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Mills v. City of Bogalusa

United States District Court, E.D. Louisiana

July 13, 2015



HELEN G. BERRIGAN, District Judge.

Before the Court are Motions to Dismiss by defendants, Pamela Jean Legendre, Julie Knight, Leigh Anne Wall, and Walter Reed (Rec. Docs. 19, 43, 57). Plaintiff, Douglas L. Dendinger, opposes the motions. (Rec. Docs. 24, 50, 59). Having considered the law, the facts, and the arguments of the parties, the Court GRANTS IN PART and DENIES IN PART the motions, for the reasons discussed herein.

I. Background

The Court has previously recited much of the relevant background in its Order and Reasons of June 29, 2014. (Rec. Doc. 65). In brief, this action arises out of the arrest and jailing of the plaintiff, Daniel Dendinger ("Dendinger") in connection with a lawsuit for excessive force brought by Logan N. Mills ("excessive force suit"), currently also before this Court. Per Dendinger's complaint, on August 20, 2012, at the conclusion of Logan Mills' criminal trial for armed robbery at the Washington Parish Courthouse, Dendinger attempted to serve a summons and complaint for Mills' excessive force suit upon Chad Cassard ("Cassard") while in the presence of Washington Parish Assistant District Attorneys, Leigh Anne Wall ("Wall") and Julie Knight ("Knight"), as well as Pamela Jean Legendre ("Legendre"). Rec. Doc. 1 at 7-9.

Dendinger alleges that later that day, his counsel received a phone call from Legendre, who was the staff attorney for the judge presiding over Logan M. Mills' criminal trial. Rec. Doc. 1 at 9. Legendre allegedly used profanity and accused Dendinger of committing an assault on a police officer and intimidation of a witness while attempting to serve Cassard. Legendre also stated that a complaint would be filed against him with the Louisiana Bar Association. Id. Soon after, Dendinger was arrested at his home by an officer of the Washington Parish Sheriff's Office. Id. He was brought to the Washington Parish Jail, where he claims that Wall, Knight, Legendre, and others verbally harassed him. Id. at 10. Dendinger was detained for roughly three hours, and released after posting bond. Id.

Dendinger further claims that prior to his arrest, Wall, Knight and Legendre provided false witness statements representing, inter alia, that Dendinger had "slapped" Cassard with the envelope containing the summons and complaint and that he had been present in the courtroom throughout the day prior to the trial's conclusion. Id. at 12-13. Dendinger also alleges that after conferring with Walter P. Reed ("Reed"), who was the District Attorney for Washington Parish at the time, Wall and Knight secured Reed's authorization to advise Sheriff Scott Seals of Washington Parish that there was probable cause to arrest Dendinger. Id. at 10. Dendinger claims that following the arrest, Wall improperly served Dendinger's notice of arraignment on Dendinger's bondsman rather than Dendinger himself, then misrepresented the facts of her non-service at Dendinger's arraignment, leading to an attachment order being issued on Dendinger. Id. at 12.

On May 29, 2014, the Attorney General for the State of Louisiana informed Dendinger that he had refused the charges against Dendinger. Rec. Doc. 1 at 14. Dendinger brought this action on August 12, 2014, stating causes of action under §1983 for false arrest, false imprisonment, and municipal liability, as well as state law claims for malicious prosecution and abuse of process. Rec. Doc. 1. The complaint named numerous defendants, including Reed, Knight, Wall, and Legendre, who now move for dismissal of Dendinger's claims against them. Rec. Docs. 19, 43, 57.

II. Standard of Review

A motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6) may be granted when a complaint fails to allege "enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face." Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007). "A claim has facial plausibility when the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable interference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged." Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009). The well-pleaded factual allegations of the complaint, taken as true, must raise the plaintiff's right to recover above the speculative level. Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555-56. Facts from which the court could infer the mere possibility of liability will not suffice. Ashcroft, 556 U.S. at 678 (quoting Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2)). However, "a wellpleaded complaint may proceed even if it strikes a savvy judge that actual proof of these facts is improbable, and that a recovery is very remote and unlikely." Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556.

On a motion to dismiss, the court must take all well-pleaded factual allegations of the complaint as true and draw all reasonable inferences in favor of the plaintiff. In re Katrina Canal Breaches Litigation, 495 F.3d 191, 205 (5th Cir. 2007). Nevertheless, "conclusory allegations and unwarranted deductions of fact are not admitted as true, especially when such conclusions are contradicted by facts disclosed by document appended to the complaint." Associated Builders, Inc. v. Alabama Power Company, 505 F.2d 97, 100 (5th Cir. 1974).

III. Law and Analysis

a. Prescription

In their motion to dismiss, defendants Knight and Wall argue that Dendinger's claims against them have prescribed because Dendinger filed his complaint over a year after the alleged actions took place. Rec. Doc. 43-1 at 3. Courts entertaining claims brought under 42 U.S.C. §1983 must borrow the state statute of limitations for personal injury actions. Owens v. Okure, 488 U.S. 235, 236 (1989). When a state has one or more statutes of limitations for intentional torts as well as a residual statute for all other personal injury actions, then the residual statute of limitations applies. Id. Although state law determines the statute of limitations, "the accrual date of a §1983 cause of action is a question of federal law that is not resolved by reference to state law." Wallace v. Kato, 549 U.S. 384, 388 (2007).

In Louisiana, the prescriptive period for delictual actions is one year. La. C. C. Art. 3492. Knight and Wall argue that because the alleged actions occurred on August 22, 2012 and this complaint was filed on August 12, 2014, Dendinger's §1983 causes of action against them have prescribed. Rec. Doc. 43-1 at 3. Plaintiff responds that although a one-year prescriptive period is indeed applicable in this situation, the Supreme Court's holding in Wallace v. Kato indicates that the cause of action did not accrue until Dendinger appeared at his February 12, 2014 arraignment. Rec. Doc. 50 at 8. However, Dendinger's interpretation of Wallace is mistaken. In Wallace, the Supreme Court held that a §1983 claim seeking damages for a false arrest in violation of the Fourth Amendment begins to run at the time the claimant ceased to be detained without legal process. Wallace v. Kato, 549 U.S. at 389-90. The Supreme Court reasoned that the tort of false arrest is a species of the tort of false imprisonment because "[e]very confinement of the person is an imprisonment." Id. at 388 Thus, the beginning of the limitations period was when the false imprisonment came to an end. Id at 390. It follows that an action for false imprisonment likewise accrues when the false imprisonment an end.

The Court notes that although some circuits have held that a §1983 action for false arrest may accrue after the termination of the underlying criminal proceeding in plaintiff's favor, [1] the Fifth Circuit has explicitly rejected this approach. In Mapes v. Bishop, 541 F.3d 582, 584 (5th Cir. 2008), the Fifth Circuit held that Wallace abrogated its previous finding that a false arrest claim accrued upon favorable termination of the underlying criminal proceeding. Mapes v. Bishop, 541 F.3d 582 (5th Cir. 2008).

Per the complaint, Dendinger was detained for roughly three hours on August 20, 2012. Rec. Doc. 1. Thus, his alleged false imprisonment concluded on August 20, 2012 and his causes of action for false arrest and false imprisonment accrued a year later on August 20, 2013. Accordingly, Dendinger's claims brought under §1983 for false arrest and false ...

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