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James v. City of Detroit

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

November 7, 2017




         This lawsuit arises from a police raid of Plaintiff's residence in Detroit, MI on or about September 6, 2016. Plaintiff alleges violations of her Fourth and Fourteenth Amendment rights under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, as well as various state law claims. Plaintiff names eleven Defendants in her Complaint filed February 16, 2017: (1) the City of Detroit, (2) Chief James Craig (“Chief Craig”), (3) Samuel Pionessa, (4) Reginald Beasley, (5) Nico Hurd, (6) Alanna Mitchell, (7) Juan Davis, (8) Johnny Fox, (9) Samuel Galloway, (10) Jason Clark, and (11) Lamar Williams, (“Individual Defendants”) in their individual and official capacities. (ECF No. 1.)

         Presently before the Court is Defendants City of Detroit and Chief Craig's motion to dismiss (ECF No. 3), in which all Individual Defendants concur and join in the motion to dismiss. (ECF Nos. 4, 15, 16, 17.) Plaintiff filed a response on April 10, 2017. (ECF No. 14.) For the reasons that follow, the Court grants, in part, Defendants' motion.

         I. Factual and Procedural Background

         On or about September 6, 2016, while in her home, Plaintiff, a 59-year-old woman, heard a noise on her front porch and went to investigate the source of the noise. (ECF No. 1 at Pg ID 4-5.) Through the glass window of her front door, Plaintiff noticed the Individual Defendants on her front porch wearing black face masks and t-shirts that read “Police.” (Id. at Pg ID 5.) According to Plaintiff, as she stood directly in front of her door, she made eye contact with one of the officers, who she believed to be either Defendant Reginald Beasley or Nico Hurd (“Defendant Officer #1”). (Id.) Despite making eye contact with Plaintiff, Defendant Officer #1 kicked in Plaintiff's front door, striking Plaintiff in the face and effectively knocking her into the wall in her front hallway. (Id.) Plaintiff asserts she was placed in handcuffs and instructed to sit in the living room while the Individual Defendants searched her home. (Id. at Pg ID 6.) While handcuffed and sitting in her living room, blood began to drip from a large gash above her eye that was caused when Defendant Officer #1 kicked the door into Plaintiff's face. (Id.)

         After the search was complete but prior to the Individual Defendants leaving the residence, Defendant Officer #1 took Plaintiff into another room, allegedly threatening her and stating “I want to make sure that we are on the same page because I do not want to have to take you to jail.” (Id.) Plaintiff believed this was an attempt to cover up the injuries Defendant Officer #1 caused her. Defendant Officer # 1 then told Plaintiff she did not need an ambulance and “[t]his never happened. You fell and hit your head before we got here, right?” (Id. at Pg ID 6-7.) Later, Defendant Officer #1 instructed Plaintiff to change her shirt because he did not want to see blood and took a photo of Plaintiff following her shirt change. (Id. at Pg ID 7.)

         According to Plaintiff, after the Individual Defendants left her residence, she found a document titled “Search Warrant and Affidavit.” (Id.) It stated: “‘Seller#1: B/M/20, 5'10” 170 lbs, medium complexion, wearing a white t-short [sic] and blue jeans, ' for narcotics, narcotics paraphernalia and all items uses [sic] for the sale, manufacture and distribution of controlled substances.” (Id. at Pg ID 7-8.)

         II. Standard of Review

         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, however, is not applicable to legal conclusions. 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).

         III. Applicable Law & Analysis

         A. 1983 Claims

         Plaintiff asserts § 1983 claims for violations of her rights under the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments. “Section 1983 establishes ‘a cause of action for deprivation under color of state law, of any rights, privileges or immunities secured by the Constitution or laws of the United States.'” Jones v. Muskegon Cnty., 625 F.3d 935, 940-41 (6th Cir. 2010) (quoting Horn v. Madison Cnty. Fiscal Court, 22 F.3d 653, 656 (6th Cir. 1994)). A plaintiff asserting a § 1983 claim must show: “(1) the deprivation of a right secured by the Constitution or laws of the United States (2) caused by a person acting under color of state law.” Sigley v. City of Parma Heights, 437 F.3d 527, 533 (6th Cir. 2006).

         As an initial matter, “if a constitutional claim is covered by a specific constitutional provision, such as the Fourth or Eighth Amendment, the claim must be analyzed under the standard appropriate to that specific provision, not under the rubric of substantive due process.” Burgess v. Fischer, 735 F.3d 462, 473 (6th Cir. 2013). Under the facts and circumstances of this case, the Fourth Amendment is more appropriate to apply given the search and/or seizure. Because the Court finds Plaintiff's claim is more appropriately analyzed under the Fourth Amendment, the Court will decline to analyze Plaintiff's claims under the Fourteenth Amendment. As such, the Court is dismissing Plaintiff's § 1983 claim to the extent Plaintiff alleges violations of the Fourteenth Amendment.

         Defendants argue that Plaintiff's claims against Defendant Craig must be dismissed because he was not personally involved with the incident and a respondeat superior theory is inapplicable under a § 1983 claim. To establish personal liability under § 1983, the plaintiff must show that each defendant charged “caused the deprivation of a federal right.” Kentucky v. Graham, 473 U.S. 159, 166 (1985). Stated differently, “a plaintiff must plead that each Government-official defendant, through the official's own individual actions, has violated the Constitution.” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 676. “[T]he personal responsibility requirement is satisfied if the official ‘acts or fails to act with a deliberate or reckless disregard of plaintiff's constitutional rights, or if the conduct causing the constitutional deprivation occurs at her direction or with her knowledge or consent.” Diebitz v. Arreola, 834 F.Supp. 298, 304 (6th Cir. 1993). Along those same lines “it is clear that one who is given the badge of authority of a police officer may not ignore the duty imposed by his office and fail to stop other officers who summarily punish a third person in his presence or otherwise with his knowledge.” Id.

         The Sixth Circuit “has held that § 1983 liability must be based on more than respondeat superior, or the right to control employees.” Shehee v. Luttrell, 199 F.3d 295, ...

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