Guilbeaux et al v. Eunice et al
MEMORANDUM RULING re 20 REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION re 6 MOTION to Dismiss Pursuant to Rule 12(b)(2) filed by Police Dept City of Eunice, 21 REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION re 4 MOTION to Dismiss For Failure to State a Claim Upon Which Relief Can Be Granted filed by City of Eunice, Kathy Miller, Randy Fontenot. Signed by Judge Robert G James on 3/2/17. (crt,Crawford, A)
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
WESTERN DISTRICT OF LOUISIANA
THELMA GUILBEAUX, ET AL.,
CIVIL ACTION NO. 16-1464
JUDGE ROBERT G. JAMES
CITY OF EUNICE, ET AL.,
MAG. JUDGE CAROL B. WHITEHURST
This is an action brought by Plaintiffs Thelma Guilbeaux (“Guilbeaux”), on behalf of minor
children HE and NE (“Guilbeaux”); Deanna Poullard (“Poullard”), individually and on behalf of the
Michael Edwards, Jr. Estate (“the Estate”); and Michael Edwards, Sr. (“Edwards”), individually and
on behalf of the Estate, against Defendants the City of Eunice (“the City”), Eunice Police
Department (“EPD”), Chief Randy Fontenot (“Chief Fontenot”), and Officer Kathy Miller
(“Miller’).1 Plaintiffs assert claims against Defendants based on the circumstances surrounding the
death of Michael Edwards, Jr. (“the Decedent”), who was in the custody of EPD at the time of his
death. Guilbeaux is the mother of the Decedent’s minor children, and Poullard and Edwards are his
Two motions to dismiss are pending before the Court. Defendants the City, Chief Fontenot,
individually and in his official capacity as Chief of Police, and Miller, individually and as a Eunice
police officer, filed a Motion to Dismiss for Failure to State a Claim Upon Which Relief Can be
Granted (“Motion to Dismiss for Failure to State a Claim”) [Doc. No. 4]. Defendants move the
Court to dismiss the civil rights claims under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 brought by Poullard, Edwards, and
the Estate for lack of standing. EPD filed a Motion to Dismiss Pursuant to Rule 12(b)(2) on the
Plaintiffs also name an “Unknown Liability Insurance Company.”
basis that it lacks the procedural capacity to be sued. Plaintiffs filed opposition memoranda to the
On December 29, 2016, Magistrate Judge Whitehurst issued a Report and Recommendation
[Doc. No. 20] on EPD’s Motion to Dismiss. Magistrate Judge Whitehurst recommends that the
Court find that EPD lacks a legal existence separate from the City, grant EPD’s motion, and dismiss
the claims against it. No objections were filed. Having reviewed the motion and opposition
memorandum and finding that Magistrate Judge Whitehurst correctly stated and applied the law, the
Court hereby ADOPTS the Report and Recommendation [Doc. No. 20]. Plaintiffs’ claims against
EPD are DISMISSED WITH PREJUDICE.
On January 6, 2017, Magistrate Judge Whitehurst issued a Report and Recommendation
[Doc. No. 21] on the Motion to Dismiss for Failure to State a Claim. Magistrate Judge Whitehurst
recommends that the Court find that Poullard, Edwards, and the Estate lack standing to assert
wrongful death and survival actions under § 1983, grant Defendants’ motion as to these claims, and
dismiss these claims. Magistrate Judge Whitehurst also pointed out that Poullard and Edwards seek
to recover for their own injuries as bystanders and based on their familial relationship with the
Decedent. As these claims were not part of Defendants’ motion, she did not address them.
With regard to Poullard’s, Edwards’, and the Estate’s lack of standing to assert wrongful
death and survival claims, the parties did not file objections,2 and the Court finds that Magistrate
Plaintiffs state in their response [Doc. No. 25] to Defendants’ objections that they
“[a]lternately” contend that they have “rights to pursu[e] . . . a cause of action under Louisiana
Law, inclusive of Louisiana Civil Code Article 2316.5 and seq., and their right to maintain a
cause of action on behalf of the Estate . . . involving the Succession of Michael Edwards, of
which [Poullard and Edwards] have been approved as Administrators . . is permissible by the
heirs of [the Decedent], specifically under Louisiana Civil Code Articles 1095, et seq., and
Louisiana Revised Statutes . . .” [Doc. No. 25, p. 6]. Plaintiffs then refer to the portion of the
Judge Whitehurst correctly stated and applied the law. The Court, therefore, ADOPTS the Report
and Recommendation and these claims are DISMISSED WITH PREJUDICE.
However, Defendants filed a partial objection to the Report and Recommendation,
contending that Poullard’s and Edward’s remaining claims should also be dismissed for failure to
state a claim, or, alternatively, on the grounds of qualified immunity. [Doc. No. 24]. As a further
alternative, if the Court does not dismiss these claims, Defendants move the Court to order Plaintiffs
to state their claims with sufficient precision. Id.
Plaintiffs respond that they stated a factual basis in their Complaint to support a familial
relationship claim and that, alternatively, the Court should allow them to amend their Complaint to
state such a claim.
Plaintiffs made some factual allegations in their Complaint which could support the assertion
of a familial relationship claim. However, even if they raised this claim for the first time in response
to Defendants’ Motion to Dismiss for Failure to State a Claim, the Court must treat the raising of the
claim in this fashion as a motion for leave to amend pleadings. Under Federal Rule of Civil
Procedure 15(a), “a party may amend the party’s pleading only by leave of court” and “leave to
amend shall be freely given when justice so requires.” Engstrom v. First Nat'l Bank, 47 F.3d 1459,
Report and Recommendation that explains a failure to object may bar an attack on the factual
findings or legal conclusions. Thus, it appears that Plaintiffs do not raise an additional argument,
but are preserving a general objection to Magistrate Judge Whitehurst’s legal conclusions.
First, Plaintiffs failed to make a timely objection, and, therefore, the Court has no duty to
review the record de novo. Nevertheless, under any standard, the Court agrees that Magistrate
Judge Whitehurst properly stated and applied the law.
Second, to the extent that Plaintiffs disagree with Magistrate Judge Whitehurst’s findings,
which have now been adopted by the Court, they have preserved their legal arguments for appeal
by opposing Defendants’ Motion to Dismiss for Failure to State a Claim.
1464 (5th Cir. 1995) (quoting FED. R. CIV. P. 15(a)). The Court has the discretion to grant or deny
leave to amend, but that discretion “does not permit denial of a motion to amend unless there is a
substantial reason to do so,” such as undue delay, bad faith or dilatory motive on the part of the
movant, repeated failure to cure deficiencies by amendments previously allowed, undue prejudice
to the opposing party, or futility of the amendment. Leffall v. Dallas Indep. Sch. Dist., 28 F.3d 521,
524 (5th Cir. 1994) (citing references omitted); see also In re Southmark Corp., 88 F.3d 311, 314-15
(5th Cir. 1996); Garcia v. Unit Drilling Co., No. 10-20222, 2010 WL 3824641, at *2 (5th Cir. Sept.
28, 2010) (quoting FED. R. CIV. P. 15(a)) (“Normally, ‘leave to amend is to be granted liberally
unless the movant has acted in bad faith or with a dilatory motive, granting the motion would cause
prejudice, or amendment would be futile.’”) (quoting Jebaco Inc. v. Harrah’s Operating Co., 587
F.3d 314, 322 (5th Cir. 2009)). A district court “acts within its discretion in denying leave to amend
where the proposed amendment would be futile because it could not survive a motion to dismiss.”
Rio Grande Royalty Co. v. Energy Transfer Partners, L.P., 620 F.3d 465, 468 (5th Cir. 2010) (citing
Briggs v. Mississippi, 331 F.3d 499, 508 (5th Cir. 2003)).
Although Plaintiffs have made some factual allegations in the Complaint, the Court finds that
they have not met the requirements of Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 8, and they have not had the
opportunity to allege facts sufficient to overcome Defendants’ assertion of qualified immunity.
However, at this early stage of the litigation and under the liberal standard for the amendment of
pleadings, the Court is not inclined to dismiss Poullard’s and Edward’s familial relationship claims
without allowing amendment. Accordingly, the Court GRANTS Plaintiffs leave to amend their
Complaint to clearly and plainly state Poullard’s and Edwards’ familial relationship claims under
Rule 8 and to allege with particularity those facts necessary to overcome a qualified immunity
defense to such claims.3 See Schultea v. Wood, 47 F.3d 1427 (5th Cir. 1995). Plaintiffs’ Amended
Complaint must be filed no later than twenty-one (21) days from the date of this Ruling. If Plaintiffs
fail to timely file the Amended Complaint, the Court will dismiss Poullard and Edwards from the
case for failure to state any remaining claims.
Finally, it does not appear from the briefs that Plaintiffs intend to assert claims for bystander
damages. If they intend to do so, any such claims should be set forth in their Amended Complaint
as detailed above.
MONROE, LOUISIANA, this 2nd day of March, 2017.
A qualified immunity defense may be addressed by the Court by ordering the plaintiff to
(1) amend his complaint, (2) file a Rule 7(a) reply, or (3) provide a more definitive statement
under Rule 12(e). See Morgan v. Gusman, No. CIV.A. 06-5700, 2010 2010 WL 1936215 at *4-5
(E.D. La. May 12, 2010) (citing Crawford-El v. Britton, 523 U.S. 574, 598 (1998)).
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