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Fridge v. City of Marksville

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

April 8, 2019

IAN FRIDGE
v.
CITY OF MARKSVILLE, et al.

          DRELL JUDGE

          REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION

          Joseph H.L. Perez-Montes United States Magistrate Judge

         Defendants filed a Motion to Dismiss pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6). (Doc. 39). For the reasons detailed below, Defendants' Motion to Dismiss (Doc. 39) is GRANTED IN PART AND DENIED IN PART.

         I. Background

         Plaintiff Ian Fridge (“Fridge”) filed a complaint pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and Louisiana law against Defendants: City of Marksville (“the City”); Marksville Police Chief Elster Smith, Jr. (“Chief Smith”) (in his individual and official capacities); Avoyelles Parish District Attorney Charles A. Riddell III (“D.A. Riddle”) (in his individual and official capacities); Marksville Police Officer Derrick Stafford (“Stafford”) (in his individual capacity only); Marksville Police Officer Norris Greenhouse (“Greenhouse”) (in his individual capacity only); Marksville Police Officer Joseph Montgomery (“Montgomery”) (in his individual capacity only); Marksville Police Officer Damion Jacobs (“Damion Jacobs”) (in his individual capacity only); Marksville Police Officer Kevin Hill (“Hill”) (in his individual capacity only); and Marksville Police Officer Eric Jacobs (“Eric Jacobs”) (in his individual capacity only).

         Fridge alleges that, on July 4, 2014, he was unconstitutionally arrested and prosecuted by the City for engaging in lawful and constitutionally protected activities-he (with other members of the Libertarian Party) wore a holster containing a non-concealed firearm to demonstrate his support for the Second Amendment right to bear arms at the Avoyelles Arts and Music Festival in Marksville. (Doc. 1). Fridge remained outdoors at all times and did not drink any alcohol. (Doc. 1).

         Fridge contends that, while he conversed with an officer about the Second Amendment, two other officers approached Fridge from behind and attempted unsuccessfully to grab his firearm. (Doc. 1). Fridge asked them not to touch his firearm and began making a video recording of the interaction with his cell phone. (Doc. 1). The officer again reached for Fridge's firearm. (Doc. 1). Fridge claims the officer was attempting to entice Fridge to reach for his weapon, but Fridge kept his hands away from the firearm. (Doc. 1). The two officers who had approached Fridge from behind told him he should not be there. (Doc. 1). Fridge asked if there was a law prohibiting him from carrying the firearm on the festival grounds, in which case he would leave. (Doc. 1). In response, the two officers grabbed Fridge's arms and attempted to pin them behind his back. (Doc. 1).

         Fridge initially attempted to pull away, then stopped resisting. (Doc. 1). Several officers then wrestled Fridge to the ground, shouting “stop resisting” and “don't reach for you weapon” in order to create the false impression that Fridge was being combative. (Doc. 1). Fridge informed the officers they were causing him severe pain in the shoulder and wrist where he had recently undergone surgeries. (Doc. 1). Fridge complained again that his handcuffs were too tight, in response to which they officers tightened the cuffs further. (Doc. 1). While Fridge was lying face-down on the ground in handcuffs, an officer tasered him repeatedly. (Doc. 1). Fridge was searched and then placed in a closed and unventilated police vehicle. (Doc. 1). Fridge's phone was confiscated and his video of the incident was deleted. (Doc. 1).

         Fridge was booked into the Avoyelles Parish Prison and charged with: (1) resisting arrest, La. R.S. 14:108; (2) battery on a police officer, La. R.S. 14:34.2; (3) remaining after being forbidden, La. R.S. 14:63.3; and (4) possessing a firearm on the premises of an establishment that serves alcohol, La. R.S. 14:95.5. (Doc. 1). Fridge further alleges he was never advised of his Miranda rights, he remained in jail for three days and was not given food or water for the first 24 hours, and he was not given medical care. (Doc. 1).

         According to the arrest record attached to Fridge's complaint (Doc. 1, Ex. A), Officer Stafford stated in his report that: (1) he was in charge of all officers at the festival; (2) Stafford and Greenhouse approached Fridge from behind while Hill spoke with Fridge; (3) Hill advised Fridge he could not possess a firearm because alcoholic beverages were being sold “on the grounds”; (4) Stafford and Greenhouse “grabbed” Fridge and, with Damion Jacobs, took Fridge to the ground; (5) Jacobs grabbed Fridge's arm and gave Fridge's weapon to Montgomery; (6) Fridge's firearm was seized; (7) Stafford tasered Fridge while he was on the ground and surrounded by four officers; (8) Fridge was then handcuffed; and (9) Sgt. Parnell transported Fridge to the Avoyelles Parish Jail.

         Fridge contends he has never been convicted of a felony, he was in lawful possession of the firearm, he had not entered any business selling alcohol, he had not imbibed any alcohol, and he did not strike any officer. Fridge alleges the officers lacked probable cause to search him, seize his property, and arrest him, and lacked reasonable suspicion that Fridge was a danger. (Doc. 1). Fridge alleges his firearm was never returned to him.

         Fridge also contends Defendants violated his constitutional rights and committed the criminal acts.[1] Fridge further contends Defendants instituted and/or maintained a policy or custom of: (1) targeting and harassing individuals exercising their rights to assemble and engage in political speech and condoning violations of civil rights; (2) violating the Second Amendment right to bear arms; (3) condoning unlawful searches and seizures; (4) use of excessive force; and (5) interrogating individuals without advising them of their rights under the Fifth Amendment. (Doc. 1).

         Fridge seeks monetary damages, injunctive relief, costs, attorney's fees, and a jury trial. (Doc. 1).

         D.A. Riddle filed a Motion to Dismiss (Doc. 8). On a joint motion by Riddle and Fridge, a consent judgment was entered and Riddle was dismissed (Doc. 15).

         The remaining Defendants filed a Rule 12(b)(6) Motion to Dismiss as to some of Fridge's claims and, alternatively, a motion to stay proceedings (Doc. 27). The Motion to Stay was granted pending the outcome of the charges against Fridge, in the event this suit was rendered moot pursuant to Heck v. Humphrey 512 U.S. 477 (1994).[2] (Doc. 29).

         D.A. Riddle dismissed the criminal charges against Fridge and the stay was lifted[3] (Doc. 37). Defendants re-filed their Rule 12(b)(6) Motion to Dismiss and included a “request” for stay of discovery. (Doc. 39).

         Fridge's brief in response includes two “requests” to voluntarily dismiss some of his claims and a “request” for leave to amend the Complaint pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 15. (Doc. 45).

         II. Law and Analysis

         A. Standards Governing a Motion to Dismiss pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6).

         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] complaint will survive dismissal for failure to state a claim if it contains ‘sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.'” Legate v. Livingston, 822 F.3d 207, 210 (5th Cir. 2016) (quoting Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009)) (internal citation and quotation omitted). “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.” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678. The court must view all well-pleaded facts in the light most favorable to the plaintiff. Yumilicious Franchise, L.L.C. v. Barrie, 819 F.3d 170, 174 (5th Cir. 2016).

         B. Defendants' unopposed Motion to Dismiss the §1983 claims against Chief Smith in his official capacity should be granted.

         In his brief, Fridge asks the Court to dismiss his official capacity federal claims against Chief Smith. (Doc. 45, p. 13). Accordingly, Defendants' unopposed Motion to Dismiss Fridge's official capacity federal claims[4] against Chief Smith should be granted. (Doc. 39).

         C. Defendants' unopposed Motion to Dismiss the § 1983 claims against the City should be granted.

         In his brief, Fridge asks the Court to dismiss the City “in its official capacity as the employer of these defendants for his Federal claims only” because there is no respondeat superior liability under § 1983. (Doc. 45, p. 13).

         A municipality does not have separate individual and official capacities. However, Fridge explains that he wants his § 1983 claims against the City dismissed because it cannot be liable under § 1983 for the acts of its employees.[5] Fridge further explains that he intends to pursue his state law claims for vicarious liability against the City, because it can be held liable under state law for the individual officers' delicts committed within the course and scope of their employment.

         Because it is unopposed by Fridge, Defendants' motion to dismiss the § 1983 claims against the City should be granted.

         D. Defendants' Motion to Dismiss Fridge's ยง 1983 claim against Chief Smith for violation of his constitutional rights pursuant to a ...


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