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McCants v. City of Mobile

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

September 29, 2017

ROSE MCCANTS, et al., Plaintiffs,
v.
CITY OF MOBILE, et al., Defendants.

          ORDER

          SONJA F. BIVINS UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE

         This case is before the Court on Defendants the City of Mobile, Mobile Police Department, and Steven Chandler's Motions to Dismiss. (Docs. 14, 15, 16). These motions have been fully briefed and are ripe for resolution.[1] Upon consideration of all matters presented, the Court concludes, for the reasons stated herein, that Defendants' Motions to Dismiss (Docs. 14, 15) are GRANTED.

         I. Background Facts

         Plaintiffs Rose McCants and Regina Greene commenced this action on November 1, 2016. (Doc. 1). In their complaint, Plaintiffs allege that on November 6, 2015, Plaintiff Regina Greene (hereinafter “Greene”) was traveling on Highway 90 in Mobile, Alabama, when her car was struck from behind by James Manning. (Doc. 1 ¶¶ 12-13). At the time of the accident, Greene's mother, Plaintiff Rose McCants (hereinafter “McCants”), was traveling in a separate car ahead of Greene. (Doc. 1 ¶¶ 12-13). Upon seeing the accident, McCants stopped her vehicle to check on Greene. (Id. at ¶ 14). The first emergency responder to arrive on the scene was Defendant Steven Chandler (hereinafter “Chandler”), a corporal with the Mobile Police Department. (Id. at ¶15).

         According to Plaintiffs, Chandler “laughed and chatted” with James, the white male “at-fault driver, ” and “became very angry and screamed” at Greene and McCants, who are African-Americans. (Id. at ¶¶ 12, 16-18). Plaintiffs allege that Chandler punched McCants in the chest and that the force of the punch sent McCants off the median and into the lane of oncoming traffic. (Id. at ¶ 18). According to Greene, she begged Chandler not to hit her mother, but Chandler ignored her request and “screamed back at her to calm down.” (Id. at ¶ 20).

         Plaintiffs claim that Chandler forced Greene, “[t]hrough screaming and intimidation” to move from her seated position in the car and locate her purse in order to retrieve her license and insurance information. (Id. at ¶ 19). According to Plaintiffs, Greene is disabled from a previous neck injury, and this aggravated the injuries to her neck and spine. (Id.). Plaintiffs further contend that Greene was in extreme pain due to the accident, and did not want to move until an ambulance arrived because she feared greater injury from movement. (Id.). Paramedics later arrived on the scene, and Greene was transported to Mobile Infirmary for treatment of her injuries. (Id. at ¶ 24). McCants was also treated at the hospital for the injuries she sustained as a result of being punched by Chandler. (Id. at ¶ 25).

         Plaintiffs allege that Chandler initially filed a false police report, which placed Greene at fault, but later changed his report to correctly cite the other driver. (Id. at ¶ 22). Plaintiffs also allege that they contacted Internal Affairs to investigate the incident, and the response was “dismissive”. (Id. ¶ 26).

         According to Plaintiffs, Chandler's attitude, comments, and gestures towards them were racially based, and his treatment of the white, at-fault driver was dramatically different than his treatment of them. (Id. ¶ 22). Plaintiffs further allege that Chandler has a history of anger management problems and has been required to attend anger management in the past. (Id. at ¶ 21).

         Plaintiffs assert eight separate claims for relief. (Id. at ¶¶ 46-187). Claim one is that Officer Chandler used excessive force against McCants in violation of the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments. (Id. at ¶ 46-85). Claim two is that Officer Chandler used excessive force against Greene in violation of the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments. (Id. at ¶ 46-85). Claim three is that Officer Chandler used excessive force against McCants and that her race was a motivating factor in violation of the equal protection afforded her under the Fourteenth Amendment and 42 U.S.C. § 1981 (Id. at ¶¶ 86-119). Claim four is that Officer Chandler used excessive force against Greene and that her race was a motivating factor in violation of the equal protection afforded her under the Fourteenth Amendment and 42 U.S.C. § 1981 (Id. at ¶¶ 86-119). Claim five is that Officer Chandler retaliated against McCants in violation of the First Amendment for exercising her right to question law enforcement or engaging in protected speech. (Id. at ¶¶ 120-153). Claim six is that Officer Chandler retaliated against McCants in violation of the First Amendment for exercising her right to question law enforcement or engage in protected speech. (Id. at ¶¶ 120-153). Claim seven is that the constitutional violations committed by Officer Chandler against McCants were done pursuant to the customs and practices of the City of Mobile (hereinafter “City”) and Mobile Police Department (hereinafter “MPD”), as these Defendants have exhibited deliberate indifference to the violation of constitutional and federal rights and have encouraged, tolerated, and ratified the type of behavior exhibited by Chandler by failing to conduct sufficient training and failing to investigate or punish violations. (Id. at ¶ 27, 28, 29-30, 34, 37, 38, 154-187). Claim eight is that the constitutional violations committed by Officer Chandler against Greene were done pursuant to the customs and practices of the City and MPD, as these Defendants have exhibited deliberate indifference to the violation of constitutional and federal rights and have encouraged, tolerated, and ratified the type of behavior exhibited by Chandler by failing to conduct sufficient training and failing to investigate or punish violations. (Id. at ¶ 27, 28, 29-30, 34, 37, 38, 154-187).

         II. Analysis

         Pending before the Court are the motions to dismiss filed by Defendants, the City, MPD, and Officer Chandler. (Docs. 14, 15, 16). In their motions, Defendants argue that MPD is not a proper party to a § 1983 action, that Plaintiffs have not properly plead a municipal liability claim against the City, and that the remainder of the claims are due to be dismissed because Plaintiffs have failed to properly plead cognizable claims under § 1983 and § 1981. (Id.). Defendant Chandler further argues that he is entitled to qualified immunity. (Docs. 15, 16).

         Plaintiffs filed a response in opposition and argue that civil rights complaints should be construed liberally in favor of plaintiffs at the motion to dismiss stage, that plaintiffs are not held to a higher pleading standard in § 1983 actions, and that Defendants are not entitled to qualified immunity. (Doc. 22). In their replies, Defendants reiterate their arguments that Plaintiffs have failed to meet the requisite pleading standards, that Defendants have successfully carried their burden of demonstrating why the complaint fails to state a claim, and that Plaintiffs have failed to address a number of arguments raised in Defendants' motions to dismiss. (Docs. 26, 27).

         The motions have been fully briefed and are now ready for resolution.

         A. Standard of Review

         A complaint is subject to dismissal under Rule 12(b)(6) if it fails “to state a claim upon which relief can be granted.” To 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.” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (citations and internal omitted). A claim is plausible on its face where “the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged.” Id. Plausibility means “more than a sheer possibility that a defendant has acted unlawfully.” Id. “Where a complaint pleads facts that are merely consistent with a defendant's liability, it stops short of the line between possibility and plausibility of entitlement to relief.” Id.

         When considering a motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim, the court must accept all allegations in the complaint as true and construe the facts in the light most favorable to the plaintiff. Lopez v. Target Corp., 676 F.3d 1230, 1232 (llth Cir. 2012). However, the court is not bound to accept as true “a legal conclusion couched as a factual allegation.” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678. While legal conclusions can provide the framework of a complaint, they must be supported by factual allegations. Id.; see also Sinaltrainal v. Coca-Cola Co., 578 F.3d 1252, 1261 (llth Cir. 2009), abrogated on other grounds by Mohamad v. Palestinian Auth., 566 U.S. 449 (2012)) ...


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