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Fondren v. Brown

United States District Court, W.D. Louisiana, Lafayette Division

March 28, 2018


          JAMES, JUDGE



         Pending before the court is the motion to dismiss penalty, punitive, or exemplary damages claims (Rec. Doc. 9), which was filed by defendants City of Youngsville, Youngsville police officer Sergeant Jason Brown, and Youngsville Police Chief Rickey Boudreaux. The motion is opposed. The motion was referred to the undersigned for review, report, and recommendation in accordance with the provisions of 28 U.S.C. § 636 and the standing orders of the court. For the following reasons, it is recommended that the motion be granted in part and denied in part.


         The plaintiff's complaint alleged that the defendants are liable for violations of her constitutional rights and for violations of Louisiana state law. The following factual allegations are set forth in the plaintiff's complaint.

         Early on January 1, 2017, nineteen-year-old Courtney Fondren was riding in a GMC Yukon with five friends in a residential area of Youngsville. When the driver stopped the vehicle to recover a cell phone for one of the passengers and to swap seats with a passenger, Sgt. Jason Brown, a Youngsville city police officer, stopped his vehicle behind the Yukon and requested that the driver exit the Yukon. The driver exited on the passenger side of the vehicle, and one of the passengers also exited the vehicle. Sgt. Brown allegedly became irate and called for backup.

         Additional police officers approached the vehicle with lights flashing and guns drawn, causing Ms. Fondren to experience fear and panic. More officers arrived on the scene along with a large police dog. All of the vehicle's occupants were ordered to exit, and Sgt. Brown began interrogating the passengers about who had been driving. When Ms. Fondren and others refused to answer his questions, Sgt. Brown began using loud, abusive, and threatening language. Sgt. Brown handcuffed Ms. Fondren and the other passengers. He ignored Ms. Fondren's complaint that the handcuffs were painful. He grabbed Ms. Fondren's purse but had to remove one of the handcuffs in order to access it. Sgt. Brown searched Ms. Fondren's purse without consent, and he also searched the vehicle without consent. After Ms. Fondren was handcuffed and her purse was searched, she was read her Miranda rights. She was then arrested and taken to the police station.

         Ms. Fondren was not permitted to make a telephone call for several hours. She was charged with obstruction of justice under La. R.S. 14:130.1 and fake identification under La. R.S. 14:70.5. She was released from custody at approximately 10:00 a.m. on New Year's Day.

         As a result of the arrest and the charges, Ms. Fondren lost her position on the executive board of her college sorority, she was suspended from certain sorority activities, and embarrassing information about her was published. She also had pain and bruising due to the forceful manner in which she was grabbed, handcuffed, and shoved by Sgt. Brown. She suffered nightmares and other adverse emotional effects as a result of the incident.

         Ms. Fondren contends that her Fourth Amendment right to be free of unreasonable searches and seizures was violated, and she contends that she was arrested without probable cause in retaliation for asserting her constitutional right to refuse to answer Sgt. Brown's questions. She also contends that Sgt. Brown and the other unnamed officers used excessive force in arresting her. She contends that she was falsely arrested, maliciously prosecuted, and falsely imprisoned, and she seeks compensation for these claims under both federal and state law. Ms. Fondren also asserted a claim against Chief Boudreaux for his alleged failure to train and supervise Sgt. Brown and the other officers involved in her arrest. Ms. Fondren asserted negligence claims, and a claim for aggravated assault and battery under Louisiana law. Finally, Ms. Fondren asserted state-law claims for negligent and intentional infliction of emotional distress.

         In her complaint, Ms. Fondren expressly indicated that she was seeking to recover punitive damages. The defendants responded to the complaint with the instant motion to dismiss the penalty, punitive, and exemplary damages claim.

         Law and Analysis

         A. The Motion Will be Construed Under Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6)

         Although the movants did not designate their motion as arising under any particular federal rule of civil procedure or set forth the standard to be used in resolving the motion, this Court will construe the motion as governed by Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6). Under that rule, a district court may dismiss a complaint, or any part of it, for failure to state a claim upon which relief may be granted if the plaintiff has not set forth factual allegations in support of her claim that would entitle her to relief.[1]In this motion, the movants are seeking to have certain claims dismissed because the plaintiff has not established the factual underpinnings entitling her to relief. Accordingly, the motion will be construed as a Rule 12(b)(6) motion.

         B. The Applicable Standard

         A motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim under Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6) is properly granted when a defendant attacks the complaint because it fails to state a legally cognizable claim.[2] When considering such a motion, a district court must limit itself to the contents of the pleadings, including any attachments thereto, [3] accept all well-pleaded facts as true, and view the facts in a light most favorable to the plaintiff.[4] However, conclusory allegations and unwarranted deductions of fact are not ...

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