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Lowe v. City of Warrior

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

April 4, 2018

CITY OF WARRIOR, ALABAMA, et al., Defendants.



         This case is before the court on Defendants' Motion to Dismiss Plaintiff's Complaint. (Doc. # 4). The parties have fully briefed the motion, and it is under submission. (Docs. # 4-1, 7, 8).

         I. Background

         On August 16, 2016, Plaintiff and Hoyt Lowe (“Hoyt”) finalized their divorce. (Doc. # 1 at ¶ 14). Plaintiff and Hoyt entered into a verbal agreement where “Plaintiff and their three children were to stay at the marital residence house until they were able to find a place to live.” (Id.).

         On the evening of August 24, 2016, Hoyt called the police to his residence in Warrior, Alabama. (Id. at ¶¶ 11, 13). Defendant Steve Scott, a sergeant with the Warrior Police Department, responded to the call. (See Id. at ¶¶ 7, 15). Hoyt insisted that Plaintiff and their three children be removed from the residence. (Id. at ¶ 14). According to the Complaint, Defendant Scott instructed Plaintiff to leave the residence or she would be taken to jail. (Id. at ¶ 15). When Plaintiff attempted to explain the situation and her oral agreement with Hoyt, Scott interrupted her and reiterated that she would be taken to jail if she did not leave the residence. (Id.). Scott instructed Plaintiff to gather her belongings and leave the residence. (Id.). Ultimately, Plaintiff left the residence with her three children. (Id. at ¶ 16).

         II. Standard of Review

         The Federal Rules of Civil Procedure require that a complaint provide “a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2). However, the complaint must include enough facts “to raise a right to relief above the speculative level.” Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007). 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 and conclusions” or “naked assertion[s]” without supporting factual allegations. Id. at 555, 557. In deciding a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss, courts view the allegations in the complaint in the light most favorable to the non-moving party. Watts v. Fla. Int'l Univ., 495 F.3d 1289, 1295 (11th Cir. 2007).

         To survive a motion to dismiss, a complaint must “state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.” Twombly, 550 U.S. at 570. “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). Although “[t]he plausibility standard is not akin to a ‘probability requirement, '” the complaint must demonstrate “more than a sheer possibility that a defendant has acted unlawfully.” Id. A plausible claim for relief requires “enough fact[s] to raise a reasonable expectation that discovery will reveal evidence” to support the claim. Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556.

         In considering a motion to dismiss, a court should “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.'” Kivisto v. Miller, Canfield, Paddock & Stone, PLC, 413 F. App'x 136, 138 (11th Cir. 2011) (quoting Am. Dental Ass'n v. Cigna Corp., 605 F.3d 1283, 1290 (11th Cir. 2010)). That task is context specific and, to survive the motion, the allegations must permit the court based on its “judicial experience and common sense . . . to infer more than the mere possibility of misconduct.” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 679. If the court determines that all of the well-pleaded facts, accepted as true, do not state a claim that is plausible, the claims are due to be dismissed. Twombly, 550 U.S. at 570.

         Defendants have attached the divorce agreement between Plaintiff and Hoyt to their motion to dismiss. (Doc. # 4-2). The court can only consider an extrinsic document attached to a motion to dismiss “if it is (1) central to the plaintiff's claim, and (2) its authenticity is not challenged.” SFM Holdings, Ltd. v. Banc of America Securities, LLC, 600 F.3d 1334, 1337 (11th Cir. 2010). Plaintiff has not challenged the authenticity of the attached divorce agreement, nor has Plaintiff argued that her divorce agreement with Hoyt is not central to the claims. (See Doc. # 7 at 2). Rather, Plaintiff has argued that she retained a property interest in the residence after the divorce agreement and that, in any event, the agreement should have been enforced by contempt proceedings. (Id. at 2-3). From the parties' arguments, the court determines that the divorce agreement is central to at least Plaintiff's procedural due process claim, and, thus, it will consider the extrinsic divorce agreement attached to Defendants' motion to dismiss at this stage.

         III. Analysis

         In her Complaint, Plaintiff alleges 42 U.S.C. § 1983 claims against Defendants for deprivation of due process and deprivation of equal protection based on Plaintiff's gender. (Doc. # 1 at ¶¶ 36-38, 42-44). Plaintiff also alleges a § 1983 claim against Defendants for their failure to institute adequate training and procedures for handling “domestic situations.” (Id. at ¶¶ 47-50). Plaintiff also claims that Defendants violated 42 U.S.C. § 1986 by conspiring to violate her constitutional rights. (Id. at ¶¶ 51-52). Finally, Plaintiff raises state-law claims against all Defendants for wantonness, gross negligence, and intentional infliction of emotional distress. (Id. at ¶¶ 55-58, 60-64).

         A. Plaintiff's § 1983 Claims Against Defendants City of Warrior and Raymond Horn Fail to State a Claim

         In Counts I, II, and III of the Complaint, Plaintiff alleges § 1983 claims against all Defendants, including the City of Warrior (the “City”) and Raymond Horn, the police chief of the Warrior Police Department. After careful review, the court finds no plausible basis for holding the ...

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