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Lyttle v. Farley

United States District Court, E.D. Kentucky, Southern Division, London

August 9, 2017

LEWIS LYTTLE, Plaintiff,
v.
ROB FARLEY, et al., Defendants.

          OPINION AND ORDER

          KAREN K. CALDWELL, CHIEF JUDGE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT.

         This suit arises in the wake of an altercation that occurred in the parking lot of the Harlan Appalachian Regional Hospital between plaintiff Lewis Lyttle and several Kentucky State Police officers. Lyttle seeks to hold these officers liable for their actions and alleges eight claims[1] of relief under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and Kentucky state law. Two of the officers, Lieutenant Jason Adams and Captain Phillip Burnett, move to dismiss (DE 56; DE 57) all of the claims asserted against them under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6). Because Lyttle's complaint does not state any plausible claims for relief against either Adams or Burnett, it is insufficient and cannot survive a motion to dismiss. Adams and Burnett's motions to dismiss (DE 56; DE 57) will be granted.

         I. BACKGROUND

         The facts, as construed in the light most favorable to Lyttle, see Directv, Inc. v. Treesh, 487 F.3d 471, 476 (6th Cir. 2007), are as follows. On June 15, 2016, Trooper Jimmy Halcomb arrested Lewis Lyttle in the parking lot of Harlan Appalachian Regional Hospital, a small hospital located on the outskirts of Harlan, Kentucky (Amended Compl. ¶ 10). Trooper Halcomb placed Lyttle on the ground, where Lyttle remained for several minutes before another officer, Sergeant Rob Farley, arrived on the scene (Amended Compl. ¶¶ 11-12). Farley proceeded to exit his vehicle upon arrival, walked over to Lyttle, and slapped the Lyttle in the face with an open right hand (Amended Compl. ¶ 15). Farley then grabbed Lyttle, jerking Lyttle's right arm up into his back, and with Halcomb's assistance, brought Lyttle to his feet (Amended Compl. ¶ 16). Halcomb removed Lyttle's handcuffs at Farley's direction. After verbally taunting Lyttle, Farley grabbed Lyttle, now standing un-cuffed, kicked him in the torso, and slammed his head into the pavement (Amended Compl. ¶ 20). Around the same time, two more officers, Trooper Kevin Miller and Trooper Josh Howard, arrived on scene and joined in with Farley and Halcomb (Amended Compl. ¶¶ 19-22). Lyttle alleges that he remained non-combative during the assault (Amended Compl. ¶¶ 14, 19, 25).

         After an unspecified time, the officers arrested Lyttle, put in him in the back of a police cruiser, and transported him to Harlan County Detention Center, where Lyttle contends that he was lodged without medical treatment for over forty-eight hours before he posted bond (Amended Compl. ¶ 26).

         On August 1, 2016, Lyttle was indicted by a Harlan County grand jury (Amended Compl. ¶ 28). Months later, on January 13, 2017, Harlan Circuit Judge Kent Hendrickson dismissed the indictment after the Harlan County Commonwealth's Attorney, Stephen Parker Boggs, moved for its dismissal.

         The present defendants, Adams and Burnett, are not accused of participating in the physical attack of Lyttle. Instead, Lyttle alleges that “[f]rom shortly after [his] arrest on June 15, 2016, until the execution of the Order of dismissal . . . Adams and Burnett knew or should have known that [he] was charged with crimes he did not commit, ” and that both Adams and Burnett, in their “supervisory capacity[ies]” conspired with the other officers involved in the incident “to wrongfully pursue [Lyttle's] prosecution and further criminal proceedings in spite of that knowledge” (Amended Compl. ¶ 30). Based on that accusation, Lyttle alleges claims against Adams and Burnett for: (1) supervisory liability under 42 U.S.C. § 1983; (2) civil conspiracy to deprive under 42 U.S.C. § 1983; (3) malicious prosecution under 42 U.S.C. § 1983; (4) conspiracy to deprive Lyttle of his constitutional rights under state common law; (5) malicious prosecution under state common law; (6) intentional, reckless, or negligent infliction of emotional distress; and (7) negligence.

         II. DISCUSSION

         “[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) (quoting Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007)). The plausibility standard is met “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). Although the complaint “does not need detailed factual allegations” to survive a motion to dismiss, “the plaintiff's obligation to provide the grounds of his entitlement to relief requires 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.

         Moreover, the allegations contained in the complaint “must be enough to raise a right to relief above the speculative level.” Id. Thus, “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.” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678. “[W]hen a complaint pleads facts that are merely consistent with a defendant's liability, it stops short of the line between possibility and plausibility of entitlement to relief.” Id.

         Further, in considering a Rule 12(b)(6) motion, the Court need not accept as true legal conclusions cast in the form of factual allegations if those conclusions cannot be plausibly drawn from the facts as alleged. See Id. (“[T]he tenet that a court must accept as true all of the allegations contained in a complaint is inapplicable to legal conclusions.”); see also Papasan v. Allain, 478 U.S. 265, 286 (1986) (noting that, in reviewing a motion to dismiss, the district court “must take all the factual allegations in the complaint as true, ” but that the court is “not bound to accept as true a legal conclusion couched as a factual allegation”). “Thus, Rule 12(b)(6) essentially ‘allows the Court to dismiss, on the basis of a dispositive issue of law, meritless cases which would otherwise waste judicial resources and result in unnecessary discovery.'” Hall v. City of Williamsburg, No. 6:16-304-DCR, 2017 WL 2274327, at *5 (E.D. Ky. May 24, 2017) (quoting Glassman, Edwards, Wade & Wyatt, P.C. v. Wolf Haldenstein Adler Freeman & Herz, LLP, 601 F.Supp.2d 991, 997 (W.D. Tenn. 2009).

         Both Adams and Burnett move to dismiss all claims as alleged against them, as each argues that Lyttle's complaint is insufficiently pled to survive. At this procedural stage, then, the sole issue before the Court is whether Adams and Burnett have shown that Lyttle's complaint fails to state a claim for relief against them. See Wesley v. Campbell, 779 F.3d 421, 428 (6th Cir. 2015). Each claim for relief is addressed in turn.

         A. Constitutional Claims under 42 U.S.C. § 1983

         To state a claim under § 1983, a plaintiff must allege that a person acting under color of state law deprived him of a right secured by the Constitution or the laws of the United States. See Harbin-Bey v. Rutter, 420 F.3d 571, 575 (6th Cir. 2005). Lyttle asserts two causes of action that concern actions taken under color of state law pursuant to ยง 1983. Those claims, however, must ...


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