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Landry v. Garber

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

June 21, 2019


          JUNEAU, Judge



         Before the court is a motion to dismiss (Rec. Doc. 3), which was filed pursuant to Federal Rules of Civil Procedure 12(b)(2), 12(b)(5), and 12(b)(6) by the defendants, Mark Garber, the Sheriff of Lafayette Parish, and former sheriff's office employee Rob Reardon. The motion is opposed[1] and has been referred to the undersigned for review, report, and recommendation in accordance with the provisions of 28 U.S.C. § 636 and the standing orders of the court. Considering the evidence, the law, and the arguments of the parties, and for the reasons fully explained below, it is recommended that the motion should be GRANTED and the plaintiff's claims against Mr. Reardon and Sheriff Garber should be dismissed without prejudice.


         In his complaint, the plaintiff, Louis Landry, alleged that he was incarcerated at the Lafayette Parish Correctional Center in Lafayette, Louisiana on March 29, 2018, when Deputy Sheriff Damien Allen and another unknown deputy entered the unit where he was housed and encouraged him to come out and fight. After the plaintiff allegedly declined to fight, the deputies allegedly entered the plaintiff's cell, pulled him out of the cell, and slammed him into a door. Deputy Allen allegedly held the plaintiff against the door with his hand around the plaintiff's throat then punched him in the face, causing lacerations. The plaintiff was taken to University Health Center, where he received stitches in his face. He was then cuffed and returned to his cell. Deputy Allen was allegedly arrested, charged with assault and battery, and placed on unpaid administrative leave.

         The plaintiff alleged that this incident was malicious and sadistic. The plaintiff further alleged that it was part of a pattern of violence known to Lafayette Parish Sheriff Mark Garber and the sheriff's Director of Corrections, Rob Reardon, who have allegedly failed to address the problem.

         The plaintiff brought this lawsuit under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, alleging that Deputy Allen's actions violated rights guaranteed to the plaintiff by the Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution, including the right to be free from punishment with due process, gratuitous and excessive force, and degrading and sadistic treatment. He sued Sheriff Garber, Mr. Reardon, and Deputy Allen in their official and individual capacities with regard to the alleged Constitutional violations. The plaintiff also alleged that Sheriff Garber developed and maintained policies or customs exhibiting deliberate indifference to the Constitutional rights of citizens, particularly with regard to the use of excessive or unjustified force by his deputies, evidenced by his inadequate supervision and training of deputies and his inadequate investigation of complaints of deputy misconduct. The plaintiff also asserted state-law claims for assault and battery against Deputy Allen and alleged that Sheriff Garber is vicariously liable under Louisiana law for the assault and battery allegedly committed by his employee, Deputy Allen. The plaintiff also alleged that Sheriff Garber is liable under state law for his allegedly negligent hiring, training, supervising, and disciplining of Mr. Reardon and Deputy Allen.

         Sheriff Garber and Mr. Reardon responded to the plaintiff's complaint by filing the instant motion to dismiss.

         Law and Analysis

         In support of their motion to dismiss, Sheriff Garber and Mr. Reardon argued that service was not properly made on Sheriff Garber or on Mr. Reardon. They argued that the plaintiff failed to state an official capacity claim against Mr. Reardon because a claim against an employee is a claim against the governmental entity he works for. They argued that the plaintiff failed to state a vicarious liability claim against Sheriff Garber under Section 1983. They argued that the complaint failed to state a claim against the sheriff under Section 1983 because no specific facts establishing a custom, practice, or policy sufficient to impose municipal liability were alleged. They argued that the complaint failed to state a claim for failure to supervise and failure to train because insufficient facts were alleged. Finally, they argued that the complaint failed to state claims against Sheriff Garber and Mr. Reardon because they are entitled to qualified immunity.

         A. The Standard for Sufficient Service of Process

         A plaintiff is required to serve the summons and a copy of the complaint upon each defendant in a timely and proper manner.[2] Under Rule 12(b)(5) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, a defendant may challenge the plaintiff's failure to serve the defendant or challenge the means by which the plaintiff delivered the summons and complaint to the defendant. Therefore, a Rule 12(b)(5) motion turns on the legal sufficiency of the service of process.[3] Once the validity of service of process has been contested by the defendant, the plaintiff bears the burden of establishing its validity.[4] In the absence of valid service of process, proceedings against a party are void[5] because a court cannot exercise personal jurisdiction over a defendant unless he was properly served.[6] For that reason, a district court has broad discretion to dismiss an action pursuant to Rule 12(b)(5) for insufficient service of process.[7]

         In this case, it is undisputed that the plaintiff attempted to serve Sheriff Garber and Mr. Reardon by having a private process server leave the summonses and copies of the complaint with Alyse Lanclos, a sheriff's office employee who was working at the front reception desk of the sheriff's office on April 2, 2019. (Rec. Doc. 3-2). The issue to be resolved is whether leaving the papers with Ms. Lanclos constituted sufficient service on Mr. Reardon and Sheriff Garber.

         B. Service ...

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