United States District Court, M.D. Alabama, Eastern Division
ALDRIC L. BUCKNER, Plaintiff,
BENJAMIN WHITLEY, Defendant.
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
KEITH WATKINS, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
a civil rights case involving alleged police misconduct under
42 U.S.C. § 1983. Plaintiff Aldric L. Buckner, an
individual, claims that Alexander City police officer
Benjamin Whitley violated his Fourth Amendment rights when he
performed an unjustified strip search on him. In addition to
this Fourth Amendment claim, Buckner asserts state-law causes
of action for the torts of assault, battery, and outrage.
the court is Defendant Benjamin Whitley's motion to
dismiss. (Doc. # 6.) Defendant seeks dismissal on two
alternative grounds: (1) that Plaintiff's complaint
constitutes an impermissible shotgun pleading; and (2) that
Plaintiff has not stated an official-capacity claim against
Defendant under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6)
because Plaintiff has not alleged any policy, custom, or
practice that would give rise to such a claim. For the
reasons that follow, Defendant's motion to dismiss is due
to be granted in part and denied in part.
Plaintiff's complaint is an impermissible shotgun
pleading and must be repleaded.
complaint “must contain . . . a short and plain
statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled
to relief.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2). Each allegation in
the complaint “must be simple, concise, and
direct.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(d)(1). The complaint must also
“state [the plaintiff's] claims . . . in numbered
paragraphs, each limited as far as practicable to a single
set of circumstances.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 10(b).
The purpose of [Rule 8(a)(2) and Rule 10(b)] is self-evident,
to require the pleader to present his claims discretely and
succinctly, so that [ ] his adversary can discern what he is
claiming and frame a responsive pleading, the court can
determine which facts support which claims and whether the
plaintiff has stated any claims upon which relief can be
granted, and, at trial, the court can determine that evidence
which is relevant and that which is not.
Weiland v. Palm Beach Cty. Sheriff's Office, 792
F.3d 1313, 1320 (11th Cir. 2015) (quoting T.D.S. Inc. v.
Shelby Mut. Ins. Co., 760 F.2d 1520, 1544 n.14 (11th
Cir. 1985) (Tjoflat, J., dissenting)); see also
Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555 (holding that the purpose of
Rule 8(a)(2) is to “give the defendant fair notice of
what the claim is and the grounds upon which it rests.”
(citation, quotation marks, and ellipsis omitted)).
complaint is a shotgun complaint. Each of the three counts
adopts and re-alleges every preceding allegation, filling
each count with allegations that are not relevant to that
particular count. This court has warned against such a
Rote and repeated incorporations by reference fill each count
“with factual allegations that could not possibly be
material to that specific count, ” flouting the Rule
10(b) requirement to plead separate claims in separate
counts. Magluta v. Samples, 256 F.3d 1282, 1284
(11th Cir. 2001). It is not enough to “clearly
incorporate[ ] all ‘facts' ple[aded] in the amended
complaint]” . . . as Plaintiff has done; rather the
supporting facts must be pleaded in the count asserting the
cause of action. See Wagner v. First Horizon Pharm.
Corp., 464 F.3d 1273, 1280 (11th Cir. 2006).
McCall v. Bank of America, N.A., No.
2:16-CV-184-WKW, 2016 WL 5402748, at *2 (M.D. Ala. Sep. 26,
2016). The legal elements of each claim are re-alleged in
successive, unrelated counts. For example, in paragraph 58 of
the complaint, Plaintiff recites the elements of battery,
only to re-allege those elements in paragraph 60 under the
separate count of outrage. Plaintiff argues that this fact
does not render the complaint defective because the claims
“build upon one another.” (Doc. # 9). But the
effect of re-alleging each element of the previous claim in
successive counts is that the final count - outrage -
incorporates the elements of both unlawful search and seizure
incorporation by reference also creates incurable confusion
as to whether Plaintiff is suing Defendant in his individual
or official capacity, or both, in Counts II and III. The
headings of Counts II and III indicate that Plaintiff is
suing Defendant in his individual capacity only, but the
incorporation-by-reference paragraphs (¶¶ 53 and
60) drag in allegations of both individual- and
official-capacity claims. Plaintiff must replead his
complaint, clearly stating which allegations support which
attempts to save his shotgun complaint by arguing that since
it gives enough notice for Defendant to be able to answer,
Plaintiff should be able to proceed on the complaint as it
stands. But it does not provide notice when Defendant has no
way of knowing if he is defending claims in his official or
individual capacity. In any event, notice to the Defendant is
not the only concern raised by shotgun pleadings.
“Shotgun pleadings impede the administration of the
district courts' civil dockets in countless ways.”
PVC Windoors, Inc. v. Babbitbay Beach Const., N.V.,
598 F.3d 802, 806 (11th Cir. 2010). “Experience teaches
that, unless cases are [pleaded] clearly and precisely,
issues are not joined, discovery is not controlled, the trial
court's docket becomes unmanageable, the litigants
suffer, and society loses confidence in the court's
ability to administer justice.” Anderson v. Dist.
Bd. of Trs. of Cent. Fla. Cmty. Coll., 77 F.3d 364, 367
(11th Cir. 1996).
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.” Vibe Micro, Inc. v.
Shabanets, 878 F.3d 1291, 1296 (11th Cir. 2018).
“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.” Id. ...