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Evans v. Creola

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

January 22, 2019

BRIDGET JEAN EVANS, ET AL., Plaintiffs
v.
VILLAGE OF CREOLA, ET AL., Defendants

          DRELL JUDGE

          REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION

          JOSEPH H.L. PEREZ-MONTES UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE

         Before the Court are: (1) a Rule 12(b)(6) Motion to Dismiss (Doc. 7) all claims for punitive damages (“statutory penalties”) and the imposition of “solidary liability;” (2) a Motion for More Definite Statement (Doc. 7); and (3) a Rule 12(b)(6) Motion to Dismiss (Doc. 10) all claims against “John Doe” and “others, ” filed by Defendant the City of Pineville (the “City”). The motions are unopposed. The City's motion to dismiss (Doc. 7) Plaintiffs' claims for punitive damages, vicarious liability or respondeat superior, and “solidary liability” against the City should be granted for failure to state a plausible claim for relief. The City's Motion for a More Definite Statement (Doc. 7) should be GRANTED because Plaintiffs' statutory and constitutional claims are vague and ambiguous. The City's Motion to Dismiss (Doc. 10) “John Doe and others” should be DENIED for lack of procedural basis.

         I. Background

         On July 17, 2018, Plaintiffs Bridget Jean Evans (“Bridget”) and Charles Zachary Evans (“Charles”) (“Plaintiffs”) filed this lawsuit in the Ninth Judicial District Court, Rapides Parish, Louisiana. (Doc. 1-1). Plaintiffs named Defendants Village of Creola (the “Village”), Police Chief Health Landry (“Landry”) (in his official and individual capacities), Don Crooks (“Crooks”) (in his official and individual capacities), the Grant Parish Police Jury (the “Police Jury”), the City of Pineville, and “John Doe and others, ” (collectively referred to as “Defendants”). (Doc. 1-1).

         Plaintiffs assert civil rights claims under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, and “under express terms of the Louisiana Constitution and Louisiana Revised Statutes and Civil Code.” (Doc. 1-1). Plaintiffs' claims stem from a traffic stop on or about July 17, 2017. (Doc. 1-1). Plaintiffs allege Bridget was pregnant and high-risk at the time. (Doc. 1-1). Plaintiffs allege Bridget was suffering from “placenta previa, ” a potentially fatal condition. (Doc. 1-1). Bridget began profusely bleeding on July 17, 2017, and was instructed by her obstetrician to go to the emergency room immediately. (Doc. 1-1). Charles, although in a careful and prudent manner, drove at a high rate of speed to the emergency room.

         Plaintiffs claim Crooks, a police officer for the Village, conducted a traffic stop of Charles after observing him traveling at a high rate of speed. (Doc. 1-1). Plaintiffs further claim an unknown Pineville Police Officer intercepted Plaintiffs' vehicle, and Charles eventually came to a stop. (Doc. 1-1). Plaintiffs informed the officers of the events and that Bridget and her unborn child were in distress. (Doc. 1-1). Plaintiff claim Crooks drew his weapon and ordered Plaintiffs to exit their vehicle and get on the ground. (Doc. 1-1). Plaintiffs further claim Bridget explained she was unable to comply because she was pregnant, which was ignored by Crooks. (Doc. 1-1). Plaintiffs claim an officer with the Pineville Police Department intervened, not allowing Crooks to order Bridget to the ground. (Doc. 1-1).

         Plaintiffs claim that despite their obvious distress, the pool of blood in their vehicle, the blood-soaked clothes, and blood drenched towel wrapped around Bridget, neither Crooks nor the Pineville Police Officer allowed Bridget to leave or obtain medical treatment. (Doc. 1-1). Plaintiffs allege neither Crooks nor the Pineville Police Officer had probable cause to detain Bridget. (Doc. 1-1). Plaintiffs claim Bridget begged Crooks and the Pineville Police Officers to allow her to seek emergency medical treatment, which they refused. (Doc. 1-1). Plaintiffs allege Bridget's mother arrived making the same demands, which were also ignored. (Doc. 1-1). Plaintiffs allege after approximately one hour of being on the side of the road and bleeding, an ambulance was called and transported Bridget to the emergency room. (Doc. 1-1). Plaintiffs further claim Bridget was immediately taken to the operating room. (Doc. 1-1). Plaintiffs claim Crooks delivered Charles to the hospital parking lot after their child was born. (Doc. 1-1).

         Plaintiffs claim Crooks and the Pineville Police Department, acting under the color of the law, falsely and unjustly detained Bridget. (Doc. 1-1). Plaintiffs allege Crooks and the Pineville Police Department deprived Bridget of her liberty without due process by taking her into custody and holding her there against her will. (Doc. 1-1). Plaintiff further argue Crooks and the Pineville Police Department violated Bridget's civil rights by making an unreasonable search and seizure of her person without due process. (Doc. 1-1). Plaintiffs claim Crooks and the Pineville Police Department committed battery and assault on “the person of the Plaintiff.”[1] Plaintiffs further allege the arrest “of the Plaintiff”[2] gives rise to a defamation per se claim. (Doc. 1-1).

         Plaintiffs assert that Landry, the Chief of Police of the Village, the Pineville Police Department, the Village, and the City directly or indirectly approved or ratified the conduct of Crooks and other officers at the scene. (Doc. 1-1). Plaintiffs claim that by this inaction, they were subject to unjust arrest, search and seizure, imprisonment, and severe public humiliation. (Doc. 1-1). Plaintiffs claim Defendants deprived “Plaintiff”[3] of the right to be secure in her person and effect against unreasonable search and seizure under the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments, the right to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation against her under the Sixth and Fourteenth Amendments, the right not to be denied life, liberty, or property without due process, and the right to equal protection of the laws under the Fourteenth Amendment. (Doc. 1-1). Plaintiffs seek compensatory damages for injury to “her” reputation from each of the Defendants under the theory of respondeat superior. (Doc. 1-1). Plaintiffs allege Defendants are jointly and “solidary” liable. (Doc. 1-1). Plaintiffs seek legal interest, statutory penalties, and costs. (Doc. 1-1).

         The City removed based upon this Court's federal question jurisdiction. (Doc. 1). According to the City, Plaintiffs claim a violation of their civil rights under the Constitution and/or laws of the United States, specifically the Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments through 42 U.S.C. § 1983. (Doc. 1). The City argues that Plaintiffs' state law claims are supplemental. (Doc. 1).

         The City now seeks dismissal of the punitive damages claim. (Doc. 7). The City asserts that governmental entities and their official-capacity agents are not subject to punitive damages (i.e. “statutory penalties”) in § 1983 actions, or under state law. (Doc. 7). The City also seeks dismissal of Plaintiffs' request for “solidary liability, ” as there is no “solidary liability” under federal or state law. (Doc. 7). Additionally, the City alleges the Complaint is ambiguous and mixes pronouns, making it unclear whether one or both Plaintiffs are seeking relief under federal and/or state law. (Doc. 7). The City seeks a more definite statement. (Doc. 7).

         Through a separate Rule 12(b)(6) motion, the City also seeks dismissal of all claims against “John Doe” and “other” Pineville officers. (Doc. 10). The City asserts any amendment to substitute a named party for “John Doe” would not relate back to the original claim, and all subsequent claims would be time-barred. (Doc. 10). All of the motions are unopposed.

         II. Law and Analysis

         A. Standards governing the 12(b)(6) Motion to Dismiss

         A court may grant a motion to dismiss for “failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted” under Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6). A pleading states a claim for relief when, inter alia, it contains a “short and plain statement . . . ...


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