United States District Court, M.D. Louisiana
RULING AND ORDER
JOHN W. DEGRAVELLES, UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
matter comes before the Court on the Motion to
Dismiss (Doc. 4) filed by Defendants Sid J. Gautreaux,
III, and Deputy Leroy Griffin (collectively, Defendants).
Plaintiff Shawn Drewery, on behalf of Shaqualia Felder,
opposes the motion. (Doc. 11.) Defendants have filed a reply.
(Doc. 22.) Oral argument is not necessary. The Court has
carefully considered the law, the facts in the record, and
the arguments and submissions of the parties and is prepared
following reasons, Defendants' motion is granted in part
and denied in part. The motion is granted in that all of
Plaintiff's § 1983 claims are dismissed, except for
his § 1983 claims against Griffin in his individual
capacity for compensatory and punitive damages for false
arrest and excessive force. The motion is denied in those
respects and with respect to Plaintiff's state law
Relevant Factual Background
following factual allegations are taken from Plaintiff's
Petition for Damages (Pet., Doc. 1-3 at 2-6.) They
are assumed to be true for purposes of this motion.
Thompson v. City of Waco, Tex., 764 F.3d 500, 502-03
(5th Cir. 2014).
Felder (“Felder”) is Plaintiff's minor
daughter. (Pet. ¶ 3, Doc. 1-3.) Plaintiff files this
suit on Felder's behalf. (Pet., Doc. 1-3 at 2.)
about February 7, 2017, Felder was arrested and charged with
Battery of a Police Officer in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. (Pet.
¶ 3) The arrest took place at Felder's school. (Pet.
to Plaintiff, Deputy Griffin “had been abusing
[Felder's] cousin who was about 14 years old by punching
him, slamming him to the ground and hand cuffed him
(sic).” (Pet. ¶ 6.) “[W]hile all these abuse
(sic) were going on, [Felder] asked the defendant why he was
handling her cousin like that knowing that he was a kid and
could not defend himself.” (Pet. ¶ 7.) Felder
“was crying” from the abuse. (Pet. ¶ 7.)
Felder was in the hall, “no one touched the Deputy nor
went near him because of what he was doing to . . .
[Felder's] cousin.” (Pet. ¶ 8.) However,
Griffin “started using vulgar language, harassing and
intimidating [Felder].” (Pet. ¶ 8.)
[W]hile the deputy started cursing her she cried some more,
[Deputy Griffin] then punched her [i]n the face that sent
excruciating pain through her body. She was terrified and
afraid for her life because of the rage the Deputy was
exhibiting then. . . .
Deputy then picked her up and slammed her on the ground in a
rage. The force with which [Griffin] slammed [Felder] into
the ground was so violent that she thought she will die.
Immediately, all her body started hurting.
was a “small framed teenager” and was
“badly hurt and in serious pain.” (Pet. ¶
11.) While Felder was on the floor, Griffin “rough
handled her some more and hand cuffed her.” (Pet.
¶ 11.) Felder was “frightened to death” and
“hysterical, scared that she thought she was seriously
injured or dead.” (Pet. ¶ 11.)
Plaintiff further alleges:
During all these times, [Felder] shows this Court that she
never fought back and was helpless. She avers that she never
struck the officer nor was she able to defend herself in any
way, shape or form because of her size.
was ultimately taken to “Juvenile Detention without any
medical treatment.” (Pet. ¶ 13.) Plaintiff took
Felder to Our Lady of the Lake Regional Medical Center. (Pet.
claims that Griffin “failed to read [Felder] her rights
nor had any probable cause before they arrested the plaintiff
and their failure to do so subjected . . . [Felder] to
unlawful arrest, wrongful imprisonment and malicious
prosecution when she was wrongfully charged with Battery of a
Police Officer.” (Pet. ¶ 14.) Plaintiff alleges
false arrest, detention, and charge without reasonable or
probable cause. (Pet. ¶ 16.)
also claims that Felder was “mercilessly beaten and
battered” by Griffin and the unknown defendants, all of
whom “used excessive force under the condition and
circumstances and that such force was neither necessary nor
were they provoked.” (Pet. ¶ 15.) Plaintiff
maintains that Felder was subject to unnecessary and
excessive force. (Pet. ¶ 17.)
to Plaintiff, Felder continues to suffer from a variety of
mental anguish damages. (Pet. ¶ 16.)
Plaintiff makes the following allegations with respect to his
official capacity claims:
Prior to February 7, 2017, The East Baton
Rouge Parish Sheriff's Office developed and maintained
policies or customs exhibiting deliberate indifference to the
constitutional rights of persons in the community by
retaining officers like the defendant, DEPUTY
GRIFFIN. . . .
It was only the policy and/or custom of the East Baton Rouge
Parish Sheriff's Office to inadequately and improperly
investigate citizen complaints of deputies misconduct (sic),
and acts of misconduct were instead tolerated by the East
Baton Rouge Sheriff's Office, including but not limited
to other incidents involving the same defendant herein. . . .
It was the policy and/or custom of the East Baton Rouge
Parish Sheriff's Office to inadequately supervise and
train it's (sic) deputies, including the defendant
deputy, thereby failing to adequately discourage further
constitutional violation on the part of the deputies. The
Sheriff did not require appropriate in-service training, or
retraining of officers who were known to have engaged in law
As a result of the above described policies and customs,
Deputy Sheriffs of the East Baton Rouge Parish's Office,
including the defendant deputy, believed that their actions
would not be properly monitored by supervisor deputies and
the misconduct would not be investigated or sanctioned, but
would be tolerated.
¶¶ 21-24.) As to Sheriff Gautreaux, Plaintiff
asserts: “Defendant [Gautreaux] was at that time the
supervisor and commanding officer of the defendant and thus
was also liable as such.” (Pet. ¶ 26.)
claims that Defendants acted “willfully, maliciously,
and with callous and reckless indifference[.]” (Pet.
¶ 25.) Plaintiff claims compensatory and punitive
damages. (Pet., Doc. 1-3 at 6.)
pleading rules call for a ‘short and plain statement of
the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to
relief,' Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2); they do not countenance
dismissal of a complaint for imperfect statement of the legal
theory supporting the claim asserted.” Johnson v.
City of Shelby, Miss., 135 S.Ct. 346, 346-47 (2014)
Rule 8(a) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, the Fifth
Circuit has explained:
The complaint (1) on its face (2) must contain enough factual
matter (taken as true) (3) to raise a reasonable hope or
expectation (4) that discovery will reveal relevant evidence
of each element of a claim. “Asking for [such]
plausible grounds to infer [the element of a claim] does
not impose a probability requirement at the pleading
stage; it simply calls for enough fact to raise a reasonable
expectation that discovery will reveal [that the elements of
the claim existed].” Lormand v. U.S. Unwired,
Inc., 565 F.3d 228, 257 (5th Cir. 2009) (quoting
Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 556,
127 S.Ct. 1955, 1965 (2007)).
the above case law, the Western District of Louisiana has
Therefore, while the court is not to give the
“assumption of truth” to conclusions, factual
allegations remain so entitled. Once those factual
allegations are identified, drawing on the court's
judicial experience and common sense, the analysis is whether
those facts, which need not be detailed or specific, allow
“the court to draw the reasonable inference that the
defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged.”
[Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678, 129 S.Ct.
1937, 1949 (2009)]; Twombly, 55 U.S. at 556. This
analysis is not substantively different from that set forth
in Lormand, supra, nor does this jurisprudence
foreclose the option that discovery must be undertaken in
order to raise relevant information to support an element of
the claim. The standard, under the specific language of
Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2), remains that the defendant be given
adequate notice of the claim and the grounds upon which it is
based. The standard is met by the “reasonable
inference” the court must make that, with or without
discovery, the facts set forth a plausible claim for relief
under a particular theory of law provided that there is a
“reasonable expectation” that “discovery
will reveal relevant evidence of each element of the
claim.” Lormand, 565 F.3d at 257;
Twombly, 55 U.S. at 556.
Diamond Servs. Corp. v. Oceanografia, S.A. De C.V.,
No. 10-00177, 2011 WL 938785, at *3 (W.D. La. Feb. 9, 2011)
deciding a Rule 12(b)(6) motion, all well-pleaded facts are
taken as true and viewed in the light most favorable to the
plaintiff. Thompson v. City of Waco, Tex., 764 F.3d
500, 502-03 (5th Cir. 2014). The task of the Court is not to
decide if the plaintiff will eventually be successful, but to
determine if a “legally cognizable claim” has
been asserted.” Id. at 503.
Preliminary Issue - Consideration of Evidence
the Court notes that both parties submit documentary evidence
with their motion to dismiss, including a police report, an
Internal Affairs report, and an eye-witness acount. The Court
must first decide whether to consider this evidence.
general, pursuant to Rule 12(d), “[i]f, on a motion
under Rule 12(b)(6)[, ] ... matters outside the pleadings are
presented to and not excluded by the court, the motion must
be treated as one for summary judgment under Rule 56.”
Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(d); United States v. Rogers Cartage
Co., 794 F.3d 854, 861 (7th Cir. 2015). There are some
exceptions to this standard. On a motion to dismiss, the
court may consider “the complaint, its proper
attachments, ‘documents incorporated into the complaint
by reference, and matters of which a court may take judicial
notice.' ” Innova Hosp. San Antonio, Ltd.
P'ship v. Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Georgia,
Inc., No. 14-11300, 2018 WL 2943339, at *3 (5th Cir.
June 12, 2018) (citing Wolcott v. Sebelius, 635 F.3d
757, 763 (5th Cir. 2011) (citations and internal quotation
Fifth Circuit has explained, “[i]f the district court
does not rely on materials in the record, such as affidavits,
it need not convert a motion to dismiss into one for summary
judgment.” U.S. ex rel. Long v. GSDMIdea City,
L.L.C., 798 F.3d 265, 275 (5th Cir. 2015) (citing
Davis v. Bayless, 70 F.3d 367, 372 n.3 (5th Cir.
1995)). “[T]he mere submission [or service] of
extraneous materials does not by itself convert a Rule
12(b)(6) [or 12(c) ] motion into a motion for summary
judgment.” Id. (quoting Finley Lines Joint
Protective Bd. v. Norfolk S. Corp., 109 F.3d 993, 996
(4th Cir. 1997) (internal quotation marks omitted) (second
alteration in original)). A district court, moreover, enjoys
broad discretion in deciding whether to treat a motion to
dismiss as a motion for summary judgment. See St. Paul
Ins. Co. v. AFIA Worldwide Ins. Co., 937 F.2d 274, 280
n.6 (5th Cir. 1991).
Fifth Circuit has recognized a limited exception to the
general rules under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(d) and
related jurisprudence. The Fifth Circuit has approved
district courts' consideration of documents attached to a
motion to dismiss, when such documents are referred to in the
plaintiff's complaint and are central to the
plaintiff's claim. See Werner v. Dept. of Homeland
Sec., 441 Fed. App'x. 246, 248 (5th Cir. 2011);
Scanlan v. Texas A & M Univ., 343 F.3d 533, 536
(5th Cir. 2003); Collins, 224 F.3d at 498-99.
the Court will exercise its discretion and decline to
consider the documents submitted by the parties. None of
these documents are central to the Plaintiff's claim, and
the Court is disinclined to convert the instant motion to one
for summary judgment. Consequently, the Court will decide
this motion based on the Petition alone.
Claims against Gautreaux and Griffin in their Individual
Standard for Qualified Immunity
immunity provides government officials performing
discretionary functions with a shield against civil damages
liability, so long as their actions could reasonably have
been thought consistent with the rights they are alleged to
have violated.” Gobert v. Caldwell, 463 F.3d
339, 345 (5th Cir. 2006) (citing Anderson v.
Creighton, 483 U.S. 635, 638, 107 S.Ct. 3034 (1987)).
“In determining whether an official enjoys immunity, we
ask (1) whether the plaintiff has demonstrated a violation of
a clearly established federal constitutional or statutory
right and (2) whether the official's actions violated
that right to the extent that an objectively reasonable
person would have known.” Id. (citing Hope
v. Pelzer, 536 U.S. 730, 122 S.Ct. 2508 (2002)). Courts
are “permitted to exercise their sound discretion in
deciding which of the two prongs of the qualified immunity
analysis should be addressed first in light of the
circumstances in the particular case at hand.” See
Pearson v. Callahan, 555 U.S. 223, 236, 129 S.Ct. 808,
172 L.Ed.2d 565 (2009).
‘Qualified immunity attaches when an official's
conduct does not violate clearly established statutory or
constitutional rights of which a reasonable person would have
known.' ” Kisela v. Hughes, 138 S.Ct.
1148, 1152 (2018) (per curiam) (quoting White v.
Pauly, 137 S.Ct. 548, 551 (2017) (per curiam)
(alterations and internal quotation marks omitted)). “
‘In other words, immunity protects all but the plainly
incompetent or those who knowingly violate the law.'
” Id. (quoting White, 137 S.Ct. at
551 (internal quotation marks omitted)). “ ‘Of
course, general statements of the law are not inherently
incapable of giving fair and clear warning to officers.'
” Kisela, 138 S.Ct. at 1153 (quoting
White, 137 S.Ct. at 552 (internal quotation marks
omitted)). “But . . . [a]n officer ‘cannot be
said to have violated a clearly established right ...