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McCoy v. Wagner

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

February 15, 2018

EDDIE MCCOY, Plaintiff,
CHARLES WAGNER, et al, Defendants.



         Pending before the Court in the above referenced action, grounded in 42 U.S.C. §§ 1983 and 1985, are Defendant Texas A&M University's Motion to Dismiss (Doc. 21), Defendant Charles Wagner's Motion to Dismiss (Doc. 18), and Defendant Jeri Yenne's Motion to Dismiss (Doc. 19). Having considered the parties' arguments, the facts, and the applicable law, the Court determines each motion should be granted.

         I. Background

         Plaintiff Eddie McCoy, an African-American resident of Brazoria County, Texas, was the owner of three horses. During Hurricane Harvey, his horses needed to be rescued and were taken by Brazoria County Animal Control, a division of the Brazoria County Sheriff's Department, to the Brazoria County fairgrounds for safekeeping. Plaintiff states that he visited his horses daily, but on his third or fourth visit, one of his mares was missing. Plaintiff claims that upon inquiring about his missing horse, a veterinarian at the site, a member of the Texas A&M University Emergency Veterinarian Team, told him the horse had been euthanized because it was colic. In the aftermath of this incident, Plaintiff sought to obtain the medical records concerning his horse and attempted to view its corpse multiple times. In doing so, he called Sheriff Charles Wagner of the Brazoria County Sheriff's Office, who referred him to the Brazoria County District Attorney's Office to pick up his horse's medical records.

         Ultimately, Plaintiff did not obtain the medical records and was never able to view his horse's body, and he believes that this indicates that his horse is still alive. Plaintiff believes his horse was not actually euthanized, but rather, it was stolen from him and given “to another.” Third Am. Compl. at 8. He accuses the Sheriff's Office and the Brazoria County District Attorney's Office of participating in a cover-up of the theft by refusing to allow Plaintiff to see the horse's body or medical records.

         Plaintiff brought suit against Sheriff Charles Wagner, individually and in his official capacity as Brazoria County Sheriff; Jennifer Beth Kleman, DVM; Texas A&M University; District Attorney Jeri Yenne, individually and in her official capacity as Brazoria County District Attorney; and John Does I-VI. Plaintiff alleges causes of action under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 claiming he was deprived of constitutional rights under color of law and under 42 U.S.C. § 1985 claiming there was a conspiracy to obstruct justice. Plaintiff also alleges the Court has supplemental jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. § 1367 over his state law claims for: violation of constructive trust; fraud; intentional infliction of emotional distress; abuse of office; and negligent hiring, supervision, and retention.

         II. Legal Standard

         “When a Rule 12(b)(1) motion is filed in conjunction with other Rule 12 motions, the court should consider the Rule 12(b)(1) jurisdictional attack before addressing any attack on the merits.” Randall D. Wolcott, MD, PA v. Sebelius, 635 F.3d 757, 762 (5th Cir. 2011). Rule 12(b)(1) allows a party to move for dismissal of an action for lack of subject matter jurisdiction. The party asserting that subject matter exists must bear the burden of proof for a 12(b)(1) motion. Ramming v. United States, 281 F.3d 158, 161 (5th Cir. 2001). In reviewing a motion under Rule 12(b)(1) the court may consider (1) the complaint alone; (2) the complaint supplemented by undisputed facts evidenced in the record; or (3) the complaint supplemented by undisputed facts plus the court's resolution of disputed facts. Williamson v. Tucker, 645 F.2d 404, 413 (5th Cir. 1981).

         “To survive a [Rule 12(b)(6)] motion to dismiss, a complaint must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to ‘state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.'” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (quoting Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007)). “A claim has facial plausibility when the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged.” Id.

         In determining plausibility, courts should first disregard “formulaic recitation[s] of the elements” of the legal claim as conclusory. Id. at 662. “[T]hreadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action, supported by mere conclusory statements do not suffice” under Rule 12(b). Id. at 678. Second, the court must assume the truth of all factual allegations and determine whether those factual allegations allege a plausible claim. See Id. “Determining whether a complaint states a plausible claim for relief will . . . be a context-specific task that requires the reviewing court to draw on its judicial experience and common sense. But where the well-pleaded facts do not permit the court to infer more than the mere possibility of misconduct, the complaint has alleged-but it has not ‘show[n]'-‘that the pleader is entitled to relief.'” Id. If these facts fail to “nudge [the] claims across the line from conceivable to plausible, [then the] complaint must be dismissed.” Twombly, 550 U.S. at 570.

         III. Analysis

         A. Defendant Texas A&M University's Second Amended Motion to Dismiss

         Plaintiff brought suit against Defendant Texas A&M University (“TAMU”) under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 for deprivation of property under color of state law and denial of equal protection and under Section 1985 for conspiracy to obstruct justice. He seeks monetary damages in the amount of $1, 000, 000. TAMU argues that Plaintiff's claims are barred by TAMU's Eleventh Amendment immunity and must be dismissed under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(1) because the Court lacks jurisdiction to hear them. Additionally, it argues Plaintiff's claims must be dismissed under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted.

         The Eleventh Amendment deprives a federal court of jurisdiction to hear a suit against the State of Texas or any of its agencies unless sovereign immunity is expressly waived: “The eleventh amendment clearly interposes a jurisdictional bar to suits against a state by private parties who seek monetary relief from the state in the form of compensatory damages, punitive damages, or monetary awards in the nature of equitable restitution, and also to suits against a state agency or state official when the monied award is to be paid from the state treasury.” Clay v. Texas Women's University, 728 F.2d 714, 715 (5th Cir. 1984). TAMU is protected by the Eleventh Amendment to the same extent as is the State of Texas. See Gay Student Servs. v. Texas A & M Univ.,737 F.2d 1317, 1333-34 (5th Cir. 1984) ...

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