Mallet v. Geans et al
MEMORANDUM RULING denying 41 Motion to Limit Discovery to the Issue of Entitlement to Qualified Immunity. Signed by Magistrate Judge Patrick J Hanna on 10/15/2020. (crt,Alexander, E)
Case 6:19-cv-00427-RRS-PJH Document 45 Filed 10/15/20 Page 1 of 6 PageID #: 277
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
WESTERN DISTRICT OF LOUISIANA
SHARMAINE MALLET, ET AL.
CIVIL ACTION NO. 6:19-cv-00427
JASON GEANS, ET AL.
MAGISTRATE JUDGE HANNA
Pending before this Court is the defendants’ motion to limit discovery to the
issue of qualified immunity. (Rec. Doc. 41). The motion is opposed. Considering
the evidence, the law, and the arguments of the parties, and for the reasons fully
explained below, the motion is denied.
The plaintiffs alleged that the defendant police officers used excessive force
in arresting Nathaniel McCoy, Sr., who died in custody after having been tasered
several times. The plaintiffs asserted claims under 42 U.S.C. 1983 and also under
Louisiana state law. When they answered the plaintiffs’ petitions, the defendants
asserted the defense of qualified immunity. They now seek to limit discovery to the
issue of qualified immunity.
Law and Analysis
“Qualified immunity protects government officials from civil liability in their
individual capacity to the extent that their conduct does not violate clearly
Case 6:19-cv-00427-RRS-PJH Document 45 Filed 10/15/20 Page 2 of 6 PageID #: 278
established statutory or constitutional rights.”1 When a defendant asserts qualified
immunity, the plaintiff must show that he has pleaded “facts which, if true, would
overcome the defense of qualified immunity.”2 To do so, the plaintiff must show (1)
that the official violated a statutory or constitutional right, and (2) that the right was
clearly established at the time of the challenged conduct.3 For a right to be clearly
established, it must be beyond debate that the defendant's actions were
unconstitutional at the time they were taken.4
Although “[t]he generic pleading requirements of FED.R.CIV.P. 8 govern
suits against individual defendants in their official capacity,” the Fifth Circuit has
clarified that “[p]laintiffs suing governmental officials in their individual
capacities… must allege specific conduct giving rise to a constitutional violation.”5
“The plaintiff must allege specific facts giving rise to a constitutional violation”
rather than making “conclusional assertions.”6
Cass v. City of Abilene, 814 F.3d 721, 728 (5th Cir. 2016).
Zapata v. Melson, 750 F.3d 481, 485 (5th Cir. 2014).
Whitley v. Hanna, 726 F.3d 631, 638 (5th Cir. 2013).
McCoy v. Alamu, 950 F.3d 226, 233 (5th Cir. 2020).
Oliver v. Scott, 276 F.3d 736, 741 (5th Cir. 2002) (citing Anderson v. Pasadena Indep. Sch.
Dist., 184 F.3d 439, 443 (5th Cir. 1999)).
Oliver v. Scott, 276 F.3d at 741 (citing Baker v. Putnal, 75 F.3d 190, 195 (5th Cir. 1996)).
Case 6:19-cv-00427-RRS-PJH Document 45 Filed 10/15/20 Page 3 of 6 PageID #: 279
The protection afforded by qualified immunity applies to the lawsuit itself,
and not merely to liability, and thus the issue should be resolved as early as possible
in the litigation.7 Therefore, the Fifth Circuit has held that
[t]he district court may ban discovery at this threshold pleading stage
and may limit any necessary discovery to the defense of qualified
immunity. The district court need not allow any discovery unless it
finds that plaintiff has supported his claim with sufficient precision and
factual specificity to raise a genuine issue as to the illegality of
defendant's conduct at the time of the alleged acts.8
This Court finds that the plaintiffs presented enough factual detail in their petitions
to raise a genuine issue as to the illegality of defendants= conduct, even in light of
the Fifth Circuit’s recent ruling in Cooper v. Flaig,9 which was cited by the
defendants in support of their motion. This Court concludes that there are factual
issues that preclude an ability to rule on the qualified immunity defense without
further clarification. Although the court may rule in favor of the defendants should
a well-supported motion for summary judgment be filed, there is no basis for limiting
discovery solely to the issue of qualified immunity at this time.
Qualified immunity is only applicable as a protective shield once a plaintiff
has made out a constitutional-violation claim against an official acting in his
Babb v. Dorman, 33 F.3d 472, 477 (5th Cir. 1994).
Schultea v. Wood, 47 F.3d 1427, 1434 (5th Cir. 1995).
779 Fed. App’x 269 (5th Cir. 2019), cert. denied, 2020 WL 3405859 ( June 22, 2020).
Case 6:19-cv-00427-RRS-PJH Document 45 Filed 10/15/20 Page 4 of 6 PageID #: 280
individual capacity.10 In this case, the plaintiffs asserted individual-capacity claims
under Section 1983 against Carencro Police Chief David Anderson and police
officers Jason Geans, James Mitchell, and Logan Duplechien, but they also asserted
official capacity claims against those same persons, which are not subject to the
qualified immunity defense.11 The plaintiffs also asserted claims against the City of
Carencro, which are not subject to the qualified immunity defense.12 The plaintiffs
also asserted state law claims, which may not be subject to the qualified immunity
defense. Consequently, with regard to their state law claims, official capacity
claims, and the claims against the City of Carencro, the plaintiffs are entitled to
conduct discovery to the full extent allowable under Rule 26(b)(1) of the Federal
Rules of Civil Procedure.
A party asserting qualified immunity is not immune from all discovery – only
that which is avoidable or overly broad.13 This Court finds that the constitutional
claims asserted in this lawsuit are so intertwined with the other claims to which
qualified immunity cannot be asserted as a defense that discovery is neither
Goodman v. Harris County, 571 F.3d 388, 396 (5th Cir. 2009).
See Renfroe v. Parker, 974 F.3d 594 (5th Cir. 2020); Sanders-Burns v. City of Plano, 594
F.3d 366, 371 (5th Cir. 2010) (stating that qualified immunity is “a defense that is only relevant to
individual capacity claims.”).
Burge v. Parish of St. Tammany, 187 F.3d 452, 466 (5th Cir. 1999).
Wicks v. Mississippi State Employment Services, 41 F.3d 991, 994 (5th Cir. 1995); Lion
Boulos v. Wilson, 834 F.2d 504, 507 (5th Cir. 1987).
Case 6:19-cv-00427-RRS-PJH Document 45 Filed 10/15/20 Page 5 of 6 PageID #: 281
avoidable nor overly broad. Furthermore, narrowing the scope of discovery to the
issue of qualified immunity would impede the goal of judicial economy by
essentially requiring two discovery tracks rather than one.
defendants did not provide this Court with a specific road map for how discovery
might be limited. They failed to suggest what areas of inquiry should be shielded
from discovery or which persons should not be deposed at this stage of the litigation.
But this appears to be a very fact-intensive matter. Indeed, excessive force cases are
necessarily fact-intensive and depend upon the particular facts and circumstances
presented.14 Here, the plaintiffs provided a rough outline of the relevant facts in their
petitions and greater detail was set forth by the defendants in support of their motion.
Discovering exactly what happened during the incident that led to Mr. McCoy’s
death is critically important – not only to the issue of qualified immunity but with
regard to all of the claims asserted by the plaintiffs. The plaintiffs and the defendants
should have an opportunity to conduct appropriate discovery to ascertain the relevant
facts. Additionally, Mr. McCoy’s medical records – not just those from the night he
died but also those establishing any preexisting conditions that he might have had –
will be critically important to the claims and defenses asserted in this lawsuit.
Quickly discovering what is in his records is a goal that should not be impeded. The
Poole v. City of Shreveport, 691 F.3d 624, 628 (5th Cir. 2012).
Case 6:19-cv-00427-RRS-PJH Document 45 Filed 10/15/20 Page 6 of 6 PageID #: 282
plaintiffs also asserted a claim based on the training that the police officers received.
The policies and manuals of the training agencies are relevant as well as the records
related to the officers’ training and their testimony in that regard. Protecting those
records from discovery would be unfair. Because the plaintiffs alleged that Mr.
McCoy died because he was tasered, the officers’ training in the use of tasers and
the manufacturers’ instructions and warning on the use of tasers is relevant and
Finally, this Court finds that any cost or inconvenience to the defendants
resulting from the duty to respond to the plaintiffs’ discovery requests would not be
unduly burdensome, onerous, or costly and would instead be proportional to the
needs of the case.
For the foregoing reasons,
IT IS ORDERED that the defendants’ motion to limit discovery to the issue
of entitlement to qualified immunity (Rec. Doc. 41) is DENIED.
Signed at Lafayette, Louisiana, this 15th day of October 2020.
PATRICK J. HANNA
UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
Disclaimer: Justia Dockets & Filings provides public litigation records from the federal appellate and district courts. These filings and docket sheets should not be considered findings of fact or liability, nor do they necessarily reflect the view of Justia.
Why Is My Information Online?