Erikson v. State of Oklahoma et al
ORDER granting 8 Motion to Dismiss; granting 10 Motion to Dismiss, as more fully set out. Signed by Honorable David L. Russell on 1/4/17. (jw)
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE WESTERN DISTRICT OF OKLAHOMA
MICHAEL ED ERIKSON
STATE OF OKLAHOMA, and
WOODS COUNTY, OKLAHOMA,
Case No. CIV-16-657-R
Before the Court are Defendants’ Motions to Dismiss (Docs. 8 & 10). For the
following reasons, the Court GRANTS both motions.
Plaintiff, appearing pro se, brings several tort-related claims and allegations of
constitutional violations against Defendants. Plaintiff seeks relief under the Oklahoma
Governmental Tort Claims Act (GTCA) and 42 U.S.C. § 1983. The Court is obligated to
liberally construe Plaintiff’s allegations in light of his pro se status.
This is not the first time Plaintiff has brought action against Defendants. Plaintiff
filed a nearly identical case against Defendants in 2013 in this Court.1 The Court dismissed
the State from that suit on Eleventh Amendment grounds. (CIV-13-858-R, Doc. 26). The
case was eventually resolved when the Court granted Plaintiff’s Motion to Dismiss without
Prejudice. (CIV-13-858-R, Doc. 31). The Court granted that motion on the condition that
Erikson v. State of Oklahoma, Woods County, CIV-13-858-R.
costs should be assessed against Plaintiff should he subsequently decide to renew this
Now, Plaintiff has done just that. His facts and allegations are set out in detail in the
Court’s previous order. (CIV-13-858-R, Doc. 31). His claims against the State of
Oklahoma and Woods County include tort claims for defamation, intentional infliction of
emotional distress, fraud, deceit, and § 1983 claims for false arrest, illegal search and
seizure, false imprisonment, and violations of due process. In fact, this is simply a re-filing
of Plaintiff’s earlier lawsuit, with the only difference being Plaintiff has added claims for
violation of his civil rights by means of conspiracy, conspiracy to obstruct justice, and
obstruction of justice. Defendants have moved to dismiss for failure to state a claim under
Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(6).
Standard of Review
“Under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 8(a)(2), a pleading must contain a ‘short
and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief.’” Ashcroft v.
Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 677–78 (2009). A complaint must contain “sufficient factual matter,
[which if] accepted as true . . . state[s] a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.” Id. at
678 (quoting Bell Atlantic Corp. v Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007)). In considering a
motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim, a plaintiff’s well-pled factual allegations must
be viewed in the light most favorable to the plaintiff. Beedle v. Wilson, 422 F.3d 1059,
1063 (10th Cir. 2005). That said, “[l]egal conclusions masquerading as factual conclusions
will not suffice to prevent a motion to dismiss.” Anspach v. Philadelphia Dep’t of Pub.
Health, 503 F.3d 256, 260 (3d Cir. 2007).
1. Claims against the State of Oklahoma
This Court previously dismissed the State from Plaintiff’s first lawsuit on the basis
of the Eleventh Amendment and sovereign immunity. The Court again dismisses the State
for the same reasons as fully set out in the Court’s previous Order. (CIV-13-858, Doc. 26).
2. Claims against Woods County
Dismissal of Plaintiff’s claims against Woods County is also proper. As to his §
1983 claims, Plaintiff has failed to state a claim against Woods County that is plausible on
its face. Plaintiff generally alleges that the Woods County Sheriff’s Office or its officers
violated his federal civil rights. But his Complaint is devoid of any facts (1) linking these
alleged constitutional violations to the policies or customs of Woods County or (2) showing
that the constitutional violations were somehow the result of the actions of an officer with
final policy making authority acting in his official capacity—either of which is required by
law in order to hold a governmental entity liable under § 1983. Monell v. New York City
Dep’t of So. Servs., 436 U.S. 658, 694–695 (1978); Jett v. Dallas Independent School Dist.,
491 U.S. 701, 737 (1989). Instead, Plaintiff alleges that a cadre of Woods County
employees deprived him of his constitutional rights. He could of course assert § 1983
claims against these employees in their individual capacity, but he has chosen not to. The
Court therefore dismisses his claims against Woods County for federal civil rights
Plaintiff’s remaining tort claims against Woods County also fail as a matter of law
due to his inability to bring those claims under the Oklahoma Government Tort Claims Act
(“GTCA”). Though the GTCA waives sovereign immunity in some instances, it does not
do so for the actions of state employees taken outside the scope of employment. Okla. Stat.
Ann. tit. 51, § 153(A) explains that “[t]he state or a political subdivision shall not be liable
under the provisions of [the GTCA] for any act or omission of an employee acting outside
the scope of the employee’s employment.” The Oklahoma Supreme Court has defined
“scope of employment” to specifically exclude actions taken in bad faith: when “the tort
cause of action sued upon requires proof of an element that necessary excludes good faith
conduct on the part of governmental employees, there can be no liability against the
governmental entity in a GTCA-based suit.” Fehring v. State Ins. Fund, 19 P.3d 276, 283
(Okla. 2001), overruled on other grounds by Gowens v. Barstow, 364 P.3d 664 (Okla.
2015); see also Nail v. City of Henryetta, 911 P.2d 914, 917 (Okla. 1996) (explaining that
the GTCA waives governmental immunity and extends liability to torts for “which a private
person would be liable, unless they are committed outside of the course and scope of one’s
employment or unless they are committed in bad faith or in a malicious manner”).
Because each of Plaintiff’s tort claims either requires or is pled with some allegation
of bad faith, each fails as a matter of law. His claim for intentional infliction of emotional
distress necessarily excludes good faith conduct on the part of a political subdivision or its
employees. See McMullen v. City of Del City, 920 P.2d 528, 531 (Okla. Civ. App. 1996)
(defining the intentional infliction of emotional distress as an intentional tort committed
“by extreme and outrageous conduct which . . . causes severe emotional distress to
another”). His claims for false arrest, illegal search, false imprisonment, deceit, conspiracy,
and obstruction of justice are dismissed for the same reason: they have all been expressly
identified by Plaintiff has having been committed with malicious premeditation or in bad
As for his defamation claim, that too must be dismissed because if any alleged
misrepresentation was intentional, misrepresentation would have been done in bad faith;
and if it was unintentional, then it is specifically exempt under § 155(17).2 White v. City of
Del City, 270 P.3d 205, 214 (Okla. Civ. App. 2011) (“We agree [that a political
subdivision] cannot be liable for either an intentional or unintentional representation made
by an employee.”). And finally, his claim for fraud is foreclosed by § 152(12), which
explains that “scope of employment . . . shall not include corruption or fraud.”
For these reasons, Defendants’ Motions to Dismiss are GRANTED. Defendants
should make an appropriate application for costs pursuant to the Court’s earlier Order.
IT IS SO ORDERED this 4th day of January 2017.
“The state or a political subdivision shall not be liable if a loss or claim results from . . . misrepresentation,
if unintentional.” Okla. Stat. Ann. tit. 51, § 155(17).
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