Ivie v. Jackson et al
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER: it is ORDERED that: 1) Dfts' 40 Motion to Dismiss is GRANTED; 2) The clerk is DIRECTED to terminate James Sanders and the City of Enterprise as dfts in this action. Signed by Honorable Judge Kelly F. Pate on 9/7/2021. (hfc, )
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IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE MIDDLE DISTRICT OF ALABAMA
LINDA FAYE IVIE, as personal
representative of the Estate of
Jeffrey Todd Ivie, deceased,
JAMES JACKSON, et al.,
CASE NO. 1:20-CV-437-KFP
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
Plaintiff Linda Faye Ivie, as personal representative of the Estate of Jeffrey Todd
Ivie (“Ivie”), brings this suit against ten defendants 1 arising from Ivie’s death in June 2019.
Doc. 37. Before the Court is a motion to dismiss and supporting memorandum filed by
Defendants Officer James Sanders and The City of Enterprise, Alabama. Docs. 40, 41.
Plaintiff filed a response in opposition to the motion (Doc. 56), and Defendants filed a reply
(Doc. 57). Upon review of the parties’ submissions and the relevant law, Defendants’
motion is GRANTED for the reasons set forth below.
Plaintiff initiated this lawsuit by filing her initial Complaint in June 2020. See Doc.
1. In July 2020, all the named Defendants moved to dismiss the Complaint on a variety of
Specifically, Plaintiff sues Coffee County, the City of Enterprise, and eight individuals allegedly involved
in Plaintiff’s arrest and subsequent death: James Jackson, Chris Kline, Josh Milliner, Kyle Ethridge, Shane
Bryan, Aaron McCullough, Byron Caylor, and James Sanders.
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grounds. See Docs. 17, 21, and 23. After briefing on Defendants’ motions, the Court
granted the motions in part and denied the motions in part. See Doc. 36. Specifically, as to
Plaintiff’s negligence and wantonness tort claims, the Court determined that they did not
survive Ivie’s death and must be dismissed as a matter of law. Id. at 4. As to Plaintiff’s
wrongful death and deliberate indifference claims, the Court found that the Complaint
constituted an impermissible shotgun pleading and therefore failed on pleading grounds.
Id. at 4-13. The Court then directed Plaintiff to file an Amended Complaint as to the latter
claims, curing the pleading deficiencies identified in its Order. 2 Id. at 13.
On April 7, 2021, Plaintiff filed her Amended Complaint, which is the operative
pleading in this case. Doc. 37. A complete recitation of the factual allegations in the
Amended Complaint can be found in the Court’s September 3, 2021 Order addressing
another motion to dismiss in this case. Doc. 59. Based on those allegations, Plaintiff brings
the following claims relevant to this Order: deliberate indifference to serious medical needs
against Officer Sanders (Count II); “wrongful death – assault and battery” against Officer
Sanders and, “by respondeat superior, the City of Enterprise” (Count III); and “wrongful
death – negligence/wantoness [sic]” against all ten Defendants (Count IV). Id. at 6-11. As
relief, Plaintiff seeks compensatory and punitive damages, prejudgment and post-judgment
interest, the costs of this action and attorney’s fees, and “such other and further relief to
which she is justly entitled.” Id. at 11.
“When a litigant files a shotgun pleading, is represented by counsel, and fails to request leave to amend,
a district court must sua sponte give him one chance to replead before dismissing his case with prejudice
on non-merits shotgun pleading grounds.” Vibe Micro, Inc. v. Shabanets, 878 F.3d 1291, 1296 (11th Cir.
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Defendants move to dismiss the Amended Complaint as it pertains to them because
(1) Officer Sanders is entitled to qualified immunity and state-agent immunity; and (2) the
City is entitled to municipal immunity and state-agent immunity. Docs. 40, 41. Upon
careful consideration of Defendants’ arguments and Plaintiff’s responses, which are
discussed further below, the Court agrees that all claims against these Defendants are due
to be dismissed.
A. Officer Sanders is entitled to qualified immunity as to the deliberate
“Government officials sued for acts committed in the course of their official duties
may invoke the defense of qualified immunity.” O’Rourke v. Hayes, 378 F.3d 1201, 1205
(11th Cir. 2004). “The qualified immunity inquiry involves three steps: (1) the alleged
conduct must fall within the scope of the discretionary authority of the actor; (2) if it does,
[the Court] must then determine whether that conduct violates a constitutional right; (3) if
so, [the Court] must inquire whether the asserted right was clearly established at the time
of the alleged violation.” Tinker v. Beasley, 429 F.3d 1324, 1326 (11th Cir. 2005). If the
official’s discretionary actions did not violate a clearly established constitutional right, he
is entitled to qualified immunity. Lewis v. City of W. Palm Beach, 561 F.3d 1288, 1291
(11th Cir. 2009). “It is fairly well-settled that police officers are ‘government officials’ and
that they are entitled to utilize the defense of qualified immunity.” Brown v. City of
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Clewiston, 644 F. Supp. 1417, 1419 (S.D. Fla. 1986) (citing Harlow v. Fitzgerald, 457 U.S.
First, the Amended Complaint makes clear that Officer Sanders was performing a
discretionary function within his discretionary authority. According to Plaintiff, “[a]t all
times . . . Officer Sanders was acting within the line and scope of his capacity as an
employee of the City of Enterprise.” Doc. 37 at 1. Plaintiff states, “Officer Sanders is sued
for his individual acts and omissions committed and omitted while he acted as a City of
Enterprise employee.” Id. at 1-2. During the events alleged in the Amended Complaint,
Officer Sanders was arresting Ivie in his capacity as a City of Enterprise police officer.
Accordingly, Officer Sanders was acting within his discretionary authority. See McDowell
v. Gonzalez, 820 F. App’x 989, 991 (11th Cir. 2020) (“A police officer generally acts within
the scope of his discretionary authority when making an arrest.”); Vinyard v. Wilson, 311
F.3d 1340, 1346 (11th Cir. 2002) (“[I]t is clear that Officer Stanfield was acting within the
course and scope of his discretionary authority when he arrested Vinyard and transported
her to jail.”).
Second, the allegations in the Amended Complaint fail to demonstrate that Officer
Sanders’ conduct violated a constitutional right. The only allegations concerning Officer
Sanders are as follows:
During [his interview with Plaintiff], the Responding Officer received
information over his radio and informed Plaintiff that her son had been
stopped for erratic driving and was detained at the Inland gas station on Boll
Weevil Circle, not [far] from her home. The Responding Officer told
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Arresting Officer Sanders that Plaintiff requested her son receive medical
care . . . .
At the time [Ivie] was arrested, he clearly needed immediate medical
attention. But instead of being taken to one of two nearby hospitals, he was
transported to the Coffee County Jail. Arresting Officer Sanders did not
obtain proper mental/physical health treatment for [Ivie] as required by the
policies and procedures of the City of Enterprise Police Department or as
requested by Plaintiff.
Based on the above allegations, Plaintiff purports to state a claim of deliberate indifference
to a serious medical need in violation of the Fourteenth Amendment. 3 However, she fails
to do so.
To state a deliberate indifference claim, a plaintiff must show “(1) a serious medical
need; (2) a defendant’s deliberate indifference to that need; and (3) causation between that
indifference and the plaintiff’s injury.” Melton v. Abston, 841 F.3d 1207, 1220 (11th Cir.
2016). Even assuming, without deciding, that Ivie suffered from a serious medical need,
the Amended Complaint fails to demonstrate Officer Sanders’ deliberate indifference to
that need. To establish deliberate indifference, a plaintiff must demonstrate that “(1) the
officer was aware of facts from which the inference could be drawn that a substantial risk
of serious harm exists, (2) the officer actually drew that inference, (3) the officer
disregarded the risk of serious harm, and (4) the officer’s conduct amounted to more than
gross negligence.” Valderrama v. Rousseau, 780 F.3d 1108, 1116 (11th Cir. 2015).
“The Fourteenth Amendment governs claims of medical indifference to the needs of pretrial detainees
while the Eighth Amendment applies to claims of convicted prisoners.” Youmans v. Gagnon, 626 F.3d 557,
563 (11th Cir. 2010). “However, the standards under the Fourteenth Amendment are identical to those
under the Eighth.” Goebert v. Lee Cnty., 510 F.3d 1312, 1326 (11th Cir. 2007).
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The Amended Complaint fails to make any of these showings as to Officer Sanders.
Plaintiff alleges only that “[t]he Responding Officer told Arresting Officer Sanders that
Plaintiff requested her son receive medical care” and that “[a]t the time [Ivie] was arrested,
he clearly needed immediate medical attention.” Doc. 37 at 3. Neither of these allegations
demonstrate that Officer Sanders was aware of facts that a substantial risk of serious harm
existed to Ivie or that he actually drew that inference. Indeed, the mere fact that Officer
Sanders was told that “Plaintiff requested her son receive medical attention,” without
providing any basis for that request whatsoever, does not establish a substantial risk of
serious harm. Nor does it establish that Officer Sanders actually drew that inference or that,
even if he did, his conduct amounted to more than gross negligence. Plaintiff’s sole other
allegation, that Plaintiff “clearly needed immediate medical attention,” is also insufficient
to establish deliberate indifference, as it is conclusory with no supporting factual detail
whatsoever. See Hogan v. Wellstar Health Network, Inc., No. 1:12-CV-1418, 2013 WL
1136980, at *6 (N.D. Ga. Mar. 14, 2013) (“Plaintiffs’ conclusory statement that ‘[a serious
medical need] was obvious’ is insufficient to show the Sheriff’s subjective knowledge of a
serious medical need or his disregard of that need.”). Therefore, even accepting the scant,
non-conclusory allegations regarding Officer Sanders as true, as is required at this stage,
the Court cannot find support for deliberate indifference.
Because the Amended Complaint fails to establish that Officer Sanders violated
Ivie’s Fourteenth Amendment right against deliberate indifference to a serious medical
need, the Court need not consider whether the right was clearly established, see Knowles
v. Hart, 825 F. App’x 646, 649 (11th Cir. 2020), and Officer Sanders is entitled to qualified
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immunity on the deliberate indifference claim. See Lewis, 561 F.3d at 1291. Accordingly,
that claim is due to be DISMISSED as to Officer Sanders.
B. Plaintiff has failed to state a wrongful death claim for assault and battery
as to Officer Sanders and the City.
Plaintiff purports to state a wrongful death claim for assault and battery against
Officer Sanders and, by respondeat superior, the City of Enterprise. However, she fails to
allege any facts in support of this claim. First, Count III makes no allegations as to Officer
Sanders whatsoever. It alleges simply that the Defendant Coffee County Officers, not
Officer Sanders, “committed assault and battery upon Jeff Ivie.” Doc. 37 at 9. This aligns
with the Amended Complaint’s Statement of Facts, which includes no allegations that
Officer Sanders committed assault and battery. Indeed, the Statement of Facts indicates
that the alleged assault and battery occurred only after Ivie arrived at the Coffee County
Jail and “passed into the care, custody, and control of Coffee County Officers Jackson,
Milliner, McCullough, Caylor, Ethridge, Bryan, and Kline.” Id. at 3. Thus, there are no
allegations whatsoever to support a wrongful death claim for assault and battery against
Accordingly, there are also no allegations to support such a claim against the City
under a respondeat superior theory. Plaintiff does not allege that any of the individuals
involved in the alleged assault and battery were employees of the City; to the contrary, the
Amended Complaint states that those individuals are employed by Coffee County and that
only Officer Sanders is employed by the City. Id. at 1-2. Thus, because the Amended
Complaint fails to state a wrongful death for assault and battery claim against Officer
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Sanders—the sole City employee—the City, as his employer, cannot be held liable under
respondeat superior. See Hesed-El v. Aldridge Pite, LLP, No. CV 119-162, 2020 WL
3163645, at *9 (S.D. Ga. June 12, 2020) (“Under the doctrine of respondeat superior, an
employer’s liability is purely derivative of its employee’s liability; thus, where the claim
against the employee fails, so must the claim against the employer.”) (internal quotation
marks and citations omitted). 4
Accordingly, Count III is due to be DISMISSED as to Officer Sanders and the City.
C. Officer Sanders and the City are entitled to peace officer, or state-agent,
immunity as to the wrongful death claim for negligence and wantonness.
Count IV of the Amended Complaint states:
As to Defendant Sanders and the City of Enterprise, at the time Jeff Ivie was
arrested . . . he breached [his] duty [to obtain reasonably adequate healthcare
services for Ivie] by negligently and/or wantonly failing to order and/or
request a medical/psychiatric consultation or evaluation for Jeff Ivie, by
negligently and/or wantonly failing to recognize and treat Jeff Ivie’s
psychosis and/or physical peril during his arrest . . .; by negligently and/or
wantonly failing to transport or arrange for the transport of Jeff Ivie to any
hospital or medical facility, by negligently and/or wantonly failing to heed
the pleas of Jeff Ivie’s mother to have him medically evaluated, by
negligently and/or wantonly failing to appreciate and act upon Jeff Ivie’s
psychiatric and physical condition, by negligently and/or wantonly failing to
comply with the policies and procedures of the City of Enterprise Police
Department and the laws of the State of Alabama in the care and treatment
of Jeff Ivie; and/or by negligently and/or wantonly failing to timely act to
obtain treatment for Jeff Ivie.
Doc. 37 at 10. Alabama Code § 6-5-338(a) provides, in pertinent part, that “[e]very peace
officer . . . shall have immunity from tort liability arising out of his or her conduct in
The Court notes that Plaintiff wholly failed to address this issue in her response to the motion to dismiss.
See generally Doc. 56. Thus, it appears that Plaintiff waives any argument at to this issue.
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performance of any discretionary function within the line and scope of his or her law
enforcement duties.” Ala. Code § 6-5-338(a). The Alabama Supreme Court has explained
that “[t]he restatement of State-agent immunity as set out by this Court in Ex parte
Cranman . . . governs the determination of whether a peace officer is entitled to immunity
under § 6–5–338(a).” Ex Parte City of Homewood, 231 So.3d 1082, 1086 (Ala. 2017)
(internal quotations and citations omitted). In Cranman, the Alabama Supreme Court
A State agent shall be immune from civil liability in his or her personal
capacity when the conduct made the basis of the claim against the agent is
based upon the agent’s . . . exercising judgment in the enforcement of the
criminal laws of the State, including, but not limited to, law-enforcement
officers’ arresting or attempting to arrest persons . . . .
Notwithstanding anything to the contrary in the foregoing statement . . . a
State agent shall not be immune from civil liability in his or her personal
capacity (1) when the Constitution or laws of the United States, or the
Constitution of this State, or laws, rules, or regulations of this State enacted
or promulgated for the purpose of regulating the activities of a governmental
agency require otherwise; or (2) when the State agent acts willfully,
maliciously, fraudulently, in bad faith, beyond his or her authority, or under
a mistaken interpretation of the law.
Ex parte Cranman, 792 So. 2d 392, 405 (Ala. 2000), holding modified by Hollis v. City of
Brighton, 950 So. 2d 300 (Ala. 2006). 5
Peace officer immunity analysis is a burden shifting process. Stryker v. City of
Homewood, No. 2:16-CV-0832, 2017 WL 3191097, at *16 (N.D. Ala. July 27, 2017). A
In Hollis v. City of Brighton, 950 So. 2d 300, 309 (Ala. 2006), the Alabama Supreme Court amended the
language that extended immunity to those “exercising judgment in the enforcement of the criminal laws of
the State, including, but not limited to, law-enforcement officers’ arresting or attempting to arrest persons,”
to add “or serving as peace officers under circumstances entitling such officers to immunity pursuant to
§ 6–5–338(a), Ala. Code 1975.”
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peace officer asserting immunity initially bears the burden of demonstrating that the
plaintiff’s claims arise from a function that would entitle the peace officer to immunity. Ex
Parte City of Homewood, 231 So.3d at 1087. To carry that burden, peace officers “must
establish (1) that they were peace officers (2) performing law-enforcement duties at the
time of the accident and (3) exercising judgment and discretion.” Id. “If they can do so, the
burden then shifts to [the plaintiff] to show that one of the Cranman exceptions applies.”
Defendants have made all three of the necessary showings. First, they have
established that, based on the allegations in the Amended Complaint, Officer Sanders, as a
city police officer, is or was a peace officer at the time of the alleged events. See Stryker,
2017 WL 3191097, at *17 (holding that city police officers, sued in their individual
capacities for claims arising out of their arrest of plaintiff, were peace officers for purposes
of § 6-5-338(a)). Second, they have established that, based on the allegations in the
Amended Complaint, he was performing law-enforcement duties at the time of the alleged
events. See id.; see also Williams v. City of Dothan, Ala., No. 1:14-CV-287, 2015 WL
4635264, at *3 (M.D. Ala. Aug. 3, 2015) (noting that officers “were acting within the scope
of their law enforcement duties in making an arrest”). Finally, they have established that,
based on the allegations in the Amended Complaint, he was exercising judgment and
discretion at the time of the alleged events. See Swan v. City of Hueytown, 920 So. 2d 1075,
1079 (Ala. 2005) (“[A]rrests and attempted arrests are generally classified as actions
requiring an officer to exercise judgment.”); see also Walker v. City of Huntsville, 62 So.3d
474, 498 (Ala. 2010) (holding that police officers sued for “failure to obtain medical
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treatment” for arrestee were “exercising judgment with respect to [the plaintiff’s] arrest
and performing a discretionary function in the line and scope of their law-enforcement
duties within the meaning of § 6-5-338.”).
The burden thus shifts to Plaintiff to identify factual allegations that plausibly
demonstrate an exception to this immunity. Ex Parte City of Homewood, 231 So.3d at
1087. Plaintiff has failed to do so. As noted above, Plaintiff bases her Count IV wrongful
death claim on allegations that Officer Sanders “negligently and/or wantonly” failed to
seek medical treatment for Ivie. Doc. 37 at 10. However, as a matter of law, Count IV’s
allegations of negligence and wantonness cannot defeat state-agent immunity under
Cranman. “This immunity protects a State agent from liability for negligence or
wantonness while performing discretionary functions.” L.S.B. v. Howard, 659 So. 2d 43,
44 (Ala. 1995). The Alabama Supreme Court has made clear that “[a] finding of immunity
. . . precludes a claim based in negligence.” Hollis, 950 So. 2d at 305. Similarly, allegations
of wantonness cannot overcome state-agent immunity. See Ex parte Randall, 971 So. 2d
652, 664 (Ala. 2007) (“This Court has previously held that poor judgment or wanton
misconduct, an aggravated form of negligence, does not rise to the level of willfulness and
maliciousness necessary to put the State agent beyond the immunity recognized in
Cranman.”); Norris v. City of Montgomery, 821 So. 2d 149, 156 (Ala. 2001) (“§ 6-5338(a), which immunizes peace officers from tort liability for conduct involving the
exercise of discretion, makes no exception for wantonness.”).
Thus, it is clear that state-agent immunity under Cranman “is not abrogated for
negligent and wanton behavior; instead, immunity is withheld only upon a showing that
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the State agent acted willfully, maliciously, fraudulently, in bad faith, or beyond his or her
authority.” Giambrone v. Douglas, 874 So. 2d 1046, 1057 (Ala. 2003). The Amended
Complaint does not plausibly allege that Officer Sanders acted willfully, maliciously,
fraudulently, or in bad faith when he allegedly failed to obtain medical treatment for Ivie. 6
As addressed above, Plaintiff’s allegations against Officer Sanders are scant and
conclusory; just as they failed to support a claim of deliberate indifference against Officer
Sanders, they also fail to overcome § 6-5-338(a) and Cranman immunity. Accordingly,
Officer Sanders is entitled to immunity as to the wrongful death claim for negligence and
Moreover, because Officer Sanders is entitled to state-agent immunity against Count
IV’s wrongful death claim, the City is also immune. See Howard v. City of Atmore, 887
So. 2d 201, 211 (Ala. 2003) (“It is well established that, if a municipal peace officer is
immune pursuant to § 6-5-338(a), then, pursuant to § 6-5-338(b), the city by which he is
employed is also immune.”). “In cases such as this where the ‘municipal employee’ is a
law enforcement officer, Alabama’s statutory, discretionary-function immunity explicitly
extends an officer’s immunity to the employing municipality.” Brown v. City of Huntsville,
The closest Plaintiff comes to alleging Officer Sanders acted beyond his authority is when she states
vaguely that “Officer Sanders did not obtain proper mental/physical health treatment for [Ivie] as required
by the policies and procedures of the City of Enterprise Police Department.” Doc. 37 at 3. This allegation
is insufficient to overcome immunity under § 6-5-338(a). See Fowler v. Meeks, 569 F. App’x 705, 709
(11th Cir. 2014) (“In the absence of a specific rule, regulation, or guideline set out to limit the City and the
individual officers’ broad discretion in exercising his or her judgment, we cannot conclude that allegations
fall within the exception to immunity under § 6-5-338. Thus, even if we accept everything in the complaint
as true, Fowler’s single reference to rules and regulations is insufficient to defeat the City’s immunity claim
under § 6-5-338.”); see also McCants v. City of Mobile, 752 F. App’x 744, 748 (11th Cir. 2018) (affirming
dismissal of complaint because the plaintiffs “do not allege any specific ordinance, rule, or regulation that
the City violated”).
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608 F.3d 724, 742 (11th Cir. 2010) (citing Ala. Code § 6-5-338(b)). Accordingly, Count
IV is due to be DISMISSED as to Officer Sanders and the City.
Accordingly, for the reasons set forth above, it is ORDERED that:
Defendants’ Motion to Dismiss (Doc. 40) is GRANTED.
The clerk is DIRECTED to terminate James Sanders and the City of
Enterprise as defendants in this action.
Done this 7th day of September, 2021.
/s/ Kelly Fitzgerald Pate
KELLY FITZGERALD PATE
UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
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