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Sweat v. Butler

United States District Court, W.D. Tennessee, Eastern Division

March 9, 2015

TARA SWEAT and JEREMY HUNTER SWEAT, Plaintiffs,
v.
OFFICER LARRY BUTLER and CITY OF CRUMP, TENNESSEE, Defendants

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Tara Sweat, Plaintiff, Pro se, Adamsville, TN.

Jeremy Hunter Sweat, Plaintiff, Pro se, Adamsville, TN.

For Officer Larry Butler, City of Crump, TN, Defendant: Milton Dale Conder, Jr., RAINEY KIZER REVIERE & BELL, Jackson, TN.

Page 777

ORDER GRANTING MOTION TO DISMISS BY DEFENDANT, CITY OF CRUMP, TENNESSEE

J. DANIEL BREEN, CHIEF UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

Plaintiffs, Tara Sweat and Jeremy Hunter Sweat, brought this action against the City of Crump, Tennessee, and Larry Butler, a former Crump police officer, in a complaint filed on September 26, 2014, alleging violations of 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and Tennessee tort law. (Docket Entry (" D.E." ) 1.) Before the Court is the October 20, 2014, motion of Crump to dismiss the complaint for failure to state a claim pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6), (D.E. 7), to which Plaintiffs have responded, (D.E. 9).

I. Legal Standard

Rule 12 permits a court to dismiss a complaint for " failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted." Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6). When considering a motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim, a district court should " construe [the] complaint in the light most favorable" to the non-moving party and accept all " well-pled allegations as true." Terry v. Tyson Farms, Inc., 604 F.3d 272, 274 (6th Cir. 2010) (citing Jones v. City of Cincinnati, 521 F.3d 555, 559 (6th Cir. 2008)). A claim is well-pled when " it contains 'either direct or inferential allegations respecting all material elements' necessary for recovery under a viable legal theory." Phil. Indem. Ins. Co. v. Youth Alive, Inc., 732 F.3d 645, 649 (6th Cir. 2013) (quoting Terry, 604 F.3d at 275-76). The facts in the complaint must " allow[] the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged." Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678, 129 S.Ct. 1937, 173 L.Ed.2d 868 (2009) (citing Bell A. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 556, 127 S.Ct. 1955, 167 L.Ed.2d 929 (2007)). The Court " need not accept as true legal conclusions or unwarranted factual inferences,

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and conclusory allegations or legal conclusions masquerading as factual allegations will not suffice." Youth Alive, Inc., 732 F.3d at 649 (quoting Terry, 604 F.3d at 275-76). The complaint, therefore, must " contain[] sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face." Reilly v. Vadlamudi, 680 F.3d 617, 622-23 (6th Cir. 2012) (quoting Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678).[1]

II. Facts Alleged

Plaintiffs made the following allegations in their complaint. On September 27, 2013, Tara Sweat was driving to work when Butler performed a traffic stop on her vehicle. (D.E. 1 ¶ ¶ 7-8.) After she " pulled over at the first well-lit area, a nearby gas station[,] . . . Butler approached [her] vehicle with his gun drawn, telling her to 'get the f--k out of the car.'" ( Id. ¶ ¶ 9-10.) The officer would not tell her " why [she] was pulled over," and, while " yelling, cursing, and spitting in her face," he " forcibly pull[ed her] from the car" without allowing her to unbuckle her seatbelt, which caused " bruising and abrasions." ( Id. ¶ ¶ 11-12.) After Butler performed field sobriety tests, he arrested Ms. Sweat for driving under the influence. ( Id. ¶ 14.) While Ms. Sweat was handcuffed in the back of Butler's patrol car, her son, Jeremy Hunter Sweat, stopped his vehicle, containing a minor passenger, at the gas station " to make sure his [m]other had not had a car accident." ( Id. ¶ ¶ 14-15.) Butler then " drew his firearm" on Mr. Sweat and the passenger, and he yelled, cursed, and " order[ed] them to immediately leave." ( Id. ¶ ¶ 16-17.) The local hospital eventually performed a consensual blood draw on Ms. Sweat. ( Id. ¶ 19.)

The next day, Sweat's husband submitted a complaint with the Crump Police Department and reviewed a video recording of the events. ( Id. ¶ 20.) The charges were eventually abandoned and dismissed. ( Id. ΒΆ 21.) About a month after Sweat's arrest, Butler was " terminated for violation of the personal conduct policy" due to his involvement in a domestic dispute, during the course of which " he stated ...


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