STONE v. WRIGHT et al
ORDER - For the reasons stated herein, the Court GRANTS Defendants' Motion to Dismiss, [Filing No. 5 ]. The Court DISMISSES WITH PREJUDICE, Ms. Stone's false arrest and malicious prosecution claims pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, a nd REMANDS Ms. Stone's state law claims of false arrest and malicious prosecution back to the Vermillion Circuit Court. Judgment consistent with this Order shall issue (SEE ORDER FOR ADDITIONAL INFORMATION). Signed by Judge Jane Magnus-Stinson on 8/15/2017. (DW)
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
SOUTHERN DISTRICT OF INDIANA
TERRE HAUTE DIVISION
DOYLE T. WRIGHT,
CITY OF CLINTON, INDIANA,
Plaintiff Heather Stone claims that Defendant Deputy Chief of Police for the City of
Clinton, Doyle Wright (“Deputy Chief Wright”), conspired with the Deputy Prosecutor of
Vermillion County to arrest and charge Ms. Stone with battery resulting in serious bodily injury,
a D Felony. [Filing No. 1-1 at 1-2.] On October 11, 2016, Ms. Stone initiated this litigation against
Deputy Chief Wright and the City of Clinton (collectively, “Defendants”) in state court alleging
false arrest and malicious prosecution claims pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, and state law claims
of false arrest and malicious prosecution. [Filing No. 1-1 at 1 (Second Amended Complaint);
Filing No. 1-1 at 8 (original Complaint).] Defendants filed a Notice of Removal arguing that this
Court has subject matter jurisdiction. [Filing No. 1.] Presently pending before the Court is
Defendants’ Motion to Dismiss. [Filing No. 5.] Ms. Stone opposes that motion. [Filing No. 9.]
The motion is now ripe for the Court’s review.
STANDARD OF REVIEW
Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 8(a)(2) “requires only ‘a short and plain statement of the
claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief.’” Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 93 (2007)
(quoting Fed. R. Civ. Pro. 8(a)(2)). “Specific facts are not necessary, the statement need only ‘give
the defendant fair notice of what the . . . claim is and the grounds upon which it rests.’” Erickson,
551 U.S. at 93 (quoting Bell Atlantic v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007)).
A motion to dismiss asks whether the complaint “contain[s] sufficient factual matter,
accepted as true, to ‘state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.’” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556
U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 570). In reviewing the sufficiency of a
complaint, the Court must accept all well-pled facts as true and draw all permissible inferences in
favor of the plaintiff. See Active Disposal, Inc. v. City of Darien, 635 F.3d 883, 886 (7th Cir.
2011). The Court will not accept legal conclusions or conclusory allegations as sufficient to state
a claim for relief. See McCauley v. City of Chicago, 671 F.3d 611, 617 (7th Cir. 2011). Factual
allegations must plausibly state an entitlement to relief “to a degree that rises above the speculative
level.” Munson v. Gaetz, 673 F.3d 630, 633 (7th Cir. 2012). This plausibility determination is “a
context-specific task that requires the reviewing court to draw on its judicial experience and
common sense.” Id.
The relevant background is set forth pursuant to the applicable standard of review, which
requires the Court to accept all of Ms. Stone’s well-pled allegations as true at this stage of the
On March 21, 2014, the Vermillion County Department of Child Services conducted an
investigation involving Ms. Stone and her ward, a two-year old child, regarding allegations of
injury and abuse. [Filing No. 1-1 at 2.] The Department of Child Services determined that such
allegations were unsubstantiated given that they found no evidence of injury or abuse. [Filing No.
1-1 at 2.] On May 6, 2014, Deputy Chief Wright executed a false Affidavit for Probable Cause
alleging that on March 19, 2014, Ms. Stone “touched [the child] in a rude, insolent or angry
manner, resulting in bodily injury. . . .” [Filing No. 1-1 at 1.] Despite the fact that the evidence
from the Department of Child Services determined that no injury occurred, Chief Deputy Wright
requested that felony battery charges be filed against Ms. Stone. [Filing No. 1-1 at 2.] On May 9,
2014, “knowing the charges to be false,” the Deputy Prosecutor requested and the Vermillion
Circuit Court issued a warrant for the arrest of Ms. Stone, alleging battery resulting in serious
bodily injury, a D Felony. [Filing No. 1-1 at 2.] Ms. Stone was subsequently arrested and held in
the Vermillion County Jail under a $10,000 bond. [Filing No. 1-1 at 2.] Upon her release, a “no
contact order” was issued prohibiting Ms. Stone from having contact with the child until the
conclusion of the case. [Filing No. 1-1 at 2.] On November 22, 2015, the Vermillion Circuit Court
dismissed the criminal charges against Ms. Stone. [Filing No. 1-1 at 2.] Ms. Stone “has suffered
damages by reason of such false charges, and prosecution, by her estrangement from her ward and
family, the expenses of living apart from her husband and family, the disruption of her marriage
and home and the embarrassment in her community.” [Filing No. 1-1 at 2.]
Ms. Stone filed this cause of action against Defendants in state court on October 11, 2016,
alleging false arrest and malicious prosecution claims pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, and state law
claims of false arrest and malicious prosecution.
[Filing No. 1-1 at 1 (Second Amended
Complaint); Filing No. 1-1 at 8 (original Complaint).] On February 23, 2017, Defendants removed
this litigation to this Court. [Filing No. 1.] Presently pending before the Court is Defendants’
Motion to Dismiss. [Filing No. 5.]
Defendants challenge all of Ms. Stone’s claims. [Filing No. 6 at 1.] They argue that Ms.
Stone’s § 1983 false arrest claim is time-barred by the statute of limitations. [Filing No. 6 at 7.]
They further argue that her § 1983 malicious prosecution claim fails because she does not assert a
distinct constitutional violation, and does not demonstrate that Defendants acted with malice or
without probable cause. [Filing No. 6 at 2.] With respect to Ms. Stone’s state law claims,
Defendants argue that Ms. Stone’s false arrest claim is time-barred by the Indiana Tort Claims Act
and the statute of limitations, and her malicious prosecution claim is barred by immunity. [Filing
No. 6 at 2.] The Court will first address Ms. Stone’s § 1983 claims.
A. False Arrest Claim Pursuant to § 1983
Defendants argue that Ms. Stone’s § 1983 false arrest claim fails because it is time-barred
by the statute of limitations. [Filing No. 6 at 7.] They claim that a cause of action for false arrest
“accrues, at the latest, when a Plaintiff is bound over for trial or arraigned on the charges.” [Filing
No. 6 at 7.] Defendants argue that Ms. Stone should have filed her lawsuit, at the latest, by May
11, 2016, given that there was probable cause to make an arrest on May 9, 2014, and her detention
ended on May 11, 2014. [Filing No. 6 at 7.]
In response, Ms. Stone argues that the statute of limitations began to run when her lawsuit
was dismissed on November 22, 2015, and that she had until November 22, 2017 to file her claim.
[Filing No. 9 at 2.]
Defendants did not file a reply brief.
“Section 1983 provides a federal cause of action, but in several respects relevant here
federal law looks to the law of the State in which the cause of action arose. This is so for the length
of the statute of limitations: It is that which the State provides for personal-injury torts.” Wallace
v. Kato, 549 U.S. 384, 387 (2007). In Indiana, such claims must be brought within two years.
Serino v. Hensley, 735 F.3d 588, 590 (7th Cir. 2013) (citing Ind. Code § 34-11-2-4). The Supreme
Court has held that an action for a false arrest claim begins to accrue “‘at the time the claimant
becomes detained pursuant to legal process’ – that is, when the arrestee is bound over by a
magistrate or arraigned on charges.” Serino, 735 F.3d at 591 (quoting Wallace, 549 U.S. at 397).
Ms. Stone’s argument that her false arrest claim began to accrue when her criminal case
was dismissed is unavailing. This argument was squarely rejected by the Supreme Court in
Wallace. Here, the state court issued a warrant for her arrest on May 9, 2014, Ms. Stone was
arrested on May 10, 2014, and she was released on May 11, 2014 after she posted bond. [Filing
No. 5-1 at 2.] 1 According to Wallace, Ms. Stone’s false arrest claim began to accrue when she
was detained pursuant to legal process – meaning, when a warrant was issued or when she was
bound over by a magistrate or arraigned on charges. Per the chronology set forth above, the date
when Ms. Stone’s false arrest claim began to accrue is May 9, 2014, when the court found probable
cause for battery resulting in bodily injury, issued an arrest warrant, and set an amount for bond.
[Filing No. 5-1 at 2.] Ms. Stone therefore had until May 9, 2016 to file her false arrest claim.
Instead, she waited until October 11, 2016 to file her complaint. Accordingly, her state law false
arrest claim is time-barred by the statute of limitations.
B. Malicious Prosecution Claim Pursuant to § 1983
The Defendants next argue that Ms. Stone does not allege a specific constitutional violation
and fails to satisfy the elements of a federal malicious prosecution claim. [Filing No. 6 at 13.]
They argue that Ms. Stone “fails to assert a specific constitutional violation resulting from the
alleged malicious prosecution against her.” [Filing No. 6 at 13.] They further claim that she “only
Defendants attached as an exhibit with their Motion to Dismiss the chronological case summary
of Ms. Stone’s criminal case. The Court may consider this exhibit because it is part of Ms. Stone’s
criminal case, and so it is a public record of which the Court may take judicial notice. See White
v. Keely, 814 F.3d 883, 886 n.2 (7th Cir. 2016) (“We may take judicial notice of public records,
including public court documents, in ruling on a motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6)”); Olson
v. Champaign County, Ill., 784 F.3d 1093, 1097 n.1 (7th Cir. 2015) (same principle).
alleges generally that [Chief Deputy Wright] provided false information and that he lacked
probable cause to initiate proceedings against [her],” which they claim are not sufficient
allegations to demonstrate that the Defendants acted with malice and that the proceedings were
done in the absence of probable cause. [Filing No. 6 at 14-15.]
In response, Ms. Stone argues that she has alleged a constitutional violation. [Filing No. 9
at 4.] She claims that her complaint alleges “torts of false arrest and malicious prosecution as
violations of her constitutional rights under the [Fourteenth] Amendment. . . .” [Filing No. 9 at 4.]
A federal constitutional claim of malicious prosecution under § 1983 is actionable when
no adequate state-law remedy exists. Newsome v. McCabe, 256 F.3d 747, 750-51 (7th Cir. 2001)
(citing Albright v. Oliver, 510 U.S. 266 (1994)). In Indiana, state officers and employees acting
within the scope of their employment for the “initiation of a judicial or an administrative
proceeding” are granted absolute immunity, thus opening the door for federal malicious
prosecution claims. Julian v. Hanna, 732 F.3d 842, 846-848 (7th Cir. 2013) (citing Ind. Code §
However, “[f]ederal courts are rarely the appropriate forum for malicious
prosecution claims.” Welton v. Anderson, 770 F.3d 670, 673 (7th Cir. 2014). This is because
“individuals do not have a ‘federal right not to be summoned into court and prosecuted without
probable cause.’” Id. (citations omitted). In order to state a viable malicious prosecution claim
under § 1983, a plaintiff must “alleg[e] a violation of a particular constitutional right, such as the
right to be free from unlawful seizures under the Fourth Amendment, or the right to a fair trial
under the Due Process Clause.” Id.
To state a malicious prosecution claim under § 1983, a plaintiff must demonstrate that (1)
she has satisfied the elements of a state law cause of action for malicious prosecution; (2) the
malicious prosecution was committed by state actors; and (3) she was deprived of liberty or was
subject to some other constitutional deprivation. Welton, 770 F.3d at 674 (citations omitted).
Under Indiana law, “the elements of a malicious prosecution action are: (1) the defendant instituted
or caused to be instituted an action against the plaintiff; (2) the defendant acted maliciously in so
doing; (3) the defendant had no probable cause to institute the action; and (4) the original action
was terminated in the plaintiff’s favor.” Id. (citing Golden Years Homestead, Inc. v. Buckland,
557 F.3d 457, 462 (7th Cir. 2009)). Malice may be shown “by evidence of personal animosity or
inferred from a complete lack of probable cause or a failure to conduct an adequate investigation
under the circumstances.” Welton, 770 F.3d at 674.
In her Second Amended Complaint, Ms. Stone alleges generally that Chief Deputy Wright
executed a false Affidavit for Probable Cause accusing Ms. Stone of a felony battery, Chief Deputy
Wright conspired with the Deputy Prosecutor to charge Ms. Stone with a felony battery without
probable cause, Ms. Stone was wrongfully arrested and detained under a $10,000 bond, and the
Vermillion Circuit Court dismissed her charges one year later. [Filing No. 1-1 at 1-2.] She claims
that Defendants committed the torts of false arrest and malicious prosecution, and a violation of
Ms. Stone’s rights under the Fourteenth Amendment. [Filing No. 1-1 at 2-3.] These allegations
are insufficient to state a claim for malicious prosecution pursuant to § 1983. Defendants rely on
Welton, which is directly on point to this case. In Welton, the plaintiff failed to state a predicate
constitutional violation in support of his malicious prosecution claim. 770 F.3d at 673. Welton
noted that “[m]alicious prosecution is not by itself an infringement on the constitutional right to
due process under the Fourteenth Amendment. . . . It must also be based on a separate deprivation
of a constitutional right.” Id at 674. Here, Ms. Stone’s claim of malicious prosecution predicated
solely upon an alleged constitutional violation under the Fourteenth Amendment. She fails to base
her federal malicious prosecution claim on the violation of a separate constitutional right, “such as
the right to be free from unlawful seizures under the Fourth Amendment, or the right to a fair trial
under the Due Process Clause.” Id. at 673.
In any event, even if Ms. Stone had sufficiently alleged a predicate constitutional violation,
she still failed to allege sufficient facts that demonstrate that Defendants acted maliciously and
without probable cause. In Welton, the Seventh Circuit pointed out that the plaintiff “offers no
facts purporting to show malice. Instead, he merely concludes that [the officer’s] behavior was
malicious and that the result of her conduct was a prosecution without probable cause. Such
conclusory allegations, without more, are insufficient to state a claim.” Id. at 674. Likewise here,
Ms. Stone has failed to allege any facts that demonstrate that Defendants acted with malice, and
merely provided a conclusory allegation that Chief Deputy Wright acted without probable cause.
Accordingly, Ms. Stone has failed to state a § 1983 malicious prosecution claim.
C. Ms. Stone’s State Law Claims
Because Ms. Stone’s § 1983 false arrest and malicious prosecution claims are dismissed
pursuant to this Order, her only remaining claims are state law claims of false arrest and malicious
prosecution. The Court must now determine whether it retains jurisdiction over the litigation.
A district court ultimately has discretion whether to exercise supplemental jurisdiction over
a plaintiff’s state law claims. Carlsbad Tech., Inc. v. HIF Bio, Inc., 556 U.S. 635, 639 (2009); 28
U.S.C. § 1367(c) (“The district courts may decline to exercise supplemental jurisdiction over a
claim . . . if . . . the district court has dismissed all claims over which it has original jurisdiction . .
. .”) (citation and quotation omitted).
When deciding whether to exercise supplemental
jurisdiction, “a federal court should consider and weigh in each case, and at every stage of the
litigation, the values of judicial economy, convenience, fairness, and comity.” City of Chicago v.
Int’l Coll. of Surgeons, 522 U.S. 156, 173 (1997) (quoting Carnegie-Mellon Univ. v. Cohill, 484
U.S. 343, 350 n.7 (1988)). “In the usual case in which all federal claims are dismissed before trial,
the balance of these factors will point to declining to exercise jurisdiction over any remaining
pendent state-law claims rather than resolving them on the merits.” Wright v. Associated Ins.
Companies Inc., 29 F.3d 1244, 1251 (7th Cir. 1994).
This case was originally filed in state court until Defendants removed it to this Court on
February 23, 2017. The lawsuit is still in the early stages of the litigation, given that Defendants
have filed only one motion to dismiss since its removal to this Court, and the parties have not
committed significant resources to the litigation in this forum. Moreover, the claims that remain
are exclusively matters of state law. Given these considerations, the factors weigh in favor of
declining to exercise supplemental jurisdiction. The Court therefore dismisses Ms. Stone’s state
law claims for lack of jurisdiction.
For the reasons stated herein, the Court GRANTS Defendants’ Motion to Dismiss, [Filing
No. 5]. The Court DISMISSES WITH PREJUDICE, Ms. Stone’s false arrest and malicious
prosecution claims pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, and REMANDS Ms. Stone’s state law claims
of false arrest and malicious prosecution back to the Vermillion Circuit Court.
consistent with this Order shall issue.
Distribution via ECF only to all counsel of record
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