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.

Welch v. City of Hartselle

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

October 22, 2019

MICHAEL WELCH, Plaintiff,
v.
CITY OF HARTSELLE, ALABAMA, et al., Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

          LILES C. BURKE, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         Defendant 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.

         I. BACKGROUND

         The 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.).

         Plaintiff 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).

         Plaintiff 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).

         Plaintiff 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.

         II. STANDARD OF REVIEW

         Rule 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)).

         III. DISCUSSION

         As 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.

         Plaintiff 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.

         Title 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.

         A. Claim for Compensatory Damages under ...


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.