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Dowdell v. Jones

United States District Court, M.D. Alabama, Eastern Division

March 13, 2019

JAY JONES, et al., Defendants.



         Before the court is the Motion to Dismiss (Doc. 32) Plaintiff's Third Amended Complaint (Doc. 29) filed by Defendants Jay Jones, the Sheriff of Lee County, Alabama, Richard Zayas, Deputy Sheriff of Lee County, and Corey Welch, the Assistant Administrator of the Lee County Jail. This matter has been referred to the undersigned United States Magistrate Judge “for further proceedings and determination or recommendation as may be appropriate.” Doc. 27. On May 1, 2018, the undersigned entered an Order (Doc. 34) directing Plaintiff to file a response to Defendants' motion on or before May 18, 2018. Plaintiff has not filed a response to the motion.[1] For the reasons that follow, the undersigned Magistrate Judge RECOMMENDS that Defendants' motion be granted.

         I. BACKGROUND

         This case has a lengthy procedural history that was aptly summarized by the District Judge as follows:

Although this action was removed to this court in August of 2017, it has been pending since May of 2015, when Plaintiff originally filed his complaint in the Circuit Court of Lee County, Alabama. See Doc. 1-1. Plaintiff sued Lee County, Lee County Sheriff Jay Jones, Sheriff's Deputies Richard Zayas and Robert Alexander, and a number of fictitious parties. Doc. 1-1 at 2. Plaintiff alleged violations of his constitutional rights pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, as well as several state law tort claims. Id. Over the following two years, discovery and motions practice ensued and additional complaints were filed. Of pertinence to today's Order are the following state court developments: Plaintiff filed his First Amended Complaint on September 29, 2015 (Doc. 1-2); the Circuit Court granted-in-part and denied-in-part the motions to dismiss filed by the defendants named in the First Amended Complaint on April 4, 2016, specifically declining to dismiss Plaintiff's claims against Lee County and Defendants Zayas and Jones in their individual capacities (Doc. 1-11 at 150-54); Plaintiff filed his Motion for Leave to File Second Amended Complaint to Add Additional Parties, namely Defendant Corey Welch, on June 29, 2017 (Doc. 1-11 at 265-66); the Circuit Court entered an order granting Plaintiff's Motion for Leave to File Second Amended Complaint on June 30, 2017, and instructed Plaintiff both to file the Second Amended Complaint on or before July 15, 2017, and to file, on or before July 21, 2017, another motion to compel to address purportedly inadequate discovery responses from Defendants (Doc. 1-11 at 268); Defendant Lee County filed its Motion for Summary Judgment on July 10, 2017 (Doc. 1-9); Plaintiff filed his Second Amended Complaint on July 14, 2017 (Doc. 1-4); Plaintiff filed his Motion to Accept Plaintiff's Second Motion to Compel on July 22, 2017 (Doc. 1-10); and Defendants filed their “Objection to the Second Amended Complaint” on August 1, 2017, in which Defendants asserted that Plaintiff's claim against Defendant Welch is time-barred (Doc. 1-11 at 496-97). On August 11, 2017, Defendant Welch filed his Notice of Removal of the action in this court. Doc. 1.
On August 17, 2017, Defendants filed their motions to dismiss pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, arguing that Plaintiff's Second Amended Complaint fails to state any claims upon which relief could be granted under the Federal Rules' standard of pleading, as explicated in Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544 (2007), and Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662 (2009). See Docs. 14 at 4-12 & 16 at 4-8. On August 23, 2017, the court entered an Order (Doc. 17) instructing Plaintiff that, should he elect not to seek a timely remand of the matter to the state court, then he must file a written response and show cause why Defendants' motions to dismiss should not be granted on or before September 18, 2017. On that date, however, Plaintiff filed his Opposition to Defendant's Removal and Motion to Remand (Doc. 21). On September 19, 2017, Defendants filed their Response (Doc. 22) in opposition to Plaintiff's Motion to Remand, in which they argued that Plaintiff's Motion to Remand is untimely and without merit. Also on September 19, 2017, the court entered an Order (Doc. 23) directing Plaintiff to reply to Defendants' response and, particularly, to address Defendants' timeliness argument. Thereafter, on September 27, 2017, Plaintiff filed his Reply (Doc. 24), in which he argued that Defendant Welch failed to comply with the statutory requirements of removal, and thus failed to timely perfect the removal, and further asserted that his Motion to Remand was timely filed because he was never properly served with notice of the removal and, furthermore, the improper service he was afforded was not made until August 17, 2017. Finally, on September 29, 2017, Defendants filed their Reply (Doc. 25) to Plaintiff's reply, in which they argue that the removal was procedurally proper and timely perfected, notwithstanding any purported defects highlighted by Plaintiff.

Doc. 28 at 2-3. Against that backdrop, the District Judge ultimately denied Plaintiff's motion to remand, granted Plaintiff's motion to amend his complaint to conform to federal pleading standards, and, in pertinent part, denied, without prejudice, the individual Defendants' motion to dismiss the previous iteration of Plaintiff's complaint subject to their renewal of the motion, if appropriate, after Plaintiff filed his Third Amended Complaint. See Id. at 16-17.

         Plaintiff filed his Third Amended Complaint on April 13, 2018, and Defendants subsequently filed the instant motion seeking dismissal of the Third Amended Complaint pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure.


         Plaintiff's Third Amended Complaint (Doc. 29) alleges, in the “Facts” section, that he suffered two instances of “overdetention” in the Lee County Jail. His allegations respecting the first instance, in pertinent part, are as follows: a) the “Lee County Jail allows investigators or law enforcement to place holds, without a warrant, on individuals in the Lee County Jail[, ]” and that the Lee County Sheriff's Department “has a policy that allows for an inmate that is to be processed for release to be detained beyond the release date . . . at the request of an investigator and/or law enforcement” without a warrant (¶¶ 16-18); that Defendants Jones, Zayas, and Welch have “a policy, pattern and practice of incarcerating [Plaintiff] longer than legally authorized (¶ 20); that all “booking and releases of individuals from the Lee County Jail are performed electronically” (¶ 22); that Plaintiff was arrested, without an arrest warrant, on May 24, 2013, and was detained at the Lee County Jail (¶¶ 23-24); that on May 25, 2013, he obtained a bond from a bonding company and was due to be released on that date according to Lee County's electronic case management system (¶¶ 25-28); that, instead, Plaintiff was released from detention on May 29, 2013 (¶ 30); that Plaintiff was held for the additional number of days due to a “hold” that was placed by some law enforcement officer or investigator (¶ 32); that Plaintiff “informed officers on several occasions that he should not be held since he had posted bond” (¶ 33); that Plaintiff “complained to Defendant Zayas” about his purported overdetention, but that Defendant Zayas “refused to address [Plaintiff's] concern about being overdetained, and instead informed [Plaintiff] he would have a 72 hour investigatory hold” (¶ 34); and that, eventually, “Lee County Jail Staff removed the hold” from the County's case management system, and Plaintiff was released on May 29, 2013 (¶ 35).

         Plaintiff's allegations respecting the second overdetention are as follows: a) on August 23, 2013, Plaintiff was taken into custody and detained at the Lee County Jail “due to child support arrearage” (¶ 39); on October 18, 2013, Plaintiff's mother satisfied his arrearage and a judge ordered Plaintiff released from custody (¶¶ 40-41); that the order of release was faxed or emailed “to an email established specifically for orders of committal and orders of release” (¶ 42); that, although Lee County's case management system indicated that Plaintiff was due to be released on October 18, 2013, he was not released until October 22, 2013 (¶¶ 43-44); and that “[w]hen [Plaintiff] complained of being held after an order for [h]is release, he was told by personnel that he was being held on a 72 hour hold” (¶ 46).

         Plaintiff's Third Amended Complaint presents four claims: “Count Six, ”[2] in which Plaintiff alleges, pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, that Lee County violated his constitutional rights (¶¶ 59-70); “Count Seven, ” in which Plaintiff alleges, pursuant to state law, that Lee County was negligent in its failure to adequately maintain equipment and systems at the jail (¶¶ 71-75); “Count Eight, ” in which Plaintiff alleges, pursuant to § 1983, that Defendants Jones, Zayas, and Welch violated his constitutional rights, under color of state law, by detaining him “without legal probable cause” in the circumstances described above (¶¶ 76-94); and “Count Nine, ” in which Plaintiff alleges that Defendant Welch is liable, pursuant to state law, for false imprisonment due to the two instances of overdetention described in the Third Amended Complaint (¶¶ 95-104). Because Plaintiff has voluntarily dismissed Lee County from this lawsuit, and the instant motion therefore only concerns Plaintiff's claims against the individual Defendants, this Recommendation will address only the defenses raised regarding “Claim Eight” and “Claim Nine.”


         Defendants present a number of bases for concluding that Plaintiff has failed to state any claim for which relief could be granted, which they helpfully summarize as follows:

Defendant Welch, who has only been recently added as a defendant, moves for dismissal based upon the statute of limitations and, to the extent necessary, Ala. Code ยง 14-6-1. All Defendants move for dismissal on the basis of qualified immunity. Additionally, Defendants move for dismissal of equitable claims, ...

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