United States District Court, N.D. Alabama, Northeastern Division
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
C. BURKE, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
City of Hartselle, Alabama (the “City of
Hartselle”), has filed a motion to dismiss (doc. 19).
Plaintiff Michael Welch has filed a response (doc. 26), and
the City of Hartselle filed a reply (doc. 29). Therefore, the
motion to dismiss is ready for review. For the reasons
discussed below, the motion to dismiss is granted.
following allegations are taken from plaintiff's amended
complaint (doc. 17). On or about May 14, 2017, two City of
Hartselle police officers, Micah Host and Patrick Niles,
responded to a call of domestic disturbance at
plaintiff's home between plaintiff and his wife.
(Id. at 2). Plaintiff is a deaf man. (Id.).
Though he has cochlear implants, plaintiff alleges that he
was substantially limited in his ability to hear the officers
and in his ability to communicate with them. (Id.).
According to plaintiff, the officers were aware from prior
interactions with him that he was deaf. (Id.).
asserts that, by the time the officers arrived, there was no
domestic dispute. (Id.). Plaintiff was outside his
home grilling steaks with two of his three daughters.
(Id.). One of the officers spoke to plaintiff's
wife and confirmed that there was no domestic violence issue.
(Id.). The other officer approached plaintiff and
told him to calm down. (Id. at 3). Plaintiff's
eight-year old daughter helped plaintiff communicate with the
officer, and there was an exchange between the officer and
plaintiff via plaintiff's daughter. (Id. at
2-3). During that exchange, plaintiff told the officer that
he had already calmed down and asked if the officers had a
warrant. (Id. at 3). When the officer said,
“no, ” plaintiff told the officer to leave him
alone, that he had not done anything wrong. (Id.).
The officer who spoke with plaintiff's wife came out of
the house and conferred with the officer who was interacting
with plaintiff. (Id. at 3). Although plaintiff
asserts that he could not understand what the two officers
were saying, he alleges that they discussed that there was no
domestic violence. (Id.). Plaintiff alleges that he
asked the officers to write things down for him, and they
refused. (Id. at 3). Plaintiff then turned to the
grill to check on his steaks, and he was taken down by one of
the officers. (Id.). Plaintiff was ultimately tased,
handcuffed, and arrested. (Id. at 4). As a result of
the tasing, one of plaintiff's cochlear implants was
destroyed. (Id.). Plaintiff was convicted in city
court of disorderly conduct and resisting arrest; however,
these charges were dismissed on appeal to circuit court.
(Id. at 4-5).
alleges, among other things, that the arrest and use of force
against him flowed directly from the defendant officers'
refusal to accommodate him by communicating directly with him
in writing and by taking advantage of his inability to hear
them. (Id. at 5). Plaintiff further alleges, among
other things, that city officials acted with deliberate
indifference by failing and refusing to take appropriate
steps, such as implement policies and training, so that City
of Hartselle police officers would communicate with hearing
impaired persons as effectively as with others. (Id.
at 6-7). Plaintiff alleges that, as a result of this inaction
on the part of the City of Hartselle, the officers failed to
accommodate him. (Id. at 7).
brings two claims against the City of Hartselle in his
amended complaint: (1) a claim against the City of Hartselle
under Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act, 29 U.S.C. §
794; and (2) a claim under Title II of the Americans with
Disabilities Act (“ADA”), 42 U.S.C. § 12131,
et seq. The City of Hartselle filed a motion to
dismiss both claims.
STANDARD OF REVIEW
12(b)(6) permits a party to move to dismiss a complaint for,
among other things, “failure to state a claim upon
which relief can be granted.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6).
When considering a motion to dismiss, the Court must
“accept Case 5:19-cv-00731-LCB Document 34 Filed
10/22/19 Page 4 of 18 the allegations in the complaint as
true and constru[e] them in the light most favorable to the
plaintiff.” Mills v. Foremost Ins. Co., 511
F.3d 1300, 1303 (11th Cir. 2008) (quoting Castro v.
Sec'y of Homeland Sec., 472 F.3d 1334, 1336 (11th
Cir. 2006)). To survive a motion to dismiss, “a
complaint must contain sufficient factual matter . . . to
‘state a claim to relief that is plausible on its
face.'” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662,
678 (2009). A claim is facially plausible when “the
plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to
draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable
for the misconduct alleged.” Id. at 679.
“When there are well-pleaded factual allegations, a
court should assume their veracity and then determine whether
they plausibly give rise to an entitlement to relief.”
Id. “But 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. at 679 (quoting, in part,
Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2)). Thus, the Supreme Court has
“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.'” Am. Dental
Ass'n v. Cigna Corp., 605 F.3d 1283, 1290 (11th Cir.
2010) (citing Bell Atlantic v. Twombly, 550 U.S.
544, 567 (2007)).
noted, plaintiff's amended complaint alleges two counts
against the City of Hartselle, both of which the City of
Hartselle has moved to dismiss: (1) Count V, a claim against
the City of Hartselle under Section 504 of the Rehabilitation
Act; and (2) Count VI, a claim under Title II of the ADA.
Plaintiff, however, has agreed to the dismissal of Count V,
his claim pursuant to Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act.
(Doc. 26, p. 4 n.1). Therefore, the Court will only consider
the parties' arguments with respect to the ADA claim.
alleges that the City of Hartselle, through the actions of
its officers, failed to accommodate him and discriminated
against him by assaulting and arresting him because of his
disability. (Doc. 17, p. 11). Plaintiff also alleges that
“City officials, acting with deliberate indifference,
failed and refused to implement policies and train officers
regarding the handling of deaf persons like
[plaintiff].” (Id.). Plaintiff alleges that
these actions violated Title II of the ADA and, as a result,
he is entitled to compensatory damages.
II of the ADA prohibits a public entity from discriminating
against a qualified individual on account of the
individual's disability. 42 U.S.C. § 12132;
Bircoll v. Miami-Dade County, 480, F.3d 1072, 1081
(11th Cir. 2007). In particular, Title II states, “[N]o
qualified individual with a disability shall, by reason of
such disability, be excluded from participation in or be
denied the benefits of the services, programs, or activities
of a public entity, or be subjected to discrimination by any
such entity” 42 U.S.C. § 12132. There appears to
be no dispute at this stage that plaintiff is a qualified
individual with a disability within the meaning of Title II
of the ADA or that the City of Hartselle is a public entity.
Rather, the issues before the Court are whether (1) plaintiff
has stated a claim for compensatory damages against the City
of Hartselle for a violation of Title II of the ADA; and (2)
to what extent Title II of the ADA applies in the context of
an ad hoc police encounter such as the one here. The
Court will first address the standard for stating a claim for
compensatory damages against a public entity under Title II
of the ADA.
Claim for Compensatory Damages under ...