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Skyy v. City of Arlington

United States District Court, N.D. Texas, Fort Worth Division

March 29, 2017



          John Mcbryde United States District Judge

         Came on for consideration the second motion of defendant, f City of Arlington, to dismiss. The court, having considered the motion, the response of plaintiffs, Michelle Skyy ("Skyy") and Sean Valdez ("Valdez"), the record, and applicable authorities, finds that the motion should be granted.


         Plaintiffs' Claims

         On January 6, 2017, plaintiffs filed their original complaint, Doc.[1] 1, and on January 24, 2017, their first amended complaint for violations of civil rights, Doc. 12. Plaintiffs ] assert claims under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 for violation of their Fourth Amendment rights and plaintiff Skyy additionally alleges that her Eighth Amendment rights were violated. Plaintiffs seek monetary and punitive damages.

         In brief, plaintiffs allege; On April 29, 2015, they agreed to divorce. They became involved in a scuffle when Skyy tried to take some of Valdez's money and his AR-15 rifle. Skyy called 911. She waited around the corner from their home for police. Arlington police arrested Valdez. Officers asked if they could go inside the house and both Skyy and Valdez declined to give permission. Police used Valdez's keys to enter the home and search it without a warrant or probable cause. Skyy was detained 6 or 7 hours before she was arrested. She told police that Valdez was verbally/emotionally abusive. Valdez told police Skyy had two guns, so officers asked her to retrieve them from her vehicle. They then searched the vehicle and had it towed. Skyy was arrested and notified jail personnel that she had a severe wheat gluten allergy (Celiac Sprue Disease) and endometriosis. Jailers never gave Skyy any food she could eat. She starved for two days and lost 6 pounds. She was kept in a small holding cell for over 6 hours without a restroom or water, which caused severe abdomen pains. Skyy discovered after being released from jail that police had ransacked her home.

         II. Grounds of the Motion

         Defendant urges two grounds in support of its motion. First, plaintiffs cannot pursue their claims under § 1983 because they have failed to identify any custom or policy of defendant that caused them harm. Second, defendant is immune from the claim for punitive damages.

         III. Applicable Legal Standards

         A. Motion to Dismiss for Failure to State a Claim

         Rule 8(a)(2) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure provides, in a general way, the applicable standard of pleading. It requires that a complaint contain "a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief, " Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2), "in order to give the defendant fair notice of what the claim is and the grounds upon which it rests, " Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007) (internal quotation marks and ellipsis omitted). Although a complaint need not contain detailed factual allegations, the "showing" contemplated by Rule 8 requires the plaintiff to do more than simply allege legal conclusions or recite the elements of a cause of action. Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555 & n.3. Thus, while a court must accept all of the factual allegations in the complaint as true, it need not credit bare legal conclusions that are unsupported by any factual underpinnings. See Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 679 (2009) ("While legal conclusions can provide the framework of a complaint, they must be supported by factual allegations.").

         Moreover, to survive a motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim, the facts pleaded must allow the court to infer that the plaintiff's right to relief is plausible. Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678. To allege a plausible right to relief, the facts pleaded must suggest liability; allegations that are merely consistent with unlawful conduct are insufficient. Id. In other words, where the facts pleaded do no more than permit the court to infer the possibility of misconduct, the complaint has not shown that the pleader is entitled to relief. Id., at 679. "Determining whether a complaint states a plausible claim for relief . . . [is] a context-specific task that requires the reviewing court to draw on its judicial experience and common sense." Id.

         B. Municipal Liability Under § 1983

         The law is clearly established that the doctrine of respondent superior does not apply to § 1983 actions. Monell v. New York City Pep't of Soc. Servs., 436 U.S. 658, 691 (1978); Williams v. Luna, 909 F.2d 121, 123 (5th Cir. 1990). Liability may be imposed against a municipality only if the governmental body itself subjects a person to a deprivation of rights or causes a person to be subjected to such deprivation. Connick v. Thompson, 563 U.S. 51, 60 (2011) . Local governments are responsible only for their own illegal acts. Id. (quoting Pembaur v. Cincinnati, 475 U.S. 469, 479 (1986)). Thus, plaintiffs who seek to impose liability on local governments under § 1983 must prove that action pursuant to official municipal policy caused their injury. Mone ...

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