Isaiah et al v. City of Pine Lawn, Missouri et al
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER re: 4 , 5 ORDERED that Defendants Motion to Dismiss [ECF No. 4] is, at this time, denied without prejudice. FURTHER ORDERED that Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment [ECF No. 5] is denied without prejudice. Signed by District Judge Henry E. Autrey on 2/13/13. (CEL)
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
EASTERN DISTRICT OF MISSOURI
MILTON ISAIAH, et al.,
CITY OF PINE LAWN, et al.,
No. 4:12CV0230 HEA
OPINION, MEMORANDUM AND ORDER
This matter is before the Court on Defendants Ricky Collins and Sylvester
Caldwell’s Motion to Dismiss [ECF No. 4]. Plaintiffs Milton Isaiah and Joseph
Goforth (“Plaintiffs”) filed an opposition [ECF No. 8], to which Defendants
Caldwell and Collins replied [ECF No. 9]. Additionally, Defendant City of Pine
Lawn has filed a Motion for Summary Judgment [ECF No. 5], to which Plaintiff’s
filed an opposition [ECF No. 10].
I. Factual Background
Plaintiffs Milton Isaiah and Joseph Goforth are former police officers of the
City of Pine Lawn. The City Pine Lawn is a municipal corporation with corporate
headquarters in St. Louis County, Missouri, and is thus, a citizen of the State of
Missouri. Defendant Caldwell is the current mayor of the City of Pine Lawn, and
Defendant Collins is the current Chief of Police of Pine Lawn, and both were in
those positions at all relevant times herein. Plaintiff Isaiah was hired by Pine Lawn
to be a policeman in the Pine Lawn Police Department in 2000. He was assigned
as a patrolman until his February 14, 2011 termination. Plaintiff Goforth was hired
by Pine Lawn to be a policeman in the Pine Lawn Police Department in 1999. He
was assigned as a patrolman until his termination on February 14, 2011.
Plaintiffs’ Complaint includes three (3) counts: Violation of Public Policy
on behalf of Milton Isaiah (Count I); Violation of Public Policy on behalf of
Joseph Goforth; and 42 U.S.C. Retaliation in Violation of First Amendment &
Whistle-Blowing. No discovery has been conducted in this case. On December 21,
2013, Plaintiffs filed a Motion for Leave to file Deposition Notices pursuant to
Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 26(b)(2) [ECF No. 11]. Defendants opposed the
motion [ECF No. 13]; however, the Court granted Plaintiffs’ motion on January
11, 2013 [ECF No. 14]. Defendants Collins and Caldwell still have not been
produced for deposition–according to the individual Defendants–due to their
pending Motion to Dismiss. At this time, no Rule 26(a)(1) initial disclosures
and/or written discovery requests have been exchanged.
Defendants Collins and Caldwell’s Motion to Dismiss
A complaint must be dismissed pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6) for failure to state
a claim upon which relief can be granted if it does not plead “enough facts to state
a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.” Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 127
S. Ct. 1955, 1974 (2007). To survive a motion to dismiss, the factual allegations
in the complaint “must be enough to raise a right to relief above the speculative
level.” Id. at 1965.
Defendants argue that Caldwell and Collins should be dismissed for the
following reasons: (1) Defendants Mayor Caldwell and Police Chief Collins were
not Plaintiff’s employers; (2) Defendants Mayor Caldwell and Police Chief
Collins have official immunity; and (3) Defendants Mayor Caldwell and Police
Chief Collins have qualified immunity.
Under Missouri law, a former employee can only bring a public-policy
wrongful discharge cause of action against a former employer. Taylor v. St. Louis
County Board of election Commissioners, et al.625 F.3d 1025, 1027 (8th Cir.
2010). Generally, in Missouri, the “right of control” determines whether an
employer/employee relationship exists. Id. The factors that determine the right of
control are extent of control, actual exercise of control, duration of employment,
right to discharge, method of payment for services, furnishing of equipment,
whether the work is part of regular business of the employer, and the contract of
employment. Id. at 1028. No one factor is controlling, however, each may be
considered relevant to the issue. Id.
Plaintiffs’ Complaint alleges that at various times while they were
patrolmen, Defendant Collins ordered them, with malice and in bad faith, to
perform their job in a manner that was a direct violation of the United States
Constitution, the Missouri Constitution and other federal and state laws in that
they were to arrest individuals and to ignore their due process rights. Further,
Plaintiffs allege they were fired as a direct and proximate result of their refusal to
engage in the conduct prescribed by Defendant Collins. Additionally, Plaintiffs
allege that they were not given a hearing under the local City of Pine Lawn code
as a tenured officer under the police force is entitled. Plaintiffs allege that
Defendants joint request to fire Plaintiffs, which Defendants submitted to the
authoritative bodies of the City of Pine Lawn who ultimately fired them, was in
bad faith and malice, and a violation to Plaintiffs’ constitutional rights.
In order to survive a 12(b)(6) motion, Plaintiffs must plead “enough facts to
state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.” Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly,
127 S. Ct. 1955, 1974 (2007). Plaintiffs claims which are outlined above meet this
standard. The Court finds that Plaintiffs’ claims, at the very least, are “enough to
raise a right to relief above the speculative level” for 12(b)(6) purposes. Id. at
1965. As such, Defendants Motion to Dismiss [ECF No. 4] is, at this time, denied
Defendant City of Pine Lawn’s Motion for Summary Judgment
This Court must grant summary judgment if, based upon the
pleadings, admissions, depositions and affidavits, there exists no genuine issue of
material fact and the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Fed.
R. Civ. P. 56(c); Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322 (1986); Board of
Educ., Island Trees Union Free Sch. Dist. No. 26 v. Pico, 457 U.S. 853, 863
(1982). The moving party must initially demonstrate the absence of an issue for
trial. Celotex Corp., 477 U.S. at 323. Any doubt as to the existence of a material
fact must be resolved in favor of the party opposing the motion. Board of Educ. v.
Pico, 457 U.S. at 863. Nevertheless, once a motion is properly made and
supported, the non-moving party may not rest upon the allegations in his pleadings
but must instead set forth specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue of
material fact for trial. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 256, 257
(1986) (citing Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(e)). Summary judgment must be granted to the
movant if, after adequate time for discovery, the non-moving party fails to produce
any proof to establish an element essential to the party’s case and upon which the
party will bear the burden of proof at trial. Celotex Corp., 477 U.S. at 322-24.
Defendant City of Pine Lawn argues that it is entitled to summary judgment
as to the common law wrongful termination claims alleged in Plaintiffs’ Counts I
and II because it has sovereign immunity from such claims. Additionally,
Defendant City of Pine Lawn argues that Plaintiffs’ Complaint fails as a matter of
law because Plaintiffs have not alleged an actionable First Amendment violation.
While the Court certainly appreciates the arguments raised by the
Defendants, the arguments are premature at this time, as there has been no
discovery conducted thus far. Defendants’ cite sturdy case law; however,
essentially all of the cases cited were cases where cases where the parties had
submitted substantive evidence regarding the nature of the claims and the relative
facts. At this point, there are almost no facts before the Court so it would be
premature to rule that there are no issues of material fact. As such, at this time,
Defendants’ Motion for Summary Judgment [ECF No. 5] is denied without
IT IS HEREBY ORDERED that Defendants Motion to Dismiss [ECF No.
4] is, at this time, denied without prejudice.
IT IS FURTHER ORDERED that Defendants’ Motion for Summary
Judgment [ECF No. 5] is denied without prejudice.
Dated this 13th day of February, 2013.
HENRY EDWARD AUTREY
UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
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