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Batyukova v. Doege

United States District Court, W.D. Texas, San Antonio Division

October 29, 2019




         Before the Court are Defendants City of Castroville and its Police Department, Robert Schaff and Mark Powell's Motion to Dismiss F.R.C.P. 12(b)(6) (ECF No. 19) to which Plaintiff responded (ECF No. 20) and Defendants replied (ECF No. 22) and Defendants Medina County, Marcos Aguilar, and Jerry Allen Thomas' Rule 12(b)(6) Motion to Dismiss (ECF No. 38) to which Plaintiff responded (ECF No. 40). After careful consideration of the memoranda in support of and in opposition to the motions, the Court, for the following reasons, GRANTS the motions.

         I. Factual allegations

         Plaintiff Inessa G. Batyukova's (“Batyukova”) First Amended Complaint, the operative pleading herein, alleges on June 28, 2018, Batyukova was traveling from San Antonio to Eagle Pass on U.S. Highway 90. ECF No. 5 at 4. At approximately 11:30 p.m., Batyukova stopped her vehicle in the left lane of the highway and activated the hazard lights. Id. Approximately five minutes later, Bexar County Sherriff s Deputy Brandon Lee Doege (“Doege”) pulled up behind Batyukova's car, alighted his vehicle, [1] identified himself as a Deputy, and ordered Batyukova out of her car. Id[2] Batyukova alleges she slowly exited her car and slowly walked toward Doege-"obviously unarmed, ” with her hands in the air, and speaking “offensive expletives” directed at Doege-until she stood between his car and hers. Id. at 5. Batyukova further alleges Doege aimed his gun at her, “started screaming, ” and ordered her to place her hands on the car. Id. As Batyukova “moved her arm” to comply with the order, Doege discharged his weapon five times, striking Batyukova in the right arm, shoulder, leg, and stomach. Id. at 5-6. Batyukova “dropped on the ground several feet in front of Doege's car and started bleeding.” Id. at 6. Batyukova further alleges Doege radioed for assistance but otherwise rendered no aid to Batyukova. Id. at 6-7. A few minutes later, Medina County Sherriff s Deputies Jerry Allen Thomas (“Thomas”) and Marcos Aguilar (“Aguilar”) and Castroville Police Officers Robert Schaff (“Schaff”) and Mark Powell (“Powell”) arrived on the scene. Id. at 7. Batyukova alleges none of these “peace officers” rendered medical assistance to her. Id. Rather, “Schaff and Powell assisted in blocking traffic” and “Aguilar and Schaff began photographing the scene.” Id. Emergency personnel arrived on scene at 11:49 p.m. and transported Batyukova to Castroville Airport where she was flown by Airlife to University Hospital in San Antonio. Id.

         Batyukova alleges 42 U.S.C. § 1983 claims against Schaff, Powell, Thomas, and Aguilar for failing to render medical assistance. Id. at 12-14. Batyukova alleges Monell claims against the City of Castroville and its Police Department and Medina County and its Sheriffs office for inadequate training. Id. at 14-16.

         II. Legal Standard

         When presented with a motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6), a court generally “must assess whether the complaint contains sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to state a claim for relief that is plausible on its face[.]” United States v. Bollinger Shipyards Inc., 775 F.3d 255, 257 (5th Cir. 2014) (internal citations and quotation marks omitted). “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.” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (citing Bell Atl Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 556 (2007)). Although a plaintiffs factual allegations need not establish the defendant is probably liable, they must establish more than a “sheer possibility” a defendant has acted unlawfully. Id. Determining plausibility is a “context-specific task, ” and must be performed in light of a court's “judicial experience and common sense.” Id. at 679.

         In assessing a motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6), the court's review is generally limited to the complaint and any documents attached to the motion to dismiss that are referred to in the complaint and are central to the plaintiff's claims. Tellabs Inc. v. Makor Issues & Rights Ltd, 551 U.S. 308, 322 (2007); In re Katrina Canal Breaches Litigation, 495 F.3d 191, 205 (5th Cir. 2007). When reviewing the complaint, the “court accepts all well-pleaded facts as true, viewing them in the light most favorable to the plaintiff.” Martin K. Eby Constr. Co. v. Dallas Area Rapid Transit, 369 F.3d 464, 467 (5th Cir. 2004) (internal quotation marks omitted) (quoting Jones v. Greninger, 188 F.3d 322, 324 (5th Cir. 1999)). While well-pleaded facts of a complaint are to be accepted as true, legal conclusions are not “entitled to the assumption of truth.” Iqbal, 129 S.Ct. at 1950 (citation omitted). Further, a court is not to strain to find inferences favorable to the plaintiff and is not to accept “conclusory allegations, unwarranted deductions, or legal conclusions.R2 Invs. LDC v. Phillips, 401 F.3d 638, 642 (5th Cir. 2005) (citations omitted). A court does not evaluate the plaintiff's likelihood of success; instead, it only determines whether the plaintiff has pleaded a legally cognizable claim. United States ex rel Riley v. St. Luke's Episcopal Hosp., 355 F.3d 370, 376 (5th Cir. 2004).

         III. Discussion

         Defendants Schaff and Powell assert qualified immunity. ECF No. 19 at 2. Defendants Thomas and Aguilar assert qualified immunity and argue Batyukova failed to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. ECF No. 38 at 3, 6. The defense of qualified immunity protects government officials from liability for civil damages in individual-capacity suits unless the officer's conduct was unreasonable in light of clearly established law. Harlow v. Fitzgerald, 457 U.S. 800, 818 (1982); Ashcroft v. al-Kidd, 563 U.S. 731, 741 (2011); District of Columbia v. Wesby, 138 S.Ct. 577, 589 (2018). “When a defendant invokes qualified immunity, the burden is on the plaintiff to demonstrate the inapplicability of the defense.” McClendon v. City of Columbia, 305 F.3d 314, 323 (5th Cir. 2002). To defeat a defendant's qualified immunity assertion in a motion to dismiss, a plaintiff must plausibly allege (1) the defendant violated a federal constitutional or statutory right; and (2) the right was clearly established at the time of the violation. King v. Handorf 821 F.3d 650, 653 (5th Cir. 2016) (citing Collier v. Montgomery, 569 F.3d 214, 217 (5th Cir. 2009) and quoting Morgan v. Swanson, 659 F.3d 359, 371 (5th Cir. 2011) (en banc)). As discussed below, Batyukova fails to allege a constitutional violation. Therefore, the Court need not engage in analysis of the second element.

         A. Deliberate Indifference Claim Against Deputies Thomas and Aguilar and Officers Schaff and Powell

         To state a federal civil rights claim, a plaintiff must allege a specific defendant, while acting under color of state law, deprived her of a right guaranteed under the Constitution or a federal statute. See West v. Atkins, 487 U.S. 42, 48 (1988). “A person acts under color of state law if he misuses power possessed by virtue of state law and made possible only because the wrongdoer is clothed with the authority of state law.” Bustos v. Martini Club, 599 F.3d 458, 464 (5th Cir. 2010) (quoting West, 487 U.S. at 49) (internal quotations omitted). To plausibly allege entitlement to relief, a plaintiffs complaint “must allege facts showing how each individually named defendant caused or personally participated in causing the harm alleged in the complaint.” Smith v. Epps, No. 4:07CV43-P-S, 2010 WL 437075, at *2 (N.D. Miss. 2010) (citing Mouille v. City of Live Oak, Tex., 977 F.2d 924, 929 (5th Cir. 1992). Although a plaintiff need not set forth detailed factual allegations, she must plead facts with particularity. A complaint must be dismissed if it does not allege “enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.” Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 556 (2007). A well-pleaded complaint includes clearly stated claims and facts to support those claims. Id. at 555. “[T]hreadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action, supported by mere conclusory statements, do not suffice.” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678.

         To state a claim for deliberate indifference to a serious medical need, a plaintiff must plausibly allege that a specific defendant was deliberately indifferent to her serious medical needs. See Helling v. McKinney, 509 U.S. 25, 32 (1993); Estelle v. Gamble, 429 U.S. 97, 106 (1976); Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556; Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678. A serious medical need is “one for which treatment has been recommended or for which the need is so apparent that even laymen would recognize that care is required.” Gobert v. Caldwell, 463 F.3d 339, 345 n.12 (5th Cir. 2006). An allegation of deliberate indifference must show the plaintiffs “exposure to a substantial risk of serious harm” and the official's “deliberate indifference to that risk, ” such as the intentional denial, delay, or interference with a plaintiffs medical care, or conduct that evinces a wanton disregard. Gobert, 463 F.3d at 345-46; Domino v. Texas Dep't of Criminal Justice, 239 F.3d 752, 756 (5th Cir. 2001); see also Estelle, 429 U.S. at 104-05. To demonstrate deliberate indifference, a plaintiff must show the official knew a substantial risk of serious harm existed and disregarded the risk. Cleveland v. Bell, 938 F.3d 672, 676 (5th Cir. 2019) (quoting Farmer v. Brennan, 511 U.S. 825, 837 (1994)). “A failure to act ‘unaccompanied by knowledge of a significant risk of harm' is insufficient to establish a constitutional violation.” Id. Thus, an inadvertent failure to provide adequate medical care, negligence, a mere delay in medical care (without more), or a difference of opinion over proper medical treatment, are all insufficient to constitute deliberate indifference. See Estelle, 429 U.S. at 105-07. A plaintiff must show the official “refused to treat him, ignored his complaints, intentionally treated him incorrectly, or engaged in any similar conduct that would clearly evince a wanton disregard for any serious medical needs.” Johnson v. Treen, 759 F.2d 1236, 1238 (5th Cir. 1985).

         Government officials are obligated to provide medical care to a person injured while being apprehended by police because “due process rights” of an unconvicted person “are at least as great as the Eighth Amendment protections available to a convicted prisoner.” Revere v. Mass. Gen. Hosp.,463 U.S. 239, 244 (1983). “When the State assumes certain custodial roles with respect to an individual, it creates a ‘special relationship' that imparts to the State a limited duty to provide for that person's safety and general well-being.” M.D. v. Abbott,907 F.3d 237, 249 (5th Cir. 2018). Therefore, a delay in obtaining medical treatment for an individual who has been injured while being apprehended by police that ...

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