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Mhoon v. Metropolitan Government of Nashville and Davidson County

United States District Court, M.D. Tennessee, Nashville Division

October 26, 2016

EDGAR MHOON, Plaintiff,
v.
METROPOLITAN GOVERNMENT OF NASHVILLE & DAVIDSON COUNTY, TENNESSEE, et al., Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          TODD J. CAMPBELL UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         Before the Court are five motions to dismiss (Doc. Nos. 25, 28, 30, 33, 35) filed by defendants the Metropolitan Government of Nashville & Davidson County, Tennessee (“Metro”), Daron Hall, Tony M. Wilkes, Richard Middleton, Casey Fiddler, David Jones, Kyle Kort, Gregory Williamson, and Antoine Smith.

         I. Factual and Procedural Background

         Plaintiff Edgar Mhoon instituted this action on July 8, 2016 against the above-referenced defendants as well as Patrick Vongsamphanh, Caylan Hawkins, and eight “John Doe” defendants.[1] He filed his Amended Complaint (Doc. No. 16) on August 8, 2016. In the Amended Complaint, Plaintiff asserts that, on August 8, 2015, while he was a pretrial detainee in the custody of the Davidson County Sheriff's Office (“DCSO”), a division of Metro, he was brutally assaulted by Vongsamphanh “and/or other Defendants” who also thereafter demonstrated deliberate indifference to serious medical injuries resulting from the assault by forcibly changing his clothes and then transporting him to the hospital in a police car instead of an ambulance.

         Plaintiff asserts that, as a result of this incident, he suffered severe trauma, including serious spinal injuries that left him paralyzed. Plaintiff was initially transported to Nashville General Hospital and then transferred to Vanderbilt University Medical Center. After having undergone numerous medical procedures, he currently resides at a private rehabilitation facility in Memphis, Tennessee.

         Based on the assault and its aftermath, Plaintiff asserts eight counts in the Amended Complaint, as follows:

• Claims under 42 U.S.C. §§ 1983, 1985, and 1986 for excessive force and cruel and unusual punishment, in violation of his rights under the Fourth, Eighth, and Fourteenth Amendments, against all Defendants (Counts One through Three);
• State-law claims of assault and battery against the individual Defendants (Count Four);
• Claim against Metro under Tenn. Code Ann. § 8-8-302 arising out of the individual Defendants' intentional acts (Count Five);
• Claims of deliberate indifference to serious medical needs against Metro and the individual Defendants insofar as their actions “were not customary or in compliance with DCSO practice and policy” (Am. Compl. at 19), in violation of Fourteenth Amendment of the United States Constitution and Article 1, Section 8 of the Tennessee Constitution (Count Six);
• Claims of intentional infliction of emotional distress/outrageous conduct against all Defendants (Count Seven); and
• Negligence claims under the Tennessee Governmental Tort Liability Act, Tenn. Code Ann. § 29-20-101, et seq., against all Defendants (Count Eight).

         He seeks compensatory and punitive damages, as well as attorney fees under 42 U.S.C. § 1988.

         Defendants seek dismissal of all claims against them. Plaintiff does not oppose the motion filed by Antoine Smith. (See Doc. No. 40.) That motion (Doc. No. 35) will therefore be granted without discussion and the claims against Smith dismissed with prejudice.

         Regarding the remaining motions, Plaintiff does not contest the dismissal of his claims under 42 U.S.C. §§ 1985 and 1986, and he concedes that, because he was a pretrial detainee rather than an arrestee or convicted prisoner at the time the events alleged in this action occurred, his rights were protected by the Fourteenth Amendment rather than the Eighth or Fourth. Accordingly, the claims asserted against all Defendants under §§ 1985 and 1986, and those § 1983 claims premised on alleged violations of Plaintiff's rights under the Fourth and Eighth Amendments, will be dismissed without discussion.

         Plaintiff also does not oppose Defendants' contention that, to the extent that Plaintiff invokes the Tennessee Constitution as the basis for any of his civil rights claims, such claims should be dismissed because Tennessee law does not recognize a private right of action for damages based on violations of the Tennessee Constitution. See Bowden Bldg. Corp. v. Tenn. Real Estate Comm'n, 15 S.W.3d 434, 446 (Tenn. Ct. App. 1999) (no “implied cause of action for damages” for violations of the Tennessee Constitution); Cline v. Rogers, 87 F.3d 176, 179-80 (6th Cir. 1996). Any claim for violation of the Tennessee Constitution will also be dismissed.

         Otherwise, Plaintiff opposes the motions to dismiss and, in the alternative, requests in response to some of the motions that he be permitted the opportunity to amend his complaint prior to dismissal if the Court is inclined to grant Defendants' motions.

         II. Standard of Review

         All the motions to dismiss are filed under Rule 12(b)(6). In deciding a motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim under Rule 12(b)(6), the Court will “construe the complaint in the light most favorable to the plaintiff, accept its allegations as true, and draw all reasonable inferences in favor of the plaintiff.” Directv, Inc. v. Treesh, 487 F.3d 471, 476 (6th Cir. 2007). The complaint's allegations “must be enough to raise a right to relief above the speculative level.” Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007). To establish the “facial plausibility” required to “unlock the doors of discovery, ” the plaintiff cannot rely on “legal conclusions” or “[t]hreadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action, ” but, instead, must plead “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. 662, 678-79 (2009). “[O]nly a complaint that states a plausible claim for relief survives a motion to dismiss.” Id. at 679; Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556.

         III. Casey Fiddler, David Jones, Kyle Kort, and Gregory Williamson's Motion to Dismiss (Doc. No. 33); Richard Middleton's Motion to Dismiss (Doc. No. 25)

         Plaintiff asserts federal claims against Defendants Fiddler, Jones, Kort, Williamson, and Middleton (the “Fiddler Defendants”), [2] under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 for the use of excessive force and deliberate indifference to his serious medical needs; and state law claims of assault and battery, intentional infliction of emotional distress/outrageous conduct, and negligence. In their motions to dismiss, the Fiddler Defendants argue that (1) the individual capacity claims § 1983 claims must be dismissed because the complaint does not adequately allege each Defendant's personal involvement in the events giving rise to Plaintiff's injuries, and the Defendants are entitled to qualified immunity; (2) the Court should decline to exercise supplemental jurisdiction over Plaintiff's state-law claims if the federal claims are dismissed; and (3) alternatively, Plaintiff's outrageous conduct claim should be ...


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