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Grace v. City of Ripley

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

March 2, 2017

DAYLE L. GRACE and THOMAS ALEXANDER GRACE, Plaintiffs,
v.
CITY OF RIPLEY, TENNESSEE; LAUDERDALE COUNTY, TENNESSEE; CITY OF RIPLEY POLICE DEPARTMENT; LAUDERDALE COUNTY SHERIFF'S DEPARTMENT; RIPLEY CITY MAYOR JON PAVLETIC, in his individual and official capacity as Mayor of the City of Ripley; LAUDERDALE COUNTY MAYOR MAURICE GAINES, in his individual and official capacity as Mayor of Lauderdale County, Tennessee; DONNELL BALTIMORE, in his individual and official capacity as the Chief of Police for the City of Ripley; SHAUN FINE, in his individual and official capacity as a police officer of the Ripley Police Department; SHERIFF STEVE SANDERS, in his individual and official capacity as the Sheriff of Lauderdale County, Tennessee; JOHN DOE 1, in his individual and official capacity as a deputy of the Lauderdale County Sheriff's Department; JOHN DOE 2, in his individual and official capacity as a deputy of the Lauderdale County Sheriff's Department; JOHN DOE 3, in his individual and official capacity as a deputy of the Lauderdale County Sheriff's Department; JOHN DOE 4, in his individual and official capacity as a 25th Judicial Drug Task Force Officer; and JOHN DOE 5, in his individual and official capacity as a 25th Judicial Drug Task Force Officer, Defendants.

          ORDER GRANTING DEFENDANT CITY OF RIPLEY'S MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT AS TO ALL CLAIMS AGAINST THE RIPLEY POLICE DEPARTMENT & GRANTING LAUDERDALE DEFENDANTS' MOTION TO DISMISS FOR FAILURE TO STATE A CLAIM

          JON P. McCALLA UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT JUDGE

         This action arises from a June 5, 2015 arrest and subsequent detention of Plaintiffs Dayle L. Grace (née Dedmon) and Thomas Alexander Grace, following a reckless driving complaint. (ECF No. 1.) Plaintiffs allege that the arrest and detention violated their civil rights pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and amounted to wrongful arrest and imprisonment, battery, civil conspiracy, and intentional infliction of emotional distress under Tennessee state law. (Id.)

         On September 29, 2016, Defendants Lauderdale County, an entity named as the “Lauderdale County Sheriff's Department, ” Lauderdale County Mayor Maurice Gaines, Sheriff Steve Sanders, and John Does 1-3 (collectively, “the Lauderdale Defendants”), filed a Motion to Dismiss for Failure to State a Claim. (ECF No. 29.) On November 17, 2016, Plaintiffs responded in opposition. (ECF No. 40.)

         On October 4, 2016, Defendant City of Ripley filed its Initial Motion for Summary Judgment as to all Claims Against the Ripley Police Department and its Statement of Material Facts Upon Which Defendant Relies in Support of Its Initial Motion for Summary Judgment as to all Claims Against the Ripley Police Department. (See ECF Nos. 32; 32-3.) Plaintiff did not respond, and the time in which to do so has expired. See L.R. 56.1(b); see also L.R. 56.1(d) (“Failure to respond to a moving party's statement of material facts . . . within [28 days after the motion is served] shall indicate that the asserted facts are not disputed for purposes of summary judgment.”). For the reasons stated below, the Court GRANTS the Lauderdale Defendants' Motion to Dismiss for Failure to State a Claim, and GRANTS Defendant City of Ripley's Initial Motion for Summary Judgment as to all Claims Against the Ripley Police Department.

         I. BACKGROUND

         A. Factual Background

         On June 5, 2015, Plaintiffs were arrested. (Compl., ECF No. 1 ¶ 53.) Plaintiffs allege the following facts leading up to their arrest: a reckless driving complaint was announced over dispatch, to which Officer Fine responded. (Id. ¶¶ 20-21.) Officer Fine identified Plaintiffs' vehicle in the parking lot of Olympic Steakhouse in Ripley, TN as matching the dispatch description, and then made contact with Plaintiffs. (Id. ¶¶ 20-21, 23.) At that time, Ms. Dedman was driving the vehicle, and her fiancée Mr. Grace and her six year-old daughter were passengers. (Id. ¶ 22.) After closer examination, Officer Fine concluded that Plaintiffs' vehicle further matched the dispatch description. (Id. ¶¶ 24-25.) Ms. Dedman notified Officer Fine that she was currently on depression medication and suffered from astigmatism. (Id. ¶¶ 26-27.) Officer Fine then conducted a field sobriety test on Ms. Dedmon, and observed a tobacco pipe and a vial containing a green leafy substance labeled “Krazy Jack” in the vehicle. (Id. ¶¶ 24-32.) Plaintiffs were subsequently incarcerated as a result of Officer Fine's Affidavit of Complaint for several months. (Id. ¶ 36.) Neither Plaintiffs nor their counsel received results from pending drug tests during their detention. (Id. ¶¶ 38-39.) This failure to supply the drug tests resulted in the dismissal of charges against Plaintiffs. (Id. ¶ 39.)

         B. Procedural Background

         On June 6, 2016, Plaintiffs brought this action against Defendants asserting five causes of action: (1) violation of 42 U.S.C. § 1983; (2) wrongful arrest and wrongful imprisonment; (3) battery; (4) civil conspiracy; and (5) intentional infliction of emotional distress. (ECF No. 1 at PageIDs 7-12.) Plaintiffs seek compensatory and punitive damages, as well as reasonable attorneys' fees and costs. (Id. at PageID 13.)

         On September 29, 2016, Defendants Lauderdale County, an entity named as the “Lauderdale County Sheriff's Department, ” Lauderdale County Mayor Maurice Gaines, Sheriff Steve Sanders, and John Does 1-3 (collectively, “the Lauderdale Defendants”), filed a Motion to Dismiss for Failure to State a Claim. (ECF No. 29.) Specifically, the Lauderdale Defendants contend that the “Lauderdale County Sherriff's Department” is not an entity subject to suit, and that naming of Mayor Gaines, Sheriff Sanders, and John Does 1-3 are redundant because Lauderdale County has been named as a defendant. (Id. at PageID 116-17.) Further, the Lauderdale Defendants argue the state law Tennessee Governmental Tort Liability Act, Tenn. Code Ann. § 29-20-101 et seq, claims should be dismissed or the Court should decline to exercise supplemental jurisdiction over such claims.[1] (Id. at PageID 120.)

         On October 3, 2016, Defendants City of Ripley, Jon Pavletic, Donnell Baltimore, and Shaun Fine (collectively, “Ripley Defendants”) filed their Answer. (ECF No. 31.) The Ripley Defendants assert in their Answer that the individuals listed in their individual capacities should be dismissed because the City of Ripley is a named defendant. (Id. ¶ 10.) They also assert that neither Mayor Jon Pavletic nor the City of Ripley was properly served. (Id. at PageID 154 ¶ 1.)

         On October 4, 2016, Defendant City of Ripley filed a Motion for Summary Judgment as to all claims against the Ripley Police Department arguing that a municipal police department is not a separate, suable legal entity under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and, as the City of Ripley is already a named defendant, it is redundant to name the police department. (ECF No. 32.)

         On October 19, 2016, the parties filed their Rule 26(f) Report and joint scheduling order. (ECF No. 33.) On October 27, 2016, the Court held a telephonic Scheduling Conference. (Min. Entry, ECF No. 35.)

         On November 16, 2016, Plaintiffs filed a Response in opposition to Defendants Lauderdale County, “Lauderdale County Sheriff's Department, ” Lauderdale County Mayor Maurice Gaines, Sheriff Steve Sanders, and John Does 1-3's Motion to Dismiss. (ECF No. 40.)

         II. LEGAL STANDARD

         A. Summary Judgment

         “The court shall grant summary judgment if the movant shows that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a); accord Haddad v. Alexander, Zelmanski, Danner & Fioritto, PLLC, 758 F.3d 777, 781 (6th Cir. 2014) (per curiam). “A genuine dispute of material facts exists if ‘there is sufficient evidence favoring the nonmoving party for a jury to return a verdict for that party.'” Am. Copper & Brass, Inc. v. Lake City Indus. Prods., Inc., 757 F.3d 540, 543-44 (6th Cir. 2014) (quoting Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 249 (1986)).

         “The moving party bears the initial burden of demonstrating the absence of any genuine issue of material fact.” Mosholder v. Barnhardt, 679 F.3d 443, 448 (6th Cir. 2012) (citing Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323 (1986)). “In considering a motion for summary judgment, [the] court construes all reasonable inferences in favor of the nonmoving party.” Robertson v. Lucas, 753 F.3d 606, 614 (6th Cir. 2014) (citing Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 587 (1986)). “Once the moving party satisfies its initial burden, the burden shifts to the nonmoving party to set forth specific facts showing a triable issue of material fact.” Mosholder, 679 F.3d at 448-49 (citing Matsushita, 475 U.S. at 587; Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(e)). “When the non-moving party fails to make a sufficient showing of an essential element of his case on which he bears the burden of proof, the moving parties are entitled to judgment as a matter of law and summary judgment is proper.” Martinez v. Cracker Barrel Old Country Store, Inc., 703 F.3d 911, 914 (6th Cir. 2013) (quoting Chapman v. UAW Local 1005, 670 F.3d 677, 680 (6th Cir. 2012) (en banc)).

         To show that a fact is, or is not, genuinely disputed, both parties are required to either “cite[] to particular parts of materials in the record” or “show[] that the materials cited do not establish the absence or presence of a genuine dispute, or that an adverse party cannot produce admissible evidence to support the fact.” Bruederle v. Louisville Metro Gov't, 687 F.3d 771, 776 (6th Cir. 2012) (alterations in original) (quoting Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c)(1)), cert. denied, 133 S.Ct. 866 (2013). “The court need consider only the cited materials, but it may consider other materials in the record.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c)(3); see also Pharos Capital Partners, L.P. v. Deloitte & Touche, 535 F. App'x 522, 523 (6th Cir. 2013) (per curiam) (acknowledging that a district court has no duty to search entire record to establish grounds for summary judgment).

         B. Motion to Dismiss for Failure to State a Claim

         Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(6) allows dismissal of a complaint that “fail[s] to state a claim upon which relief can be granted.” As such, a Rule 12(b)(6) motion permits the “defendant to test whether, as a matter of law, the plaintiff is entitled to legal relief even if everything alleged in the complaint is true.” Mayer v. Mylod, 988 F.2d 635, 638 (6th Cir. 1993) (citing Nishiyama v. Dickson Cnty., 814 F.2d 277, 279 (6th Cir. 1987)). A motion to dismiss only tests whether the plaintiff has pleaded a cognizable claim and allows the court to dismiss meritless cases which would waste judicial resources and result in unnecessary discovery. Brown v. City of Memphis, 440 F.Supp.2d 868, 872 (W.D. Tenn. 2006).

         When evaluating a motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim, the Court must determine whether the complaint alleges “sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to ‘state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.'” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (citing Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007)). If a court decides in light of its judicial experience and common sense, that the claim is not plausible, the case may be dismissed at the pleading stage. Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 679. The “[f]actual allegations must be enough to raise a right to relief above [a] speculative level.” Ass'n of Cleveland Fire Fighters v. City of Cleveland, 502 F.3d 545, 548 (6th Cir. 2007) (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555). A claim is plausible on its face if “the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged.” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678 (citing Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556). A complaint need not contain detailed factual allegations. However, a plaintiff's “[t]hreadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action, supported by mere conclusory statements, do not suffice.” Id. When deciding a 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss, the court may look to “matters of public record, orders, items appearing in the record of the case and exhibits attached to the complaint” for guidance. Barany-Snyder v. Weiner, 539 F.3d 327, 332 (6th Cir. 2008) (quoting Amini v. Oberlin Coll., 259 F.3d 493, 502 (6th Cir. 2001)).

         III. ANALYSIS

         A. Summary Judgment Motion as to All Claims Against the ...


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