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Hayes v. Howard

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

July 3, 2019

NISHEKA HAYES, ET AL., Plaintiffs
v.
TERRANCE HOWARD, ET AL., Defendants

          REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION

          JOSEPH H.L. PEREZ-MONTES UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE

         Before the Court is a Rule 12(b)(6) Motion to Dismiss (Doc. 8), filed by Defendants the City of Alexandria (the “City”), Corporal Terrance Howard (“Howard”), in his official capacity, and the “Unknown Officers, ” in their official capacities (collectively referred to as “Defendants”). Defendants seek dismissal of the following claims asserted by Plaintiff Nisheka Hayes (“Hayes”), individually and on behalf of her minor child Dewanna Hayes (“Dewanna”) (collectively referred to as “Plaintiffs”): (1) punitive damages against the City under 42 U.S.C. § 1983; (2) punitive damages against Howard and the Unknown Officers, in their official capacities, under 42 U.S.C. § 1983; and (3) punitive damages against Defendants under Louisiana state law. (Doc. 8, p. 1).

         In response, Plaintiffs filed an Amended Complaint (Doc. 10), alleging “[p]unitive damages are sought against the police officers, in their personal capacities, for violation of federally protected rights.” (Doc. 10, p. 1). Additionally, Plaintiffs assert “[p]unitive damages are sought and demanded against the officers included in this suit only to the extent which they are allowed under state and/or federal law for the reckless or callous indifference to federally-protected rights of the police officers in their personal capacities.” (Doc. 10, p. 5).

         Because Plaintiffs seek punitive damages against Howard and the Unknown Officers in their personal capacities only, and because Plaintiffs fail to allege specific statutory provisions that would allow punitive damages under state law, Defendants' Rule 12(b)(6) Motion to Dismiss (Doc. 8) should be DENIED IN PART AS MOOT and GRANTED IN PART.

         I. Background

         Plaintiffs assert civil rights claims against Defendants under the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution, and under the Civil Rights Act of 1871, 42 U.S.C. §§ 1983 and 1988. (Doc. 10, p. 1). Plaintiffs' Original Complaint names as Defendants the City, Howard, and the Unknown Officers, police officers employed by the City and acting in the course and scope of their employment and under the color of state law. (Doc. 1, p. 2). While not clearly alleged in their Original Complaint (Doc. 1, pp. 1-6), Plaintiffs' Amended Complaint (Doc. 10) asserts Howard and the Unknown Officers are being sued in both their individual and official capacities as officers. (Doc. 10, p. 2).

         Plaintiffs claim that on December 8, 2017, Plaintiffs were in Hayes's residence and Hayes was taking a bath in the bathroom at the rear of her home. (Doc. 10). Plaintiffs allege Dewanna knocked on the bathroom door and indicated the Alexandria City Police officers were inside the home. Id., p. 3). Hayes tried to exit the bathroom to get dressed to address the officers. Id. Plaintiffs allege the officers refused to relocate to the front of the home, causing multiple officers to see Hayes in the nude for several minutes. Id.

         Plaintiffs claim the officers indicated they were investigating Dewanna for a home invasion and did not have a warrant. Id., p. 4. Plaintiffs asked the officers to leave, but Howard refused. Id. Plaintiffs allege Dewanna, Hayes's juvenile daughter, is not a resident of the same home, and has no authority to consent to a search of the home. Id. Plaintiffs claim Howard and the Unknown Officers entered the home without valid consent. Id. Plaintiffs further contend Howard and the Unknown Officers placed Dewanna in handcuffs and effectuated an illegal arrest on all parties in the home. Id.

         Plaintiffs seek damages for “pain, fear, anxiety, mental distress, loss of enjoyment of life, past and future lost wages as well as other damages to be proved at trial.” Id., p. 5. Plaintiffs' Original Complaint alleged “[p]unitive damages are demanded.” (Doc. 1, p. 5). Plaintiffs amended to assert that “[p]unitive damages are sought and demanded against the officers included in this suit only to the extent which they are allowed under state and/or federal law for the reckless or callous indifference to federally-protected rights of the police officers in their personal capacities.” (Doc. 10, p. 5). Plaintiffs seek compensatory and special damages against Defendants. Id., p. 7. Plaintiffs also claim damages for Howard's tortious acts under Louisiana Civil Code article 2315, and vicarious liability under Louisiana Civil Code article 2320 against the City for the delictual acts of its employees. Id., p. 6.

         II. Law and Analysis

          A. Standards governing the 12(b)(6) Motion to Dismiss

         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 pleading states a claim for relief when, inter alia, it contains a “short and plain statement . . . showing that the pleader is entitled to relief.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2).

         To withstand a motion to dismiss, “a complaint must contain sufficient factual matter accepted as true, ” to “state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (citing Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544 (2007)). A claim is facially plausible when it contains sufficient factual content for the court “to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged.” Id. Plausibility does not equate to possibility or probability; it lies somewhere in between. Id. Plausibility simply calls for enough factual allegations to raise a reasonable expectation that discovery will reveal evidence to support the elements of the claim. See Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556. The court must view all well-pleaded facts in the light most favorable to the plaintiff. Yumilicious Francise, L.L.C. v. Barrie, 819 F.3d 170, 174 (5th Cir. 2016).

         Although the court must accept as true all factual allegations set forth in the complaint, the same presumption does not extend to legal conclusions. Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678. A pleading comprised of labels and conclusions, a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action, or naked assertions devoid of further factual enhancement, will not stand. Id. Similarly, where the well-pleaded facts do not permit the Court to infer more than the mere ...


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