United States District Court, N.D. Alabama, Southern Division
DAVID PROCTOR UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
case is before the court on: (1) the Motion to Dismiss
Plaintiff's First Amended Complaint filed by Defendants
City of Homewood, Doug Finch, and Ted Springfield (Doc. #
46), (2) the Motion to Strike filed by the City, Finch, and
Springfield, (3) the Motion to Dismiss filed by Defendant
Jefferson County District Attorney's Office (Doc. # 60),
and (4) Plaintiff's Motion for Ex Parte Hearing (Doc. #
64). The motions are fully briefed and under submission.
(See Docs. # 47, 51, 53, 76-77, 79).
Allegations in the First Amended Complaint
to Plaintiff's First Amended Complaint, on October 26,
2013, Defendant Springfield, an officer of the Homewood
Police Department, knocked on her door and questioned her
about complaints she had made to the Homewood Police
Department about a dog. (Doc. # 45 at ¶¶ 4, 15).
Plaintiff confirmed that she had complained about the dog,
after which Springfield informed her that someone had
attempted to kill the dog. (Id. at ¶¶
15-16). Springfield told Plaintiff that she was his
“only suspect” and that he had found “a
bowl full of rat poison by your tree in plain view in your
yard.” (Id. at ¶ 16). Springfield then
seized a bowl in Plaintiff's front yard, which was
situated above the line of sight from the street and
approximately 27 feet from the street. (Id. at
¶ 18). As Springfield seized the bowl, Plaintiff
observed that the bowl was clean and shiny. (Id. at
¶ 19). Plaintiff searched her property and found no
traces of poison in the yard. (Id. at ¶ 20).
But, she discovered that Springfield had searched her back
porch and moved many items on the porch. (Id.).
reported the search of her back porch and Springfield's
“other inappropriate behavior” to the Homewood
Police Department, but claims the Police Department refused
to investigate her complaint against Springfield.
(Id. at ¶¶ 21-22). According to Plaintiff,
the Police Department also refused to investigate her
complaint that someone attempted to poison her dog by placing
the bowl in her yard. (Id. at ¶ 22). On October
26, 2013, Defendant Springfield submitted a report averring
that Plaintiff had complained about the dog that had been
poisoned. (Id. at ¶ 23). Springfield reported
that he saw a bowl on Plaintiff's property in plain sight
from the road that contained “a green pellet which
resembles rat poison.” (Id. at ¶ 28).
Springfield also described the contents of the bowl as an
“anti-freeze, rat poison and dog food mixture.”
(Id. at ¶ 29). Plaintiff alleges that
Springfield failed to canvass the neighborhood to determine
whether other neighbors had used rat poison or whether other
neighbors had spilled antifreeze. (Id. at
November 6, 2013, Defendant Finch, an officer of the Homewood
Police Department, wrote a supplemental police report of the
poisoning incident. (Id. at ¶¶ 5, 34).
Plaintiff claims that Finch's report was inconsistent
with Springfield's report because it recounted that the
bowl contained “green residue similar to anti-freeze
and a pellet similar to rat poison.” (Id. at
¶ 35). Moreover, Plaintiff claims that the officers
lacked “clear substantive evidence” that the dog
had been poisoned because no autopsy was performed after the
dog had been euthanized. (Id. at ¶¶
November 8, 2013, Homewood police officers attempted to
arrest Plaintiff pursuant to an arrest warrant. (Id.
at ¶ 45). On November 9, 2013, Defendant Springfield
interviewed Plaintiff's neighbors about the incident,
during which Plaintiff alleges that Springfield slandered and
defamed her. (Id. at ¶ 47). That same day,
Springfield stopped Plaintiff's friend after she
travelled to Plaintiff's home and told that friend that
he intended to prosecute Plaintiff because “she tried
to get me in trouble.” (Id. at ¶¶
50-51). On November 12, 2013, Plaintiff turned herself in to
the Jefferson County Sheriff's Department. (Id.
at ¶ 46).
alleges that the Jefferson County District Attorney's
Office assisted in the malicious prosecution against her.
(Id. at ¶ 52). She claims that the District
Attorney's Office delayed her prosecution by delaying
testing of the bowl for more than three years. (Id.
at ¶¶ 53-56). She characterizes the delay as
“a direct indication that the District Attorney's
[O]ffice delayed the prosecution of the Plaintiff in order to
manufacture evidence against her.” (Id. at
March 11, 2014, Defendant Springfield testified that he did
not investigate other suspects for the poisoning because no
one was home. (Id. at ¶ 26). He also testified
that he seized the bowl because it was in plain view and
eight to ten feet away from the road. (Id. at ¶
27). In March 2017, Plaintiff was acquitted of animal
cruelty. (Id. at ¶ 58).
November 2015, Plaintiff filed this action against Defendants
Finch, City of Homewood, and the Homewood Police Department.
(Doc. # 1). In April 2016, the court stayed this action
pending Plaintiff's state-court trial for animal cruelty.
(Doc. # 26). In March 2017, following Plaintiff's
acquittal the court lifted its stay of the case. (Doc. # 42).
When the court lifted the stay of this case, it also granted
Plaintiff leave to amend her complaint. (Id.).
March 2017, Plaintiff filed the First Amended Complaint
currently before the court. (Doc. # 45). The First Amended
Complaint presents several claims under 42 U.S.C. §
1983. First, Plaintiff claims that Defendants violated her
rights under the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments by
conducting unreasonable searches and seizures on October 26,
2013. (Id. at ¶¶ 62, 66). Plaintiff also
contends that the incident on October 26, 2013 violated her
procedural due process and equal protection rights, in
violation of the Fourteenth Amendment. (Id. at
¶ 66). Second, Plaintiff claims that the Homewood Police
Department failed to properly train and supervise officers in
“the making of proper arrests and the lawful use of
force employed during the course of an arrest.”
(Id. at ¶ 71). Third, Plaintiff alleges that
Defendant City of Homewood's custom and policy of
training officers “to properly make arrests and to use
a reasonable amount of force in the course of effecting an
arrest” proximately caused officers to use excessive
force against her. (Id. at ¶¶ 77-78).
Fourth, Plaintiff alleges that the City of Homewood's
policy described above proximately caused her false
arrest. (Id. at ¶ 80). Fifth,
Plaintiff claims that Defendants falsely imprisoned her in
violation of § 1983. (Id. at ¶ 82).
First Amended Complaint contains four additional counts that
fail to specify whether they are brought under state law or
federal law. In her “Sixth Claim”, Plaintiff
alleges that Defendants abused the judicial process and
maliciously prosecuted her. (Id. at ¶ 84). Her
“Seventh Claim” appears to allege that Defendants
committed the tort of outrage. (Id. at ¶ 86).
Plaintiff's “Eighth Claim” alleges that
Defendants City of Homewood, Jefferson County District
Attorney's Office, and Jefferson County committed a
variety of torts, including abuse of process, false arrest,
failure to train, false imprisonment, and slander.
(Id. at ¶ 88). Finally, in the “Ninth
Claim, ” Plaintiff claims that “Defendants”
failed to properly train and supervise their employees.
(Id. at ¶¶ 90-91).
City of Homewood, Finch, and Springfield have moved to
dismiss the First Amended Complaint. (Doc. # 46). Alongside
her opposition brief, Plaintiff filed a report from the
Alabama Department of Forensic Sciences, a transcript from a
probable cause hearing in her state-court criminal action,
and a transcript from a motion hearing in that criminal
action. (Docs. # 50-1, 50-2, 50-3). Defendants have asked the
court to strike those exhibits. (Doc. # 52). Defendant
Jefferson County District Attorney's Office also seeks
dismissal of the First Amended Complaint. (Doc. # 60). In
September 2017, Plaintiff requested leave to submit late
briefs, and the court granted her leave to do so. (Docs. #
Analysis of the ...