K.J.C. v. The City of Montgomery et al
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER: Based on the above reasoning, the Court orders as follows: 1. Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment (Doc. 48 ) is GRANTED. 2. Plaintiff's Motion to Defer the Motion for Summary Judgment and Extension of T ime to Complete Discovery (Doc. 54 ) is DENIED. 3. The trial and pre-trial conference in this matter are CANCELLED. 4. In light of the Clerk's entry of default against Defendant Williams (Doc. 57 ), Plaintiff may file a motion for default judg ment as explained in this opinion. If she chooses to pursue defaultagainst Williams, Plaintiff is DIRECTED to file her motion for default judgment on or before November 15, 2019. 5. A nonjury evidentiary hearing is set for November 22, 2019 at 8:30am in Courtroom 2E at which the Court will hear evidence, if any, on Plaintiff's anticipated motion for entry of a default judgment and compensatory and punitive damages. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 55(b)(2); 10A Fed. Prac. & Proc. Civ. 2688 (4th ed. 2019 ). If Plaintiff wants the Court to consider any documentary evidence, that evidence should be filed either under seal or through the ECF system before the evidentiary hearing. If any Defendant wants to present evidence at the hearing, they should not ify Plaintiff and the Court on or before November 19, 2019. The Court anticipates that the hearing will take approximately one hour. The parties should inform the Court by calling chambers if the hearing needs to be longer. 6. This case is not closed . Signed by Honorable Judge Andrew L. Brasher on 10/7/2019. (furn: dh, calendar) (term: Final Pretrial Conference set for 11/22/2019; Jury Trial set for 01/06/2020; Jury Selection set for 01/06/2020) (Attachments: # 1 Civil Appeals Checklist)(kh, )
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE MIDDLE DISTRICT OF ALABAMA
K.J.C., by and through her Guardian
and Next Friend, ANN PETTAWAY,
CITY OF MONTGOMERY,
ERNEST N. FINLEY, JR.,
W.B. GASKIN, and
MORRIS LEON WILLIAMS, JR.,
Case No. 2:17-cv-91-ALB
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
This matter comes before the Court on Defendants City of Montgomery,
Ernest N. Finley, Jr., and W.B. Gaskin’s (collectively, “the City”) Motion for
Summary Judgment, (Doc. 48), and on Plaintiff K.J.C.’s Motion to Stay/Defer
Consideration of Defendants’ Motion for Summary Judgment and Extend the
Discovery Deadline, (Doc. 54). Because K.J.C. did not oppose the Defendants’
motion for summary judgment, the Court independently investigated the record to
address the merits of the motion. Upon consideration, K.J.C.’s motion is DENIED
and the City’s motion is GRANTED. This case is also set for a hearing on K.J.C.’s
anticipated motion for default against Defendant Morris Williams.
This case began with K.J.C.’s 911 call 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 until K.J.C.’s husband left
for work. 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.
Once K.J.C. was at the hospital, the Montgomery Police Department was
advised of the situation. Similar to situations involving other officer misconduct such
as fleeing a crash scene or officer-involved shootings, the City placed the officer on
administrative leave and ordered an investigation. (Doc. 1-4 at 2, 6; Doc. 48-1). This
investigation fell on Officer S.B. Edwards, who was also the officer who responded
to the hospital and then interviewed K.J.C., K.J.C.’s husband, and Williams. (Doc.
48-2 at 9).
As part of a criminal inquiry into Williams, Edwards testified under oath at a
probable cause hearing. Edwards recounted her conversation with K.J.C. at the
hospital.1 Williams responded to K.J.C.’s 911 call at approximately 1:00 pm. (Doc.
This record of the incident comes from the investigation report and testimony of one of the
investigating officers from a probable cause hearing. (Doc. 15-3; Doc. 48-2). The City provided
15-3 at 3). When K.J.C.’s husband returned about 11:00 pm, they decided to call
K.J.C.’s mom who told them to report the assault and seek medical treatment. (Doc.
15-3 at 3). The hospital staff checked K.J.C.’s vitals but did not perform a rape exam.
(Doc. 15-3 at 3). Then at the family justice center, officials made a preliminary
finding that K.J.C. had suffered “trauma to the anal area.” (Doc. 15-3 at 3).
From speaking with K.J.C., Edwards determined that she had an intellectual
impairment, in part because Edwards would have to “reword” her questions for
K.J.C. to understand them. (Doc. 15-3 at 3, 8). Neither K.J.C. nor her husband nor
her family could identify K.J.C.’s intellectual disability. K.J.C. testified that she is
just “a little slow,” and her family said that she operates at the level of a 12-year-old.
(Doc. 15-3 at 4, 9). Edwards made further observations about K.J.C.’s intellectual
abilities relevant to her ability to consent: she believed K.J.C. was the leaseholder
for her apartment and that K.J.C. may have a driver’s license. (Doc. 15-3 at 4).
However, the judge prevented Edwards from answering further questions about
whether K.J.C. and her husband were able to consent to sexual relations as a married
couple because it was outside the scope of the probable cause hearing and counsel
had not provided notice of the question. (Doc. 15-3 at 5).
the investigation report, and K.J.C. provided the testimony. Both largely agree with K.J.C.’s
allegations in her amended complaint. (Doc. 15).
There were differences between K.J.C.’s and Williams’ versions of the
incident. Williams claimed that he engaged in consensual intercourse with K.J.C.,
and Williams claimed K.J.C. gave him a condom that she took from a brown paper
bag in her house. (Doc. 15-3 at 4, 8). K.J.C. denied Williams’ version of events and
told Edwards that Williams brought a condom to the encounter. (Doc. 15-3 at 7-8).
But, when Edwards went to K.J.C.’s apartment as part of her investigation, she found
a brown bag full of condoms, “the exact same bag that [Williams] described … in a
dresser drawer; hidden under some clothes.” (Doc. 15-3 at 8).
Based on the investigation, the State filed a second-degree felony sodomy
charge against Williams for engaging in “sexual intercourse with a person who is
incapable of consent by reason of being mentally defective.” Ala. Code § 13A-6-64.
After a hearing, the judge found probable cause to send the case to a grand jury (Doc.
15-3 at 9). But the grand jury no-billed. (Doc. 48-2 at 22).
Although the criminal case ended, K.J.C. pursued this civil case against
Williams; the City; Ernest N. Finley, Jr., Chief of the Montgomery Police
Department; and W.B. Gaskin, Bureau Commander of the Training and Recruiting
Division of the Montgomery Police Department.
The Court entered a scheduling order that gave the parties approximately one
year to conduct discovery until April 4, 2019. (Doc. 35).
Nothing much happened in the case during the discovery period. Williams did
not appear in the case to defend himself. The other parties sent each other a series of
emails about various discovery disagreements and misunderstandings. The City did
not include in its initial disclosures Williams’ criminal case file, the indictment
documents, or the rape kit results. (Doc. 55-1). But K.J.C. obtained these materials
two weeks before the close of discovery. (Doc. 54 at 6). The City acknowledges that
its response to K.J.C.’s interrogatories was delayed, but claims that it was part of a
misunderstanding, not malicious. (Doc. 55 at 3–4). And K.J.C. did not follow up on
the missing answers until three and a half months after asking the questions. (Doc.
55 at 4).
On March 20, 2019, lawyers for the City emailed K.J.C.’s lawyer, Alicia
Haynes, to ask for possible dates to depose K.J.C. and her guardian by the discovery
deadline, April 8. (Doc. 54 at 39). Haynes responded, “Really, this is laughable. Do
you actually believe that in the next two weeks I have any time, much less ‘several
dates’ available for depositions? 1st available is July.” (Doc. 54 at 38). The City’s
counsel responded, “so glad I could give you a good laugh. I’m preparing a motion
to extend the discovery deadline to August 1, 2019 based on your assertion that you
have no availability until July. Can I state in the motion you have no objection?”
(Doc. 54 at 37). Haynes responded, “I assume your motion is not based on my
limited availability when you are first asking for deposition dates two weeks prior
to the cut-off? I need to see your motion before I sign on. If worded that we both
have conflicts I would be agreeable to a joint motion.” The City ultimately decided
not to file a motion to extend the discovery deadline or otherwise take the depositions
it had requested.
Because Williams did not make an appearance to defend himself, K.J.C. filed
a motion for default shortly before the discovery period ended, and the Clerk later
entered default against him. (See Doc. 45; Doc. 50; Doc. 57).
At the close of discovery, as established by the scheduling order, the City filed
a motion for summary judgment.
Approximately one month later, K.J.C. filed a motion to reopen discovery as
an answer to the City’s motion for summary judgment.
The court will grant summary judgment when there is no genuine issue of
material fact and the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.
Chapman v. AI Transport, 229 F.3d 1012, 1023 (11th Cir. 2000) (en banc). The
moving party need not produce evidence disproving the opponent’s claim; instead,
the moving party must demonstrate the absence of any genuine issue of material fact.
Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323 (1986). In turn, the nonmoving party
must go beyond mere allegations to offer specific facts showing a genuine issue for
trial exists. Id. at 324. When no genuine issue of material fact exists, the court
determines whether the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Fed.
R. Civ. P. 56(c).
“If a party fails to properly support an assertion of fact or fails to properly
address another party’s assertion of fact as required by Rule 56(c), the court may …
grant summary judgment if the motion and supporting materials—including the facts
considered undisputed—show that the movant is entitled to it ….” Fed. R. Civ. P.
56(e). The Court cannot enter summary judgment based solely on a motion being
unopposed; rather, the Court must consider the motion’s merits. United States v. One
Piece of Real Property Located at 5800 SW 74th Ave., Miami, Fla., 363 F.3d 1099,
1101 (11th Cir. 2004). In doing so, the Court need not review the entire record. Id.
The Court must merely verify that the motion is supported by evidentiary materials
and then review those materials. Id. at 1101–02.
The issues presented are (1) whether K.J.C. should be allowed to reopen
discovery, (2) whether the City met its burden to support summary judgment, and
(3) how the Court should resolve the Clerk’s entry of default against Williams.
The City argues that it is entitled to summary judgment because the City’s
own policy, custom, or failure-to-train did not lead to Williams’ conduct. In response
to the City’s motion for summary judgment, K.J.C. argues that she was not able to
perform necessary discovery and that the City tricked her counsel by not filing a
motion to extend the discovery deadlines. The City counters that K.J.C.’s counsel
procrastinated discovery until the City asked about setting up its own depositions
and then asked the City to mislead the Court in a motion that said the City had
conflicts requiring a discovery extension. The City also responds that (1) K.J.C. is
asking to take discovery about only marginally relevant issues, and (2) K.J.C.’s own
lack of diligence is to blame for not obtaining the desired discovery.
I. K.J.C.’s Motion Is Denied, Whether It is Construed as a Rule 56(d) Motion
or a Motion to Extend Discovery Deadlines
As an initial matter, the Court will evaluate K.J.C.’s Motion to Stay/Defer
Consideration of Defendants’ Motion for Summary Judgment and Extend the
Discovery Deadline. (Doc. 54). To qualify for Rule 56(d) relief, K.J.C. would need
to assert specific facts that could be produced through additional discovery. K.J.C.’s
motion could also be construed as a Rule 16(b)(4) motion to extend discovery
deadlines, which would require K.J.C. to show good cause to support amending the
scheduling order. K.J.C. does not meet her burden under either rule.
K.J.C. argues that the City withheld documents identified in its initial
disclosures including Williams’ criminal case file, indictment documents, and rape
kit results until two weeks before the discovery deadline; delayed producing
responses to her interrogatories for six months; and misled her counsel about filing
a motion to extend the discovery deadlines. The City responds that it did not include
these documents in its initial disclosures because the documents had no bearing on
K.J.C.’s claims against the City. The City acknowledges that its response to K.J.C.’s
interrogatories was delayed but notes that K.J.C. did not diligently seek them
because she did not mention them until three and a half months after propounding
the questions. And the City did not file its proposed motion because Haynes said she
would only approve the motion if the City claimed it also had conflicts requiring a
discovery extension. Rather than file a motion to extend the discovery deadline on
these conditions, the City dropped its request for depositions.
K.J.C. argues that she needs to depose Finley and Gaskin. She also argues that
she was the first party to offer an available date for depositions but omits two key
facts: first, K.J.C. did not request depositions until barely a month of discovery
remained, despite carrying the burden of proof; and second, K.J.C. only requested
depositions and offered these dates after the City asked when it could depose K.J.C.
and her guardian.
A. Rule 56(d) Motion to Defer Summary Judgment
A party may “show by affidavit or declaration that, for specified reasons, it
cannot present facts essential to justify its opposition ….” Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(d). “To
invoke this Rule, a party ‘may not simply rely on vague assertions that additional
discovery will produce needed, but unspecified facts,’ but ‘must specifically
demonstrate how postponement of a ruling on the motion will enable him, by
discovery or other means, to rebut the movant’s showing of the absence of a genuine
issue of fact.’” City of Miami Gardens v. Wells Fargo & Co., 931 F.3d 1274, 1287
(11th Cir. 2019) (per curiam) (quoting Reflectone, Inc. v. Farrand Optical Co., Inc.,
862 F.2d 841, 843 (11th Cir. 1989)).
The Court has discretion to grant or deny a Rule 56(d) motion. Smedley v.
Deutsche Bank Trust Co. Ams., 676 F. App’x 860, 862 (11th Cir. 2017). If the Court
finds that the plaintiff failed to meet the requirements of Rule 56(d), summary
judgment “may be appropriate,” even where no discovery has been held. Id. (citing
Reflectone, Inc., 862 F.2d at 843). “Additionally, a party will not be entitled to
conduct further discovery under Rule 56(d) where the absence of evidence essential
to that party’s case is the result of that party’s lack of diligence in pursuing such
evidence through permitted methods of discovery.” Cordero v. Readiness
Management Support, L.C., 2012 WL 3744513, at *3 (M.D. Fla. Aug. 29, 2012)
(quoting Barfield v. Brierton, 883 F.2d 923, 932 (11th Cir. 1989)); see also City of
Miami Gardens, 931 F.3d at 1286 (noting that summary judgment may be granted
after party opposing summary judgment “has had an adequate opportunity for
discovery”). A Rule 56(d) motion will not be granted where the party “had ample
time and opportunity for discovery, yet failed to diligently pursue his options.”
Barfield, 883 F.2d at 932.
Here, K.J.C. argues that she needs to depose Finley and Gaskin to determine
if they were aware of “excessive force routinely used by their officers and the
unlawful conduct for which at least twenty-one … Montgomery Police Officers were
arrested.” K.J.C. also claims she needs to depose Finley and Gaskin because they
allegedly failed to train or prevent the City’s officers from engaging in misconduct
and because K.J.C. needs to know their exact policies and training procedures. (Doc.
54 at 14). These are topics for a deposition, not the kind of specific facts that are
required to delay summary judgment under Rule 56(d). Moreover, K.J.C. wants to
depose Finley and Gaskin about misconduct that is dissimilar to Williams’
misconduct. This is not a lawsuit about a police officer who used excessive force on
a suspect; it is a lawsuit about a police officer who allegedly raped a woman he was
supposed to help. Evidence of such dissimilar misconduct would not help K.J.C.
prove her substantive case, as explained in Section II below.
Perhaps more importantly, even if K.J.C. could identify specific, relevant facts
that she would obtain by deposing Finley and Gaskin, the blame for failing to depose
them earlier rests squarely on her own shoulders. K.J.C. had adequate time and
opportunity to depose them, yet she failed to diligently pursue her options, waiting
for other marginally relevant discovery issues to be resolved while never mentioning
the need to depose the supervising officers. A reasonably diligent party or attorney
would have moved forward during the year-long discovery period, rather than
sleeping on her rights until the discovery period had passed. See Cash v. State Farm
Fire & Cas. Co., 125 F. Supp. 2d 474, 477 (M.D. Ala. 2000). The Court will not
countenance litigious lollygagging—parties delay depositions until after the
discovery period at their own risk.2 The law provides K.J.C. the opportunity to
conduct discovery; it does not afford relief when the opportunity is squandered.
B. Rule 16(b)(4) Motion to Extend Discovery Deadlines
The Court’s scheduling order “may be modified only for good cause and with
the judge’s consent.” Fed. R. Civ. P. 16(b)(4). And the Court has “broad discretion
… to compel or deny discovery ….” Josendis v. Wall to Wall Residence Repairs,
Inc., 662 F.3d 1292, 1306 (11th Cir. 2011). In deciding whether to grant a motion to
amend, the Court is “under no obligation” to extend a discovery deadline; in fact,
the Eleventh Circuit has “often held that a district court’s decision to hold litigants
to the clear terms of its scheduling orders is not an abuse of discretion.” Id. at 1307.
For much the same reasons as the Court denies the Rule 56(d) Motion—lack
of diligence and not showing specific, relevant, discoverable facts—the Court also
finds that K.J.C. has not shown good cause to amend the scheduling order. When the
The Court also believes that K.J.C.’s actions may have been strategic. K.J.C.’s counsel is an
experienced trial lawyer. She may have avoided extensive and expensive discovery on her claim
against the City because there are underlying factual problems with K.J.C.’s case. For example,
during the criminal investigation, there were conflicting accounts about K.J.C.’s ability to consent
and whether she had consented. Presumably, these disparities are what caused the grand jury to
return a no-bill when it was asked to indict Williams. Digging into these issues during discovery
could have undermined K.J.C.’s explanation of events or prompted Williams to appear to defend
himself. A good lawyer may well have decided that the game was not worth the candle.
Court issued the order, K.J.C. had almost an entire year to conduct discovery. (Doc.
35 at 2). Despite Gaskin and Finley being parties to this case from the beginning,
K.J.C. made no effort to depose them until prompted by the City’s request to take
Nor can K.J.C. rely on the City’s failure to file a motion to extend the
discovery period as good cause. K.J.C.’s lawyer, Alicia Haynes, did not agree to the
motion. Instead, she would only join the motion after she had reviewed a draft and
if the City told the Court that its attorneys had conflicts requiring an extension. The
City was well within its rights to drop its request to conduct K.J.C’s deposition
instead of moving to extend the discovery period.
K.J.C.’s excuses do not show good cause. The Court recognizes that Haynes,
like most attorneys, is busy. But so is everyone else. That is why scheduling orders
and deadlines are so important. The scheduling order was clear, and the Court will
hold K.J.C. to its terms.
II. The City Met Its Burden for An Unopposed Summary Judgment
Apart from the motion to stay and to extend discovery, K.J.C. did not respond
to the City’s motion for summary judgment. Because the Court has denied K.J.C.’s
motion, the Court will treat the City’s motion for summary judgment as unopposed.
As the Eleventh Circuit requires in these circumstances, the Court “indicate[s] that
the merits of the motion were addressed.” One Piece of Real Property, 363 F.3d at
1102. The Court reviewed the City’s motion for summary judgment and
accompanying evidence as well as K.J.C.’s original and amended complaint and
their accompanying evidence. After finishing this review, the Court finds that the
City has provided ample evidence to support summary judgment.
Turning to the heart of K.J.C.’s suit against the City, K.J.C. alleges that the
City should be liable for Williams’ conduct under §1983. To distinguish the acts of
a municipality from the acts of an employee in a §1983 suit, the plaintiff must show
that the municipality’s policy, custom, or failure to train caused a constitutional
injury. Otherwise, the municipality enjoys immunity from §1983 suits. Monell v.
Dep’t of Soc. Servs., 436 U.S. 658, 690–91 (1978). This standard prevents municipal
liability from devolving into respondeat superior. Id. at 663 n.7. First, a policy is “a
decision that is officially adopted by the municipality, or created by an official of
such rank that he or she could be said to be acting on behalf of the municipality.”
Sewell v. Town of Lake Hamilton, 117 F.3d 488, 489 (11th Cir. 1997). Often, a
municipality’s offensive policy will manifest itself as a custom or a failure to train
rather than an express policy facilitating misconduct. Second, a custom is “a practice
that is so settled and permanent that it takes on the force of law.” Id. Third, failureto-train liability is comparatively rarer, only applying in “limited circumstances” and
“[o]nly where a failure to train reflects a ‘deliberate’ or ‘conscious’ choice by a
municipality ….” City of Canton v. Harris, 489 U.S. 378, 387, 389 (1989).
This “deliberate indifference” will usually exist only where a pattern of
similar constitutional violations puts a municipality on notice of its inadequate
training. In rare circumstances, however, a single incident may justify overriding a
municipality’s immunity. Davis v. City of Montgomery, 220 F. Supp. 3d 1275, 1284
(M.D. Ala. 2016) (quoting Bd of Cty Comm’rs v. Brown, 520 U.S. 397, 409 (1997))
(“[I]n a narrow range of circumstances a violation of federal rights may be a highly
predictable consequence of a failure to equip law enforcement officers with specific
tools to handle recurring situations.”). This single-incident liability turns on “(1) the
likelihood that a police officer will be confronted with a specific situation and (2)
the predictability that an officer, when confronted with that situation, will violate a
person’s constitutional rights.” Id.
Here, there is no evidence that the City has either an express policy or a
custom to turn a blind eye to officers sexually assaulting citizens. See Sewell, 117
F.3d at 489 (“Obviously, the Town has no policy commanding its officers to barter
arrests for sexual favors. Likewise, the Town has no custom of allowing such
behavior on the part of its officers”). In fact, the evidence shows the opposite: it
violates the City’s Workplace Rules of Conduct for an officer to be arrested for any
offense. (Doc. 48-2 at 4). Once Williams was arrested, the police department
investigated him, but he resigned before termination proceedings could be
Nor is there evidence that the City’s alleged failure to train made it highly
predictable that the City’s officers would sexually assault citizens. See Davis, 220 F.
Supp. 3d at 1285. First, there is no evidence showing a history of constitutional
violations against persons with mental disabilities such that the need for training
would have been so obvious to the City that a failure to train amounted to deliberate
indifference towards the constitutional rights of such persons. In fact, the City
provided training on sexual harassment, stress management, handling the
emotionally disturbed, and rape awareness. (Doc. 48-3 at 3–5). And Williams
acknowledged he had received training on sexual harassment. (Doc. 48-3 at 2). In
response, K.J.C. has alleged that other Montgomery police officers have been
subject to various complaints about their behavior. K.J.C. attached news reports of
two specific incidents: an off-duty officer charged with fleeing the scene of an
accident and an on-duty officer charged with excessive force amounting to murder.
(Doc. 1-4 at 2–3, 5). But these incidents do not show a pattern of constitutional
violations like the one in this case.
Second, Williams’ conduct is not the type that is contemplated by singleincident liability. While it is likely that an officer might be alone with an
intellectually disabled person, it is in no way predictable that an officer, when
confronted with that situation, would abdicate the trust placed in him by the public
and violate someone’s constitutional rights so egregiously. The evidence presented,
and Williams’ silence, indicate that Williams acted independently in committing a
constitutional tort. See Brown, 520 U.S. at 403 (recognizing “that a municipality may
not be held liable under §1983 solely because it employs a tortfeasor”). Any officer,
including Williams, should know not to engage in sexual relations while on duty
with a person whom they have been called to assist. To say nothing of sexually
assaulting an intellectually disabled person who cannot consent to sexual relations
in the first place. No City policy or training could have anticipated and prevented
this kind of egregious act.
After evaluating the merits of the City’s motion for summary judgment and
affording all favorable inferences to K.J.C., the Court cannot find substantial
evidence that the municipality’s policy, custom, or failure to train caused a
constitutional injury. Absent such evidence, the City is immune from K.J.C.’s §1983
claim, and the City’s motion for summary judgment is due to be granted.
III. Judgment Against Williams
The City and Officers Gaskin and Finley defended themselves in this case;
Williams did not. 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 tort
violations against her. Because Williams did not make an appearance, the Clerk
entered default against him.
Now that default has been entered under Rule 55(a), K.J.C. may file a motion
for default judgment under Rule 55(b)(2). The Court’s decision to grant default
judgment is discretionary, and the Court must use that discretion to avoid
inconsistent judgments. Inconsistent judgments will not be a problem in this case.
Holding Williams liable—but not the City or Officers Gaskin and Finley—would
not create a contradictory result. The Court has held that the City and the supervising
officers are not vicariously liable for Williams’ actions. But just because the City
and supervising officers are not liable does not take Williams off the hook.
Once a party defaults, the Court may enter default judgment; however, a
default judgment is a “drastic remedy which should be used only in extreme
situations.” Garrett v. U.S. Marshals Serv., 2018 WL 1100896, at *2 (M.D. Ala.
Feb. 5, 2018) (quoting Wahl v. McIver, 773 F.2d 1169, 1174 (11th Cir. 1985)). To
grant a default judgment, the court must determine whether the factual allegations
are plausible and if so, what is the proper remedy. Merely failing to defend does not
justify a recovery. “[A] defendant’s default alone does not warrant entry of a default
judgment.” UBS Fin. Services, Inc. v. Reeves, 2018 WL 3240957, at *1 (M.D. Ala.
July 3, 2018). “[A] default is not ‘an absolute confession by the defendant of his
liability and of the plaintiff’s right to recover,’ but is instead merely ‘an admission
of the facts cited in the Complaint, which by themselves may or may not be sufficient
to establish a defendant’s liability’” Id. (quoting Natures Way Marine, LLC v. N.
Am. Materials, Inc., 2008 WL 801702, at *2 (S.D. Ala. Mar. 24, 2008) (citations
There must be a sufficient basis in the pleadings for the judgment requested.
In other words, the party must still state 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 court
must assure itself that there is a “sufficient basis in the pleadings for the judgment
entered.” Nishimatsu Constr. Co. v. Houston Nat’l Bank, 515 F.2d 1200, 1206 (5th
Cir. 1975). The Eleventh Circuit has decided 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
If K.J.C. decides to move for default judgment, she needs to file a Motion for
Default Judgment with the court, showing why she is entitled to default judgment
by pointing to well-pled factual allegations from her amended complaint. K.J.C.
must then prove her damages. Judge Watkins offered a helpful sports analogy to
clarify the differences between a default judgment on the merits and a damages
an uncontested default judgment hearing on plausibility might be
thought of as a free throw shot in basketball—the net is unguarded, but
the shooter still has to get the ball in the hoop (i.e., the facts must still
be plausible). The damages hearing, however, might be more akin to
soccer’s penalty kick: there’s a goalie (judge) ensuring the plaintiff can
USAmeriBank v. Strength, 2017 WL 4767694, at *7 (M.D. Ala. Oct. 20, 2017). So,
at the potential damages hearing, the Court will receive evidence and hear testimony
to determine the proper measure of K.J.C.’s damages, if any, for the claims she has
brought against Williams.
Based on the above reasoning, the Court orders as follows:
1. Defendants’ Motion for Summary Judgment (Doc. 48) is GRANTED.
2. Plaintiff’s Motion to Defer the Motion for Summary Judgment and
Extension of Time to Complete Discovery (Doc. 54) is DENIED.
3. The trial and pre-trial conference in this matter are CANCELLED.
4. In light of the Clerk’s entry of default against Defendant Williams (Doc.
57), Plaintiff may file a motion for default judgment as explained in this
opinion. If she chooses to pursue default against Williams, Plaintiff is
DIRECTED to file her motion for default judgment on or before
November 15, 2019.
5. A nonjury evidentiary hearing is set for November 22, 2019 at 8:30am in
Courtroom 2E at which the Court will hear evidence, if any, on Plaintiff’s
anticipated motion for entry of a default judgment and compensatory and
punitive damages. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 55(b)(2); 10A Fed. Prac. & Proc.
Civ. § 2688 (4th ed. 2019). If Plaintiff wants the Court to consider any
documentary evidence, that evidence should be filed either under seal or
through the ECF system before the evidentiary hearing. If any Defendant
wants to present evidence at the hearing, they should notify Plaintiff and
the Court on or before November 19, 2019. The Court anticipates that the
hearing will take approximately one hour. The parties should inform the
Court by calling chambers if the hearing needs to be longer.
6. This case is not closed.
DONE and ORDERED this 7th day of October 2019.
/s/ Andrew L. Brasher
ANDREW L. BRASHER
UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
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