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Batyukova v. Doege

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

December 9, 2019




         Before the Court is Bexar County's Motion to Dismiss (ECF No. 37) to which Plaintiff responded (ECF No. 39) and Defendant replied (ECF No. 41). Plaintiff brings this civil rights action against the named Defendants in relation to an incident during which she was shot by a Bexar County Detention Officer. Defendants Bexar County and the Bexar County Sheriff's Office move the Court to dismiss Plaintiff's Monell claims pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6). After careful consideration of the memoranda in support of and in opposition to the motion, the Court, for the following reasons, GRANTS the motion.

         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 Sheriff'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 medical aid to her. Id. at 6-7. 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.

         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 plaintiff's 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

         A. Bexar County Sheriffs Office

         Police and sheriffs departments are governmental subdivisions without capacity for independent legal action. Darby v. Pasadena Police Dep 't, 939 F.2d 311 (5th Cir. 1991). For this reason, the Bexar Sheriffs Office is not a legal entity capable of being sued. Id.; see Guidry v. Jefferson Cty. Det. Ctr., 868 F.Supp. 189, 191 (E.D. Tex. 1994). Where a plaintiff has incorrectly named the department rather than the municipality and the defendant will not be prejudiced by the amendment, the appropriate disposition is dismissal with leave to amend. See Parker v. Fort Worth Police Dep't, 980 F.2d 1023, 1026 (5th Cir. 1993). Here, Batyukova has named the correct defendant, Bexar County. Accordingly, dismissing the Bexar County Sheriff's Office from the action is appropriate.

         B. Bexar County

         Batyukova's First Amended Complaint alleges Doege acted in accordance with his training when he shot Batyukova and did not personally provide any medical treatment. Specifically, Batyukova alleges the following: (1) “The defendants, in standing around allowing a woman, who had been shot multiple times by Defendant Doege and lay bleeding in the street, all acted in a way that . . . demonstrates that they were all acting in accordance with their training;” (2) “Doege's training, per Bexar County and its sheriff's office, was that he should not only shoot Ms. Batyukova as he did, but then to decline to provide any treatment;” (3) “the named individual defendants acted in accordance with their training, thereby proving that their training was inadequate, and such inadequacy was a driving force behind the violations of Ms. Batyukova's constitutional rights.” ECF No. 5 ¶¶ 98, 100, 103-04. Batyukova further alleges Doege was not disciplined “in any way” for his conduct on the night he shot her. Id. ¶ 99. Thus, it appears Batyukova is alleging a Monell claim against Bexar County based upon inadequate training and ratification theories. ECF No. 5 at 14-16.

         1. Inadequate Training Theory of Municipal Liability

         A plausible inadequate training claim alleges facts that allow the court to draw the reasonable inference that “(1) the municipality's training procedures were inadequate; (2) the municipality was deliberately indifferent in adopting its training policy; and (3) the inadequate training policy directly caused the constitutional violation.” Saenz v. City of El Paso,637 Fed.Appx. 828, 831 (5th Cir. 2016) (citing Sanders-Burns v. City of Plano,594 F.3d 366, 381 (5th Cir. 2010); Speck v. Wiginton,606 Fed.Appx. 733, 736 (5th Cir. 2015)). Batyukova can meet the Iqbal-Twombly pleading standard by alleging the County had “actual or constructive notice” that inadequate training caused employees “to violate citizens' constitutional rights.” Connick v. Thompson,563 U.S. 51, 61 (2011). Notice can be alleged with a “pattern of similar constitutional violations.” Id. at 61. To plausibly allege ...

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