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Turner v. Blount County

August 14, 2008

BRIAN KEITH TURNER, PLAINTIFF,
v.
BLOUNT COUNTY, TENNESSEE, ET AL., DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Thomas A. Varlan United States District Judge

VARLAN/GUYTON

MEMORANDUM

This is a civil rights action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983; plaintiff is represented by counsel. The matter is before the court on the motion to dismiss filed by Blount County, Tennessee, as to certain claims and by the individual defendants in their official capacity. Plaintiff has responded and the defendants have filed a reply brief. The court finds that oral argument is not necessary and the motion is ripe for the court's consideration. For the following reasons, the motion to dismiss will be GRANTED IN PART and DENIED IN PART. The defendants should file, within twenty (20) days of the entry of this Memorandum and accompanying Order, their answer to the remaining claims as set forth below.

I. Standard of Review

A motion to dismiss tests whether a claim has been adequately stated in the complaint.

In considering a motion to dismiss, all well-pleaded allegations in the complaint must be regarded as true and all factual allegations must be construed in favor of the plaintiff. Scheuer v. Rhodes, 416 U.S. 232, 236-37 (1974); Collins v. Nagle, 892 F.2d 489, 493 (6th Cir. 1989). Dismissal "is proper when it is established beyond a doubt that the plaintiff cannot prove any set of facts consistent with the allegations that would entitle such plaintiff to relief." Collins, 892 F.2d at 493. See also Haines v. Kerner, 404 U.S. 519 (1972); Conley v. Gibson, 355 U.S. 41, 45-46 (1957).

II. Factual Background

Plaintiff 's complaint concerns the circumstances surrounding his arrest on suspicion of theft of an automobile, including allegations of excessive force by the police officers, and the police chase that preceded the arrest, which chase resulted in the crash of plaintiff's vehicle. In his original complaint, plaintiff named as defendants Blount County, Tennessee, the Blount County Sheriff's Department by and through Blount County Sheriff James L. Berrong, and the following individual officers: Matt Thompson, James Stegall, Doyle Daugherty, Ronnie Regan, Randall Ailey, Matt McKinnis, Brian Frazier, John Doe, and John Doe II.

The original complaint did not state the capacity in which the individual officers were sued. Blount County, Tennessee, and the Blount County Sheriff's Department were sued under the theory that they are liable for the officers' actions pursuant to the doctrine of respondeat superior. After the defendants' answers were filed, plaintiff was allowed to amend his complaint in order to clarify the capacity in which the parties were sued.

In the amended complaint, plaintiff sued the individual officers in both their individual and official capacity. Plaintiff also added Sheriff James L. Berrong as a defendant in his official capacity. In addition to the claim that Blount County, Tennessee, is liable under the doctrine of respondeat superior, plaintiff added the claim that the officers' actions were based upon policies and procedures adopted by Blount County, Tennessee. Plaintiff also alleged various other claims against the defendants. In the motion to dismiss, the defendants move to dismiss various claims, as discussed below.

III. Discussion

A. Official Capacity of Individual Officers

When a county defendant is sued in his official capacity, the court must proceed as if the plaintiff has in fact sued the county itself, in this case Blount County, Tennessee. Kentucky v. Graham, 473 U.S. 159, 165 (1985); Brandon v. Holt, 469 U.S. 464, 471 (1985); Monell v. Department of Social Services of City of New York, 463 U.S. 658, 690 n.55 (1978). Given that, in order to prevail the plaintiff must demonstrate that the violation of his constitutional rights resulted from acts representing official policy or custom adopted by Blount County, Tennessee. Monell, 463 U.S. at 690-91; Leach v. Shelby County Sheriff, 891 F.2d 1241, 1245-46 (6th Cir. 1989).

Blount County, Tennessee, is a defendant to this action. Accordingly, the claims against Matt Thompson, James Stegall, Doyle Daugherty, Ronnie Regan, Randall Ailey, Matt McKinnis, and Brian Frazier in their official capacity must be DISMISSED and ...


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