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Quinn v. Guerrero

United States Court of Appeals, Fifth Circuit

July 10, 2017

JOHN GERARD QUINN, Plaintiff - Appellant

         Appeal from the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Texas

          Before DAVIS, JONES, and SOUTHWICK, Circuit Judges.

          LESLIE H. SOUTHWICK, Circuit Judge:

         John Quinn originally sued individual police officers and the City of McKinney, Texas, in state court for claims arising from the execution of a search warrant on his home. The state court dismissed Quinn's claims against the officers and instructed him to replead to clarify whether he intended to assert federal claims. Quinn amended his petition to assert new claims under 42 U.S.C. §§ 1983 and 1985. The defendants removed the case to the district court, which later denied Quinn's motion to remand. The district court then dismissed Quinn's remaining claims against the officers and the City and denied his claim for punitive damages. We AFFIRM.


          The facts underlying the search of Quinn's home are disputed. According to Quinn, the City of McKinney's Special Weapons and Tactics ("SWAT") Team forcibly entered his home around 12:06 a.m. on August 4, 2006, to execute a routine search warrant. Quinn's adult son Brian, who also lived in the home, was the subject of the warrant. Quinn argues the police had multiple opportunities to detain Brian in the days prior to the search but chose instead to execute a "violent SWAT raid in the middle of the night."

         Allegedly, the officers forcibly entered the home without first knocking or identifying themselves. The officers were dressed in dark, paramilitary uniforms, with no visible paraphernalia identifying themselves as police. They carried various military-grade weapons, including assault weapons and stun grenades, which are designed to temporarily blind, deafen, or otherwise incapacitate the subjects of a raid. The officers detonated at least two grenades, one of which "blew a hole in a wall and set [Quinn's] house on fire."

         The home was entirely dark at the time of the search, and Quinn was in his bedroom with the doors closed and latched. After hearing the commotion, he loudly asked the officers to identify themselves but got no response. At that point, Quinn retrieved a licensed handgun from his bedside table and moved to the center of the room. "At all times, " Quinn argues, the "handgun was pointed toward the floor with its safety mechanism fully engaged[.]" Officer Jesus Guerrero, on the other hand, argues that Quinn pointed the gun at him. In any event, Guerrero fired his weapon through the closed door, and one bullet struck Quinn's right hand. Quinn then fell to the floor, and Officer Rex Redden kicked in the bedroom door. At no time during this interaction did the officers ask Quinn to drop his gun or otherwise provide a warning.

          Quinn believes the SWAT Team executed its raid in a violent manner "to exact retribution for [his] earlier filing of a civil-rights suit against the police[.]" Based on the officers' conduct, he argues "the raid and the shooting were intentional, tortious acts of terrorism conducted in bad faith, intentionally, and with malice."

         On July 15, 2008, Quinn sued the officers and the City of McKinney in state court, alleging assault and battery against Guerrero; assault against the officers using the stun grenades; intentional infliction of extreme mental anguish, conspiracy, gross negligence, and negligence per se against the officers; and negligence against both the officers and the City. He also sought punitive damages and attorneys' fees. The defendants filed special exceptions to the original petition, seeking clarification as to whether Quinn was asserting any federal claims. The City also moved to dismiss the claims against the officers under Texas Civil Practice and Remedies Code § 101.106(e). The state court granted the motion to dismiss the officers. Quinn then filed a motion for rehearing or reconsideration, which the state court denied. The court also sustained the defendants' special exceptions, instructing Quinn to replead to the extent he was asserting a federal cause of action.

         Quinn amended his original petition on March 23, 2009, to include causes of action under 42 U.S.C. §§ 1983 and 1985. He alleged violations of various constitutional rights, including the Fourth Amendment right to be free from unreasonable searches and seizures. Despite the state court's dismissal of the defendant officers, Quinn's amended petition also reasserted common-law claims against them.

         The defendants removed the case to federal court on April 10, 2009, under 28 U.S.C. § 1441(a). Quinn moved to remand the case to state court, arguing that his original petition "sets out federal-law allegations in clear language" by repeatedly using phrases unique to federal law - like "excessive force." He thus believes the defendants' removal after the filing of his amended complaint was untimely. The magistrate judge recommended the motion be denied because Quinn did not affirmatively allege federal claims until his petition was amended. Despite being advised to do so, Quinn did not file objections to the report and recommendation ("R&R"), which the district court adopted in full on December 22, 2009.

         On February 23, 2010, the district court stayed this case pending the outcome of parallel criminal proceedings against Quinn on charges of assault against a public servant and possession of a controlled substance. The jury acquitted Quinn of the assault but found him guilty of possession of cocaine, which police found locked in a safe in Quinn's bedroom during the raid. Quinn v. State, No. 05-12-00049-CR, 2013 WL 2152641 (Tex. App.-Dallas May 17, 2013, pet. ref'd). The stay was lifted on April 11, 2014. After amending his complaint in 2009 and 2010, Quinn amended his complaint a third and final time on April 17, 2014. In his third amended complaint (the live complaint here), Quinn removed the names of defendant officers Vincent Roberts, Aaron Howell, Barry Eaves, Drew Caudell, Jesse Garcia, and Ting Sun.

         The officers then filed motions to dismiss on various grounds under Federal Rules of Civil Procedure 12(b)(1) and 12(b)(6). The City also moved to dismiss the claims against it under Rules 12(b)(1) and 12(b)(6). In August 2016, the magistrate judge recommended granting the officers' motion to dismiss based on the statute of limitations and denying their other motions as moot. Five days later, the magistrate judge recommended granting the City's motion to dismiss also. Quinn objected and moved for reconsideration of the state court's 2008 dismissal of the intentional-tort claims against the officers. The district court adopted the magistrate judge's rulings and denied Quinn's motion for reconsideration as untimely. Quinn timely appealed.

          Officers Roberts, Howell, Eaves, Caudell, Garcia, and Sun have moved to be dismissed from the appeal because Quinn failed to name them in his third amended complaint. Quinn opposes the motion, arguing that he removed some names from the case caption to "streamline" the litigation but fully intended to press his intentional-tort claims against all defendants. A panel of this court ordered the motion be carried with the case.


         Quinn alleges five points of error on appeal. First, he argues the district court erred by denying the motion to remand because his original petition included factual allegations sufficient to invoke federal jurisdiction. As a result, he argues the defendants' removal several months later was untimely. Second, he argues the state court erred in dismissing his intentional-tort claims against the officers; in turn, he alleges the district court erred by not reversing that dismissal. Third, he argues the district court erred by dismissing his federal claims against the officers on limitations grounds. In support, he argues the state court's dismissal of the officers was an interlocutory decision that did not fully remove the officers from the case. Fourth, he argues the district court erred by dismissing his claims against the City, which he believes are viable under state and federal law. Finally, Quinn argues he is entitled to punitive damages. We discuss each issue in turn.

         I. Denial of Quinn's Motion to Remand

         Ordinarily, we review de novo the district court's denial of a motion to remand. In re Hot-Hed Inc., 477 F.3d 320, 323 (5th Cir. 2007) (per curiam). Nonetheless, a party is not entitled de novo review after failing to file written objections to the magistrate judge's R&R within a certain period of time. Rodriguez v. Bowen, 857 F.2d 275, 276-77 (5th Cir. 1988). To invoke the bar, the magistrate judge "must specifically advise the parties that objections must be so filed." Id. at 277. If the parties then fail to file objections, we review only for plain error. Douglass v. United Servs. Auto. Ass'n, 79 F.3d 1415, 1428 (5th Cir. 1996) (en banc), superseded on other grounds by 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1). Here, the magistrate judge's R&R on the remand issue contained a warning about the consequences of failing to object in writing. Despite the caution, Quinn never filed objections. We thus review the remand issue for plain error. See Thomas v. Arn, 474 U.S. 140, 148 (1985).

         To succeed under plain-error review, Quinn must show (1) an error; (2) that is plain or obvious; (3) that affects his substantial rights. See United States v. Escalante-Reyes, 689 F.3d 415, 419 (5th Cir. 2012) (en banc). To establish an effect on his substantial rights, Quinn must show the outcome of the proceedings would have been different had the district court decided the issue the other way. See Puckett v. United States, 556 U.S. 129, 135 (2009). If the first three factors are satisfied, we have discretion to correct ...

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