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Stryker v. City of Homewood

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

July 28, 2017

THE CITY OF HOMEWOOD, et al., Defendants.


          VIRGINIA EMERSON HOPKINS United States District Judge

         This is a civil action filed by the Plaintiff, Moses Stryker, against the following Defendants: the City of Homewood, Alabama (“the City”) and Officers Jason Davis, Brian Waid, and Frederick Blake. The individual Defendants are police officers with the City, [1] and are all sued in their individual capacities only. The Plaintiff alleges that the officers used excessive and unnecessary force in arresting the Plaintiff. Against the City and the individual Defendants, the Plaintiff sets out claims pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. (Counts One and Two). Against the individual Defendants, the Complaint also sets out Alabama state law claims of assault and battery (Count Three), negligence (Count Four), and wantonness (Count Five).[2]

         This matter comes before the Court on the Motions To Dismiss filed by the City (doc. 40) and Officers Waid and Blake. (Doc. 44). For the reasons stated herein, the motions will be GRANTED IN PART and otherwise will be DENIED.

         I. STANDARD

         Generally, the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure require only that the complaint provide “a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a). However, to survive a motion to dismiss brought under Rule 12(b)(6), a complaint must “state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.” Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007) (“Twombly”).

         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.” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (citing Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556) (“Iqbal”). That is, the complaint must include enough facts “to raise a right to relief above the speculative level.” Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555 (citation and footnote omitted). Pleadings that contain nothing more than “a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action” do not meet Rule 8 standards, nor do pleadings suffice that are based merely upon “labels or conclusions” or “naked assertion[s]” without supporting factual allegations. Id. at 555, 557 (citation omitted).

         Once a claim has been stated adequately, however, “it may be supported by showing any set of facts consistent with the allegations in the complaint.” Id. at 563 (citation omitted). Further, when ruling on a motion to dismiss, a court must “take the factual allegations in the complaint as true and construe them in the light most favorable to the plaintiff.” Pielage v. McConnell, 516 F.3d 1282, 1284 (11th Cir. 2008) (citing Glover v. Liggett Group, Inc., 459 F.3d 1304, 1308 (11th Cir. 2006)).


         The following allegations, to the extent pertinent to the instant motions, appear in the Amended Complaint:

11. At approximately 2 a.m. on May 23, 2014, Plaintiff and Musie Ibedingl, a truck driver Stryker was training for his employer, Swift Transportation, were making a delivery of goods to the Walmart Supercenter located in the Wildwood Shopping Center on Lakeshore Parkway in Birmingham, Alabama.
12. Stryker and Musie Ibendigl were in Stryker's 18-wheel tractor-trailer truck.
13. As they arrived at Wal-Mart, Ibedingl was driving.
14. Stryker switched places with Ibendigl in the Wal-Mart parking lot when it became apparent that Ibedingl could not maneuver the truck in the manner necessary to arrive at the loading dock.
15. A woman, Tammy Barnette, stopped her car in front of the truck and blocked its path.
16. Barnette refused to move out of the way and told Stryker that his truck had side-swiped her car and that she had called the police.
17. Even though they were in the jurisdictional area for the Birmingham police department, Homewood police officer Davis arrived several minutes later.
18. Davis told Stryker to move his truck to the back of the Wal-Mart lot which was well away from the lit area of the parking lot. Stryker asked Davis if they could remain where they were due to the lighting.
19. Davis became angry at Stryker for questioning his orders so Stryker complied by moving his truck.
20. Davis, Stryker and Ibedingl conducted a walk-around inspection of Stryker's truck and Davis commented that he saw no evidence indicating that the truck had collided with Barnette's vehicle.
21. Davis told Stryker and Ibedingl to wait by the truck until Birmingham police arrived since the alleged accident occurred outside of Homewood's police jurisdiction.
22. Stryker retrieved a camera from an “accident kit” in the truck provided by Swift Transportation, Inc. (“Swift”), the company for whom he was delivering freight.
23. Swift's policy required that in the event of an accident the driver use the kit's disposable camera to photograph any visible damage to the other vehicle.
24. Stryker walked with the camera toward Barnette's car to take a photographs of its condition.
25. Davis, who was outside of his police jurisdiction, intercepted Stryker as he walked toward Barnette's car and became irate when he saw the camera in Stryker's hand.
26. When Stryker tried to explain to Davis that Swift policy required him to photograph the alleged damage, Davis threatened Moses that if Stryker said anything further Davis would “lock [his] ass up.” 27. Davis shoved Stryker in the back as Stryker turned to walk back toward his truck.
28. Stryker put the camera in his pocket and Davis suddenly drew his service revolver and pointed it directly at Stryker's head and asked what Stryker was reaching for in his pocket.
29. Stryker told Davis he was merely putting the camera in his pocket and that he was going back to the truck as he was instructed.
30. Stryker asked Davis “Are you going to shoot me?”, and Davis then put his gun away, pulled out his taser and shot the taser leads into Stryker's back delivering electrical current and shock to Stryker's person.
31. Stryker fell to the ground and the taser leads became dislodged.
32. Stryker saw Davis reloading his Taser to shock Stryker again, so in fear for his life, Stryker quickly crawled toward his truck.
33. Stryker reached his truck and began to climb the steps to the cab when Davis grabbed him from behind and attempted to pull Stryker down the stairs to the ground.
34. Stryker continued to fear for his life and held on to the truck.
35. Davis struck Stryker in the face and jaw multiple times with a blunt instrument causing Stryker to suffer a broken jaw.
36. Stryker managed to climb into the truck and lock the cab door and Ibedingl, who remained outside the truck all this time, climbed into the passenger side and closed his door.
37. Stryker and Ibendigl intended to remain locked in the cab for their safety until the arrival of the Birmingham police who were allegedly on their way.
38. Davis broke the driver's side window of Stryker's truck, showering Stryker's face and eyes with fragments of shattered glass from the window.
39. Some debris from the window got in Stryker's eyes and caused him to be unable to see.
40. Davis went to the passenger side and opened the unlocked door of the cab and ordered Ibendigl out of the truck. Ibendigl complied.
41. Davis entered the passenger side of the truck and resumed his attempts to try to remove Stryker from the vehicle.
42. Davis sprayed pepper spray into Stryker's eyes and struck Stryker about his body.
43. Defendants Waid and Blake arrived shortly after Davis began his attempts to remove Stryker from the passenger side.
44. Defendants Davis, Waid and Blake all participated in dragging Stryker, who was still blinded by the glass debris and pepper spray in his eyes, from the cab of the truck.
45. Davis, Waid and Blake got Stryker to the ground and struck Stryker numerous times.
46. Stryker repeatedly yelled “I can't see” as Davis, Waid and Blake kicked and punched Stryker multiple times all over his head and upper extremity and stomped on his back causing injuries to Stryker's spine.
47. Stryker was ultimately handcuffed and dragged across the pavement until he was ultimately placed in a patrol car.
48. Stryker was transported by one of the Homewood police officers to UAB Hospital for medical treatment.
49. At [the] UAB hospital emergency room[, ] staff removed pieces of glass from [Stryker's] face and eyes and confirmed that Stryker's mandible was badly broken and required emergency surgery.
50. Stryker's facial injuries required that he undergo surgery to his jaw and his doctors wired his jaw shut for approximately eight weeks in order to allow it to heal.
51. Stryker suffered injuries to his lower back and underwent multiple pain blocks and a surgical procedure in attempts to relieve his pain.
52. Due to his injuries, Stryker has not been able to return to his job as a truck driver and will not be able to return to work again due to the permanent nature of his back injuries.
* * *[3]
54. Stryker did not resist any attempts by Davis to arrest him before he was shoved, tased and beaten, and Stryker never threatened Davis or any other person with any harm.
* * *[4]
59. The Individual Defendants, including Davis, struck Stryker in the head with their fists and with blunt instruments numerous times . . ..[5]

(Doc. 39 at 3-8, ¶¶11-59).

         III. ANALYSIS

         A. The Motion To Dismiss Filed by the City (Doc. 40)

         1.The Specific Claim Against the City

         The only claim against the City appears in Count Two, which alleges, inter alia, that “the City permitted, ratified and authorized a policy, custom and practice that permitted the illegal use of excessive force.” (Doc. 39 at 15, ¶89). The basis for this allegation is that the City failed to properly train and supervise its officers on the proper use of force in an arrest. (See doc. 39 at 15 (discussing the City's “years long practice of ignoring the inordinate volume of excessive force reports; refusing to investigate complaints of excessive force; refusing to require additional training to officers known to use unreasonable force; refusing to monitor and supervise problem officers; and refusing to discipline officers known to illegally use excessive force.”). The City argues that this count fails to state a claim upon ...

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