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K.J.C. v. City of Montgomery

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

January 8, 2020

K.J.C., by and through her Guardian and Next Friend, ANN PETTAWAY, Plaintiff,
v.
CITY OF MONTGOMERY, ERNEST N. FINLEY, JR., W.B. GASKIN, and MORRIS LEON WILLIAMS, JR., Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

          ANDREW L. BRASHER UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         This matter comes before the court on Plaintiff K.J.C.'s Motion for Default Judgment Against Defendant Morris Leon Williams, Jr. (Doc. 65). Williams, then a police officer, answered a call to help Plaintiff K.J.C., but instead he sexually assaulted her in her own apartment. When K.J.C. filed suit against him, Williams failed to defend himself, so the Clerk entered default. Now K.J.C. moves for default judgment. Upon consideration, K.J.C.'s motion is GRANTED.

         BACKGROUND

         At an evidentiary hearing held on December 18, 2019, K.J.C. recounted Williams' attack on her. K.J.C., a woman with an intellectual disability, called 911 to report a missing medical device. An on-duty officer, Defendant Morris Williams, responded to the call and spoke with K.J.C. and her husband about the missing medical device. Williams told K.J.C.'s husband she “would be in good hands, ” so he left for work. Williams then proceeded to ask K.J.C. about her sex life with her husband. Williams showed K.J.C. photos of his penis before exposing himself to her. He asked her to touch him, but she told him “no.” Wearing his police uniform, including his weapon, Williams instructed K.J.C. to take her clothes off. She complied, and Williams took her to her bedroom where he anally raped her. K.J.C. told him he was hurting her and told him to stop. When Williams had finished, he made K.J.C. promise not to tell anyone. He then left her home and disposed of the condom he had used to rape K.J.C. at his fiancée's house. When K.J.C.'s husband returned later that night, K.J.C. told him that Williams had raped her. Together, they went to the hospital and then the family justice center, where it was determined she had been sexually assaulted and sodomized, suffering trauma to her anal area.

         The damages caused by Williams' attack were also established at the evidentiary hearing. After hearing testimony and receiving evidence, the Court makes the following factual findings as they pertain to damages:

         From K.J.C.'s testimony, it is clear that this is a case of forcible rape. K.J.C. testified that she told Williams, “no, ” and she did not consent. Based on her demeanor and appearance, she is clearly intellectually disabled. Anyone who interacted with her would know that she is intellectually disabled. And Williams did, in fact, know that she was intellectually disabled at the time of the rape. Her testimony is credible that she feels intense shame and distress from the rape, even years later. She also mistrusts police, fears being alone, cannot live with or otherwise be with her husband, and has difficulty relating to her family and others. She moved to a different state because of her fear of Williams and suffers intense stress whenever she returns to Montgomery because she fears that she might see him.

         These factual findings are strengthened by the testimony of K.J.C.'s aunt and grandmother.

         Valencia Michelle Aaron, K.J.C.'s aunt, testified that K.J.C. was diagnosed between the ages of two and three with “severe mental retardation.” Aaron described K.J.C. since the attack as being “tearful, ” “embarrassed, ” “terrified, ” and “afraid” that “some[one] could come back and hurt her.” After the attack, K.J.C. “moved immediately” out of the apartment, which was a special apartment with an on-site nurse to care for the intellectually disabled. K.J.C. experiences “panic attacks” and has become “withdrawn” and “shameful, ” avoiding interaction with her family. Although K.J.C. is still married to her husband, they no longer live together because of the terror she experiences when he leaves for work. K.J.C. remembers her trauma every time she sees a police officer, which leaves her “terrified.” K.J.C. has biweekly counseling because of the rape. In Aaron's opinion, K.J.C. “will never be the same.”

         Ann Pettaway, K.J.C.'s grandmother and former guardian, testified that Williams' attack has left her granddaughter feeling “worthless.” K.J.C. has recurring nightmares about Williams. In the wake of Williams' attack, K.J.C. has been suicidal, cutting herself and attempting to overdose on pills. K.J.C. must be watched around-the-clock. Pettaway testified that her granddaughter “has not been the same” since the attack and continues to need mental health counseling.

         DISCUSSION

         K.J.C. alleges that Williams violated her constitutional rights, specifically her right to due process and equal protection protected by the Fourteenth Amendment and her right to be safe from unreasonable search and seizure protected by the Fourth Amendment. She also alleges that Williams committed state torts, including assault and battery and invasion of privacy. Because Williams did not make an appearance, the Clerk entered default against him. K.J.C. then filed a motion for default judgment, requesting $1, 000, 000 in compensatory and punitive damages and attorneys' fees.[1] (Doc. 65).

         A. K.J.C. Has Met the Default Judgment Standard Against Williams

         Default judgment is appropriate where the plaintiff has stated a claim for relief. Chudasama v. Mazda Motor Corp., 123 F.3d 1353, 1370 n.41 (11th Cir. 1997) (citations omitted) (“[A] default judgment cannot stand on a complaint that fails to state a claim”). The Eleventh Circuit has held that this standard is “akin to that necessary to survive a motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim.” Surtain v. Hamlin Terrace Found., 789 F.3d 1239, 1245 (11th Cir. 2015). So, all well-plead factual allegations, but not legal conclusions, are deemed admitted. Id. (quoting Cotton v. Mass. Mut. Life Ins. Co., 402 F.3d 126, 1278 (11th Cir. 2005)). Then, if the Court determines that the admitted factual allegations state a legal claim, the Court turns to the issue of damages. Thompson v. Freedom Patrol, 2009 WL 2525291, at *1 (M.D. Ala. Aug. 17, 2009) (citing Chudasama, 123 F.3d at 1364 n.27).

         K.J.C. has stated state-law claims for battery, invasion of privacy, and outrage. She also has brought a federal claim under Section 1983. She has ...


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