Collins et al v. Wilburn et al
MEMORANDUM OPINION & ORDER, Defendant's Garret Roberts, Officer Keefer, Officer Wilhite in their Official Capacities, Lawrence County and Lawrence County Sheriff's Dept 7 MOTION to Dismiss or in the Alternative for s/j be SUSTAINED; and all claims of plaintiff against the official capacity defendants, Lawrence County, and Lawrence County Sheriff be and are DISMISSED WITH PREJUDICE; THIS IS AN INTERLOCUTORY AND NON-APPEALABLE ORDER. Signed by Judge Henry R. Wilhoit, Jr on 1/12/17.(SMT)cc: COR
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
EASTERN DISTRICT OF KENTUCKY
Civil Action No. 16-68-HRW
ESTATE OF BILLY COLLINS, JR.,
BILLY JOE COLLINS, ADMINISTRATOR,
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
STEPHEN WILBURN, et al.,
This matter is before the Court upon Defendants Garret Roberts, Officer Keefer, Officer
Wilhite in their Official Capacities, Lawrence County and Lawrence County Sheriffs
Depattment Motion to Dismiss or in the Alternative for Summary Judgment [Docket No. 7]. The
motion has been fully briefed [Docket Nos. 10 and 11]. For the reasons set forth herein, the
Court finds that Plaintiff has failed to state a claim against Garret Roberts, Officer Keefer,
Officer Wilhite in their Official Capacities and against Lawrence County and Lawrence County
Sheriffs Department with regard to the state claims against the two entities.
This case arises from an incident, during which he was in the custody of the Louisa City
Police Department, Plaintiff's father, Billy Collins, Jr. was tasered and beaten [Complaint, 'if'il 15
and 16]. Plaintiff alleges that the incident resulted in his father's death. Plaintiff, on behalf of
the Estate Jr. Billy Joseph Collins, filed this action in Lawrence Circuit Court on against
Defendants Stephen Wilburn, individually and in his official capacity; Jordan Miller, individually
and in his official capacity; Greg Fugitt, individually and in his official capacity; the Louisa City
Police Depaitment; City of Louisa, Kentucky, GatTett Roberts, individually and in his official
capacity; Officer Keefer, individually and in his official capacity; Officer Wilhite, individually
and in his official capacity; Lawrence County Sheriffs Office; and Lawrence County, Kentucky.
Defendants removed this matter to United States District court due to stated claims under the
Civil Rights Act of 1871, and 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Plaintiff also asse1ied state law claims.
Defendants Garret Roberts, Officer Keefer, Officer Wilhite seek dismissal the claims
asserted against them in their official capacities and Defendants Lawrence County and Lawrence
County Sheriffs Department seek dismissal of the state law claims asserted against them.
In order to pass Fed.R.Civ.Proc. 12(b)(6) muster, Plaintiff's complaint must allege
"sufficient factual matter" to "state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face." Ashcroft v.
Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 129 S.Ct. 1937, 1949, 173 L.Ed.2d 868 (2009) (quoting Bell Atl. Co1p. v.
Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555, 127 S.Ct. 1955, 167 L.Ed.2d 929 (2007)). To meet this standard,
Plaintiff must plead "factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that
[the defendants] are liable for the misconduct alleged." Id. (citing Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556, 127
S.Ct. 1955). In scrntinizing a complaint under Rule 12(b)(6), the Court is required to "accept all
well-pleaded factual allegations of the complaint as trne and constrne the complaint in the light
most favorable to the plaintiff." Dubay v. Wells, 506 F.3d 422, 426 (6th Cir.2007). If those
allegations "are insufficient as a matter of law," dismissal of those claims is warranted under
Rule 12(b)(6). Flaim v. Med. Coll. of Ohio, 418 F.3d 629, 643 (6th Cir.2005).
"Official-capacity suits, in contrast, generally represent only another way of pleading an
action against an entity of which an officer is an agent. As long as the government entity receives
notice and an opportunity to respond, an official-capacity suit is, in all respects other than name,
to be treated as a suit against the entity." Kentucky v. Graham, 473 U.S. 159, 156-66, 105 S.Ct.
3099, 87 L.Ed.2d 144 (1985). Therefore, the claims against the individual Defendants in their
official capacities represent claims against the entity for which they are agents - Lawrence
County - and, pursuant to Graham, its predecessor Monell v. Department ofSocial Services of
New York, 436 U.S. 658, 690, 98 S.Ct. 2018, 56 L.Ed.2d 611 (1978), and its progeny, are
redundant and should be dismissed. The Court is mindful that Defendants are not seeking
dismissal of the claims asserted against them in the individual capacities, which would be
premature given that discove1y is not yet complete. Rather, Defendants' s current motion is more
akin to a housekeeping matter, rather than a dispositive one.
As for the state claw claims against Lawrence County and its Sheriffs Department, those
claims are barred by Kentucky's law of sovereign immunity, which precludes liability for
subdivisions based upon the negligence of their employees. Grayson Board of Education v.
Casey, 157 S.W.3d 201, 202-203 (Ky. 2005). Claims in the complaint based upon vicarious
liability or respondeat superior liability must be dismissed as legally insufficient.
IT IS THEREFORE ORDERED that Defendants Garret Roberts, Officer Keefer,
Officer Wilhite in their Official Capacities, Lawrence County and Lawrence County Sheriffs
Department Motion to Dismiss or in the Alternative for Summmy Judgment [Docket No. 7] be
SUSTAINED and that all claims of the Plaintiff against the official capacity Defendants,
Lawrence County, and Lawrence County Sheriffs Office be and they are hereby
DISMISSED WITH PREJUDICE.
THIS IS AN INTERLOCUTORY AND NON-APPEALABLE ORDER
of January, 2017.
H.110.tv. R, Wllholt. Jr.
Unltod States District Judge
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