Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

Jarmon-Goodman v. City of Muscle Shoals

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

October 9, 2018

CHERYL JARMON-GOODMAN, Plaintiff,
v.
CITY OF MUSCLE SHOALS, ALABAMA, et al., Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

         This case arises from an incident that allegedly occurred during the night of Monday, April 18, 2016, when plaintiff, Cheryl Jarmon-Goodman, contends that she was injured in her home as a result of being “Tasered”[1] by one of the defendant police officers. Plaintiff's complaint alleges federal constitutional and state-law tort claims against eleven defendants: i.e., the cities of Muscle Shoals and Sheffield, Alabama; the “Police Departments” of each of those municipalities; the Chiefs of each police department (i.e., Clint Reck in Muscle Shoals, and Greg Ray in Sheffield); the Shift Commanders of each police department (i.e., Cedric Morris in Muscle Shoals, and Ricky Terry in Sheffield); Muscle Shoals police officer Steven Benson; Sheffield police officer Sam Garrison; and a second Sheffield police officer identified only as “Officer Bishop (first name unknown).”[2]

         Plaintiff alleged that Muscle Shoals police officer Steve Benson and Sheffield police officers Sam Garrison and “Officer Bishop” used excessive force in violation of the Fourteenth Amendment of the Constitution and, thereby, caused her to suffer a “felonious injury” as defined in Alabama Code § 6-5-370, as well as committing the state-law torts of assault, battery, and outrage.

         She also contends that the remaining eight defendants - i.e., the cities of Muscle Shoals and Sheffield, Alabama; the police departments of each municipality; the Chiefs of the respective police departments; and the Shift Commanders of each department - are liable under Alabama law for negligently failing to train and supervise Muscle Shoals police officer Steve Benson and Sheffield police officers Sam Garrison and “Officer Bishop.” The following memorandum opinion discusses only one of four pending motions: i.e., the motion to dismiss filed by the City of Sheffield, Alabama, the Sheffield Police Department, Sheffield Shift Commander Ricky Terry, and Sheffield police officer Sam Garrison.[3]

         I. PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

         This court entered an order on August 21, 2018, directing plaintiff to show cause why four defendants (i.e., the City of Sheffield Police Department, Sheffield Police Chief Greg Ray, Muscle Shoals Police Department Shift Commander Cedric Morris, and the Sheffield police officer identified only as “Officer Bishop”) should not be dismissed as a result of plaintiff's failure to comply with Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 4(m), which requires a complaint to be served within ninety days.[4]Plaintiff conceded that her claims should be dismissed as to Chief Ray, Shift Commander Morris, and the City of Sheffield Police Department, but asked for additional time to attempt to better identify and serve “Officer Bishop.”[5] In response, this court dismissed all claims against Ray, Morris, and the Sheffield Police Department on August 30, 2018, but granted plaintiff fourteen additional days to perfect and prove service of the complaint on “Officer Bishop.”[6] Plaintiff nevertheless failed to serve that defendant within the extended period. Accordingly, this court dismissed all claims against him on September 19, 2018.[7]

         II. DISCUSSION

         The motion to dismiss jointly filed by the City of Sheffield, Alabama, its “Police Department, ” Shift Commander Ricky Terry, and police officer Sam Garrison contends that plaintiff's complaint is due to be dismissed because it constitutes an impermissible “shotgun” pleading. Those defendants argue that the imprecision of the complaint's counts, as well as the re-incorporation of all preceding allegations into each subsequent count, leave them unable to ascertain which of the defendants plaintiff seeks to hold liable for the conduct described.

         So-called “shotgun” pleadings violate either Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 8(a)(2) - which requires “a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief” by “fail[ing] to one degree or another . . . to give the defendants adequate notice of the claims against them and the grounds upon which each claim rests, ” Weiland v. Palm Beach Sheriff's Department, 792 F.3d 1313, 1323 (11th Cir. 2015) (alterations supplied) - or the requirement of Rule 10(b) that discrete claims should be pled in separate counts. See Anderson v. District Broad of Trustees, 77 F.3d 364, 366-67 (11th Cir. 1996). The toleration of such complaints is said to work a “great disservice to the administration of civil justice.” Johnson Enterprises of Jacksonville, Inc. v. FPL Group, Inc., 162 F.3d 1290, 1332 (11th Cir. 1998).

         The Eleventh Circuit has repeatedly condemned such pleadings. See, e.g., Davis v. Coca-Cola Bottling Co. Consolidated, 516 F.3d 955, 979-80 & n.54 (11th Cir. 2008) (collecting numerous cases), abrogated on other grounds by Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544 (2007); BMC Industries, Inc. v. Barth Industries, Inc., 160 F.3d 1322, 1326-27 n.6 (11th Cir. 1998); GJR Investments, Inc. v. County of Escambia, 132 F.3d 1359, 1368 (11th Cir. 1998); Pelletier v. Zweifel, 921 F.2d 1465, 1518-19 (11th Cir. 1991).

         It is said that such pleadings waste scarce judicial resources, “inexorably broaden[ ] the scope of discovery, ” “wreak havoc on appellate court dockets, ” and “undermine[ ] the public's respect for the courts.” Davis, 516 F.3d at 981-83 (detailing the “unacceptable consequences of shotgun pleading”) (alterations in original). See also Vibe Micro, Inc. v. Shabanets, 878 F.3d 1291, 1294-95 (11th Cir. 2018).

         The Eleventh Circuit's opinion in Weiland, supra, identified four categories of “shotgun” pleadings.

Though the groupings cannot be too finely drawn, we have identified four rough types or categories of shotgun pleadings. [i] The most common type - by a long shot - is a complaint containing multiple counts where each count adopts the allegations of all preceding counts, causing each successive count to carry all that came before and the last count to be a combination of the entire complaint. [ii] The next most common type, at least as far as our published opinions on the subject reflect, is a complaint that does not commit the mortal sin of re-alleging all preceding counts but is guilty of the venial sin of being replete with conclusory, vague, and immaterial facts not obviously connected to any particular cause of action. [iii] The third type of shotgun pleading is one that commits the sin of not separating into a different count each cause of action or claim for relief. [iv] Fourth, and finally, there is the relatively rare sin of asserting multiple claims against multiple defendants without specifying which of the defendants are responsible for which acts or omissions, or which of the defendants the claim is brought against.

Weiland, 792 F.3d at 1321-23 (bracketed alterations supplied, footnotes omitted).

         The Eleventh Circuit directs district courts to independently police the parties' pleadings, and,

[w]hen a litigant files a shotgun pleading, is represented by counsel, and fails to request leave to amend, a district court must sua sponte give him one chance to replead before dismissing his case with prejudice on non-merits shotgun pleading grounds. In the repleading order, the district court should explain how the offending pleading violates the shotgun pleading rule so that the party may properly avoid future shotgun pleadings.

Vibe Micro, 878 F.3d at 1296 (alteration and emphasis supplied, footnote omitted); see also Jackson v. Bank of America, N.A., No. 16-16685, 898 F.3d 1348, 2018 WL 3673002, at *7 (11th Cir. Aug. 3, 2018) (reiterating that, when a complaint is due to be stricken on the ground that it violates the prohibition on “shotgun” pleadings, the plaintiff should be given “another opportunity to file a complaint that passes muster, ” but only after the district court “point[s] out the defects in the complaint”) (alteration supplied) (citing Vibe Micro, 878 F.3d at 1295).

         As defendants observe, plaintiff has pled multiple counts, each of which incorporates all of the preceding factual allegations:[8] a practice that has been repeatedly condemned by the Eleventh Circuit, and sometimes described as a “mortal sin.” Weiland, 792 F.3d at 1322 & n.12.[9]

         More troublesome, plaintiff has failed to specify which allegations apply to each of the defendants she has sued. For example, in the “Factual Allegations” section of her complaint, plaintiff generically identifies Muscle Shoals police officer Steve Benson and Sheffield police officers Sam Garrison and “Officer Bishop ...


Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.