United States District Court, N.D. Texas, Dallas Division
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
C. Godbey United States District Judge.
Order addresses Defendants Hunt County's, Hunt County
Sheriff's Office's, Randy Meeks's, and Kelly D.
Phillips's motions to dismiss , , , . For
the reasons stated below, the Court grants the motions.
Origins of the Dispute
Michael David Melton filed a civil rights action against Hunt
County, Hunt County Sheriff's Office, Randy Meeks, and
Kelly D. Phillips. Melton claimed he was mistakenly arrested
for an assault he did not commit. Phillips, who was a deputy
with the Sheriff's Office, arrived at a hospital in
Greenville, Texas, to investigate a reported assault. The
victim, Richard Griffeth, told Phillips that the assailant
was named “Michael Melton.” Phillips began an
investigation, generated a written report, and submitted it
to the Criminal Investigation Division. Meeks was the Hunt
County Sheriff at the time of the investigation.
Phillips's report identified “Michael David
Melton” as the suspect, but the true assailant was
“Michael Glenn Melton.” Hunt County then wrongly
arrested and charged Plaintiff Melton, but the County later
released him and dropped the charges.
brought this suit in state court asserting both federal- and
state-law causes of action. Melton brought federal claims
under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against Meeks and Phillips in
their individual capacities for unlawful arrest and detention
in violation of the Fourth and Fifth Amendments. Melton also
sued Hunt County and Hunt County Sheriff's Office under
section 1983 for municipal liability based on official policy
and failure to train. Additionally, Melton asserted state-law
claims for civil conspiracy, false imprisonment, intentional
infliction of emotional distress, assault and battery,
negligence and gross negligence, and negligent hiring,
supervision, and training. Then, Defendants removed this
action in June 2014.
Court granted summary judgment for Meeks on Melton's
section 1983 Fourth and Fifth Amendment claims and for
Phillips on Melton's section 1983 Fifth Amendment claim.
Order 8-9 . The Court reasoned that Melton presented no
evidence that Meeks was involved in the investigation and
that there was no basis to hold Meeks liable for either of
Melton's section 1983 claims. Id. The Court also
determined that Melton presented no evidence to hold Phillips
liable on Melton's section 1983 Fifth Amendment claim.
Id. at 9. The Fifth Circuit then granted summary
judgment for Phillips on the remaining section 1983 Fourth
Amendment claim. Melton v. Phillips, 875 F.3d 256,
266 (5th Cir. 2017) . The Fifth Circuit concluded that
Phillips did not violate a statutory or constitutional right.
Id. It determined that Phillips was overall too
attenuated to be held liable because Phillips did not
prepare, sign, or authorize the incident report. Id.
at 261, 265. Additionally, the Fifth Circuit found that
Melton failed to show that Phillips violated any clearly
established law. Id.
these rulings, Melton filed an amended complaint, yet he did
not assert any new or different claims. Then, the Court
dismissed all state-law claims against Meeks and Phillips
. Now, Hunt County seeks to dismiss all federal- and
state-law claims. Hunt County Sheriff's Office seeks to
dismiss all federal-law claims, and Meeks and Phillips move
to dismiss all federal-law claims.
Legal Standard for a Rule 12(b)(6) Motion to Dismiss
addressing a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss, the Court must
determine whether the plaintiff has asserted a legally
sufficient claim for relief. Blackburn v. City of
Marshall, 42 F.3d 925, 931 (5th Cir. 1995). To survive
dismissal, a complaint must include “enough facts to
state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.”
Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570
(2007). To satisfy this standard, a plaintiff must plead
factual content “that allows the court to draw the
reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the
misconduct alleged.” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556
U.S. 662, 678 (2009). A plaintiff must provide “more
than labels and conclusions, and a formulaic recitation of
the elements of a cause of action will not do.”
Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555. The plaintiff's
factual allegations “must be enough to raise a right to
relief above the speculative level on the assumption that all
the allegations in the complaint are true (even if doubtful
in fact).” Id. (internal citations omitted).
ruling on a Rule 12(b)(6) motion, the court generally limits
its review to the face of the pleadings, accepting as true
all well-pleaded facts and viewing them in the light most
favorable to the plaintiff. Spivey v. Robertson, 197
F.3d 772, 774 (5th Cir. 1999). A court does not, however,
accept as true “conclusory allegations, unwarranted
factual inferences, or legal conclusions.” Ferrer
v. Chevron Corp., 484 F.3d 776, 780 (5th Cir. 2007).
The Court Dismisses All Federal and State Claims Against Hunt
The Court Dismisses All Federal Claims Against Hunt
asserts section 1983 claims for municipal liability based on
official policy and failure to train. A municipality cannot
be liable under section 1983 on the theory of respondeat
superior but can be liable when “the action that
is alleged to be unconstitutional implements or executes a
policy statement, ordinance, regulation, or decision
officially adopted and promulgated by that body's
officers.” Monell v. Dep't of Soc. Servs.,
436 U.S. 658, 690-91 (1978). A municipality cannot be held
liable when the underlying employees do not commit a
constitutional violation. Self v. City of Mansfield,
369 F.Supp.3d 684, 702 (N.D. Tex. 2019) (Fish, J.); see
also City of Los Angeles v. Heller, 475 U.S. 796, 799
(1986). To hold a municipal liable based on its
official policy, a plaintiff must show “(1) an official
policy (or custom), of which (2) a policy maker can be
charged with actual or constructive knowledge, and (3) a
constitutional violation whose ‘moving force' is
that policy (or custom).” Pineda v. City of
Houston, 291 F.3d 325, 328 (5th Cir. 2002) (citing
Piotrowski v. City of Houston, 237 F.3d 567, 578
(5th Cir. 2001)).
a failure-to-train claim requires the plaintiff to show
“(1) the municipality's training policy or
procedure was inadequate; (2) the inadequate training policy
was a ‘moving force' in causing violation of the
plaintiff's rights; and (3) the municipality was
deliberately indifferent in adopting its training
policy.” Valle v. City of Houston, 613 F.3d
536, 544 (5th Cir. 2010). “Deliberate indifference is a