United States District Court, W.D. Louisiana, Shreveport Division
ELIZABETH ERNY FOOTE UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
the Court is a Motion to Dismiss for Failure to State a Claim
Upon Which Relief Can Be Granted [Record Document 9] filed by
Defendants Lt. Keith King (“King”), Officer Joel
Kendrick (“Kendrick”), and the City of Minden.
Plaintiffs, Mariette Kimble Wilson and John L. Wilson
(“The Wilsons”), filed a motion in opposition.
[Record Document 17]. Thereafter, Plaintiffs filed an Amended
Complaint to provide additional facts in support of their
claims. [Record Document 19]. In response, Defendants filed a
supplemental Motion to Dismiss First Amended Complaint for
Failure to State a Claim Upon Which Relief Can Be Granted.
[Record Document 25] Plaintiffs oppose the motion. [Record
Document 27]. For the reasons assigned herein,
Defendants' motions are hereby GRANTED IN
PART and DENIED IN PART as
specified in the conclusion of this ruling.
Wilsons are a married couple from Homer, Louisiana. [Record
Document 19 at ¶ 2]. John Wilson is visually impaired
and unable to operate a motor vehicle. Id. at ¶
4. It is alleged that on or about February 15, 2016,
Plaintiffs purchased a 2015 Dodge Charger from Brown Chrysler
Dodge Jeep Ram, LLC (“Brown Chrysler” or
“dealership”). Id. at ¶ 5.
Plaintiffs signed a contract, paid a $2000.00 down payment,
and traded in a 2006 Chevrolet Impala. Id. The
parties agreed upon the drafting of monthly payments from the
Plaintiffs' bank account. Id. Plaintiffs
departed the dealership with the Dodge Charger, leaving the
Impala with the dealership. Id. Plaintiffs maintain
that their transaction with Brown Chrysler qualifies as a
consumer transaction pursuant to Louisiana Revised Statute
51:1401 et seq. Id.
Brown Chrysler requested that Mariette Wilson return the
vehicle because she allegedly failed a credit check.
Id. at ¶ 6. Plaintiffs argue that as part of
the sales transaction, Fred Shaffer (“Shaffer”),
an employee of the dealership, verified Mariette Wilson's
income and John Wilson's monthly disability payments.
Id. However, at the time of the transaction Mariette
was recovering from a medical procedure and had missed time
from work, which lowered her income. Id. Plaintiffs
allege that the dealership used this temporary dip in
Mariette Wilson's income to claim that the Wilsons had
misrepresented their income to the dealership. Id.
When the dealership requested the return of the Dodge
Charger, two payments in the amount of $293.38 each had been
drafted from the Wilson's bank account. Id. at
¶ 7. The dealership had also placed the Impala for sale
and had begun the process of transferring the tags.
advice of counsel, Mariette Wilson refused to return the
Dodge Charger because she allegedly signed a valid and
binding contract of sale. Id. at ¶ 8. She
provided the dealership with her attorney's contact
information, but claims no one from the dealership contacted
her attorney. Id. Instead, Elliot Brown
(“Brown”), co-owner of the dealership, Shaffer,
and employee Judson Patrick Harper (“Harper”)
contacted the Minden Police Department for assistance in
retrieving the car. Id. at ¶ 9. Plaintiffs
allege that Brown, Shaffer, and Harper filed a criminal
complaint, requesting that Plaintiffs be arrested.
Id. Plaintiffs allege that Brown, Shaffer, and
Harper were acting in the scope of their employment with the
dealership when the criminal complaint was filed.
Id. at ¶ 10. Plaintiffs also allege that the
employees “either refused to disclose exculpatory
information or misled police, or the police failed to
consider statements of these defendants.” Id.
allege that King and Kendrick of the Minden Police Department
were provided with ample information surrounding the vehicle
sale, which was sufficient to demonstrate that no probable
cause existed for their arrest. Id. at ¶ 11.
Specifically, Plaintiffs allege that King and Kendrick were
aware that Plaintiffs gave the dealership a $2000.00 down
payment, trade-in vehicle, and cooperated in providing income
information. Id. Plaintiffs contend that King and
Kendrick “acting in concert” were provided a copy
of the sales contract, and were aware that Plaintiffs were
represented by counsel regarding the dealership's request
for return of the vehicle. Id. at ¶ 12. Despite
this information, King and Kendrick failed to consider that
Plaintiffs had entered into a valid sales contract, and
failed to contact their attorney to discuss the matter.
Id. Plaintiffs contend that King and Kendrick should
have known that there was no probable cause for their arrest
given that the dispute involved a civil matter, and King and
Kendrick failed to investigate available exculpatory
evidence. Id. Plaintiffs allege that “Lt.
King, in concert with and acting with the knowledge of
Officer Kendrick applied for a warrant” without
informing the Judge of the exculpatory evidence surrounding
the sale of the vehicle. Id. at ¶ 13.
Plaintiffs further allege that King and Kendrick's
actions were “in furtherance of the Minden Police
Department's practice of assisting local merchants to
recover property and rescind contracts without incurring the
expense of a civil proceeding, even if probable cause to
arrest is absent.” Id.
dealership, through Harper, also contacted Deputy James
Spillers (“Spillers”) of the Claiborne Parish
Sheriff's Office. Id. at ¶10. On March 1, 2016,
Claiborne Parish Sheriff Deputies Jerry Nehl and Spillers
arrested the Plaintiffs for the felony of Unauthorized Use of
Motor Vehicle, allegedly without probable cause. Id.
at ¶ 12.John Wilson alleges that the deputies
should have known there was no probable cause for his arrest
because he is legally blind and cannot drive a vehicle.
Furthermore, the Plaintiffs allege that Spillers “knew
the Plaintiffs deposited $2, 000 cash and their trade in
vehicle was in possession of Brown Dodge.” Id.
at ¶ 14. Plaintiffs were placed into custody at the
Claiborne Parish Detention Center, and were transferred the
next day to the Bayou Bodceau Detention Center. Id.
Thereafter, Plaintiffs were released on bond. Id.
Plaintiffs were formally charged with Unauthorized Use of a
Movable or Motor Vehicle, and made several court appearances
concerning the charge. Id. at ¶ 15. However,
the charges were ultimately dismissed on June 14, 2016.
returned the Dodge Charger. Id. After retaining an
attorney, Plaintiffs received a refund of all monies paid as
well as their Chevy Impala. Id. Because it took
several weeks for the dealership to return the Impala,
Plaintiffs had to rent a vehicle during the interim.
Id. Plaintiffs also allege that the dealership
damaged their credit, making it difficult for them to finance
a vehicle to replace the Impala. Id. at ¶16.
These actions caused additional inconvenience, anxiety,
embarrassment, and stress. Id. Mariette Wilson later
hired a third party to repair her credit. Id.
name the following Defendants in this matter: Brown Chrysler,
Brown, Shaffer, Harper, the City of Minden, King in his
official and individual capacities, Kendrick in his official
and individual capacities, Claiborne Parish Sheriff in its
official capacity, and Spillers in his official and
assert claims under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 for false arrest
and malicious prosecution against the City of Minden, King,
Kendrick, Spillers, Brown Chrysler, Brown, Shaffer, and
Harper. Id. at ¶ 17. Plaintiffs claim that
Defendants violated their rights under the Fourth and
Fourteenth Amendments of the Constitution. Id. at
¶¶ 18 and 20.
also claim that the City of Minden is liable pursuant to
section 1983 for its failure to adequately train King and
Kendrick regarding sales contracts, unfair trade practices
used by car dealerships, illegal debt collection practices,
and the protections afforded to individuals under the
Americans with Disabilities Act. Id. at ¶¶
19 and 24. Plaintiffs also claim that the City of Minden
failed to properly supervise King and Kendrick by failing to
instruct them not to engage in unfair trade practices and
illegal debt collection. Id. Plaintiffs also allege
that the City of Minden is liable because it instituted a
policy at the direction of the Chief of Police to assist car
dealers with repossessing vehicles through the use of
criminal laws rather than civil proceedings, regardless of
probable cause. Id. Plaintiffs assert that this
unconstitutional policy was the moving force behind their
arrest in violation of the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments.
also assert several state law claims against the Defendants,
including: unlawful arrest, malicious prosecution, abuse of
process, and unfair trade practices pursuant to La. R.S.
51:1401. Id. at ¶ 26.
survive a motion to dismiss brought under Federal Rule of
Civil Procedure 12(b)(6), a plaintiff must “state a
claim to relief that is plausible on its face.”
Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009).
“A claim has facial plausibility when the plaintiff
pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the
reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the
misconduct alleged.” Id. at 663.
“Threadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of
action, supported by mere conclusory statements, do not
suffice.” Id. at 678. The court must accept as
true all of the factual allegations in the complaint in
determining whether plaintiff has stated a plausible claim.
See Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544,
555 (2007); In re Katrina Canal Breaches Litigation,
495 F.3d 191, 205 (5th Cir. 2009). However, a court is
“not bound to accept as true a legal conclusion couched
as a factual allegation.” Papasan v. Allain,
478 U.S. 265, 286 (1986). If a complaint cannot meet this
standard, it may be dismissed for failure to state a claim
upon which relief can be granted. Iqbal, 556 U.S. at
678-679. A court does not evaluate a plaintiff's
likelihood for success, but instead determines whether
plaintiff has pleaded a legally cognizable claim. United
States ex rel. Riley v. St. Luke's Episcopal
Hospital, 355 F.3d 370, 376 (5th Cir. 2004). A dismissal
under 12(b)(6) ends the case “at a point of minimum
expenditure of time and money by the parties and the
court.” Twombly, 550 U.S. at 558.
Plaintiffs' Federal Claims 
Plaintiffs' Federal Claims against the City of
assert claims under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against the City of
Minden, alleging that the City instituted an unconstitutional
policy of assisting local businesses in seizing property
through criminal procedures without regard for probable
cause. Plaintiffs also allege that the City of Minden failed
to properly train King and Kendrick in the law concerning the
unauthorized use of a movable, unfair trade practices, theft,
and probable cause. Plaintiffs also assert that the City
failed to properly supervise King and Kendrick, and directed
its officers to engage in unfair trade practices and illegal
debt collection procedures.
City of Minden's Policy Regarding Car
municipality cannot be held liable for the actions of its
employees under the traditional respondeat superior theory.
Monell v. New York City Department of Social
Services, 436 U.S. 658 (1978). However, a municipality
may be sued if it is “alleged to have caused a
constitutional tort through a policy statement, ordinance,
regulation, or decision officially adopted and
promulgated” by officers of the municipality. City
of St. Louis v. Praprotnik, 485 U.S. 112, 121 (1988).
Municipal liability under section 1983 requires proof of
three elements: (1) a policymaker; (2) an official policy;
and (3) a violation of constitutional rights whose
“moving force” is the policy or custom.
Piotrowski v. City of Houston, 237 F.3d 567, 578
(5th Cir. 2001). An “official policy” can be
evidenced through “duly promulgated policy statements,
ordinances or regulations, ” or by a custom that is
such a persistent and widespread practice that, although not
officially promulgated, it fairly represents a municipal
policy. Webster v. City of Houston, 735 F.2d 838,
841 (5th Cir. 1984); see also Zarnow v. City of Wichita
Falls, Tex., 614 F.3d 161, 168-69 (5th Cir. 2010). To
establish the “moving force” requirement, a
plaintiff must show that the municipality's policy or
custom that caused the alleged harm was either
unconstitutional or “promulgated with deliberate
indifference.” Piotrowski, 237 F.3d at 578.
Where a policy is facially constitutional, a plaintiff must
demonstrate that the policy was promulgated with deliberate
indifference that a known or obvious unconstitutional
consequence would result. Id. at 579.
allege that the City of Minden, through its police
department, has an established policy or practice of using
criminal laws to repossess property and rescind contracts on
behalf of local businesses, regardless of probable cause.
[Record Document 19 at ¶¶ 13, 19, and 24].
Plaintiffs allege that the policy is unconstitutional and was
the moving force behind their unlawful arrest and malicious
prosecution. Plaintiffs have also alleged that the policy was
established, tolerated, and perpetuated by the Chief of
Police, the City's decision-maker on matters of law
enforcement. Id. at ¶¶ 19 and 24.
have named a policymaker and identified a policy, which they
allege to be the moving force behind the deprivation of their
constitutional rights. Plaintiffs have also alleged that the
policy is unconstitutional because its application leads to
arrest without probable cause in violation of the Fourth and
Fourteenth Amendments. In a situation in which the ownership
of property is the subject of a civil dispute, if the City of
Minden has a policy to use criminal statutes to recover that
property for local businesses without regard to probable
cause or due process, such a policy would be
unconstitutional. Taking all of Plaintiffs' alleged facts
as true, and viewing them in a light most ...