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Rachel v. City of Mobile

United States District Court, S.D. Alabama, Southern Division

September 18, 2014

AMY RACHEL, etc., Plaintiff,
v.
CITY OF MOBILE, ALABAMA, et al., Defendants.

ORDER

WILLIAM H. STEELE, Chief District Judge.

This matter is before the Court on motions to dismiss filed by defendants City of Mobile, Alabama ("the City") and Michael T. Williams. (Docs. 44, 46). The parties have filed briefs in support of their respective positions, (Docs. 44, 46, 61, 64, 65), and the motions are ripe for resolution.

BACKGROUND

According to the amended complaint, (Doc. 41), the plaintiff's decedent died after being repeatedly tased by members of the City's police force. The defendants are the City, Police Chief Williams, and the four responding officers. Count One, Two and Three are brought against the City, Chief Williams (individual and official capacities), and the responding officers (individual and official capacities), respectively, pursuant to Section 1983, asserting the use of constitutionally excessive force and the deprivation of life without due process. Count Four is brought against all defendants under state law for wrongful death.

DISCUSSION

I. The City.

The City seeks dismissal of: (1) any claim for punitive damages under Count One; (2) any claim for punitive damages under Count Two or Count Three, to the extent asserted against the individual defendants in their official capacities; (3) Count One to the extent based on respondeat superior or vicarious liability; (4) any claim for any recovery from the City under Count Four other than punitive damages; and (5) any claim against the City under Count Four based on the intentional conduct of its employees or on any conduct other than neglect, carelessness or unskillfulness. (Doc. 44 at 8).

The plaintiff expressly "concedes" the first four items, as well as the "intentional conduct" portion of the fifth. (Doc. 61 at 1-2). The City's motion to dismiss is thus due to be granted in all these respects.

The City's liability under Count Four is limited by statute to "neglect, carelessness or unskillfulness." Ala. Code ยง 11-47-190. The plaintiff offers no argument to the contrary. Accordingly, the City's motion to dismiss is due to be granted in this respect as well.[1]

II. Chief Williams.

Chief Williams seeks dismissal of: (1) Count Two to the extent brought against him in his official capacity; (2) Count Two to the extent brought against him in his individual capacity; and (3) any claim for any recovery from him under Count Four other than punitive damages. (Doc. 46 at 6-7).

The plaintiff expressly "concedes" the third item. (Doc. 61 at 2-3). As to the first item, the plaintiff concedes, but only with respect to punitive damages. ( Id. at 2). As to the second item, the plaintiff concedes, but only to the extent Count Two is based on respondeat superior. ( Id. at 2-3). Chief Williams' motion to dismiss is thus due to be granted in all these respects.

As this Court has recognized, an official-capacity suit against a local government official, when the governmental entity is also sued, is redundant, unnecessary and subject to dismissal on that basis. M.R. v. Board of School Commissioners, 2012 WL 2931263 at *2 (S.D. Ala. 2012).[2] The plaintiff offers no argument to the contrary. Accordingly, the first item of Chief Williams' motion to dismiss is due to be granted in in its entirety.

Chief Williams offers two reasons that Count Two should be dismissed: (1) the amended complaint fails adequately to allege a causal connection between his action or inaction and the alleged constitutional violations; and (2) he is entitled to qualified immunity. (Doc. 46 at 3-6). The plaintiff addresses neither of these arguments, and Chief Williams concludes that this silence works an "abandon[ment]" of Count Two. (Doc. 64 at 2). It does not. Gailes v. Marengo County Sheriff's Department, 916 F.Supp.2d 1238, 1241-43 (S.D. Ala. 2013). A defendant retains the initial burden to demonstrate that it is entitled to dismissal and, if the Court determines that the defendant's position is clearly incorrect or inadequate, it will deny the motion to dismiss. "If, however, the defendant's presentation is adequate to satisfy its initial burden, the Court will not deny the motion ...


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