Rigas v. The City of Rogersville, Alabama et al
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER that the Motion to Dismiss is GRANTED and all claims against the Town of Rogersville, Alabama, are DISMISSED with prejudice and Count III is DISMISSED in its entirety but the claims asserted in Counts I, II, and IV against Officer Shireman remain pending; costs are taxed to plaintiff as more fully set out in order. Signed by Judge C Lynwood Smith, Jr on 1/31/2013. (AHI)
2013 Jan-31 AM 09:30
U.S. DISTRICT COURT
N.D. OF ALABAMA
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
NORTHERN DISTRICT OF ALABAMA
SPIROS PETE RIGAS,
THE CITY OF ROGERSVILLE,
ALABAMA, et al.,
Civil Action No. CV-12-S-2401-NW
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
This case is before the court on a motion to dismiss by defendant Town1 of
Rogersville, Alabama (“the Town”).2 Plaintiff, Spiros Pete Rigas, commenced this
action in the Circuit Court of Lauderdale County, Alabama, on June 8, 2012.3
Defendants, the Town and Officer Jason Shireman, timely removed the case on July
6, 2012, based on federal question jurisdiction.4 Plaintiff’s complaint contains four
counts: (1) a claim for assault and battery against Officer Shireman; (2) a claim for
false imprisonment/false arrest against Officer Shireman and, apparently, the Town;
(3) a claim for negligent supervision and training against the Town; and (4) a claim
Defendant informed the court that plaintiff’s complaint incorrectly characterizes
Rogersville as a city, when, in fact, it is a town. Doc. no. 2 (Motion to Dismiss), at 1 n.1. The court
will refer to defendant accordingly.
Doc. no. 2 (Motion to Dismiss).
See doc. no. 1 (Notice of Removal).
that plaintiff’s Fourth Amendment rights were violated by Officer Shireman and the
Town.5 The Town seeks dismissal of all the claims against it.6
I. LEGAL STANDARDS
Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b) permits a party to move to dismiss a
complaint for, among other reasons, “failure to state a claim upon which relief can be
granted.” Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(6). This rule must be read together with Rule 8(a),
which requires that a pleading contain only a “short and plain statement of the claim
showing that the pleader is entitled to relief.” Fed. R. Civ. P. 8(a)(2). While that
pleading standard does not require “detailed factual allegations,” Bell Atlantic Corp.
v. Twombly, 544 U.S. 544, 550 (2007), it does demand “more than an unadorned, thedefendant-unlawfully-harmed-me accusation.” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678
(2009) (citations omitted).
To survive a motion to dismiss, a complaint must contain
sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to “state a claim to relief that
is plausible on its face.” [Bell Atlantic Corp., 550 U.S.] at 570. A claim
has facial plausibility 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 556. The plausibility standard
is not akin to a “probability requirement,” but it asks for more than a
sheer possibility that a defendant has acted unlawfully. Ibid. Where a
complaint pleads facts that are “merely consistent with” a defendant’s
Doc. no. 1 (Notice of Removal), at ECF 11-23 (Plaintiff’s Complaint). Plaintiff’s
complaint was contained within the defendants’ notice of removal. For simplicity, further citations
to the complaint will simply reference its numbered paragraphs (e.g., Complaint ¶ 1).
Doc. no. 2 (Motion to Dismiss).
liability, it “stops short of the line between possibility and plausibility of
‘entitlement to relief.’” Id., at 557 (brackets omitted).
Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678 (alteration supplied). Moreover, a court need not accept a
complaint’s legal conclusions as true. Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678-79 (2009).
As always is the case in the context of ruling upon a motion to dismiss, the
district court is required to assume that
the facts set forth in the plaintiff’s complaint are true. See Anza [v. Ideal
Steel Supply Corp.], 547 U.S. 451, [453,] 126 S. Ct.[1991,] 1994
[(2006)] (stating that on a motion to dismiss, the court must “accept as
true the factual allegations in the amended complaint”); Marsh v. Butler
County, 268 F.3d 1014, 1023 (11th Cir. 2001) (en banc) (setting forth
the facts in the case by “[a]ccepting all well-pleaded factual allegations
(with reasonable inferences drawn favorably to Plaintiffs) in the
complaint as true”). Because we must accept the allegations of
plaintiff’s complaint as true, what we set out in this opinion as “the
facts” for Rule 12(b)(6) purposes may not be the actual facts.
Williams v. Mohawk Industries, Inc., 465 F.3d 1277, 1281 n.1 (11th Cir. 2006)
II. FACTS AS ALLEGED
The Town of Rogersville is a municipal corporation located in Lauderdale
County, Alabama.7 At all relevant times, the Town employed Officer Shireman as a
member of its police department.8
Complaint ¶ 2.
Id. ¶¶ 31, 36.
Plaintiff, who lives in Rogersville, was at his residence on March 14, 2011.9
Around 9 p.m., Officer Shireman began loudly knocking on plaintiff’s front door with
such force that plaintiff feared the door was going to be damaged.10 Plaintiff answered
the door and asked Officer Shireman the reason for his behavior.11 Officer Shireman
responded by threatening to arrest plaintiff.12 Plaintiff answered that he had not
committed a crime, at which point Officer Shireman accused him of using drugs and,
again, threatened to arrest him.13 Plaintiff denied the accusation and then repeatedly
(but to no avail) asked Officer Shireman to leave his property.14
Plaintiff, apparently standing just outside his front door, turned to reenter his
home.15 At that moment, Officer Shireman penned plaintiff against an exterior wall,
and a fracas ensued.16 Plaintiff scrambled for the door “to escape further harm,” but
Officer Shireman leveraged himself inside the door and began bludgeoning plaintiff
on the head with a metal baton.17 Plaintiff then pushed Officer Shireman out the
doorway, shut the door, and called 911 to request deputies from the Lauderdale
Id. ¶ 11.
Id. ¶¶ 12-13.
Id. ¶ 14.
Complaint ¶ 15.
Id. ¶ 16.
Id. ¶ 17.
Id. ¶ 17.
County Sheriff’s Office.18 Plaintiff also called his mother and asked her to come
home. Once she and the sheriff’s deputies arrived, plaintiff exited his residence and
was arrested.19 An ambulance transported plaintiff to the Eliza Coffee Memorial
Hospital, where he received treatment for the injuries inflicted by Officer Shireman.20
Two days after the encounter at plaintiff’s home (i.e., on March 16, 2011),
Officer Shireman swore a complaint against plaintiff for assault, escape, and resisting
arrest.21 Officer Shireman also signed “the Certificate of Execution of the Warrant of
Arrest.”22 When procuring the arrest warrant, Officer Shireman made knowingly false
statements to judicial officers about plaintiff, which plaintiff alleges caused him to be
unlawfully confined.23 Ultimately, the grand jury of Lauderdale County refused to
return an indictment against plaintiff.24
Plaintiff presented a notice and affidavit of his claims to the Town on August
30, 2011.25 Plaintiff generally accuses the Town of “negligent acts” for “knowingly,
recklessly, or with gross negligence fail[ing] to instruct, supervise, control, and/or
Id. ¶¶ 17-18.
Complaint ¶ 20.
Id. ¶ 21
Id. ¶ 27.
Id. ¶ 27.
Id. ¶ 28.
Id. ¶ 38.
Complaint ¶ 22.
discipline” Officer Shireman.26 The Town, according to plaintiff, either knew, or
should have known that “the wrongs conspired to be done [by Officer Shireman were]
about to be committed,” and the Town could have prevented them.27
Count II: False Arrest/False Imprisonment
Count II is a state-law claim for false arrest/false imprisonment, but the
complaint is not entirely clear about stating the parties against whom that claim is
asserted. The facts specifically alleged in Count II are that Office Shireman: (1)
swore a complaint against plaintiff for assault, escape, and resisting arrest on March
16, 2011, as well as signing the “Certification of Execution of the Warrant of Arrest”;
and (2) intentionally caused plaintiff to be falsely arrested and wrongly imprisoned
by providing knowingly false statements to judicial officers.28 However, plaintiff then
describes his injuries “[a]s a direct and proximate consequence of the Defendants[’]
intentional conduct.”29 The Town has assumed in its motion that it is a defendant to
Count II under the theory of respondeat superior.
Id. ¶¶ 33-34.
Id. ¶ 40.
Id. ¶¶ 27-28.
Id. ¶ 29.
Alabama law sets forth the conditions upon which the Town may be held liable
for money damages. In this case, the relevant statute provides that
[n]o city or town shall be liable for damages for injury done to or wrong
suffered by any person or corporation, unless such injury or wrong was
done or suffered through the neglect, carelessness, or unskillfulness of
some agent, officer, or employee of the municipality engaged in work
therefor and while acting in the line of his or her duty . . . .
Ala. Code § 11-47-190 (1975) (2008 Replacement Vol.) (emphasis and alteration
supplied). Thus, the Town’s liability is limited to negligence claims, and claims
asserted against it based on intentional, willful, or reckless actions are barred. See
Cremeens v. City of Montgomery, 779 So. 2d 1190, 1201 (Ala. 2000); Altmayer v. City
of Daphne, 613 So. 2d 366, 369 (Ala. 1993); Thurmond v. City of Huntsville, 904 So.
2d 314, 316 n.2 (Ala. Civ. App. 2004) (“Negligence is the sole basis for liability
against a municipality in Alabama.”) (citing Hilliard v. City of Huntsville, 585 So. 2d
889 (Ala. 1991)); see also Roberts v. City of Geneva, 114 F. Supp. 2d 1199, 1213
(M.D. Ala. 2000). As recently as 2009, the Supreme Court of Alabama reiterated that
“a municipality cannot be held liable for the intentional torts of its employees.”
Wheeler v. George, 39 So. 3d 1061, 1085 (Ala. 2009).
Yet other cases hold that a municipality is not immune from a claim of false
imprisonment. See, e.g., Borders v. City of Huntsville, 875 So. 2d 1168, 1183-84
(Ala. 2003); Franklin v. City of Huntsville, 670 So. 2d 848, 852 (Ala. 1995); see also
Scheuerman v. City of Huntsville, 499 F. Supp. 2d 1205, 1227 (N.D. Ala. 2007);
Hawkins v. City of Greenville, 101 F. Supp. 2d 1356, 1365 (M.D. Ala. 2000). The
justification for that result is that a false imprisonment claim “can be based on less
than intentional conduct, so that [such] a claim is not barred as against a
municipality.” Romero v. City of Clanton, 220 F. Supp. 2d 1313, 1319 n.6 (M.D. Ala.
2002) (emphasis and alteration supplied). Thus, false imprisonment claims against
an Alabama municipality are barred when intentional conduct is alleged, but
permitted when “a plaintiff alleges a factual pattern that demonstrates neglect,
carelessness, or unskillfulness.” Franklin, 670 So. 2d at 852; Hawkins, 101 F. Supp.
2d at 1365. The claim against the Town in Count II falls into the former category and,
therefore, is due to be dismissed. See Romero, 220 F. Supp. 2d at 1319 (dismissing
false imprisonment claim against a city based on intentional conduct); Rose v. Town
of Jackson’s Gap, 952 F. Supp. 757, 767 n.15 (M.D. Ala. 1996) (dismissing false
imprisonment claim against a town because plaintiff failed to plead negligence).
Plaintiff repeatedly refers to the intentional conduct of Officer Shireman individually,
or the defendants collectively: “Defendant Shireman intentionally caused the Plaintiff
to be falsely arrested”; “As a result of the defendant’s intentional conduct, the Plaintiff
was held against his will”; and, “As a direct and proximate consequence of the
Defendants intentional conduct,” plaintiff suffered injuries.30 Consequently, the claim
alleged against the Town in Count II is due to be dismissed.
Count III: Negligent Supervision and Training Against the Town
Count III alleges a claim against the Town for its negligent supervision and
training of Officer Shireman. However, parts of Count III also accuse the Town of
knowing, reckless, and intentional action.31 As the Town observes, to the extent that
“any intentional tort claims . . . may be buried in Count III,”32 such claims are due to
be dismissed for the same reasons discussed in the previous section.
In addition, plaintiff fails to state a claim for negligent supervision and training.
Such a cause of action requires “proof of the employer’s actual or constructive
awareness of the employee’s incompetency.” Ott v. City of Mobile, 169 F. Supp. 2d
(S.D. Ala. 2001) (citing Big B, Inc. v. Cottingham, 634 So. 2d 999, 1002-03 (Ala.
1993)); see also Voyager Insurance Companies v. Whitson, 867 So. 2d 1065, 1073
(Ala. 2003); Mardis v. Robbins Tire & Rubber Co., 669 So. 2d 885, 889 (Ala. 1995);
Andazola v. Logan’s Roadhouse, Inc., 871 F. Supp. 2d 1186, 1224-25 (N.D. Ala.
Id. ¶¶ 28-29.
Complaint ¶¶ 33-34.
Doc. no. 3, at 5 n.4.
Plaintiff accuses the Town of “knowingly [and] with gross negligence fail[ing]
to instruct, supervise, control and/or discipline [Officer] Shireman in a reasonable
manner.”33 He also alleges that the Town “had knowledge, or should have had
knowledge,” of Officer Shireman’s purported “conspir[acy]” to arrest him.34 But
plaintiff fails to provide any specific facts that would support an inference that the
Town either had, or should have had, knowledge of Officer Shireman’s intentions.
Instead, plaintiff offers only conclusory statements that formulaically recite one of the
elements of a negligent supervision and training claim. See Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678-79;
Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555, 570. Accordingly, this claim also is due to be dismissed.
Count IV: The § 1983 Claim Against the Town
Count IV is a claim asserted against the Town under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 for
violation of plaintiff’s Fourth Amendment rights based on the actions of Officer
Shireman.35 Under Monell v. Department of Social Services, 436 U.S. 658 (1978), a
municipality cannot be liable under a theory of respondeat superior. Id. at 691-92.
Instead, plaintiff must show that some official “policy or custom” of the municipality
resulted in a constitutional violation. Id. at 694; see also Board of Commissioners v.
Brown, 520 U.S. 397, 403 (1997); Gold v. City of Miami, 151 F.3d 1356, 1350 (11th
Complaint ¶ 33 (alteration supplied).
Id. ¶ 40.
Id. ¶¶ 35-41.
Cir. 1998). “In order for a plaintiff to demonstrate a policy or custom, it is generally
necessary to show a persistent and wide-spread practice.” McDowell v. Brown, 392
F.3d 1283, 1290 (11th Cir. 2004) (internal quotations and citations omitted). “Such
a showing is a necessary element in order for municipal liability to exist under §
1983.” Fullman v. Graddick, 739 F.2d 553 (11th Cir. 1984).
Given the preceding, well-established principles, plaintiff fails to state a claim
against the Town. As the Town succinctly states in its brief:
Nowhere in the complaint does plaintiff ever identify — generally or
specifically — any policy or custom of the Town which caused the
alleged violations of his Fourth Amendment rights. Nor does plaintiff
plead any actual facts (as opposed to legal conclusions) even supporting
an inference that a policy or custom of the Town led to his alleged
Plaintiff does not challenge those observations. Instead, he begs the court that he “be
allowed the opportunity to conduct discovery on his claims.”37 The court will not
indulge a fishing expedition. Plaintiff’s § 1983 claim against the Town is due to be
dismissed, regardless of whether it is based on a respondeat superior theory, or an
“official policy or custom” theory. See Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678-79; Twombly, 550 U.S.
at 555, 570; Monell, 436 U.S. at 691-92.
Doc. no. 3 (Brief in Support of Motion to Dismiss), at 13.
Doc. no. 7 (Response Brief in Opposition to Motion to Dimiss) ¶ 11.
For all of the reasons stated above, the Town’s motion to dismiss is
All claims against the Town are DISMISSED with prejudice.
Accordingly, Count III is DISMISSED in its entirety, but the claims asserted in
Counts I, II, and IV against Officer Shireman remain pending. Costs are taxed to
DONE and ORDERED this 31st day of January, 2013.
United States District Judge
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