United States District Court, M.D. Alabama, Northern Division
JERRY W. CHAPPELL, Plaintiff,
CITY OF CLANTON, et al., Defendants.
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
M. BORDEN UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
the court are the Motions to Dismiss filed by Defendants
Keith Maddox and the City of Clanton (the “City”)
(Doc. 26), John Shearon (Doc. 37), and Jessica Mims and Jason
Reeves (Doc. 38). The court is also considering the Motion to
Strike Fictitious Parties filed by Maddox and the City of
Clanton. Doc. 27. Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(c) and
Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 73, the parties have
consented to the jurisdiction of the undersigned United
States Magistrate Judge. Docs. 52-55. After careful
consideration of the parties' submissions and the
relevant law, it is ORDERED that:
1. City of Clanton and Maddox's Motion to Dismiss (Doc.
26) is GRANTED;
2. Shearon's Motion to Dismiss (Doc. 37) is GRANTED;
3. Mims and Reeves' Partial Motion to Dismiss (Doc. 38)
is GRANTED; and
4. City of Clanton and Maddox's Motion to Strike
Fictitious Parties (Doc. 27) is GRANTED.
JURISDICTION AND VENUE
court has subject-matter jurisdiction over the claims in this
lawsuit pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §§ 1331 and 1367. The
defendants do not contest personal jurisdiction or venue, and
the court finds adequate allegations to support both.
lawsuit arises out of a shooting incident on June 17, 2015,
in Chilton County, Alabama. Wendy Chappell Price was driving
southbound on Interstate 65 in Shelby County, Alabama, when
she was pursued by Alabama state trooper Adam Ezekiel for
failing to stop at his order. Doc. 1 at 10. Wendy's
husband, Adam Price, had informed Ezekiel that Wendy had two
unloaded firearms in her vehicle. Doc. 1 at 10. After
coordination between the Alabaster Police Department, Chilton
County Sheriff's Department, and Clanton Police
Department, officers successfully stopped Price's vehicle
between the hours of 8:00 p.m. and 10:00 p.m. at exit 212 in
Clanton, Alabama. Doc. 1 at 10. Price did not exit her
vehicle during the traffic stop. Doc. 1 at 10. During the
encounter, officers fired their weapons at Price a total of
17 times, striking her four times. Doc. 1 at 10-11. Price
passed away at the scene. Doc. 1 at 11.
Jerry Chappell is the administrator and personal
representative of Price's estate, and brought suit in
that capacity on June 8, 2017, against Ezekiel; Jessica Mims
and Jason Reeves, Chilton County deputy sheriffs; Chilton
County and its sheriff, John Shearon; the City of Clanton and
its chief of police, Keith Maddox; and fictitious defendants.
Doc. 1 at 4. The crux of Chappell's complaint is that the
officers used unreasonable and excessive force in violation
of Price's Fourth Amendment rights, and that Chilton
County, the City of Clanton, Shearon, and Maddox are liable
for the constitutional deprivation on a supervisory basis. He
also brings a state-law wrongful death claim against all
defendants. Mims and Reeves have answered the constitutional
claims and moved to dismiss the wrongful death claim, while
Ezekiel has answered all claims. See Docs. 34, 39
& 46. Shearon, Maddox, and the City of Clanton have moved
to dismiss all claims and Chappell voluntarily dismissed his
claims against Chilton County. See Docs. 26, 37, 51
does not allege in the complaint the circumstances leading to
the police chase or causing the officers at the scene to fire
their weapons at Price. However, Chappell claims that
afterwards the individual defendants “engaged or
participated in, adopted, ratified, or condoned a deliberate
campaign of false information to discredit Wendy Chappell
Price in an attempt to justify the shooting and killing of
Ms. Price.” Doc. 1 at 11. This effort allegedly
included the false statements that Price brandished weapons
at the officers prior to the shooting, threatened the
officers, fired at the officers, and exited her vehicle
immediately prior to the shooting, “all of which were
false and were made with the intention of misleading
investigators, officials, and the public.” Doc. 1 at
STANDARD OF REVIEW
considering a motion to dismiss pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6) of
the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, the 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). To survive a motion to dismiss,
a complaint must include “enough facts to state a claim
to relief that is plausible on its face.” Bell Atl.
Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007). A claim is
“plausible on its face” if “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). The complaint “requires more than
labels and conclusions, and a formulaic recitation of the
elements of a cause of action will not do.”
Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555. Factual allegations need
not be detailed, but “must be enough to raise a right
to relief above the speculative level, ”
Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555, and “unadorned,
the-defendant-unlawfully-harmed-me accusation[s]” will
not suffice. Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678.
complaint is divided into three counts. Count I asserts a
§ 1983 claim for excessive force in violation of the
Fourth Amendment against Ezekiel, Mims, Reeves, and
fictitious defendants; Count II asserts a § 1983 claim
for deliberate indifference and supervisory liability against
Chilton County, Shearon, the City of Clanton, Maddox, and
fictitious defendants; and Count III asserts a claim under
Alabama's wrongful death statute against all of the named
defendants and fictitious defendants. See generally
Doc. 1. Chappell's claims are brought against the
individual defendants in their official and individual
capacities. Doc. 1 at 2.
Motion to Strike
brings claims against unnamed defendants who bear some
connection to his claims against the existing defendants.
See Doc. 1 at 8-10. Chappell anticipates that he
will learn the unnamed defendants' “names and
culpable actions or failures to act” during discovery.
Doc. 1 at 9.
a general matter, fictitious-party pleading is not permitted
in federal court.” Richardson v. Johnson, 598
F.3d 734, 738 (11th Cir. 2010). A “limited
exception” to the general rule exists where “the
plaintiff's description of the defendant is so specific
as to be at the very worst, surplusage.” Id.
(citation and internal quotation marks omitted).
Chappell's description of the fictitious defendants here
falls outside of this limited exception. Far from specific,
Chappell essentially describes any person who may be subject
to supervisory liability, who may have directly participated
in the shooting itself, who may have failed to prevent the
shooting, or who may have engaged in the later cover-up. Doc.
1 at 8-9. Chappell's claims against the fictitious
defendants are impermissibly vague and not permitted under
established standards of federal-court pleading. The motion
to strike them from the complaint is due to be GRANTED.
states claims against Shearon, Maddox, Mims, and Reeves in
their individual and official capacities. However, “an
official capacity suit is, in all respects other than name,
to be treated as a suit against the [governmental entity for
which the named individual serves].” Kentucky v.
Graham, 473 U.S. 159, 165 (1985). Thus, Chappell's
claims against Maddox in his official capacity are due to be
dismissed because the City of Clanton is a named defendant in
this action. See, e.g., Brown v. Neumann,
188 F.3d 1289, 1290 n.1 (11th Cir. 1999) (suing a government
officer in his official capacity is “duplicative and
superfluous” where the agency for which he serves is
also a defendant).
as Chappell has conceded, his claims against Shearon, Mims,
and Reeves in their official capacities are barred for two
reasons. First, the Eleventh Amendment to the United States
Constitution prohibits suits for money damages against a
state by citizens of that state. Carr v. City of
Florence, Ala., 916 F.2d 1521, 1524 (11th Cir. 1990).
This immunity has been extended to suits against state
officials in their official capacities where money damages
would be paid by the state. Id. Thus, as Chappell
has brought suit against Shearon, Mims, and Reeves in their
official capacities for monetary damages, these claims are
barred by the Eleventh Amendment. Moreover, state officials
acting in their official capacities are not
“persons” subject to suit within the meaning of
§ 1983. See Will v. Mich. Dep't of St.
Police, 491 U.S. 58, 71 (1989). Accordingly, all of
Chappell's official-capacity claims against Shearon,
Maddox, Mims, and Reeves are subject to dismissal.
Claims Against Shearon, Maddox, and the City of
seeks to hold Shearon, Maddox, and the City liable under
§ 1983 under three primary theories: (1) that they
failed to develop an adequate policy regarding the use of
force that would protect against an unconstitutionally
unreasonable use of force; (2) that they failed to develop
and implement adequate training to protect against
unreasonable force; and (3) that they ratified the allegedly
excessive force by making ...