United States District Court, S.D. Alabama, Southern Division
REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION
KATHERINE P. NELSON, UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.
matter is before the Court on the Motion to Dismiss filed by
Defendants Timothy Trent Dennis and Kimberly D.
Wasdin (Doc. 32-33), pro se Plaintiff
Daniel Hails' (“Plaintiff”) Response (Doc.
46), and Defendants Officer Dennis and Chief Wasdin's
Reply. (Doc. 48), and Defendants Michael Shawn Gaull, Lonny
Shane McKinney, David Austin Jones, Matthew Warner Morrison,
Robert S. Correa, Donnie Ray Payne, Michael Wayne Walker,
Robert Gregory Lindell, Andre Lawrence Reid, and Nathanial
Douglas Lamplugh's Motion to Dismiss (Doc. 29-30),
Plaintiff's Response (Doc. 36), and Defendants' Reply
(Doc. 41). These motions have been referred to the
undersigned United States Magistrate Judge for report and
recommendation pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(b) and S.D.
Ala. GenLR 72(b). Upon consideration, and for the reasons
stated herein, the undersigned RECOMMENDS
that Defendants Gaull, McKinney, Jones, Morrison, Correa,
Payne, Walker, Lindell, Reid, and Lamplugh's Motion to
Dismiss (Docs. 29, 32) be GRANTED and that
all claims against these Defendants be
DISMISSED. The undersigned further
RECOMMENDS that the Motion to Dismiss filed
by Defendant Chief Wasdin be GRANTED, and
that all claims against her be DISMISSED.
(Docs. 32-33). The undersigned RECOMMENDS
that the Motion to Dismiss filed by Defendant Officer Dennis
be DENIED, and that Plaintiff be permitted
an opportunity to amend his complaint as to his claims
against Defendant Officer Dennis. (Docs. 32-33).
Amended Complaint (Doc. 23) raises a number of 42 U.S.C.
§ 1983 claims against thirteen defendants, including
Officer Dennis and Chief Wasdin, who are officers from the
Silverhill, Alabama Police Department, ten deputies from the
Baldwin County, Alabama Police Department (Gaull, McKinney,
Jones, Morrison, Correa, Payne, Walker, Lindell, Reid, and
Lamplugh), and Baldwin County, Alabama Sheriff Huey Mack. All
Defendants have moved to dismiss Plaintiff's claims
(See Docs. 27, 29, and 32). This Report and
Recommendation addresses only the claims against the
Silverhill and BCSO defendants. (Doc. 27). The Claims against
Sheriff Huey Mack will be addressed by a separate Report and
Amended Complaint provides minimal detail with regard to the
counts alleged, but raises claims of false arrest, false
imprisonment, and malicious prosecution against Officer
Dennis and Chief Wasdin, who are members of the City of
Silverhill Police Department. (Doc. 23 at 8). As best the
Court can determine from the contents of the Amended
Complaint, Plaintiff alleges that on June 9, 2015, Officer
Dennis responded to a call for emergency assistance that led
him to Plaintiff's home, and Officer Dennis was the first
officer to arrive on scene. According to Officer Dennis'
statements, which Plaintiff contends are false, Officer
Dennis observed Plaintiff on his front porch. Officer Dennis
climbed onto Plaintiff's fence, identified himself as a
police officer, and informed Plaintiff that he needed to
speak with him. Plaintiff then waved at Officer Dennis,
produced a rifle, and fired a shot at Officer Dennis.
the weapon was discharged, it appears that the Officer Dennis
or someone within the Silverhill Police Department called the
sheriff's office to request assistance at Plaintiff's
home. Soon after, members of the Baldwin County Sheriff's
Department SWAT team and/or deputies (the BCSO Defendants)
arrived at the home and breached the gate. Plaintiff was
taken into custody at the scene. Later that day, a state
court judge issued a warrant for Plaintiff's arrest for
attempted murder. According to the BCSO Defendants'
brief, “On October 11, 2016, the Circuit Court of
Baldwin County, Alabama issued an order dismissing
Plaintiff's criminal proceeding for want of prosecution
due to the State's witness failing to appear.”
(Doc. 30 at 4).
contends that all of Officer Dennis' statements are
false, but provides no alternative version of events.
Plaintiff claims that as a result of these false statements
he was falsely arrested, falsely imprisoned, and maliciously
prosecuted by the Silverhill and BSCO Defendants.
majority of the Amended Complaint quotes statements from
police reports, and claims they are false. There are no
allegations indicating what Plaintiff claims actually
did happen. Rather, Plaintiff contends that all of
Officer Dennis' statements about the events that took
place at Plaintiff's home on June 9, 2015 are false.
Additionally, Plaintiff claims that the BCSO Defendants and
Chief Wasdin should have engaged in “due
diligence” by verifying the claims made by the Officer
Dennis before taking any action at Plaintiff's home.
deciding a motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6) for
“failure to state a claim upon which relief can be
granted, ” the Court must construe the complaint in the
light most favorable to the Plaintiff, “accepting all
well-pleaded facts that are alleged therein to be
true.” E.g., Miyahira v. Vitacost.com,
Inc., 715 F.3d 1257, 1265 (11th Cir. 2013). “Fed.
R. Civ. P. 8(a)(2) requires that a pleading contain ‘a
short and plain statement of the claim showing that the
pleader is entitled to relief' in order to give the
defendant fair notice of what the claim is and the grounds
upon which it rests.” Am. Dental Ass'n v. Cigna
Corp., 605 F.3d 1283, 1288 (11th Cir. 2010) (quotation
omitted). “ ‘While a complaint attacked by a Rule
12(b)(6) motion to dismiss does not need detailed factual
allegations, a plaintiff's obligation to provide the
grounds of his entitlement to relief requires more than
labels and conclusions, and a formulaic recitation of the
elements of a cause of action will not do.' “
Id. at 1289 (quoting Bell Atl. Corp. v.
Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555, 127 S.Ct. 1955, 1964-65, 167
L.Ed.2d 929 (2007)). A complaint's “
‘[f]actual allegations must be enough to raise a right
to relief above the speculative level ... on the assumption
that all the allegations in the complaint are true (even if
doubtful in fact).' “ Id. (quoting
Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555). “[T]o survive a
motion to dismiss, a complaint must now contain sufficient
factual matter, accepted as true, to ‘state a claim to
relief that is plausible on its face.' “
Id. (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 570).
While this “plausibility standard is not akin to a
‘probability requirement' at the pleading stage,
… the standard ‘calls for enough fact to raise a
reasonable expectation that discovery will reveal
evidence' of the claim.” Id. (quoting
Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556).
“ ‘the tenet that a court must accept as true all
of the allegations contained in a complaint is inapplicable
to legal conclusions.' “ Id. at 1290
(quoting Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678
(2009)). Under the plausibility standard, “
‘where the well-pleaded facts do not permit the court
to infer more than the mere possibility of misconduct, the
complaint has alleged-but it has not “show
[n]”-”that the pleader is entitled to
relief.” ‘ “ Id. (quoting
Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 679 (quoting Fed.R.Civ.P.
8(a)(2))). Iqbal “suggested that courts
considering motions to dismiss adopt a ‘two-pronged
approach' in applying these principles: 1) eliminate any
allegations in the complaint that are merely legal
conclusions; and 2) where there are well-pleaded factual
allegations, ‘assume their veracity and then determine
whether they plausibly give rise to an entitlement to
relief.' “ Id. (quoting Iqbal,
556 U.S. at 679). “Importantly, … courts may
infer from the factual allegations in the complaint
‘obvious alternative explanation[s], ' which
suggest lawful conduct rather than the unlawful conduct the
plaintiff would ask the court to infer.” Id.
(quoting Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 679 (quoting
Twombly, 550 U.S. at 567)).
the existence of an affirmative defense will not support a
rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim.
A district court, however, may dismiss a complaint on a rule
12(b)(6) motion when its own allegations indicate the
existence of an affirmative defense, so long as the defense
clearly appears on the face of the complaint.”
Fortner v. Thomas, 983 F.2d 1024, 1028 (11th Cir.
1993) (quotation omitted)).
document filed pro se is to be liberally construed,
and a pro se complaint, however inartfully pleaded,
must be held to less stringent standards than formal
pleadings drafted by lawyers.” Erickson v.
Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 94 (2007) (per curiam) ((citation
and quotations omitted)). “Yet even in the case of
pro se litigants this leniency does not give a court
license to serve as de facto counsel for a party, or to
rewrite an otherwise deficient pleading in order to sustain
an action.” Campbell v. Air Jamaica Ltd., 760
F.3d 1165, 1168-69 (11th Cir. 2014) (quotation omitted).
Capacity in Which Defendants are Being Sued
Amended Complaint fails to specify whether suit is being
brought against Defendants in their official or individual
capacities. As the Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit
The main concern of a court in determining whether a
plaintiff is suing defendants in their official or individual
capacity is to ensure the defendants in question receive
sufficient notice with respect to the capacity in which they
are being sued. In general, plaintiffs have a duty to make
plain who they are suing and to do so well before trial.
However, plaintiffs are not required to designate with
specific words in the pleadings that they are bringing a
claim against defendants in their individual or official
capacities, or both. When it is not clear in which capacity
the defendants are sued, the course of proceedings typically
indicates the nature of the liability sought to be imposed.
Thus, while it is clearly preferable that a plaintiff state
explicitly in what capacity defendants are being sued,
failure to do so is not fatal if the course of proceedings
otherwise indicates that the defendant received sufficient
Young Apartments, Inc. v. Town of Jupiter, FL, 529
F.3d 1027, 1047 (11th Cir. 2008)(internal citations and
quotations omitted). Upon review of the Amended Complaint,
the Court concludes that Plaintiff is suing Defendants only
in their individual capacities. First, “[i]n a §
1983 action, punitive damages are only available from
government officials when they are sued in their individual
capacities.” Young, 529 F.3d at 1047 (internal
citations omitted). Though Plaintiff has identified
Defendants by their official titles, in the
“Relief” section of the Amended Complaint,
Plaintiff demands punitive damages from each Defendant,
indicating that he is suing them in their individual
capacities. Second, all Defendants have argued that they are
entitled to qualified immunity. In a § 1983 action,
“[i]t is well-settled that qualified immunity only
protects public officials from lawsuits brought against them
in their individual capacity.” Hill v. Dekalb
Reg'l Youth Det. Ctr., 40 F.3d 1176, 1184 n. 16
(11th Cir.1994). This defense is evidence that the Defendants
believe they were being sued in their individual capacities.
See Tapley v. Collins, 211 F.3d 1210, 1211 n. 2
(11th Cir. 2000) (treating suit as against defendants in
their individual capacities where the complaint was silent
but the parties briefed the issue of qualified immunity).
Defendants have raised the defense of qualified immunity. In
Harlow v. Fitzgerald, the Supreme Court held that
“government officials performing discretionary
functions generally are shielded from liability for civil
damages insofar as their conduct does not violate clearly
established statutory or constitutional rights of which a
reasonable person would have known.” 457 U.S. 800, 818
(1982). Later, in Mitchell v. Forsyth the Supreme
Court reiterated that “[u]nless the plaintiff's
allegations state a claim of violation of clearly established
law, a defendant pleading qualified immunity is entitled to
dismissal before the commencement of discovery.” 472
U.S. 511, 526 (1985), citing Harlow, supra, 457 U.S.
at 818; see also Gonzalez v. Reno, 325 F.3d 1228,
1233 (11th Cir. 2003) (“It is [ ] appropriate for a
district court to grant the defense of qualified immunity at
the motion to dismiss stage if the complaint ‘fails to
allege the violation of a clearly established constitutional
right.' “). It is undisputed that the Defendants,
all law enforcement officers responding to a call for
assistance, were at all times relevant hereto, acting within
their discretionary authority.
United States Supreme Court “has repeatedly stressed
the importance of resolving qualified immunity questions at
the earliest possible stage in litigation.” Bloom
v. Alvereze, 498 F. App'x. 867, 878 (11th Cir. 2012)
(citing Pearson v. Callahan, 555 U.S. 223, 232
(2009)). While qualified immunity is typically
addressed at summary judgment, it may be raised on a motion
to dismiss and granted if the plaintiff's complaint fails
to allege the violation of a clearly established
constitutional right. St. George v. Pinellas Cty.,
285 F.3d 1334, 1337 (11th Cir. 2002); Marsh v. Butler
Cty., 268 F.3d 1014, 1023 (11th Cir. 2001) (en banc)
(“We apply the qualified immunity defense to dismiss a
complaint at the 12(b)(6) stage where, (1) from the face of
the complaint, (2) we must conclude that (even if a claim is
otherwise sufficiently stated), (3) the law supporting the
existence of that claim-given the alleged circumstances-was
not already clearly established, (4) to prohibit what the
government-official defendant is alleged to have done, (5)
before the defendant acted.”). “At the motion to
dismiss stage in the litigation, the qualified immunity
inquiry and the Rule 12(b)(6) standard become intertwined.
Whether a particular complaint sufficiently alleges a clearly
established violation of law cannot be decided in isolation
from the facts pleaded.” Keating v. City of
Miami, 598 F.3d 753, 760 (11th Cir. 2010)(internal
quotations omitted)(citing Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556
U.S. 662 (2009) and GJR Invs., Inc. v. County of
Escambia, 132 F.3d 1359, 1366 (11th Cir.1998).
Supreme Court has mandated a two-step analysis for resolving
qualified immunity claims. Saucier v. Katz, 533 U.S.
194, 201 (2001). First, a court must decide whether the facts
that a plaintiff has alleged “show the
[defendant's] conduct violated a constitutional
right.” Id. Second, the court must decide
“whether the right was clearly established.”
Id. The lower courts have discretion whether to
address first the existence of a constitutional violation or
the clearly established nature of the right allegedly
violated. Pearson v. Callahan, 555 U.S. 223, 236
(2009); accord Reichle v. Howards, 132 S.Ct. 2088,
Claims Against the Defendants
undersigned first addresses the claims against the BCSO
Defendants, recommending that the BCSO Defendants' motion
to dismiss be GRANTED as these Defendants
are entitled to qualified immunity and all claims against
them are due to be dismissed. Next, the undersigned
recommends that the motion to dismiss filed on behalf of the
Silverhill Defendants be GRANTED IN PART and
DENIED IN PART. Specifically, it is
RECOMMENDED that the motion to dismiss (Doc.
32) be GRANTED as to all claims against
Defendant Chief Wasdin, DENIED as to all
claims against Defendant Officer Dennis, and that the
Plaintiff be permitted to amend his complaint as to his
claims against Defendant Officer Dennis
Claims Against BCSO Defendants
alleges that the BCSO Defendants made false statements in
offense reports and failed to use due diligence to verify
that Officer Dennis' claims about Plaintiff's conduct
were plausible. (See Doc. 23 at 9-14, generally).
The Amended Complaint contains sparse facts and vague
allegations but it is clear that Plaintiff is attempting to
raise claims for false arrest, false imprisonment, and
malicious prosecution against each BCSO defendant. (See Doc.
23 at 15-16).
False Arrest and False ...