United States District Court, M.D. Louisiana
RULING AND ORDER
A. JACKSON JUDGE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
the Court in this 42 U.S.C. § 1983 action is the
Motion to Dismiss (Doc. 21) filed by
Defendants Anthony Burns, Andrew Poe, Kevin McDonald, Robert
Myer, and the City of New Roads. For the reasons that follow,
the Motion (Doc. 21) is GRANTED IN
PART and DENIED IN PART.
of the New Roads Police Department arrested Carmen Hammond
for committing battery of a police officer. (Doc. 1). Hammond
contends the arrest was bogus. (Id.). She sued the
arresting officers, Anthony Burns and Andrew Poe; the City of
New Roads Police Department's Chief of Police, Kevin
McDonald; the City of New Roads' then-Mayor, Robert Myer;
and the City of New Roads. (Id.). The well-pleaded
facts of her complaint, accepted as true and viewed in her
favor, follow. See Midwest Feeders, Inc. v. Bank of
Franklin, 886 F.3d 507, 513 (5th Cir. 2018).
house caught fire on August 28, 2017. (Doc. 1 at ¶ 10).
Seeking help, Hammond called the fire department and her
father, a former firefighter with a heart condition.
(Id. at ¶ 11). By the time her father arrived,
the firefighting was well underway. (Id. at ¶
12). But Hammond's father grew concerned: the house
looked "too smoky" and the electrical supply had
not been shut off (Id.). He feared the fire would
spread "due to [an] electrical short circuit[.]"
(Id.). So he asked the firefighters "several
times" to shut off the electrical supply. (Id.
at ¶ 13). The firefighters ignored him. (Id. at
point, Hammond's father asked the firefighters "what
their problem was." (Id. at ¶ 15). One of
the firefighters responded by calling the City of New Roads
Police Department. (Id.). Hammond tried to escort
her father away from the firefighters; before she could do
so, however, Officer Burns "pepper sprayed" her
father and then threw him to the ground. (Id. at
¶ 17). Officers Burns and Poe then arrested Hammond
because she had tried to help her father. (Id. at
¶ 22). They charged her with battery of a police
officer, handcuffed her "so tightly as to leave a mark
on her wrist," "forced" her to sit in the
police cruiser for "nearly two hours," and then
transported her to jail. (Id. at ¶ 23).
following day, Hammond was released. (Id. at ¶
24). Officers later dismissed the charge against her.
(Id.). This lawsuit followed.
purports to allege (1) § 1983 claims for "unlawful
arrest or detention" against all Defendants (Doc. 1 at
¶¶ 30-37); (2) § 1983 claims for abuse of
process and malicious prosecution against all Defendants
(Id. at ¶¶ 38-50); (3) § 1983
excessive-force claims against unspecified Defendants
(Id. at ¶¶ 51-52); (4) assault and battery
claims against Officers Burns and Poe (Id. at
¶¶ 53-56); (5) a Monell claim against the
City of New Roads (Id. at ¶¶ 57-66); and
(6) intentional infliction of emotional distress claims
against all Defendants (Id. at ¶¶ 67-70).
Defendants invoke qualified immunity and move to dismiss
Hammond's complaint under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure
12(b)(6). (Doc. 21). Hammond opposes. (Doc. 25).
overcome Defendants' Rule 12(b)(6) motion, Hammond must
plead plausible claims for relief. See Romero u. City of
Grapevine, Tex., 888 F.3d 170, 176 (5th Cir. 2018)
(citing Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678
(2009)). A claim is plausible if it is pleaded with factual
content that allows the Court to reasonably infer that
Defendants are liable for the misconduct alleged. See
Edionwe v. Bailey, 860 F.3d 287, 291 (5th Cir. 2017)
(citing Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678). The Court accepts
as true the well-pleaded facts of Hammond's complaint and
views those facts in the light most favorable to her. See
Midwest Feeders, Inc., 886 F.3d at 513.
move to dismiss Hammond's federal claims as barred by
qualified immunity and her state-law claims as deficiently
pleaded. (Doc. 21). Qualified immunity is not merely a
defense to liability; it is an immunity from suit.
Pearson v. Callahan, 555 U.S. 223, 231 (2009). It is
"effectively lost if a case is erroneously permitted to
go to trial." Mitchell v. Forsyth, 472 U.S.
511, 526 (1985). So "qualified immunity questions should
be resolved 'at the earliest possible stage in
litigation.'" Porter v. Epps, 659 F.3d 440,
445 (5th Cir. 2011) (quoting Pearson, 555 U.S. at
232). Accordingly, the Court evaluates the federal claims,
along with the qualified immunity defenses, first. See
Porter v. Epps, 659 F.3d 440, 445 (5th Cir.
purports to allege § 1983 claims of unlawful arrest,
abuse of process, malicious prosecution, and excessive force.
(Doc. 1). She also seeks an award of punitive damages.
(Id. at ¶¶ 73-74). Defendants invoke
qualified immunity in response. (Doc. 21).
immunity protects government officials from civil liability
so long as their conduct '"does not violate clearly
established statutory or constitutional rights of which a
reasonable person would have known.'"
Pearson, 555 U.S. at 231 (quoting Barlow u.
Fitzgerald, 457 U.S. 800, 818 (1982)). Because
Defendants invoke qualified immunity, Hammond "bears the
burden of pleading facts that demonstrate liability and
defeat immunity." Shaw v. Villanueva, 918 F.3d
414, 416 (5th Cir. 2019). To meet that burden, Hammond must
allege facts showing that (1) Defendants violated a statutory
or constitutional right and (2) the right was clearly
established at the time of the conduct. See Id. at
time of the alleged misconduct, Hammond enjoyed a clearly
established right not to be arrested without probable cause.
See Westfall v. Luna,903 F.3d 534, 542 (5th Cir.
2018). A police officer has probable cause "'when
the totality of the facts and circumstances within [the]
police officer's knowledge at the moment of arrest are
sufficient for a reasonable person to conclude that the
suspect had committed or was ...