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Miller v. City of Texas City

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

May 21, 2019

BRIAN MILLER Plaintiff.
v.
CITY OF TEXAS CITY, TEXAS; et al. Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM AND RECOMMENDATION

          ANDREW M . EDISON UN ITED STATES M AGISTRATE JUDGE.

         Pending before the Court is City of Texas City's Motion to Dismiss Plaintiffs First Amended Complaint ("Motion to Dismiss"). Dkt. 15. This motion was referred to this Court by United States District Judge George C. Hanks, Jr. See Dkt. 25. After careful consideration of the pleadings and applicable law, the Court RECOMMENDS that the Motion to Dismiss be GRANTED.

         FACTUAL ALLEGATIONS[1]

         On the evening of October 8, 2017, Sergeant B. Macik ("Macik") and Officer R. Dricks ("Dricks") of the Texas City Police Department arrested Plaintiff Brian Miller ("Miller") after a car chase. The pursuit ended when Miller parked his car in his father's driveway, exited the vehicle, and lay face down on the ground. Dricks jumped on top of Miller and clubbed Miller on the head with the butt of his loaded gun, causing Miller to moan in pain. Dricks clubbed Miller two additional times in the presence of Macik, resulting in Miller suffering a broken jaw and concussion. While Miller writhed in agony on the pavement, Macik tased him, causing additional pain.

         Miller filed this lawsuit against Texas City, Macik, and Dricks, asserting claims under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 for violations of his constitutional rights. Specifically, Miller asserts that "[t]here is a pattern and practice of excessive force and condoning excessive force." Id. at 5. Miller also argues that Texas City has failed to train officers on how to properly use force on individuals during an arrest. "This pattern and practice," Miller asserts, "was ratified by Texas City Police Department when the department determined that the officers' actions were consistent with department policy." Dkt. 14 at 4.

         In response to the Complaint, Texas City seeks the dismissal of all of Miller's claims.

         RULE 12(B)(6) STANDARD

         Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) allows parties to seek dismissal of a lawsuit for failure to state a claim upon which relief may be granted. A motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6) tests the sufficiency of the complaint against the legal standard set forth in Rule 8, requiring "a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief." FED. R. Civ. P. 8(a)(2). "To survive a 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)). "Determining whether a complaint states a plausible claim for relief [is] ... a context-specific task that requires the reviewing court to draw on its judicial experience and common sense." Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 679 (citation omitted).

         When conducting its inquiry, the Court "accept[s] all well-pleaded facts as true and view[s] those facts in the light most favorable to the plaintiff." Bustos v. Martini Club, Inc., 599 F.3d 458, 461 (5th Cir. 2010) (internal quotation marks and citation omitted). "[A] well-pleaded complaint may proceed even if it strikes a savvy judge that actual proof of [the alleged] facts is improbable, and that a recovery is very remote and unlikely." Twombly, 550U.Sat556 (internal quotation marks and citation omitted). It is important to highlight that a motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6) is "viewed with disfavor and is rarely granted." Harrington v. State Farm & Cas. Co., 563 F.3d 141, 147 (5th Cir. 2009) (internal quotation marks and citation omitted).

         "[I]n deciding a motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim, courts must limit their inquiry to the facts stated in the complaint and the documents either attached to or incorporated in the complaint." Lovelace v. Software Spectrum Inc., 78 F.3d 1015, 1017 (5th Cir. 1996).[2]

         SECTION 1983 LIABILITY

         "Section 1983 provides a private cause of action against those who, under color of law, deprive a citizen of the United States of' any rights, privileges, or immunities secured by the Constitution and laws.'" Goodman v. Harris Cty., 571 F.3d 388, 394-95 (5th Cir. 2009) (quoting 42 U.S.C. § 1983). It is well established that "municipalities cannot [b]e held liable on a respondeat superior [or vicarious liability] basis, i.e., a municipality cannot be held liable simply because one of its employees violated a person's federal rights." Vanskiver v. City of Seabrook, No. H-17-3365, 2018 WL 560231, at *2 (S.D. Tex. Jan. 24, 2018) (citation omitted). See also Monell v. Dept. of Soc. Servs. of the City of N.Y., 436 U.S. 658, 694 (1978) (''[A] local government may not be sued under [Section] 1983 for an injury inflicted solely by its employees or agents."). As the Fifth Circuit has explained: "[a] municipality is almost never liable for an isolated unconstitutional act on the part of an employee; it is liable only for acts directly attributable to it 'through some official action or imprimatur.'" Peterson v. City of Fort Worth, 588 F.3d 838, 847 (5th Cir. 2009) (quoting Piotrowski v. City of Houston, 237 F.3d 567, 578 (5th Cir. 2001)).

         To state a viable Section 1983 claim, "[a] plaintiff must identify: '(1) an official policy (or custom), of which (2) a policymaker can be charged with actual or constructive knowledge, and (3) a constitutional violation whose 'moving force' is that policy or custom.'" Valle v. City of Houston, 613 F.3d 536, 541-42 (5th Cir. 2010) (quoting Pineda v. City of Houston, 291 F.3d 325, 32 (5th Cir. 2002)). The crux of Texas City's Motion to Dismiss focuses on the first prong: is there an official policy or custom? An official policy or custom can be found in two forms:

1. A policy statement, ordinance, regulation, or decision that is officially adopted and promulgated by the municipality's lawmaking officers or by an official to whom the ...

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