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Robinson v. Lipps

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

July 17, 2019





         Before the Court is the Motion to Dismiss pursuant to F.R.C.P. Rule 12(b)(6) filed on behalf of Mayor-President Joel Robideaux, individually and in his official capacity as Mayor-President of Lafayette City-Parish Consolidated Government, and Chief Toby Aguillard, Individually and in his official capacity as Chief of Police for Lafayette City-Parish Consolidated Government. (Rec. Doc. 31). Plaintiffs, Jasper Robinson, individually and together with Andrea Williams on behalf of their minor children, oppose the Motion (Rec. Doc. 34), and Robideaux and Aguillard have replied (Rec. Doc. 35). The Motion was referred to the undersigned magistrate judge for review, report, and recommendation in accordance with the provisions of 28 U.S.C. §636 and the standing orders of this Court. Considering the evidence, the law, and the arguments of the parties, and for the reasons fully explained below, it is recommended that Robideaux and Aguillard's Motion be GRANTED.

         Factual Background

         Plaintiffs filed this suit following Jasper Robinson's arrest by Lafayette Police Officer Lipps on July 15, 2017. Plaintiffs initially filed suit in Louisiana state court on July 10, 2018 against Lafayette City-Parish Consolidated Government (“LCG”) (mis-named as the City of Lafayette) and Officer Lipps asserting various §1983 claims and state law claims. (Rec. Doc. 1-1). LCG and Officer Lipps removed the case in August 2018. (Rec. Doc. 1). Plaintiffs filed a First Supplemental and Amending Complaint on September 21, 2018, in which they re-named LCG (properly named) and Officer Lipps and added Robideaux and Aguillard as new defendants. (Rec. Doc. 11). Plaintiffs re-alleged details regarding the arrest incident involving Jasper Robinson and Officer Lipps. None of Plaintiffs' factual allegations mentioned Robideaux or Aguillard. (Rec. Doc. 11, ¶4-12).

         On March 18, 2019, the Court issued a Notice of Intent to Dismiss Robideaux and Aguillard for failure to serve. (Rec. Doc. 24). Plaintiffs moved for, and the Court granted on March 21, 2019, an extension of time for service. (Rec. Doc. 26). Robideaux and Aguillard subsequently executed a waiver of service. (Rec. Doc. 27; 28).

         In the meantime, original Defendants, LCG and Officer Lipps, moved to dismiss the First Amended Complaint, which the Court granted in part and denied in part. Specifically, the Court dismissed Plaintiffs' claims for unlawful arrest and due process violations. (Rec. Doc. 21, at 6-8; 14; 15). The Court maintained Plaintiffs' §1983 claims for excessive use of force and state law claims for assault, battery, inadequate medical attention, negligent and intentional infliction of emotional distress, loss of consortium, and bystander claims. (Rec. Doc. 21, at 8-13; 15-17).

         Since the Court's ruling on LCG and Officer Lipps's Motion to Dismiss and Robideaux and Aguillard's waiver of service, Robideaux and Aguillard filed their own Motion to Dismiss pursuant to F.R.C.P. Rule 12(b)(6), which is the Motion currently before the Court. (Rec. Doc. 31). Robideaux and Aguillard seek dismissal of Plaintiffs' §1983 claims against them in their individual capacities (claims for failure to supervise and train) and in their official capacities (as claims duplicative of those against LCG), as well as Plaintiffs' state law claims against them as prescribed.

         Applicable Law

         I. Law applicable to Rule 12(b)(6)

         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 and exhibits thereto. Collins v. Morgan Stanley Dean Witter, 224 F.3d 496, 498 (5th Cir.2000); U.S. ex rel. Riley v. St. Luke's Episcopal Hosp., 355 F.3d 370, 375 (5th Cir.2004). 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 (5thCir.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. 544, 555 (2007) (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 the Plaintiffs' Amended Complaint.

         II. Whether Plaintiffs have stated a §1983 claim against Robideaux and Aguillard in their Individual Capacities.

         42 U.S.C. §1983 is the procedural mechanism by which substantive constitutional deprivations may be vindicated. “To pursue a claim under § 1983, a ‘plaintiff[ ] must (1) allege a violation of rights secured by the Constitution or laws of the United States and (2) demonstrate that the alleged deprivation was committed by a person acting under color of state law.'” Sw. Bell Tel., LP v. City of Houston, 529 F.3d 257, 260 (5th Cir.2008), quoting Resident Council of Allen Parkway Vill. v. HUD, 980 F.2d 1043, 1050 (5th Cir.1993). “In other words, ‘[§] 1983 confers no substantive rights, but merely provides a remedy for the violation [by a person acting under color of state law, ] of rights secured under the Constitution and laws of the United States.” Id., citing Kirchberg v. Feenstra, 708 F.2d 991, 1000 (5th Cir.1983).

         §1983 claims include those against state actors in their individual and/or official capacities. In order to assert a valid claim against an official in his individual capacity, “[a] § 1983 claimant must ‘establish that the defendant was either personally involved in a constitutional deprivation or that his wrongful actions were causally connected to the constitutional deprivation.' ”Jones v. Lowndes Cty., Miss., 678 F.3d 344, 349 (5th Cir.2012), quoting James v. Texas Collin County, 535 F.3d 365, 373 (5th Cir.2008). “Under section 1983, supervisory officials are not liable for the actions of subordinates on any theory of vicarious liability.” Thompson v. Upshur County, 245 F.3d 447, 459 (5th Cir.2001). “A supervisory official may be held liable ... only if (1) he affirmatively participates in the acts that cause the constitutional deprivation, or (2) he implements unconstitutional policies that causally result in the constitutional injury.” Porter v. Epps, 659 F.3d 440, 446 (5th Cir.2011), quoting Gates v. Texas Department of Prot. & Reg. Servs., 537 F.3d 404, 435 (5th Cir.2008). To establish supervisor liability for constitutional violations committed by subordinate employees, the plaintiff must show that the supervisor acted or failed to act with deliberate indifference to the violation of others' constitutional rights committed by their subordinates. Porter, 659 F.3d at 446; Gates, 537 F.3d at 435. Deliberate indifference requires “proof that a municipal actor disregarded a known or obvious consequence of his action.” Porter, 659 F.3d at 447, quoting Connick v. Thompson, 563 U.S. 51, 61 (2011).

         Plaintiffs' sole allegations against Robideaux and Aguillard are:

• Mayor Robideaux is responsible for the hiring, training, discipline, supervision, and control of the Lafayette Police officers who are defendants herein, including Chief Aguillard. (Rec. Doc. 11, ¶1C).
• Toby Aguillard was and is responsible for the supervision, administration, policies, practices, customs, and procedures of the LAFAYETTE CITY-PARISH CONSOLIDATED GOVERNMENT Police Department, as well as the hiring, training, supervision, discipline, and control of police personnel under his command, including Officer Gene Lipps. (Rec. Doc. 11, ¶1D).
• Defendants Lafayette City-Parish Consolidated Government, Mayor Joel Robideaux, and Chief Toby Aguillard, are liable unto Mr. Robinson under the doctrine of respondeat superior for the tortious act of their employer, Defendant Lipps, committed against third parties, such as Mr. Robinson, during the course and scope of employment and while under its control, direction and supervision pursuant to La. C.C. 2317 and 2320. (Rec. Doc. 11, ¶16).

         The United States Supreme Court established long ago that an employer of a tort feasor alleged to have violated the plaintiff's civil rights is not liable under a theory of respondeat superior. Monell v. Dep't of Soc. Servs. of City of New York, 436 U.S. 658 (1978). Nonetheless, Plaintiff claim that Robideaux and Aguillard are independently liable for failure to supervise and train subordinate employees. In order to prevail on a failure to train theory, Plaintiffs must prove that 1) the mayor or chief failed to train or supervise the officers involved; 2) there is a causal connection between the alleged failure to supervise or train and the alleged violation of the plaintiff's ...

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