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Frazier v. City of Kaplan

United States District Court, W.D. Louisiana

June 4, 2019


          DOUGHTY, JUDGE.



         Pending before the Court is the Motion to Dismiss for Failure to State a Claim Upon Which Relief Can be Granted (Rec. Doc. 18), and the Motion to Dismiss for Failure to State a Claim Upon Which Relief Can be Granted Regarding Plaintiff's First Amended Complaint (Rec. Doc. 25) filed on behalf of Defendants, Officer Cary James Burton (individually), Officer Payton Lee Hardy (individually), and the City of Kaplan. Defendants seek dismissal of Plaintiff's claims on the grounds of prescription, and, further, dismissal of Plaintiff's Fifth and Fourteenth Amendment claims, claims for malicious prosecution, Monell claims, and state law claims. Plaintiff opposed the motion(s) (Rec. Doc. 27), and Defendants replied (Rec. Doc. 29).[1] 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. 18) be DENIED AS MOOT, and that the second Motion to Dismiss (Rec. Doc. 25) be GRANTED IN PART to the extent it seeks dismissal of all federal law claims for false arrest/imprisonment with prejudice, and DENIED IN PART to the extent it seeks dismissal of Plaintiff's state law claims for malicious prosecution with prejudice. It is recommended that Plaintiff's state law claim for malicious prosecution be dismissed without prejudice.


         Plaintiff's original Complaint asserted claims 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 Police 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 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 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. Nonetheless, the charges were not formally dismissed until nearly eighteen months later on June 11, 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 sought “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 on March 8, 2019. (Rec. Doc. 18). On that same date, 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)).[2] Plaintiff also added the transcript of the January 26, 2017 preliminary examination in state court as Exhibit D and adjusted the remaining exhibit designations accordingly. Otherwise, Plaintiff's factual allegations and causes of action remained the same. Defendants then filed a Motion to Dismiss regarding the First Amended Complaint, to which they attached as exhibit the police report. (Rec. Doc. 25). Given this procedural history, the Court recommends denying Defendants' first Motion to Dismiss (Rec. Doc. 18) as moot. Therefore, the Court will consider Defendants' Motion to Dismiss the Amended Complaint on the merits.

         Defendants move to dismiss Plaintiff's claims on the grounds of prescription and on the grounds that Plaintiff failed to state claims under the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments, Monell claims, and Louisiana state law claims. Plaintiff concedes that he has not stated a claim for Monell violations, and the Court will therefore not address same. (Rec. Doc. 30, at 15). Defendants further seek to dismiss Plaintiff's claims for malicious prosecution as either unviable under federal law or barred by the doctrine of qualified immunity. (Rec. Doc. 25).

         Law and Analysis

         I. 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). With these precepts in mind, the Court considers Plaintiff's Amended Complaint, including the exhibits attached thereto.[3]

         II. Whether Plaintiff's Claims Have Prescribed.

         Defendants first contend that Plaintiff's claims are prescribed. 42 U.S.C. §1983 does not contain a statute of limitations. Therefore, federal law looks to the applicable state law statute of limitations. Wallace v. Kato, 549 U.S. 384, 387 (2007). Specifically, the court is to apply the state's statute of limitations applicable to personal injury actions. Id., citing Owens v. Okure, 488 U.S. 235, 249-250 (1989), and Wilson v. Garcia, 471 U.S. 261, 279-280 (1985). In Louisiana, the prescriptive period for personal injury actions is one year. La. C.C. art. 3492. However, the accrual date for a §1983 cause of action is governed by federal law, rather than state law. Wallace, 549 U.S. at 388. This is a case involving the tort of false arrest and imprisonment.[4]

         Defendants maintain that Plaintiff's claim for false imprisonment accrued in August 2017, one year after Plaintiff's arrest. (Rec. Doc. 25-1, at 11). Plaintiff concedes that his claims for false imprisonment “up to the filing of the bill of information on November 9, 2016” have prescribed. (Rec. Doc. 30, at 25). The Court disagrees with the parties' determination as to the accrual date of Plaintiff's claims for false imprisonment; although, it is ultimately a distinction without relevance, since Plaintiff's claims for false imprisonment are prescribed regardless of the accrual date.

         In Wallace v. Kato, the United States Supreme Court established that the appropriate accrual date for claims of false imprisonment, “where the arrest is followed by criminal proceedings, begins to run at the time the claimant becomes detained pursuant to legal process, ” which in that case was the date on which the plaintiff “appeared before the examining magistrate and was bound over for trial.” Wallace, 549 U.S. at 391; 397. Based on this, district courts interpreting Wallace have held that a plaintiff's §1983 claim for false imprisonment accrues at the time of release from imprisonment. See e.g. Thomas v. Gryder, No. CV 17-1595-EWD, 2018 WL 4183206, at *3 (M.D. La. Aug. 31, 2018), and cases cited therein at footnote 38. However, that conclusion should not be universally applied. Instead, the court must determine the appropriate time period of false imprisonment within the context of Wallace. In Wallace, the Supreme Court held that a claim for false imprisonment encompasses the time period between the time of warrantless arrest and the time legal process commences, such as by arraignment or appearance before a magistrate. Wallace, 549 U.S. at 389-90. After legal process commences, the claim becomes one for malicious prosecution. Id. at 390.

         According to the minutes from the state court proceedings attached as Exhibit C to the Amended Complaint, Plaintiff was arraigned on December 8, 2016. (Rec. Doc. 16-3). Thus, based on the calculation mandated by Wallace, Plaintiff's claim for false imprisonment accrued as of that date. As Plaintiff concedes, his federal law claims for false imprisonment, commenced by filing this suit on January 23, 2019, more than two years after his arraignment, are prescribed.

         Unlike federal law claims for false imprisonment, state law claims for false imprisonment accrue on the date of arrest. Eaglin v. Eunice Police Dep't, 2017-1875 (La. 6/27/18). Hence, Plaintiff's state law claims for false arrest prescribed one year after his arrest, August 29, 2017. Although the accrual periods differ, these claims are likewise barred. Therefore, the ...

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