Stewart v. McBride et al

Filing 25

ORDER denying 9 Motion to Dismiss, dismissing with prejudice counts 3-6, and lifting stay on discovery. Parties shall confer as required by Local Rule 26.1 by 7/4/2017 and, by 7/11/2017, parties shall submit a joint Rule 26 (f) Report. (See Order of 6/15/2016). Signed by Chief Judge J. Randal Hall on 06/27/2017. (pts)

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IN THE UNITED FOR THE STATES DISTRICT SOUTHERN DISTRICT COURT OF GEORGIA AUGUSTA DIVISION DONTE STEWART, Plaintiff, * * * WILLIAM MCBRIDE and WESLEY CV 116-021 * MARTIN, Defendants ORDER The Fourth "unreasonable This Amendment searches and protection prohibits protects seizures." a police individuals U.S. officer Const, from amend. IV. from using deadly force to stop a fleeing non-violent suspect unless the suspect is a serious threat to the officer or the public. v. Cox, 343 F.3d 1323, 1333 (11th Cir. 2003). facts alleged in Plaintiff's complaint, See Vaughan According to the Plaintiff attempted to flee his apartment after someone complained about a party he was throwing. Defendant Wesley Martin saw him leaving and opened fire on his car. Plaintiff has now sued Officer Martin using excessive force. for failing to for He has also sued Chief William McBride adequately supervise Officer Martin. Chief McBride moves to dismiss the claim against him, arguing that he is entitled to qualified alleged facts that, violated clearly McBride's motion Because when taken as true, established (doc. the law, Plaintiff has show that Chief McBride the Court DENIES Chief 9). I. Accepting immunity. Background facts alleged in Plaintiff's complaint as true and viewing the allegations in the light most favorable to Plaintiff, as the Court Martinez, 480 F.3d this are as case Plaintiff, his must, 1043, see Am. 1057 follows. (11th On the United Life Cir. night 2007), of Ins. v. facts the Co. of February 20, 2014, a student at Augusta University,1 hosted a party at on-campus apartment. (See Doc. 1, Compl. 11 14, 17.) Someone — presumably a neighbor - called in a noise complaint to the complex's Resident Advisor. policy, Resident Advisors were (Id. 1 17.) required Under university to assistance when they investigated noise complaints. seek police (Id. 1 16.) Thus, after receiving the call about Plaintiff's apartment, the Resident Advisor contacted campus police, including Officer Martin, and several officers, (Id. 11 17- Plaintiff left the apartment, got in responded to the call. 18.) During the inquiry, his car, and attempted Officer Martin, 1 At the University. to leave the complex. (Id. SI 19.) who had remained in the parking lot, overheard time, Augusta University was known as Georgia Regents on a radio that someone was attempting to leave the complex and parked his As tried he car near to the leave Martin and stopped his saw Plaintiff, he parking the parking car. drew lot's his Officer to drive Martin continued car ten times. Officer force. In (Id. 2010, with Gibbons attempted has to a Officer a paper "became from and, fire his saw 113-14.) Officer When Officer Martin without (IcL_ \l 19.) Officer M Plaintiff then Martin, gun, provocation, and as striking he did, Plaintiff's SI 121.) Martin driving Martin away (Id. Plaintiff 115.) weapon "shot [Plaintiff] in the face." attempted lot, 1 (Id. exit. to history Martin tag using stopped on his car. explain outraged" of that Frederick tag and arrested Mr. him so tightly that his wrists bled. 1 (Id. his disproportionate 49.) was for When Mr. valid, Gibbons, (Id. ) Gibbons Officer handcuffing In 2012, Officer Martin stopped Mr. Gibbons a second time for not having a valid tag. and (Id. 1 65.) this time Officer Martin once again "became outraged," he tased Mr. Gibbons five times, justification, while Mr. Gibbons was iiji his car. without (Id. 66-67.) In fact, Officer Martin later admitted that he tased Mr. Gibbons because (Id. Mr. 1 69.) Gibbons did not Then, in 2013, roll his window down far enough. Officer Martin stopped Keith James 2 Mr. Gibbons sued Officer Martin and ChfLef McBride in this Court over this incident. See Gibbons v. McBride, 124 F. Supp. 3d 1342 (S.D. Ga. 2015). for speeding. without 1 (Id. reason, 77.) Officer shoot Mr. James. James attempted Martin 11 (Id. to As drive Public events. appointed his Mr. gun and threatened for his as he did, Chief of 86.) The life, Officer University, an Police knew to Mr. Martin investigator and Director of about to each these into look of both and he received a use-of-force report about Officer Martin's shooting at Mr. 71, car, Fearing and incidents involving Mr. Gibbons, 51, James's (IcL 15 78-81.) William McBride, He drew away, Safety at Augusta approached 77-78.) began shooting at his car.3 Defendant he investigator both James. times (Id. determined SIS! that Officer Martin was justified in his use of force on Mr. Gibbons, and the report concerning Mr. Martin acted appropriately. James concluded (IdL 11 53, 72, 86.) adopted each of these findings, filed this Officer Chief McBride and Plaintiff alleges that he did so to avoid punishing Officer Martin. Plaintiff that lawsuit in (See id. SISI 91-93.) February 2014 asserting various claims under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against Officer Martin and Chief McBride Since then, claims fail in their individual and official capacities. Plaintiff has stipulated that his official-capacity and excessive-force has dismissed claim against all but Officer two counts: Martin; and (1) (2) an a 3 Plaintiff also alleges that Officer Martin used excessive force on at least two other individuals and that Chief McBride knew about these events. (See Compl. II 54-64.) supervisory-liability claim against Chief McBride. Chief McBride now moves to dismiss the claim against him.4 II. Legal Standard In considering a motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6), Court tests the legal sufficiency of the complaint. Rhodes, 416 U.S. 232, 236 (1974). the Scheuer v. The Court must accept as true all facts alleged in the complaint and construe all reasonable inferences in Hoffman-Pugh The Court, the v. light most Ramsey, however, 312 79 F.3d need not only well-pleaded facts. favorable 1222, accept to the 1225 plaintiff. (11th Cir. legal conclusions See 2002). as true, Ashcroft v. ijqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678- (2009). A complaint also must "contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to 'state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.'" 550 U.S. 544, "factual Id. at 678 570 content inference that alleged." Id. (2007)). that the (citing Bell Atl. Corp. Twombly, A plaintiff is required to plead allows the defendant is court to liable draw for the the reasonable misconduct "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." 4 Federal v. Id. Plaintiff voluntarily dismissed counts three through six under Rule of Civil Procedure 41 (a) (1) (A) (i) . For the sake of completeness, the Court DISMISSES these claims Without prejudice. Ill. Under official right. 42 U.S.C. liable Discussion § 1983, a plaintiff may hold a government for causing the deprivation of a constitutional Plaintiff seeks to hold Chief McBride liable for Officer Martin's actions McBride moves under to a supervisory-liability dismiss that claim, theory. asserting Chief qualified immunity. "Qualified government officials their conduct 2002) offers sued in complete their protection individual for capacities if 'does not violate clearly established statutory or constitutional known/" immunity rights Vinyard v. of which Wilson, (quoting Harlow v. a reasonable 311 Fitzgerald, F.3d 1340, 457 U.S. For qualified immunity to be available, person would have 1346 800, (11th 818 Cir. (1982)). a government official must show that he was acting within his discretionary authority at the time of the allegedly wrongful act. done that, "the burden shifts Id. Once he has to the1 plaintiff to show that qualified immunity is not appropriate." Id. (citation omitted) to decide (internal quotation marks omitted). Courts use a two-part analysis whether government official is entitled to qualified immunity. a First, a court must decide whether the plaintiff has alleged a violation of a constitutional right. Saucier v. Katz, 533 U.S. 194, 201 (2001) . If he has, then the court must decide constitutional right was "clearly established." Here, his whether that Id. it is undisputed that Chief McBride was acting within discretionary authority at the time of the alleged events. The Court is therefore concerned only with whether Chief McBride violated a clearly established constitutional right. A. Whether Chief McBride Violated a Constitutional Right Plaintiff § 1983 based established liable contends on in under a Circuit 1983 on liability." Cottone v. Rather, (citation the for subordinates 2003) Chief McBride supervisory-liability this § that that the basis of omitted) "It acts superior 326 F.3d 1352, or 1360 quotation marks under is officials unconstitutional (internal liable theory. supervisory respondeat Jenne, is well are of not their vicarious (11th Cir. omitted). supervisors may face liability1 for their subordinates' acts "when the supervisor personally participates in the alleged unconstitutional conduct between the actions or when there is a causal of a supervising official constitutional deprivation." Id. connection and the alleged A plaintiff can establish the necessary causal connection by, among other things, showing that a supervisor's indifference to custom or constitutional policy rights. results Id. in deliberate A plaintiff will prevail on a supervisory-liability claim when he shows that a supervisor was aware of a subordinate's past constitutional deprivations and thus of the need for more supervision. at 1361-62 (holding that supervisory defendants did Cf. not id. commit constitutional violations but noting that the plaintiffs did not allege that the subordinates'] subordinates] defendants failure to "had any monitor had any past history, knowledge inmates 2013 WL 2155465, (denying motion to dismiss at where *6-7 (N.D. Ga. a supervisor subordinate's "problematic history and yet to protect the public against him"); Fla. Sept. 19, 2005) of No. 1:12-CV- May was 17, aware 2013) of a failed to take steps Wilson ex rel. Wilson v. Miami-Dade Cty., No. 04-23250-CIV, *4 (S.D. [the or ejven a prior incident, failing to monitor inmates"); Murdock v.. Cobb Cty., 01743-RWS, [the that or of Estate of 2005 WL 3597737, at (denying motion to dismiss where the county was aware of "other incidents of similar conduct," which supported "a theory that there was a failure to supervise or train"). Here, Plaintiff has sufficiently alleged that Chief McBride committed a constitutional violation. He has alleged that although Chief McBride was aware of Officer Martin's record of using excessive force, Chief McBride took no corrective action. Indeed, according to Plaintiff, Martin's prior conduct. Chief McBride ratified Officer Thus, at this stage of the litigation, the Court is satisfied that Plaintiff hks established that Chief McBride failed to adequately supervise Officer Martin and thus "failed to take steps to Murdock, 2013 WL 2155465, protect the public against him." at *7. B. Whether the Law was Clearly Established The inquiry into whether a constitutional right was clearly established specific typically context proposition." of inquiry established is Id. his conduct at 202. similar Cir. in whether was be the Saucier, dispositive that "must undertaken case, 533 as at in broad 201. U.S. it would be light a not determining unlawful in whether clear the "The a to a right of general relevant, is clearly reasonable situation he the officer confronted." A plaintiff must often point to case law involving facts. 2009) . See Oliver v. But factual Fiorino, 586 similarity with F.3d a 898, prior 907 case (11th is not necessary as long as the unlawfulness pf the act is "apparent from pre-existing law." (11th Cir. rule if it 2011) . is Coffin v. Indeed, "obvious Brandau, a plaintiff may that the general specific situation in question." 557, 563 (11th Cir. The law And as 1013 rely on a general rule Youm&ns v. applies Gagnon, to the 626 F.3d 2010). concerning supervisory clear at the time of the shooting. 1360. 642 F.3d 999, Chief McBride concedes, liability was See Cottone, clearly undeniably 326 F.3d at established law prohibited Officer Martin from shooting Plaintiff as he tried to flee an investigation into a noise complaint. 9 See Tennessee v. Garner, 471 1276, 1281-82 violated a excessive cause U.S. 1, 11-12 (11th Cir. plaintiff's force that when the he harm or escape); Vaughan ("Under Garner, that v. the Kirkwood, a shooting F.3d that right to plaintiff committed 343 v. (concluding Amendment shot the Cox, Morton 2013) Fourth plaintiff physical (1985); crime was 1323, 707 an be officer free without 1332 to (11th from probable involving necessary F.3d serious prevent Cir. 2003) a police officer can use deadly force to prevent the escape of a fleeing non-violent felony suspect only when the suspect poses an immediate threat of serious harm to police officers or others."). The only established remaining law question required Chief therefore McBride to is whether clearly supervise Officer Martin in a way that would prevent further harm to the public. The Court is satisfied that it did because "the need for more or different [supervision was] obvious." 30 F.3d 1390, 1397-98 (11th Cir. severity of and Chief McBride's alleged prior misconduct, 3d 1342, 1372 (S.D. Ga. Considering the it was obvious that corrective action legal rule, alleged in the complaint. 1994). knowledge of Officer Martin's was necessary to protect the public. somewhat general Belcher v. City of Foley, And although this is a it clearly applies to the facts See Gibbons v. McBride, 2015). 10 124 F. Supp. Because McBride Plaintiff violated clearly has alleged established entitled to qualified immunity at The Court thus DENIES In sum, (doc. six. 9) and law, this Chief McBride's IV. facts showing Chief to Chief McBride stage of the motion that is not litigation. dismiss. Conclusion the Court DENIES Chief McBride's motion to dismiss DISMISSES WITHOUT PREJUDICE counts three The Court also LIFTS the stay on discovery (doc. through 15). ORDER ENTERED at Augusta, Georgia this (o^7^day °f June, 2017. J. R^NltAr «ALL, /HTOF JUDGE UNITED/STATES DISTRICT COURT SOUTHERN DISTRICT OF GEORGIA 11

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