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Lyvers v. Newkirk

United States District Court, W.D. Kentucky, Bowling Green Division

December 7, 2017




         This matter is before the Court on Defendant's Motion to Dismiss/for Summary Judgment (DN 25), Defendants' Combined Motion for Summary Judgment (DN 27), Plaintiff's Motion to Supplement (DN 30), Plaintiff's Motion for Deposition by Phone (DN 32), Plaintiff's Motion for Deposition by Phone & Subpoena Duces Tecum (DN 35), Plaintiff's Supplement to Motion for Deposition by Telephone (DN 36), Plaintiff's Motions for Extension of Time (DN 44, 45), Plaintiff's Motions to Reconsider (DN 46, 49), and Defendant's Motion to Join (DN 52). For the reasons set forth below, Defendants' motions (DN 25, 27) are DENIED, and Plaintiff's motions and Defendant's Motion to Join are DENIED AS MOOT.

         I. BACKGROUND

         A. Factual Background

         Plaintiff Eric Todd Lyvers (“Plaintiff”) brought this action against Defendants James Newkirk's (“Newkirk”), Wally Ritter (“Ritter”), and Jordan Jones (“Jones”) (collectively “Defendants”), asserting claims under 42 U.S.C. § 1983.[1] (Compl. 4-5). Plaintiff is an inmate at the Blackburn Correctional Complex; Newkirk is a Kentucky State Police Officer; and Ritter and Jones are Edmonson County Sheriff's Deputies. (Notice Address, DN 28). The facts set forth below are derived from the pleadings and public documents of which the Court may take judicial notice.[2] See Fed. R. Evid. 201(b)(2).

         The Complaint states that Defendants stopped Plaintiff at a checkpoint, and then Newkirk “used past history” to extend the stop and to justify a search of Plaintiff's pockets, wherein he discovered a spoon and pill capsule. (Compl. 4). Ritter “personally assisted” Newkirk's search and subjected the spoon and contents of the capsule to a chemical test to determine whether those objects contained trace amounts of narcotics. (Compl. 4-5). Defendants then informed Plaintiff that the objects tested positive for methamphetamine and arrested him for: (1) possession of controlled substance, (2) possession of drug paraphernalia, (3) operating a motor vehicle under the influence of alcohol or drugs, and (4) obstructing the windshield of his vehicle. (Compl. 4-5). After the arrest, Jones “search[ed] [Plaintiff's] vehicle . . . .” (Compl. 4- 5).

         Subsequently, the Commonwealth of Kentucky initiated criminal proceedings against Plaintiff. On December 23, 2015, the Edmonson District Court held a preliminary hearing and found probable cause to bind Plaintiff over for trial on various charges, including the charge of driving while under the influence, [3] KRS 189A.010. (Defs. Ritter & Jones' Mot. Summ. J. Ex. 3, DN 27-4). In addition, the Edmonson Circuit Court grand jury indicted Plaintiff on charges which the judge conducting the preliminary hearing had found to be supported by probable cause. (Defs. Ritter & Jones' Mot. Summ. J. Ex. 4, DN 27-5). Later, Plaintiff pleaded guilty to operating a motor vehicle while under the influence of alcohol or drugs. (Def. Newkirk's Mot. Dismiss Ex. B, DN 25-3). The Edmonson Circuit Court sentenced Plaintiff to 30 days' imprisonment, and the Commonwealth dismissed all other charges.[4] (Def. Newkirk's Mot. Dismiss Ex. B, DN 25-3; Pl.'s Resp. Newkirk's Mot. Dismiss Mot. Summ. J. Ex. A, DN 29-1).

         B. Procedural History

         After serving his sentence, Plaintiff filed this action. Though not entirely clear, he seems to allege that Defendants violated federal law when they falsely arrested and imprisoned him without probable cause. (Compl. 4-5). Further, he appears to contend that Defendants are liable to him under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 on the grounds that Defendants violated his Fourth Amendment rights during the course of the traffic stop. (Compl. 5).

         In response, Defendants filed motions[5] asking the Court to dismiss Plaintiff's claims. (Newkirk's Mem. 1-16; Ritter & Jones' Mem. 1-17). Defendants assert that the Complaint fails to state a claim pursuant to principles of collateral estoppel and the Heck doctrine. (Newkirk's Mem. 5-10; Defs. Ritter & Jones' Mem. 10-14). Further, Newkirk avers that the Complaint should be dismissed because Plaintiff's guilty plea to the charge of driving under the influence bars him from challenging his arrest and any pre-arrest conduct. (Newkirk's Mem. 9).[6]

         After Defendants filed their dispositive motions, Plaintiff submitted responses and a number of discovery requests and motions. Specifically, Plaintiff served Defendants with requests for production of documents and interrogatories. (See, e.g., Joint Mot. Stay Disc. Ex. 1, DN 33-1). Moreover, he moved the Court to permit him to supplement his response to Newkirk's motion and to allow him to depose two individuals-Blake Chambers (“Chambers”), a Commonwealth's Attorney, and Vent-telephonically.[7] (Pl.'s Mot. Suppl. Resp. Newkirk's Motion, DN 30; Pl.'s Mot. Dep. Phone, DN 32, 35; Pl.'s Suppl. Mot. Dep. Phone, DN 36).

         Upon receiving service of Plaintiff's discovery requests, Defendants moved to stay discovery pending the resolution of their dispositive motions, asserting that many of the arguments raised in those motions speak to the sufficiency of the Complaint rather than the facts of the case and that a finding from the Court that the Complaint fails to state a claim would render discovery unnecessary. (Joint Mot. Stay Disc. 1-2, DN 33). On November 7, 2017, this Court granted Defendants' motion and stayed discovery. (Order, DN 43).

         Presently, two dispositive motions are pending before this court: (1) Newkirk's Motion to Dismiss or Motion for Summary Judgment, and (2) Ritter and Jones' Motion for Summary Judgment. The subject motions have been fully briefed and are ripe for adjudication.


         This Court has subject matter jurisdiction over Plaintiff's Section 1983 claims under 28 U.S.C. § 1331 because a federal question is presented.


         Though Defendants raise arguments in their dispositive motions claiming entitlement to summary judgment, the Court will only address Defendants' arguments insofar as they challenge the sufficiency of the Complaint. Ruling on Defendants' summary judgment arguments[8] is improper at this time because Defendants have not yet responded to Plaintiff's discovery requests and, therefore, Plaintiff has not had an opportunity to discover facts that might oppose those arguments.[9] See Cunningham v. Osram Sylvania, Inc., 221 F. App'x 420, 423 (6th Cir. 2007) (stating that courts should permit “a period of discovery prior to ruling on a motion for summary judgment . . . .” (citation omitted)); see also Vega v. First Fed. Sav. & Loan Ass'n of Detroit, 622 F.2d 918, 926 (6th Cir. 1980) (concluding that the trial court erred in granting summary judgment when non-moving party had not received responses to discovery requests).

         In order to survive a motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim, a complaint must contain “enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.” Traverse Bay Area Intermediate Sch. Dist. v. Mich. Dep't of Educ., 615 F.3d 622, 627 (6th Cir. 2010) (internal quotation marks and citation omitted). When considering a motion to dismiss, courts must presume all factual allegations in the complaint to be true and make all reasonable inferences in favor of the non-moving party. Total Benefits Planning Agency, Inc. v. Anthem Blue Cross & Blue Shield, 552 F.3d 430, 434 (6th Cir. 2008) (citation omitted).

         Of course, a complaint does not state a plausible claim if all claims asserted are barred as a matter of law. The Sixth Circuit and sister courts have recognized that a complaint should be dismissed for failure to state a claim if the claims in it are barred by preclusion doctrines and other similar rules. See Scherer v. JP Morgan Chase & Co., 508 F. App'x 429, 434 (6th Cir. 2012) (recognizing that a complaint fails to state a claim if collateral estoppel precludes the claims in it); A.M. v. City of Detroit, No. CIV.A. 04CV73442, 2006 WL 381646, at *2 (E.D. Mich. Feb. 16, 2006) (dismissing claim as Heck-barred during pleading phase); Insight Ky. Partners II, L.P. v. Louisville/Jefferson Cty. Metro Gov't, No. ...

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