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Rodgers v. County of Oakland

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

August 12, 2019

COUNTY OF OAKLAND, and OAKLAND COUNTY SHERIFF MICHAEL BOUCHARD, in his official capacity, DEPUTY DEFENDANT JOHN DOES (1-6), in their official and individual capacities, jointly and severally, Defendants.


          Paul D. Borman United States District Judge

         In this civil rights action filed under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, Plaintiff claims that he was brutally beaten and tased on or about September 11, 2015, in an unprovoked attack by six Oakland County deputies shortly after being transferred to the Oakland County Jail (“OCJ”) following his arrest on an open warrant for driving on a suspended license (“DWLS”). Plaintiff alleges that prior to his release on bond on September 14, 2015, he filed a formal complaint with the OCJ specifically detailing the beating incident but has never been contacted regarding his complaint, which he alleges was never investigated by Oakland County or Sheriff Bouchard. Defendants Oakland County and Sheriff Michael Bouchard now move to dismiss the Complaint, which alleges excessive force, arguing (1) that the claims against Sheriff Bouchard in his official capacity are duplicative of the claims against the County, and (2) that the Complaint fails to plausibly allege a municipal liability claim against Oakland County. The matter is fully briefed and the Court held a hearing on July 31, 2019. For the reasons that follow, the Defendants' motion is GRANTED IN PART AND DENIED IN PART.

         I. BACKGROUND

         A. The Allegations of Plaintiff's Complaint [1]

         Plaintiff alleges that at all times relevant to his claims he was a pretrial detainee at the Oakland County Jail (“OCJ”) in Pontiac, Michigan. (Compl. ¶ 4.) Plaintiff sues the County, the individual deputies in their “individual and official capacities, ” and sues Sheriff Michael Bouchard, the alleged final policymaker for the Defendant Oakland County, in his official capacity only. (Compl. ¶¶ 5-6, 8.)

         Plaintiff alleges that on September 10, 2015, at approximately 11:00 p.m., he was arrested without incident, booked/processed and detained at the Southfield Police Department, on an open warrant for failure to appear on a DWLS (driving while license suspended) ticket. Bond was set at $500.00. Plaintiff was unable to make bond and on September 11, 2015, he was transported by Oakland County Sheriff's Department agents/officials, to the Oakland County Jail. (Compl. ¶¶ 11-12.) Once at the OCJ, and as part of the intake/booking process, Plaintiff was standing at an open window counter, filling out an intake questionnaire and answering questions posed to him by a female deputy. The female deputy inquired of Plaintiff whether he had any medical conditions that would preclude him from being confined in a cramped/crowded area with other inmates. Plaintiff indicated to the female deputy that he had been the victim of gunshots and had continuing head and back pains and could not be confined under cramped/crowded conditions. (Compl. ¶¶ 13-15.)

         At this point, Plaintiff alleges, a tall, white male deputy (approximately 6'8” and perhaps Deputy Meyer(s)), interjected and yelled at the female deputy: “You don't need to cater to him!”; “He's a punk ass-bitch!”; “He don't need no special treatment!”, and screaming other profanities and stating that “We gonna whoop his ass!” The female deputy apologized to Plaintiff and Plaintiff continued filling out paperwork. Out of the corner of his eye, Plaintiff could see a group of at least six deputies coming aggressively toward him as he stood at the counter. The six deputies then began to punch, kick, and stomp Plaintiff onto the ground; brutally assaulting him over and above his pleas that he had an injured back and ignoring his screams for help. (Compl. ¶¶ 16-20.)

         Plaintiff alleges that the entire incident was captured on the OCJ video monitoring system. Plaintiff alleges that the deputies struck him with closed fists and steel-toe boots repeatedly about his upper torso, back, head, face, arms, neck, and legs, causing him to suffer bruises, contusions, and abrasions. Plaintiff alleges that he did not resist or obstruct or otherwise provoke the physical attack. Plaintiff alleges that the female deputy repeatedly yelled for the male deputies to stop hitting the Plaintiff but they continued the assault and eventually thrust Plaintiff's arms behind his back and handcuffed the Plaintiff while he was on the ground and continued the assault despite Plaintiff's pleas that he had an injured back. The deputies ignored the Plaintiff's screams and one of the deputies said: “F**k him, he's lyin!” (Compl. ¶¶ 21-29.)

         Finally the female deputy intervened and dispersed the male deputies, leaving Plaintiff lying on the floor in a pool of his own blood with his pants down near his ankles. One of the deputies told Plaintiff to “Shut the f**k up, ” and then tasered Plaintiff twice while he was face down and not resisting. Plaintiff was unable to stand and walk and several deputies dragged Plaintiff and threw him into an unoccupied cell by the back of his handcuffed arms, face first. Plaintiff repeatedly asked for medical help but the deputies just laughed and told him to “Shut-up.” (Compl. ¶¶ 30-36.)

         Plaintiff alleges that “later” several of the assaulting deputies entered his cell with a tape recorder and aggressively put the recorder in Plaintiff's face and told him to say what he was told to say. Plaintiff was to state his name and answer who the current President was and was instructed not to say anything to anyone about the beating. Plaintiff alleges that any statements he made into the recorder were made under duress/coercion and out of fear of further retaliation/assault. One of the deputies took photographs of the Plaintiff and the female deputy entered the cell and said “What the f**k are y'all doing!?” and exclaimed “He's only here for a ticket” and “He really was shot.” (Compl. ¶¶ 37-44.)

         Plaintiff was removed from the isolated cell and taken back to the booking/processing station to be reprocessed/booked. Plaintiff explained that he had already been booked and asked for medical assistance, which was denied. Plaintiff was told to do the whole process again and was never given medical assistance.

         Prior to Plaintiff's release on bond on or about September 14, 2015, he filed a formal grievance complaint with the OCJ detailing the unprovoked assault and noting several violations of his civil rights while a detainee at the OCJ. Plaintiff alleges that to this date, he has never been contacted by OCJ or any official or agent of Oakland County in regard to his Complaint. He alleges that neither Oakland County nor Sheriff Bouchard took any action whatsoever to investigate the merits of Plaintiff's complaint regarding the physical attack on September 11, 2015 at the OCJ. Plaintiff alleges that the Defendants are uniquely aware of prior allegations of deputy excessive force complaints occurring at OCJ and that by custom, practice, pattern and/or policy, said illegal acts are tolerated and/or condoned. Plaintiff cites at least one similar excessive force case filed in this district, Lewis v. Manier, No. 15-cv-10363 (E.D. Mich. Nov. 13, 2015) (Michelson, J.), which indeed alleges strikingly similar facts and was dismissed by stipulation of the parties before summary judgment motions were filed. (Compl. ¶¶ 45-57, 62.) Plaintiff alleges that upon his release from the OCJ, he was taken to Oakwood Hospital Emergency Room and treated for his injuries from the assault. (Compl. ¶¶ 59-60.)

         B. Procedural History

         Plaintiff filed his Amended Complaint on September 11, 2018, and asserts the following claims: Count I - 42 U.S.C. § 1983 - Excessive Force/Defendant John Does; Count II - 42 U.S.C. § 1983 - Conspiracy/Defendant John Does; Count III - 42 U.S.C. § 1983 - Defendants Oakland County and Bouchard (failure to train, evaluate, supervise, investigate, review and/or discipline deputies on their use of excessive force). Summonses were issued for Defendants Oakland County and Sheriff Bouchard on September 12, 2018, and on October 10, 2018, and Defendants Oakland County and Sheriff Bouchard filed the motion to dismiss presently before the Court. The individual John Doe deputy Defendants have not been named ...

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