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Voss v. Goode

United States District Court, S.D. Texas, Houston Division

January 31, 2018

MONICA VOSS, Plaintiff,


         Pending before the court[1] are Defendant Fort Bend County's (“Fort Bend”) Amended Motion to Dismiss (Doc. 11) and Defendant Gregory G. Goode's (“Goode”) Amended Motion to Dismiss (Doc. 12). The court has considered the motions, Plaintiff's response to Defendant Goode's motion, all other relevant filings, and the applicable law. For the reasons set forth below, the court RECOMMENDS that Defendant Fort Bend's motion be GRANTED and Defendant Goode's motion be GRANTED IN PART AND DENIED IN PART.

         I. Case Background

         Plaintiff filed this civil rights action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 (“Section 1983”), alleging that Defendant violated her constitutional rights when he arrested her for failure to identify during a welfare check on her daughter K.V.[2]

         A. Factual Background[3]

         On June 19, 2016, Defendant Goode, who was a deputy with the Fort Bend County Sheriff's Office (“FBCSO”), and another FBCSO deputy went to Plaintiff's home around midnight and knocked on her door. When Plaintiff answered, one of the deputies asked if she was Monica, to which Plaintiff replied affirmatively. Defendant Goode explained that they were responding to a request by the Texas Child Protective Services to perform a welfare check on K.V., who allegedly was threatening to commit suicide.

         Plaintiff called K.V. to come out of her room. When K.V. joined Plaintiff and the deputies, K.V. answered Defendant Goode's questions whether she was depressed and whether she was planning to harm herself, denying both. Plaintiff suggested that Defendant Goode interview K.V. outside the house while Plaintiff waited inside, and he did so. After a period of twenty or thirty minutes, Plaintiff approached K.V. and the deputies and stated that she was willing to provide mental help for K.V., if necessary. Plaintiff instructed K.V. to get into Plaintiff's car, but Defendant Goode would not allow K.V. to go with Plaintiff. Instead, he asked if he could take K.V. to a friend's house for the night. Plaintiff did not consent.

         Plaintiff then went into her house for a few minutes. When she returned outside, Defendant Goode would not allow her to speak with K.V., who was in the backseat of the patrol car. Defendant Goode then asked for Plaintiff's physical identification, which she said was in her house. At that time, Plaintiff indicated that she would not answer any more questions without an attorney present. Defendant Goode arrested Plaintiff for failure to identify herself to a police officer, handcuffed her, and put her in the backseat of the patrol car.

         Approximately fifteen or twenty minutes later, Plaintiff requested that she be removed from the vehicle because she felt nauseous. One of the deputies allowed her to sit outside of the vehicle on the ground and, upon Plaintiff's complaint of pain, moved the handcuffs from behind her back to the front. Plaintiff then made two telephone calls, after which she asked Defendant Goode to contact his captain. He refused to do so and asked if Plaintiff wanted him to “jerk that phone out of her hand.” Plaintiff explained that she was attempting to record the events, and he responded that the events were being recorded.

         Plaintiff complained to Defendant Goode that K.V. was not receiving proper care and asked that Defendant Goode call his supervisor. Shortly thereafter, an FBCSO sergeant arrived at the scene. He addressed Plaintiff, stating that the encounter was “just a big misunderstanding that had gotten out of hand.” A deputy removed the handcuffs from Plaintiff, and the sergeant said that a mental-health professional would arrive to interview K.V. After the sergeant and the mental-health professional interviewed K.V., she also was released.

         B. Procedural Background

         Plaintiff filed this complaint on May 6, 2017, alleging violations of the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments to the U.S. Constitution against Defendant Goode and imputed liability against Defendant Fort Bend.[4] Plaintiff's constitutional claims were based on the alleged detention and arrest without probable cause or reasonable suspicion.[5] She made specific reference to the Fourth Amendment's protection against unreasonable searches and seizures and the Fourteenth Amendment's protection against the deprivation of liberty without due process of law.[6] To support imputed liability, Plaintiff alleged that: (1) Defendant Fort Bend failed to adequately train Defendant Goode; (2) that Defendant Fort Bend failed to adequately discipline him for a 1996 charge of burglary, a 1997 charge of driving while intoxicated, and a 2015 charge of abuse of authority; and (3) that FBCSO engaged in “a pattern and practice of arresting individuals for failure to identify and other crimes without probable cause or reasonable suspicion.”[7]

         On July 26, 2017, Defendants Goode and Fort Bend separately filed motions to dismiss.[8] Twenty days later, Plaintiff filed an amended complaint.[9] The only change in the allegations was the addition of a state-law claim for false imprisonment against Defendant Goode.[10] Within two weeks, Defendants Goode and Fort Bend separately filed the pending amended motions to dismiss, thereby supplanting their original motions.[11] On December 14, 2017, Plaintiff belatedly filed a response to Defendant Goode's motion.[12]Plaintiff did not file a response to Defendant Fort Bend's motion.

         To be clear, Plaintiff never pled claims on behalf of K.V. or related to K.V.'s arrest; Plaintiff raised no claim of excessive force and pled no injury resulting from the use of excessive force; and Plaintiff did not assert the false-imprisonment claim against Defendant Fort Bend.

         II. Dismissal Standard

         Rule 12(b)(6) allows dismissal of an action whenever the complaint, on its face, fails to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. When considering a motion to dismiss, the court should construe the allegations in the complaint favorably to the pleader and accept as true all well-pleaded facts. Harold H. Huggins Realty, Inc. v. FNC, Inc., 634 F.3d 787, 803 n.44 (5th Cir. 2011)(quoting True v. Robles, 571 F.3d 412, 417 (5th Cir. 2009)).

         A complaint need not contain “detailed factual allegations” but must include sufficient facts to indicate the plausibility of the claims asserted, raising the “right to relief above the speculative level.” Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007); see also Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009). Plausibility means that the factual content “allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged.” Iqbal, 556 U.S. 678. A plaintiff must provide “more than labels and conclusions” or “a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action.” Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555. In other words, the factual allegations must allow for an inference of “more than a sheer possibility that a defendant has acted unlawfully.” Iqbal, 556 U.S. 678.

         III. Analysis

         Both defendants filed amended motions to dismiss Plaintiff's First Amended Complaint. The court first considers ...

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