Richard M. Chamberlain, Plaintiff,
Officer George Pyle, et al., Defendants.
Sheldon K. Rennie, Judge.
2nd day of November, 2018, upon consideration of
Defendants' Motion to Dismiss, Plaintiffs Response
thereto, Defendants' Affidavit of No Insurance, and the
entire record in this case, it appears to the Court that:
Plaintiff Richard M. Chamberlain ("Plaintiff) was an
inmate housed at Howard R. Young Correctional Institution
("H.R.Y.C.I") in Wilmington, Delaware. On July 5,
2018, Plaintiff filed a pro se
complaint (the "Complaint") against two
officers at H.R.Y.C.I, George Pyle ("Officer Pyle")
and Bernard Smith ("Officer Smith"), and Warden
Kolawole Akinbayo (the "Warden") (collectively,
"Defendants"). In the Complaint, Plaintiff alleges,
among other things, that, while conducting a strip search of
Plaintiff, Officer Pyle "plac[ed] both of his hands on
Plaintiffs buttocks and forcibly spread them
open." Plaintiff also alleges that Officer Smith
witnessed the incident but did not intervene. Plaintiff raises
two causes of action against all Defendants: (1) sexual
battery; and (2) intentional/reckless infliction of emotional
distress. Plaintiff states that the claims against
the Warden are based on respondeat
August 29, 2018, Defendants moved to dismiss the case on
several grounds. Defendants contend that Plaintiffs case,
if construed as brought against Defendants in their official
capacities, is barred by sovereign immunity. Defendants also
contend that, if Defendants are sued in their individual
capacities, this case is then barred by qualified immunity.
Alternatively, Defendants contend that the Complaint fails to
state a claim, and should be dismissed under Superior Court
Civil Rule 12(b)(6).
Although not a model of clarity, the Court finds that the
Complaint may be reasonably construed as asserting claims
against Officer Pyle and Officer Smith both in their official
and individual capacities, and against the Warden only in his
official capacity. On October 3, 2018, the Court, after
reviewing the briefs and hearing oral arguments from the
parties, granted the Motion to Dismiss with regard to Officer
Smith, in his individual capacity, on the basis of qualified
immunity. But the Court allowed the claims asserted against
Officer Pyle in his individual capacity to
proceed. The Court deferred its decision on whether
Defendants should be kept in this case in their official
Defendants argue that any claims asserted against them in
their official capacities are barred by sovereign immunity.
The doctrine of sovereign immunity provides that the State,
as well as its agencies, cannot be sued without its
consent.The General Assembly, however, can waive
sovereign immunity by an Act that "clearly evidences its
intention to do so." There are two means by which the
General Assembly may waive immunity: (1) by procuring
insurance pursuant to 18 Del. C. § 6511 for
claims cited in the complaint; or (2) by statute which
expressly waives immunity. Under IS Del. C.
§ 6511, "[t]he defense of sovereignty is waived and
cannot and will not be asserted as to any risk or loss
covered by the state insurance coverage program, whether same
be covered by commercially procured insurance or by
self-insurance." Sovereign immunity also extends to
state officials sued in their official
issue of sovereign immunity boils down to whether or not the
State maintains insurance that covers the type of claims
asserted in the Complaint, or otherwise waives its immunity
through a statute. In order to resolve this issue, the Court
converted the Motion to Dismiss to a Motion for Summary
Judgment, and allowed the parties to submit relevant
evidence. Defendants submitted an affidavit(the
"Affidavit") of Debra Lawhead, the State's
Insurance Coverage Administrator, which attests that the
State does not have insurance that applies to the
circumstances alleged in the Complaint. Specifically, Ms.
Lawhead states that her duties include administration of
insurance coverage in all instances in which the State has
waived sovereign immunity under 18 Del. C. §
6511, and that she has personal knowledge of any such
coverage. She further states that she has reviewed
the Complaint and determined that the State "has not
purchased any insurance or  established any
self-insurance program" that would be applicable
here. She also verifies that the General
Assembly "has not appropriated any money for obtaining
said insurance, nor has [it] enacted any legislation
pertaining to or allowing any possible liability of the State
resulting from" the facts here. The Court instructed
Plaintiff that he may respond to the Affidavit and contest
its contents. Plaintiff has not done so.
Based on the record currently before us, the Court finds that
there is no genuine issue of material fact that the State
does not maintain any insurance coverage that is applicable
to the claims raised in the Complaint, and that there is no
statute through which the State has waived its immunity.
Thus, sovereign immunity bars Plaintiffs claims as alleged
against Defendants in their official capacities.
forgoing reasons, Defendants' Motion to Dismiss, which
has been converted to a Motion for Summary Judgment, is
GRANTED with regard to all Defendants in
their official capacities. This leaves Officer Pyle as the
only defendant in this case, and the case will proceed
against him solely in his individual capacity.
IS SO ORDERED.
 Complaint (Trans. ID.