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Cunningham v. Felix

United States District Court, N.D. Texas, Dallas Division

March 31, 2017

CRAIG CUNNINGHAM, Plaintiff,
v.
CARLOS FELIX, et al., Defendants.

          FINDINGS, CONCLUSIONS, AND RECOMMENDATION OF THE UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE

          RENEE HARRIS TOLIVER UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE

         Pursuant to Special Order 3, Defendants' Motion to Dismiss, Doc. 6, has been referred to the undersigned for a recommendation. For the reasons stated herein, it is recommended that the motion be GRANTED IN PART.

         I. BACKGROUND

         Pro se plaintiff Craig Cunningham brings this civil rights action against Texas Department of Public Safety employees Carlos Felix, Adam Albritton, Bobby Nichols, Thomas Moore, Kevin Gray, Michael Bradberry, and Steven McCraw based on events stemming from a June 2016 traffic stop. Doc. 3 at 2-3. Plaintiff alleges that while driving, he properly signaled a lane change, yet was pulled over by Texas State Troopers Felix and Albritton. Doc. 3 at 2-3. Plaintiff further alleges that despite stating that he wanted to remain silent, refusing to consent to a search, and requesting that a lawyer be present for further questioning, Trooper Felix attempted to question him. Doc. 3 at 3. After Trooper Felix ran a computer check on Plaintiff's driver's license, Plaintiff was issued a warning, and permitted to leave. Doc. 3 at 3.

         Plaintiff subsequently lodged a formal complaint against Troopers Felix and Albritton, citing an “improper detention and traffic stop.” Doc. 3 at 3. Plaintiff alleges that he subsequently received a letter from Defendant Bobby Nichols, Troopers Felix's and Albritton's supervisor, explaining that a review of the video recording of the traffic stop revealed that Plaintiff had indeed signaled before changing lanes, and Troopers Felix and Albritton had erred in pulling him over. Doc. 3 at 3, 8. However, no investigation or inquiry was ever conducted, and no disciplinary action was taken against Troopers Felix and Albritton. Doc. 3 at 4.

         In this section 1983 action, Plaintiff alleges Troopers Felix and Albritton of violated his constitutional rights under the Fourth, Fifth, and Fourteenth Amendments based on their illegal detention of him. Doc. 3 at 4-5. Plaintiff also claims Defendants Nichols, Moore, Gray, Bradberry, and McCraw are liable as supervisors due to their failure to train, supervise, and discipline Troopers Felix and Albritton.[1] Doc. 3 at 5. Plaintiff seeks actual damages of $100, 000.00, attorney's fees, and court costs. Doc. 3 at 7.

         Defendants Albritton, Nichols, Moore, Gray, Bradberry, and McCraw (collectively “Defendants”) now move to dismiss Plaintiff's claims under Rule 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure.[2] Doc. 6. Plaintiff has not filed a response to the motion to dismiss.

         II. LEGAL STANDARD

         A plaintiff fails to state a claim for relief under Rule 12(b)(6) when the complaint does not contain “enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.” Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007). In order to overcome a Rule 12(b)(6) motion, a plaintiff's complaint should “contain either direct allegations on every material point necessary to sustain a recovery . . . or contain allegations from which an inference fairly may be drawn that evidence on these material points will be introduced at trial.” Campbell v. City of San Antonio, 43 F.3d 973, 975 (5th Cir. 1995) (quotation omitted). When considering a motion to dismiss, the court accepts as true all well-pleaded facts and views those facts in a light most favorable to the plaintiff. Id. However, the complaint should not simply contain conclusory allegations, but must be pleaded with a certain level of factual specificity, and the district court cannot “accept as true conclusory allegations or unwarranted deductions of fact.” Collins v. Morgan Stanley Dean Witter, 224 F.3d 496, 498 (5th Cir. 2000) (quotation omitted).

         42 U.S.C. § 1983 “provides a federal cause of action for the deprivation, under color of law, of a citizen's rights, privileges, or immunities secured by the Constitution and laws of the United States.” Livadas v. Bradshaw, 512 U.S. 107, 132 (1994) (citation omitted). To state a claim under section 1983, a plaintiff must allege facts that show he has been deprived of a right secured by the Constitution and the laws of the United States, and the defendants were acting under color of state law. See Flagg Bros., Inc. v. Brooks, 436 U.S. 149, 155 (1978).

         III. DISCUSSION

         Defendants move to dismiss Plaintiff's claims arguing that they (1) fail to overcome Defendants' assertion of qualified immunity, and (2) fail to establish violations of Plaintiff's rights under the Fourth, Fifth, and Fourteenth Amendments.

         A. Qualified Immunity

         Defendants argue that Plaintiff has not pled facts sufficient to overcome their defense of qualified immunity. Doc. 6 at 5-6, 8. Because Plaintiff was not required to anticipate Defendants' qualified immunity defense in his initial pleading, however, Defendants have prematurely sought dismissal on this ground. A plaintiff need not “fully anticipate the [qualified immunity] defense in his complaint at the risk of dismissal under Rule 12.” Schultea v. Wood, 47 F.3d 1427, 1430 (5th Cir. 1995). Prior to filing the instant motion, Defendants had neither answered Plaintiff's complaint nor otherwise ...


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