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Thurman v. Hawkins

United States District Court, E.D. Kentucky, Central Division, Frankfort

September 3, 2014

ROSEMARY THURMAN, ADMINISTRATRIX OF THE ESTATE OF PAUL D. DEMAREE, deceased, LORI OSBOURNE, mother and next friend of KAYCEE DEMAREE, a minor, Plaintiffs,
v.
JOHN HAWKINS, WILLIAM LINDON, and DERRAN BROYLES, Defendants.

MEMORANDUM OPINION & ORDER

GREGORY F. VAN TATENHOVE, District Judge.

When Kentucky State Police Troopers John Hawkins, William Lindon, and Derran Broyles forced entry into a location of a reported domestic dispute, they found an intoxicated and suicidal Paul Demaree, who had a gun pointed to his head. An alleged four minutes and twelve shots later, Demaree was dead. Rosemary Thurman, as the Administratrix of the Estate of Paul Demaree, and Lori Osbourne, as mother of Kaycee Demaree, claim that the Police Defendants' deadly force constitutes an unlawful seizure under the Fourth Amendment as actionable under 42 U.S.C. § 1983.[1] These Plaintiffs have also asserted state law claims against the Police Defendants for wrongful death, battery, negligence, gross negligence, inadequate supervision, and loss of parental consortium. Sergeant Darren Broyles moves to dismiss the claims against him on the grounds that he is shielded from suit by the doctrines of qualified immunity and ualified official immunity. For the reasons the follow, the Court shall GRANT Sergeant Broyles's motion and the claims against him shall be DISMISSED.

I

According to the Complaint, at about 10:00 p.m. on August 17, 2012, the Kentucky State Police dispatch in Frankfort received a call reporting domestic violence at the residence of Paul Demaree. [R. 1 at 2]. KSP Troopers John Hawkins and William Lindon responded to the call and arrived at the residence at approximately 10:08 p.m. [ Id. ] Planning to forcibly enter Demaree's home to make an arrest, Hawkins called his superior officer, Sergeant Derran Broyles, for authorization. Sergeant Broyles instructed Troopers Hawkins and Lindon to wait on his arrival before carrying out the plan. [ Id. ] En route to the scene, Sergeant Broyles learned that Demaree had pending e-warrants for assault and burglary and he subsequently contacted Franklin County Attorney Rick Sparks. [R. 1 at 3-4]. Sparks confirmed the status of the warrants and that the arrest warrants were sufficient bases to enter the home and arrest Demaree. [R. 1 at 4].

The Complaint alleges that Sergeant Broyles arrived at approximately 10:13 p.m. and approved the plan to forcibly enter the home and effectuate the arrest. [ Id. at 2]. Once inside, the Troopers found Demaree heavily intoxicated and pointing a handgun at his own head. [ Id. at 3]. Hawkins ordered Demaree to drop his weapon and surrender. [ Id. ] Demaree got down on his knees but continued to point the handgun at his temple. [ Id. ] According to the Complaint, Demaree asked the officers, "Why don't you guys just go away?, ' Can you guys leave?, ' Can we end this peacefully?'" [ Id. at 4]. But the encounter did not end peacefully. When Demaree refused to put down the gun, the officers took action. The Complaint describes these ensuing actions as follows:

Lindon improperly deployed the taser weapon and only managed to strike decedent in the cheek with a single dart, failing to complete a circuit because Lindon missed with the other dart at a range of about five feet. Less than a second later, when the decedent attempted to remove the dart from his cheek, Hawkins opened fire with his.40 caliber service pistol, as authorized by Broyles, discharging not less than twelve bullets at a range of about five feet and striking decedent with not less than seven bullets, one through his right atrium, killing him instantly.

[ Id. at 3]. The Complaint alleges that within seventeen minutes of the initial call to KSP dispatch and less than four minutes from the officers' entry into the residence, Demaree was dead. [ Id. ]

Demaree's Estate claims that the Police Defendants used deadly force to effectuate an unreasonable seizure of Paul Demaree, which violated his rights under the Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution as actionable under 42 U.S.C §1983. Additionally, Demaree's Estate alleges that the conduct of the Police Defendants supports state law claims for wrongful death, battery, negligence, gross negligence, inadequate supervision, and loss of parental consortium. Though he did not discharge the Taser or fire any shots at Demaree, the Estate claims that Sergeant Broyles is liable because he "authorized" the conduct that brought about Demaree's death. [R. 1 at 3]. Sergeant Broyles counters that the claims against him are not stated with sufficient factual plausibility and, even if they were, he is shielded from these claims by the doctrines of qualified and official immunity. [R. 9-1]. As such, Sergeant Broyles moves the Court to dismiss the claims against him under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6).

II

A

Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) allows a defendant to seek dismissal of a complaint which fails to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6). In reviewing a Rule 12(b)(6) motion, the Court "accept[s] all the Plaintiffs' factual allegations as true and construe[s] the complaint in the light most favorable to the Plaintiffs." Hill v. Blue Cross & Blue Shield of Mich., 409 F.3d 710, 716 (6th Cir. 2005). To properly state a claim, a complaint must contain a "short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief." Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2). Additionally, "[t]o 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) (citing Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007)). "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." Id. (citing Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556).[2]

B

Broyles contends that Demaree's Estate cannot maintain a § 1983 claim against him because he is shielded by qualified immunity. When invoked, "the doctrine of qualified immunity protects government officials from liability for civil damages insofar as their conduct does not violate clearly established statutory or constitutional rights of which a reasonable person would have known.'" Pearson v. Callahan, 555 U.S. 223, 231 (2009). In evaluating claims of qualified immunity, courts generally apply a two-step analysis. First, "[t]aken in a light most favorable to the party asserting the injury, do the facts alleged show the officer's conduct violated a constitutional right." Saucier v. Katz, 533 U.S. 194, 201 (2001). Second, the court asks whether the right at issue was "clearly established." Id. Although at one time courts were required to follow these steps sequentially, the Supreme Court has abandoned that position and now permits courts to "exercise their sound discretion in deciding which of the two prongs of the qualified immunity analysis should be addressed first in light of the circumstances in the particular case at hand." Pearson, 555 U.S. at 236. Finally, once a defendant has raised the defense, "the burden shifts to the plaintiff, who must demonstrate both that the official violated a ...


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