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Hansen v. The City of West Lake Tawakoni

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

February 22, 2019

PAUL WARD HANSEN, Plaintiff,
v.
CITY OF WEST LAKE TAWAKONI, et al., Defendants.

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

          REBECCA RUTHERFORD, UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.

         Before the Court is a Rule 12(c) Motion for Judgment on the Pleadings (ECF No. 12) filed by Defendants the City of West Lake Tawakoni (the “City”) and Brandon Kilpatrick (“Kilpatrick”), individually and in his official capacity as West Lake Tawakoni Police Department's Chief of Police, asking the Court to dismiss Plaintiff Paul Hansen's claims in this 42 U.S.C. § 1983 action. For the reasons stated, the District Court should GRANT Defendants' Motion and DISMISS Plaintiff's claims with prejudice.

         Background

         This dispute began as a disagreement over the property line between Plaintiff's property and his neighbors Wayne and Carrie Anderson's property in West Lake Tawakoni, a Hunt County, Texas municipality. Compl. 2, 4 (ECF No. 1). Plaintiff complained to the City's Code Compliance department several times before eventually reaching out to Kilpatrick, the City's Police Chief. Id. 4. Plaintiff alleges Kilpatrick informed him that he could not assist Plaintiff in resolving the dispute with his neighbors because it was not a criminal matter. Id.

         One particular point of contention between Plaintiff and the Andersons involved removing a live oak tree, with Plaintiff's privacy-fence panels bolted to it, on the property line. Id. 5. But beyond the oak tree, the neighbors' dispute involved several incidents of a scatological nature, where “Plaintiff discovered litterbox shavings and feces on his property, ” and each time an incident occurred, Plaintiff maintains that he contacted either Kilpatrick or the City to report it. Id. Kilpatrick allegedly became actively involved in the oak-tree dispute and authorized the Andersons to remove the tree. Id. Defendants, however, deny that Kilpatrick was personally involved in the dispute or authorized removal of the tree. Answer 4 (ECF No. 9).

         On May 31, 2015, Plaintiff allegedly discovered an inoperable toilet on his property that “contained fresh feces.” Compl. 5. “Due to noxious odors emanating from the toilet, ” Plaintiff removed it from his property. Id. Defendants, however, maintain that they received a report of a toilet being placed on the Andersons' property and that their investigation revealed it was not filled with feces-fresh or otherwise. Answer 4-5. Defendants contend that Plaintiff moved and destroyed the toilet, providing grounds for his arrest. Id. 5; Defs.' Ex. 1 (ECF No. 9-1).

         Accordingly, on March 7, 2016, Kilpatrick, together with two other officers, arrested Plaintiff at his residence for criminal mischief and trespass. Compl. 6. Plaintiff alleges that the capias warrant issued for his arrest was based on the February 29, 2016 criminal complaint that included Kilpatrick's personal observations. Id. For their part, Defendants assert that the warrant was properly based on the officer's report. Answer 5.

         While at the Hunt County Detention Center, Plaintiff alleges Hunt County jailers deprived him of his medication for diabetes and other severe circulatory and arterial diseases; that he was falsely imprisoned for two full days; and that he was incarcerated for more than 24 hours before being permitted to appear before a magistrate. Compl. 6-7. After Plaintiff posted bond and hired an attorney, on August 8, 2016, the Hunt County District Attorney dismissed all charges against Plaintiff “due to insufficient evidence.” Id. 7. Plaintiff alleges that he would not have been arrested but for false assertions contained within the criminal complaint. Id.

         Plaintiff filed a Complaint in federal court on March 7, 2018, alleging that Kilpatrick, the City, and other unnamed West Lake Tawakoni police officers and Hunt County jailers violated his civil rights by wrongfully arresting and incarcerating him, negligently hiring officers, and conspiring to deprive him of his constitutional rights. Compl. 1-2, 7-11. Specifically, Plaintiff asserts claims against Kilpatrick and the unnamed police officers under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 for false imprisonment and conspiracy in violation of his Fourth, Eighth, and Fourteenth Amendment rights, as well as claims under state law for intentional infliction of emotional distress. Id. 7-8, 10. He further asserts claims under § 1983 against the City for negligently hiring Kilpatrick and the unnamed police officers, and against the unnamed Hunt County jailers for deliberate indifference to his serious medical needs. Id. 7, 9-10. The City and Kilpatrick timely filed an Answer, and later filed their Rule 12(c) Motion for Judgment on the Pleadings.[1] By their motion, Defendants argue that Plaintiff's Eighth Amendment, Fourth Amendment, § 1983 conspiracy, intentional infliction of emotional distress, and municipal liability claims should be dismissed because he has not alleged sufficient facts to support any of his claims. Plaintiff failed to respond to Defendants' Motion, and the time to respond has expired. Accordingly, the Court considers the motion without the benefit of a response.

         Legal Standard

         A motion for judgment on the pleadings under Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(c) “is designed to dispose of cases where the material facts are not in dispute and a judgment on the merits can be rendered by looking to the substance of the pleadings and any judicially noticed facts.” Hebert Abstract v. Touchstone Props., Ltd., 914 F.2d 74, 76 (5th Cir. 1990) (per curiam) (citations omitted). “The standard for deciding a motion under Rule 12(c) is the same as the one for deciding a motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6).” Johnson-Williams v. CitiMortgage, Inc., 2018 WL 1156100, at *6 (N.D. Tex. Jan. 31, 2018) (citing Guidry v. Am. Pub. Life Ins. Co., 512 F.3d 177, 180 (5th Cir. 2007); Hoffman v. L & M Arts, 2011 WL 3567419, at *4 (N.D. Tex. Aug. 15, 2011)), adopted by 2018 WL 1122230 (N.D. Tex. Feb. 28, 2018), aff'd, 2018 WL 4523159 (5th Cir. Sept. 20, 2018); see also Gentilello v. Rege, 627 F.3d 540, 543-44 (5th Cir. 2010).

         When deciding a 12(b)(6) motion for failure to state a claim, the court “accepts all well-pleaded facts as true, viewing them in the light most favorable to the plaintiff.” In re Katrina Canal Breaches Litig., 495 F.3d 191, 205 (5th Cir. 2007) (quotation marks and citation omitted). To survive Defendants' Rule 12(c) Motion for Judgment on the Pleadings, therefore, Plaintiff's Complaint must contain sufficient factual matter to state a claim for relief that is plausible on its face. Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007). “To be plausible, the complaint's ‘[f]actual allegations must be enough to raise a right to relief above the speculative level.'” In re Great Lakes Dredge & Dock Co. LLC, 624 F.3d 201, 210 (5th Cir. 2010) (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555). This pleading standard does not require “‘detailed factual allegations, '” but it does demand more than an unadorned accusation devoid of factual support. Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555). “A claim has facial plausibility when the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to draw a reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged.” Id. at 678 (citing Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556). “[A] formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action will not do.” Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555 (citing Papasan v. Allain, 478 U.S. 265, 286 (1986)). “While legal conclusions can provide the framework of a complaint, they must be supported by factual allegations.” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 679. Where the facts do not permit the Court to infer more than the mere possibility of misconduct, the Complaint has stopped short of showing that Plaintiff is plausibly entitled to relief. Id. at 678 (citing Twombly, 550 U.S. at 557).

         In deciding a Rule 12(b)(6) motion, a court may not look beyond the pleadings. Spivey v. Robertson, 197 F.3d 772, 774 (5th Cir. 1999). However, the pleadings, for the purpose of determining a Rule 12(b)(6) motion, include documents attached to the pleadings and to the motion to dismiss so long as they “are referred to in the plaintiff's complaint and are central to [his] claim.” Causey v. Sewell Cadillac-Chevrolet, Inc., ...


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