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Buck v. City of Highland Park

United States District Court, E.D. Michigan, Southern Division

August 23, 2017

CARLETON BUCK, Plaintiff,
v.
CITY OF HIGHLAND PARK, A Municipal Corporation, SGT. CURTIS WHITE and OFFICER HEATHER HOLCOMB, Defendants.

          OPINION AND ORDER GRANTING DEFENDANTS' MOTION FOR JUDGMENT ON THE PLEADINGS [ECF NO. 15]

          LINDA V. PARKER U.S. DISTRICT JUDGE.

         This is a civil action filed under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and related state law claims involving a shooting at the Gold Nugget, a store located in the City of Highland Park. Plaintiff Carleton Buck (“Plaintiff”) is a civilian who entered the Gold Nugget during an active robbery situation. Defendants Sergeant Curtis White (“Defendant Curtis”) and Officer Heather Holcomb (“Defendant Holcomb”) responded to the silent alarm at the store. Plaintiff brought this action against Defendants Curtis, Holcomb, and the City of Highland Park, where the officers were employed.

         Plaintiff's complaint includes four counts: (1) gross negligence against Defendant White; (2) failure to train against the City of Highland Park pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983; (3) gross negligence against Defendant Holcomb and (4) constitutional violation of bodily integrity under color of law against Defendant Holcomb. (ECF No. 1.)

         Presently before the Court are four motions: (1) Defendants' motion for judgment on the pleadings, filed pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(c) on December 22, 2016 (ECF No. 15); (2) Defendants' motion for protective order (ECF No. 6); (3) motion to compel and extend discovery (ECF No. 12); and (4) motion to file supplemental authority regarding the motion to dismiss (ECF No. 20).[1] The motion has been fully briefed. The Court finds the legal arguments adequately presented in the parties' papers such that the decision-making process would not be significantly aided by oral argument. Therefore, the Court is dispensing with oral argument with respect to the motions pursuant to Eastern District of Michigan Local Rule 7.1(f)(2). For the reasons that follow, the Court is granting Defendants' motion to dismiss and denying as moot the remaining motions.

         I. Applicable Standards

         A motion for judgment on the pleadings pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(c) is subject to the same standards of review as a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. Grindstaff v. Green, 133 F.3d 416, 421 (6th Cir. 1998). A motion to dismiss pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6) tests the legal sufficiency of the complaint. RMI Titanium Co. v. Westinghouse Elec. Corp., 78 F.3d 1125, 1134 (6th Cir. 1996). Under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 8(a)(2), a pleading must contain a “short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief.” To survive a motion to dismiss, a complaint need not contain “detailed factual allegations, ” but it must contain more than “labels and conclusions” or “a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action . . ..” Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007). A complaint does not “suffice if it tenders ‘naked assertions' devoid of ‘further factual enhancement.' ” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 557).

         As the Supreme Court provided in Iqbal and Twombly, “[t]o survive a motion to dismiss, a complaint must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to ‘state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.' ” Id. (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 570). “A claim has facial plausibility when the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged.” Id. (citing Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556). The plausibility standard “does not impose a probability requirement at the pleading stage; it simply calls for enough facts to raise a reasonable expectation that discovery will reveal evidence of illegal [conduct].” Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556.

         In deciding whether the plaintiff has set forth a “plausible” claim, the court must accept the factual allegations in the complaint as true. Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 94 (2007). This presumption is not applicable to legal conclusions, however. Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 668. Therefore, “[t]hreadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action, supported by mere conclusory statements, do not suffice.” Id. (citing Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555).

         Ordinarily, the court may not consider matters outside the pleadings when deciding a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss. Weiner v. Klais & Co., Inc., 108 F.3d 86, 88 (6th Cir. 1997) (citing Hammond v. Baldwin, 866 F.2d 172, 175 (6th Cir. 1989)). A court that considers such matters must first convert the motion to dismiss to one for summary judgment. See Fed. R. Civ. P 12(d). However, “[w]hen a court is presented with a Rule 12(b)(6) motion, it may consider the [c]omplaint and any exhibits attached thereto, public records, items appearing in the record of the case and exhibits attached to [the] defendant's motion to dismiss, so long as they are referred to in the [c]omplaint and are central to the claims contained therein.” Bassett v. Nat'l Collegiate Athletic Ass'n, 528 F.3d 426, 430 (6th Cir. 2008). Thus, a court may take judicial notice of “other court proceedings” without converting a motion to dismiss into a motion for summary judgment. Buck v. Thomas M. Cooley Law Sch., 597 F.3d 812, 816 (6th Cir. 2010) (citing Winget v. J.P. Morgan Chase Bank, N.A., 537 F.3d 565, 575 (6th Cir. 2008)).

         II. Background

         On October 10, 2009, Plaintiff Carleton Buck parked in front of the Gold Nugget on Woodward Avenue, Highland Park, behind a police vehicle. (Compl. ¶ 17.) The police vehicle was occupied by Defendants White and Holcomb, who were responding to a silent alarm that had been activated by an employee of the Gold Nugget. (Id. ¶ 19.) Defendant Holcomb was “looking through the clear front glass windows” of the store as Plaintiff exited his vehicle. (Id. ¶ 21.) Defendant White and Plaintiff exchanged pleasantries outside the Gold Nugget. (Id. ¶ 23.)

         Plaintiff, Defendant White and Defendant Holcomb entered the store. Shortly after they entered, one of the robbers started shooting at Defendant White and struck him in his left arm. (Id. ¶ 40.) Defendant Holcomb began shooting at the robber, as the robber ran through the front door and onto the sidewalk. (Id. ¶ 43.) Plaintiff alleges that as she returned fire at the robber, Defendant Holcomb shot him twice in the buttocks. (Id. ¶ 44.) Plaintiff states that the bullets “fractured his lower spinal column (coccyx), broke into several fragments, and are still lodged in his body.” (Id. ¶ 45.)

         Plaintiff criticizes how Defendants White and Holcomb responded to the silent alarm. First, Plaintiff states that Defendants White and Holcomb did not advise him that they were responding to a silent robbery and therefore, Plaintiff should leave the area due to safety concerns. (Id. ¶ 24.) Second, Defendant White did not establish a perimeter with crime scene tape. (Id. ¶ 25.) Third, Defendant White parked the vehicle outside the store, making it probable that the robbers saw the squad car outside the store and hid in response. Fourth, Defendant White was not wearing a safety vest “as required when responding to the scene of an active ongoing armed robbery in progress[.]” (Id. ¶ 41.)

         Defendants filed their motion to dismiss on December 22, 2016. Defendants first argue that Defendant Holcomb is barred from liability because of the applicable statute of limitations. (ECF No. 15 at Pg ID 372.) In the alternative, Defendants contend that Defendant Holcomb is entitled to qualified immunity. (Id. at Pg ID 374.) Third, Defendants argue that Plaintiff has failed to state a claim against the City of Highland Park because Plaintiff cannot establish an underlying constitutional violation as required by 42 U.S.C. § 1983. (Id. at Pg ID 382.) Defendants also allege that Plaintiff has not established a failure to train by the City of Highland Park. (Id.) Fourth, Defendants state that Plaintiff has failed to state a viable ...


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