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Long v. Underwood

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

December 4, 2019

JOHN LONG, Plaintiff,
v.
JAMES E. UNDERWOOD and BRADEN MILES, Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

          GRAY M. BORDEN UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE

         Before the court is the Motion to Dismiss and Motion to Strike filed by Defendants James E. Underwood and Braden Miles. Doc. 6. Plaintiff John Long has filed a response in opposition to the motion. Doc. 11. Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(c) and Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 73, the parties have consented to the jurisdiction of the undersigned United States Magistrate Judge. Doc. 19. After careful consideration of the parties' submissions and the relevant law, the court finds that the motion (Doc. 6) is due to be granted.

         I. JURISDICTION AND VENUE

         The court has subject matter jurisdiction over the claims in this lawsuit pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §§ 1331 and 1367. The defendants do not contest personal jurisdiction or venue in the Northern District of Alabama, and the court finds adequate allegations to support both.

         II. FACTUAL BACKGROUND

         The following is a recitation of the facts as alleged in the plaintiff's state-court complaint. Doc. 1-1. This lawsuit arises out of motor vehicle accident during a highspeed police chase on April 14, 2017 in Walker County, Alabama. Doc. 1-1 at 5. Walker County deputy sheriff Braden Miles attempted to stop the driver of a motorcycle because he believed that the motorcycle had been stolen and that the driver had committed a traffic violation. Doc. 1-1 at 5. The driver refused to pull over, and instead accelerated to more than 100 miles per hour. Doc. 1-1 at 5. Miles pursued the fleeing motorcyclist in a patrol car on a rural county road for over nine miles at speeds of up to 115 miles per hour. Doc. 1-1 at 5.

         While Miles and the motorcycle were traveling northbound on Alabama Highway 195, Plaintiff John Long was traveling southbound. Doc. 1-1 at 6. As the motorcyclist reached a curve at the intersection of Highway 195 and Bennett Road, he crossed the center line and collided head-on with Long's vehicle. Doc. 1-1 at 6. As a result of the accident, Long suffered significant injuries and totaled his vehicle. Doc. 1-1 at 6. The driver of the motorcycle did not survive the crash. Doc. 1-1 at 6.

         Long alleges that Walker County Sheriff James E. Underwood “failed to develop and implement adequate policies, procedures, customs, or practices, to protect the public from the foreseeable result that bystanders such as Long would be harmed by deputies engaged in high-speed chases.” Doc. 1-1 at 6. He also alleges that both defendants exhibited a “malicious and intentional disregard” of Long's “constitutional rights to purposefully inflict harm.” Doc. 1-1 at 7. As a result, “Long suffered from physical injury, pain, suffering, emotional distress, anxiety, and duress, as well as a loss of personal property.” Doc. 1-1 at 7.

         Long filed suit on April 12, 2019 in the Circuit Court of Walker County, Alabama, naming Miles and Sheriff Underwood as defendants. The defendants removed the case to this court on May 7, 2019. Long brings three constitutional claims under 42 U.S.C. § 1983: (1) violation of his Fourteenth Amendment right to substantive due process against Miles, (2) failure to train and supervise against Sheriff Underwood, (3) and failure to train and supervise against fictitious defendants. Doc. 1-1 at 7-12. He also alleges state-law negligence-based claims against both Miles and Sheriff Underwood. Doc. 1-1 at 12. The defendants seek dismissal of the complaint in its entirety.

         III. STANDARD OF REVIEW

         In considering a motion to dismiss pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, the court must “take the factual allegations in the complaint as true and construe them in the light most favorable to the plaintiff.” Pielage v. McConnell, 516 F.3d 1282, 1284 (11th Cir. 2008). To survive a motion to dismiss, a complaint must include “enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.” Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007). A claim is “plausible on its face” if “the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged.” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009). The complaint “requires more than labels and conclusions, and a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action will not do.” Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555. Factual allegations need not be detailed, but “must be enough to raise a right to relief above the speculative level, ” Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555, and “unadorned, the-defendant-unlawfully-harmed-me accusation[s]” will not suffice. Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678.

         IV. DISCUSSION

         A. Motion to Strike

         Long's third cause of action is a § 1983 failure-to-train claim against any unnamed defendants who may have “failed to adequately train, supervise, and discipline Miles on conducting a high-speed pursuit.” Doc. 1-1 at 11. Long anticipates that he will name these defendants “by amendment when [their identities are] ascertained.” Doc. 11 at 23.

         “As a general matter, fictitious-party pleading is not permitted in federal court.” Richardson v. Johnson, 598 F.3d 734, 738 (11th Cir. 2010). A “limited exception” to the general rule exists where “the plaintiff's description of the defendant is so specific as to be, at the very worst, surplusage.” Id. (citation and internal quotation marks omitted). Long's description of the fictitious defendants here falls outside of this limited exception. Far from specific, Long essentially describes any person who may be subject to liability on a supervisory basis. Doc. ...


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