United States District Court, W.D. Louisiana, Lafayette Division
B. WHITEHURST MAG. JUDGE
G. JAMES UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
an action brought by Plaintiffs Thelma Guilbeaux
(“Guilbeaux”), on behalf of minor children HE and
NE (“Guilbeaux”); Deanna Poullard
(“Poullard”), individually and on behalf of the
Michael Edwards, Jr. Estate (“the Estate”); and
Michael Edwards, Sr. (“Edwards”), individually
and on behalf of the Estate, against Defendants the City of
Eunice (“the City”), Eunice Police Department
(“EPD”), Chief Randy Fontenot (“Chief
Fontenot”), and Officer Kathy Miller
(“Miller'). Plaintiffs assert claims against
Defendants based on the circumstances surrounding the death
of Michael Edwards, Jr. (“the Decedent”), who was
in the custody of EPD at the time of his death. Guilbeaux is
the mother of the Decedent's minor children, and Poullard
and Edwards are his parents.
motions to dismiss are pending before the Court. Defendants
the City, Chief Fontenot, individually and in his official
capacity as Chief of Police, and Miller, individually and as
a Eunice police officer, filed a Motion to Dismiss for
Failure to State a Claim Upon Which Relief Can be Granted
(“Motion to Dismiss for Failure to State a
Claim”) [Doc. No. 4]. Defendants move the Court to
dismiss the civil rights claims under 42 U.S.C. § 1983
brought by Poullard, Edwards, and the Estate for lack of
standing. EPD filed a Motion to Dismiss Pursuant to Rule
12(b)(2) on the basis that it lacks the procedural capacity
to be sued. Plaintiffs filed opposition memoranda to the
December 29, 2016, Magistrate Judge Whitehurst issued a
Report and Recommendation [Doc. No. 20] on EPD's Motion
to Dismiss. Magistrate Judge Whitehurst recommends that the
Court find that EPD lacks a legal existence separate from the
City, grant EPD's motion, and dismiss the claims against
it. No objections were filed. Having reviewed the motion and
opposition memorandum and finding that Magistrate Judge
Whitehurst correctly stated and applied the law, the Court
hereby ADOPTS the Report and Recommendation [Doc. No. 20].
Plaintiffs' claims against EPD are DISMISSED WITH
January 6, 2017, Magistrate Judge Whitehurst issued a Report
and Recommendation [Doc. No. 21] on the Motion to Dismiss for
Failure to State a Claim. Magistrate Judge Whitehurst
recommends that the Court find that Poullard, Edwards, and
the Estate lack standing to assert wrongful death and
survival actions under § 1983, grant Defendants'
motion as to these claims, and dismiss these claims.
Magistrate Judge Whitehurst also pointed out that Poullard
and Edwards seek to recover for their own injuries as
bystanders and based on their familial relationship with the
Decedent. As these claims were not part of Defendants'
motion, she did not address them.
regard to Poullard's, Edwards', and the Estate's
lack of standing to assert wrongful death and survival
claims, the parties did not file objections,  and the Court
finds that Magistrate Judge Whitehurst correctly stated and
applied the law. The Court, therefore, ADOPTS the Report and
Recommendation and these claims are DISMISSED WITH PREJUDICE.
Defendants filed a partial objection to the Report and
Recommendation, contending that Poullard's and
Edward's remaining claims should also be dismissed for
failure to state a claim, or, alternatively, on the grounds
of qualified immunity. [Doc. No. 24]. As a further
alternative, if the Court does not dismiss these claims,
Defendants move the Court to order Plaintiffs to state their
claims with sufficient precision. Id.
respond that they stated a factual basis in their Complaint
to support a familial relationship claim and that,
alternatively, the Court should allow them to amend their
Complaint to state such a claim.
made some factual allegations in their Complaint which could
support the assertion of a familial relationship claim.
However, even if they raised this claim for the first time in
response to Defendants' Motion to Dismiss for Failure to
State a Claim, the Court must treat the raising of the claim
in this fashion as a motion for leave to amend pleadings.
Under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 15(a), “a party
may amend the party's pleading only by leave of
court” and “leave to amend shall be freely given
when justice so requires.” Engstrom v. First
Nat'l Bank, 47 F.3d 1459, 1464 (5th Cir. 1995)
(quoting Fed.R.Civ.P. 15(a)). The Court has the discretion to
grant or deny leave to amend, but that discretion “does
not permit denial of a motion to amend unless there is a
substantial reason to do so, ” such as undue delay, bad
faith or dilatory motive on the part of the movant, repeated
failure to cure deficiencies by amendments previously
allowed, undue prejudice to the opposing party, or futility
of the amendment. Leffall v. Dallas Indep. Sch.
Dist., 28 F.3d 521, 524 (5th Cir. 1994) (citing
references omitted); see also In re Southmark Corp.,
88 F.3d 311, 314-15 (5th Cir. 1996); Garcia v. Unit
Drilling Co., No. 10-20222, 2010 WL 3824641, at *2 (5th
Cir. Sept. 28, 2010) (quoting Fed.R.Civ.P. 15(a))
(“Normally, ‘leave to amend is to be granted
liberally unless the movant has acted in bad faith or with a
dilatory motive, granting the motion would cause prejudice,
or amendment would be futile.'”) (quoting
Jebaco Inc. v. Harrah's Operating Co., 587 F.3d
314, 322 (5th Cir. 2009)). A district court “acts
within its discretion in denying leave to amend where the
proposed amendment would be futile because it could not
survive a motion to dismiss.” Rio Grande Royalty
Co. v. Energy Transfer Partners, L.P., 620 F.3d 465, 468
(5th Cir. 2010) (citing Briggs v. Mississippi, 331
F.3d 499, 508 (5th Cir. 2003)).
Plaintiffs have made some factual allegations in the
Complaint, the Court finds that they have not met the
requirements of Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 8, and they
have not had the opportunity to allege facts sufficient to
overcome Defendants' assertion of qualified immunity.
However, at this early stage of the litigation and under the
liberal standard for the amendment of pleadings, the Court is
not inclined to dismiss Poullard's and Edward's
familial relationship claims without allowing amendment.
Accordingly, the Court GRANTS Plaintiffs leave to amend their
Complaint to clearly and plainly state Poullard's and
Edwards' familial relationship claims under Rule 8 and to
allege with particularity those facts necessary to overcome a
qualified immunity defense to such claims. See Schultea
v. Wood, 47 F.3d 1427 (5th Cir. 1995). Plaintiffs'
Amended Complaint must be filed no later than twenty-one (21)
days from the date of this Ruling. If Plaintiffs fail to
timely file the Amended Complaint, the Court will dismiss
Poullard and Edwards from the case for failure to state any
it does not appear from the briefs that Plaintiffs intend to
assert claims for bystander damages. If they intend to do so,
any such claims should be set forth in their Amended
Complaint as detailed above.