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Frazier v. City of Kaplan

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

June 3, 2019

DESMOND DEMARIO FRAZIER
v.
CITY OF KAPLAN, LOUISIANA, ET AL

          DOUGHTY MAGISTRATE JUDGE

          REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION

          PATRICK J. HANNA JUDGE

         Pending before the Court is the Motion to Dismiss Penalty, Punitive, or Exemplary Damages (Rec. Doc. 6), and the Motion to Dismiss Penalty, Punitive, or Exemplary Damages Regarding Plaintiff's First Amended Complaint (Rec. Doc. 22) filed on behalf of Defendants, Officer Cary James Burton (individually and in his official capacity as a police officer for the City of Kaplan), Officer Payton Lee Hardy (individually and in his official capacity as a police officer for the City of Kaplan), [1]and the City of Kaplan. Defendants seek dismissal of Plaintiff's claims against them for penalty, punitive, or exemplary damages. Plaintiff opposed the motion(s). (Rec. Doc. 27), and Defendants replied (Rec. Doc. 29).[2] The motions were referred to this Court for report and recommendation in accordance with the provisions of 28 U.S.C. §636 and the standing orders of this Court. For the following reasons, it is recommended that Defendants' first Motion to Dismiss (Rec. Doc. 6) be denied as moot, and that the second Motion to Dismiss (Rec. Doc. 22) be GRANTED.

         Background

         Plaintiff's original Complaint asserted a claim pursuant to 42 U.S.C. §1983 and §1988 for alleged violations of his Fourth, Fifth, Sixth, and Fourteenth Amendment rights following his arrest on August 29, 2016. Plaintiff alleged that on that date Kaplan Officer Burton pulled him over for an alleged traffic violation. Upon coming to a stop, Plaintiff alleged that his passenger, DeAndrus Mitchell, jumped out of the vehicle and shouted that Plaintiff had a gun and tried to pull it on him. Officer Burton then forced both Plaintiff and Mitchell at gunpoint to lie on the ground. Kaplan Officer Hardy than arrived on the scene and handcuffed Plaintiff and Mitchell. Officer Burton then searched the vehicle and discovered a handgun and magazine in the grass approximately four feet from the passenger side of the vehicle. Officer Hardy then transported both Mitchell and Plaintiff to the Kaplan Police Department. They were both later charged for various gun-related offenses. (Rec. Doc. 1, ¶22-25; Rec. Doc. 16, ¶22-25).

         Following his arrest, Plaintiff was incarcerated in the Vermilion Parish Jail until January 26, 2017, when a state court judge conducted a preliminary examination and concluded that there had been no probable cause for Plaintiff's arrest. Thereafter, the charges were “nolle prossed” in June 2018. (Rec. Doc. 1, ¶29-30; Rec. Doc. 16, ¶29-30).

         Plaintiff filed his original Complaint on January 23, 2019, in which he asserted claims for false arrest and malicious prosecution and Monell claims, and also seeking “general and/or special and/or punitive damages.” (Rec. Doc. 1, at 12). In the original Complaint, Plaintiff named Officer Burton and Officer Hardy “individually in [their] official capacity[ies] as [] sworn officer[s] of the Kaplan Police Department, acting under Color of Law…” (Rec. Doc. 1, ¶4(B) and (C)).

         Defendants filed their first Motion to Dismiss Plaintiff's claims for punitive damages on March 1, 2019. (Rec. Doc. 6). Shortly thereafter, on March 8, 2019, Plaintiff filed a First Amended Complaint for Damages, wherein Plaintiff named Officer Burton and Officer Hardy “in [their] individual capacity[ies], for actions as [] sworn officer[s] of the Kaplan Police Department, acting under Color of Law…” (Rec. Doc. 16, ¶4(B) and (C)[3]). Otherwise, Plaintiff's factual allegations and causes of action remained the same. Defendants then filed a Motion to Dismiss the claims for punitive damages in the First Amended Complaint. (Rec. Doc. 22). Given this procedural history, the Court recommends denying Defendants' first Motion to Dismiss (Rec. Doc. 6) as moot and granting Defendants' Second Motion to Dismiss on the merits.

         Law and Analysis

         A. The Applicable Standard.

         When considering a motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim under F.R.C.P. Rule 12(b)(6), the district court must limit itself to the contents of the pleadings, including any attachments thereto. Collins v. Morgan Stanley Dean Witter, 224 F.3d 496, 498 (5th Cir. 2000). The court must accept all well-pleaded facts as true and view them in the light most favorable to the plaintiff. In re Katrina Canal Breaches Litigation, 495 F.3d 191, 205 (5th Cir. 2007) (internal quotations omitted) (quoting Martin K. Eby Constr. Co. v. Dallas Area Rapid Transit, 369 F.3d 464, 467 (5th Cir. 2004)); Baker v. Putnal, 75 F.3d 190, 196 (5th Cir. 1996). However, conclusory allegations and unwarranted deductions of fact are not accepted as true, Kaiser Aluminum & Chemical Sales v. Avondale Shipyards, 677 F.2d 1045, 1050 (5th Cir. 1982) (citing Associated Builders, Inc. v. Alabama Power Company, 505 F.2d 97, 100 (5th Cir. 1974)); Collins v. Morgan Stanley, 224 F.3d at 498. Courts “are not bound to accept as true a legal conclusion couched as a factual allegation.”; Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555 (quoting Papasan v. Allain, 478 U.S. 265, 286 (1986)).

         To survive a Rule 12(b)(6) motion, the plaintiff must plead “enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.” Bell Atlantic, 127 U.S. at 570. The allegations must be sufficient “to raise a right to relief above the speculative level, ” and “the pleading must contain something more . . . than . . . a statement of facts that merely creates a suspicion [of] a legally cognizable right of action.” Id. at 555 (quoting 5 C. Wright & A. Miller, Federal Practice and Procedure § 1216, pp. 235-36 (3d ed. 2004)). “While a complaint . . . does not need detailed factual allegations, a plaintiff's obligation to provide the grounds of his entitlement to relief requires more than labels and conclusions, and a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action will not do.” Id. (citations, quotation marks, and brackets omitted; emphasis added). See also Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009). If the plaintiff fails to allege facts sufficient to “nudge[ ][his] claims across the line from conceivable to plausible, [his] complaint must be dismissed.” Bell Atlantic v. Twombly, 127 U.S. at 570.

         A claim meets the test for facial plausibility “when the plaintiff pleads the factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged.” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678. “[D]etermining whether a complaint states a plausible claim for relief . . . [is] a context-specific task that requires the reviewing court to draw on its judicial experience and common sense.” Id. at 679. Therefore, “[t]he 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.” Lormand v. U.S. Unwired, Inc., 565 F.3d 228, 257 (5th Cir. 2009) (quoting Bell Atlantic v. Twombly, 127 U.S. at 556). See also In Re Southern Scrap, 541 F.3d 584, 587 (5th Cir. 2008).

         B. Availability of ...


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