has been flagged as having a mental illness.'”
Id. at ¶ 13. Lath alleges that similar
notations appear in other reports generated by the MPD. This
is the crux of Lath's Monell claim:
Such widespread practice, which has become so established
within the departments of noting a person's disability or
mental illness, and thereby characterizing them as
“mental subject” or “unstable”,
biases the officers' judgments, by not believing the
person, in the narration of their version of events, or
undermine their credibility ...