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Baughman v. Brooks

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

June 25, 2015

TROY BROOKS, et al., Defendants.


JOSEPH M. HOOD, District Judge.

This matter is before the Court on Defendants' motion to dismiss Plaintiff's Complaint in this action. [DE 12]. Plaintiff has responded. [DE 13]. Defendants have not replied, although the time has now passed to do so. Plaintiff has also filed a motion for the Court to hear oral argument on Defendants' motion to dismiss, [DE 14], to which Defendants have responded. [DE 16]. Thus, these motions are now ripe for review. For the reasons which follow, Defendants' motion will be granted in part and denied in part. The Court being sufficiently advised, Plaintiff's motion for oral argument will be denied.

I. Factual and Procedural Background

In the evening of February 6, 2014, Defendant Troy Brooks, a Kentucky State Police Trooper, arrived at Plaintiff Caitlin Baughman's home to serve a bench warrant on her brother. [DE 1 at ¶ 13-15]. Plaintiff avers that she has been diagnosed with a number of social phobias and "is forced to spend considerable time insulating herself from excessive stimulations from sound, taste, and touch." [DE 1 at ¶ 16]. According to her Complaint, Plaintiff was sitting in the kitchen while Officer Brooks knocked on the door for several minutes. Officer Brooks looked inside to see her but Plaintiff was wearing ear plugs and could not hear the knocking. [DE 1 at ¶ 17-18]. Her brother eventually heard the knocking and directed Plaintiff to go to her room, as was her practice when individuals besides her mother and brother were in her home. He then opened the door and was immediately taken into custody. [DE 1 at ¶ 22-24]. After securing Plaintiff's brother, Officer Brooks returned, entered Plaintiff's home according to Plaintiff, and arrested Plaintiff for resisting arrest for her failure to respond to Officer Brooks' knocking at the door. [DE 1 at ¶ 34-35].

Plaintiff was released from the Bourbon County Regional Detention Center on a surety bond to her brother and returned to court on March 12, 2014, for arraignment, at which time the district court judge dismissed the criminal citation due to a lack of probable cause. [DE 1 at ¶ 41-42].

Plaintiff's Complaint names Officer Brooks and four other Kentucky State Police Officers, individually and in their official capacities, as well as the Kentucky State Police. Plaintiff brings federal claims under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, alleging a violation of her rights under the Fourth, Fifth, Eighth, and Fourteenth Amendment. Plaintiff includes assault and battery, false imprisonment, malicious prosecution, abuse of criminal process, and negligent hiring, supervision, training or retention as alleged constitutional violations under § 1983. She also brings state law claims for assault and battery, false imprisonment, malicious prosecution and intentional infliction of emotional distress. Plaintiff seeks economic damages, damages for pain and suffering, as well as punitive damages.

II. Standard of Review

A motion to dismiss pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6) tests the sufficiency of the plaintiff's complaint. The court views the complaint in the light most favorable to the plaintiff and must accept as true all well-pleaded factual allegations contained within it. Thompson v. Bank of Am., N.A., 773 F.3d 741, 750 (6th Cir. 2014). "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 Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007)). A claim is plausible when it contains facts that allow the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the alleged misconduct. Id. "The plausibility standard... asks for more than a sheer possibility that a defendant has acted unlawfully." Id.

III. Discussion

A. Claims Against the Kentucky State Police

Defendants move to dismiss all claims against the Kentucky State Police on the basis of sovereign immunity. Plaintiff asserts federal claims pursuant to § 1983 and state law claims as well.

It is well settled that states are entitled to sovereign immunity under the Eleventh Amendment and, absent waiver, cannot be sued under § 1983. Will v. Michigan Dep't of State Police, 491 U.S. 58, 66 (1989). This immunity extends to a public agency if "said agency or institution can be characterized as an arm or alter ego of the state." Hall v. Med. Coll. of Oh., 742 F.2d 299, 301 (6th Cir. 1984). Plaintiff does not dispute that there is no waiver, nor that the Kentucky State Police is an alter ego of the state. See Barnes v. Hamilton, 946 F.2d 894, 1991 WL 203113, *2 (6th Cir. 1991) (unpublished); see also Kenney v. Paris Police Dep't, No. 5:07-CV-358-JMH, 2011 WL 1582125, at *5 (E.D. Ky. Apr. 26, 2011); Fleming v. Kentucky State Police, No. 3: 09-35-DCR, 2010 WL 881907, at *3 (E.D. Ky. Mar. 5, 2010). Accordingly, the federal claims against the Kentucky State Police will be dismissed.

The Kentucky State Police are also entitled to immunity on Plaintiff's state law claims. Under Kentucky law "[a] state agency is entitled to immunity from tort liability to the extent that it is performing a governmental as opposed to a proprietary function." Yanero v. Davis, 65 S.W.3d 510, 519 (Ky. 2001) (noting that governmental immunity and sovereign immunity are used interchangeably by Kentucky courts). The Kentucky State Police is tasked with enforcement of the law, a governmental function, and is, thus, entitled to immunity. See Gaither v. Justice & Pub. Safety Cabinet, 447 S.W.3d 628, 633 (Ky. 2014); see also Allen v. Booth, No. CIV.A. 08-135, 2008 WL ...

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