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Gathigi v. City of Woonsocket

United States District Court, D. Rhode Island

August 8, 2018

ERIC GATHIGI and N.M.G., a minor, Plaintiffs,
v.
CITY OF WOONSOCKET, WOONSOCKET POLICE DEPARTMENT, and OFFICER EDWARD J. DOURA, in his official and individual capacities, Defendants.

          ORDER

          John J. McConnell United States District Judge.

         Defendants the City of Woonsocket, the Woonsocket Police Department, and Officer Edward J. Doura[1] have filed a Motion to Dismiss (ECF No. 8) Plaintiffs Amended Complaint ("complaint") (ECF No. 4).

         While the complaint is at times difficult to follow, the Court deciphers the following relevant facts. In essence, Eric Gathigi asserts that the Woonsocket Police falsely arrested him for domestic assault without probable cause.[2] On November 27, 2016, at approximately 4:00 p.m., the mother of Mr. Gathigi's daughter told the police that Mr. Gathigi had assaulted her. She had taken a video of the encounter with her cell phone! Officer Doura, who took the police report, noted that the video was inconclusive.

         The following morning at approximately 7:00 a.m., Woonsocket Police arrested Mr. Gathigi without a warrant based on the alleged victim's statement. The police held Mr. Gathigi for ten hours before they released him after a bail hearing. He was without food for the entire period. The City of Woonsocket arraigned him for assault and domestic assault. After a trial, the court found him not guilty.

         Mr. Gathigi alleges that Woonsocket Police mistreated him for a No. of reasons. First, he asserts that the police falsely arrested him. Second, he alleges that Officer Doura was involved in a property dispute that involved one of Mr. Gathigi's relatives, creating a conflict of interest. Third, he claims that the police discriminated against him based on his race and accent.[3]

         Based on these facts, Mr. Gathigi alleges that the police violated his constitutional and statutory rights, common law falsely arrested him, and subjected him to abuse of process and negligence. He also attempts to assert claims on behalf of his minor daughter.

         1, Claims on behalf of minor child

         Mr. Gathigi, pro se, purports to bring this action both on his own behalf and on behalf of his minor daughter N.M.G. Mr. Gathigi does not make any allegations of conduct by the Defendants against his daughter. Even if he did, the Court must dismiss airy claims by her. A pro se litigant generally cannot bring a cause of action on behalf of anyone other than himself, including his minor child. See Winkelman ex rel. Winkelman v. Parma City Sch. Dist, 550 U.S. 516, 522 (2007). In addition, our local rules mandate that an "individual appearing prose may not represent any other party." LR Gen 205(a)(2). Therefore, the Court dismisses N.M.G. as a plaintiff and dismisses all claims on her behalf without prejudice.

         2. Woonsocket Police Department

         The Woonsocket Police Department is not a proper party to this suit because it is a department or a subdivision of the City of Woonsocket. "[A] subdivsion of a larger organization is not a proper party to a suit." Jacobowitz ex rel. MJ v. YMCA of Greater Providence Bayside YMCA Branch, No. 15-345 S, 2016 WL 1259397, at *3 (D.R.I. Mar. 30, 2016). Therefore, the Court dismisses the "Woonsocket Police Department" as a defendant.

         3. Claims by Eric Ga thigi against the City of Woonsocket and Officer Doura

         The Court first enunciates some axioms of law in how it reviews this motion. The Court takes all plausible facts from the complaint as true, but does not accept legal conclusions couched as factual allegations. Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009). Because Mr. Gathigi is a pro so litigant, the Court holds his complaint "to less stringent standards than formal pleadings drafted by lawyers." Haines v. Kerner, 404 U.S. 519, 520 (1972).

         All of Mr. Gathigi's claims rest on his assertion that the Woonsocket Police falsely arrested him for domestic assault without probable cause. The thrust of his complaint is that the Woonsocket Police based its arrest decision on a report by Officer Doura, who had a conflict of interest, [4] and admitted in his report that the video taken by the alleged victim was "inconclusive regarding what occurred during the incident." In further support, Mr. Gathigi asserts that he was found not guilty after a trial on the charges.

         First, Mr. Gathigi's complaint fails as to the City of Woonsocket. To state a claim against the City, Mr. Gathigi would have to allege that his injuries were because of a city custom or policy. Monell v. Dep't of Soc. Servs. of N.Y.C,436 U.S. ...


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