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Cook v. Louisville-Jefferson County Metro Government

United States District Court, W.D. Kentucky, Louisville Division

January 22, 2018

JUSTIN E. COOK, Plaintiff,
v.
LOUISVILLE/JEFFERSON COUNTY METRO GOVERNMENT, et al., Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

          DAVID J. HALE, JUDGE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT.

         This action follows from a car wreck between Plaintiff Justin Cook and an off-duty police officer, resulting in Cook's arrest. (Docket No. 10) Cook brings this action against Defendant Louisville/Jefferson County Metro Government and Louisville Metro Police Department Officer Zachariah Aubrey, alleging violations of state law and seeking relief under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 for alleged violations of his constitutional rights. (See id.) Louisville Metro moves to dismiss all claims against it. (D.N. 11) Because Cook fails to state a claim upon which relief may be granted as to Louisville Metro, the Court will grant Louisville Metro's motion to dismiss.

         I. Background

         The following facts are set out in the complaint and accepted as true for purposes of the present motions. See Tackett v. M & G Polymers, USA, LLC, 561 F.3d 478, 488 (6th Cir. 2009) (citing Gunasekera v. Irwin, 551 F.3d 461, 466 (6th Cir. 2009) (citations omitted)).

         In June 2016, Cook fell asleep while driving. (D.N. 10, PageID # 230) As a result, he veered over the center line and struck Aubrey's personal car. (Id.) Aubrey was off-duty at the time. (Id., PageID # 233) Cook alleges that after the collision, Aubrey pointed a gun at him, screamed expletives, and dragged him out of his car. (Id., PageID # 231) Aubrey kicked Cook in the ribs and ignored Cook's attempt to comply with Aubrey's orders. (Id.) The confrontation continued, with Aubrey eventually jumping on top of Cook and driving Cook's chin into the pavement. (Id.) Ultimately, additional officers arrived at the scene, conducted a field sobriety test, and placed Cook under arrest. (Id., PageID # 232) Cook maintains that during the entire ordeal, he was not combative nor did he resist arrest. (Id.)

         The Jefferson County Attorney's Office brought charges against Officer Aubrey for his actions during the encounter with Cook. (Id., PageID # 232) A jury convicted Aubrey of official misconduct in the second degree for his violation of LMPD's Standard Operating Procedures and his unauthorized exercise of official functions. (Id., PageID # 233-34)

         Cook filed suit in Jefferson County Circuit Court on June 12, 2017.[1] (See D.N. 1-3) While a motion to dismiss by Louisville Metro was pending, Cook moved to amend his complaint to add alleged violations of the U.S. Constitution. (See D.N. 1-6) The state court granted his motion. (See D.N. 1-7) On August 3, 2017, Louisville Metro removed the action to this Court on the basis of federal-question jurisdiction. (D.N. 1) Thereafter, Louisville Metro filed a motion to dismiss pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12. (D.N. 4) In light of Cook's motion to file a second amended complaint (D.N. 5), the Court denied Louisville Metro's motion and granted Cook leave to file a second amended complaint. (D.N. 9)

         In his second amended complaint, Cook divides his original federal claim into three counts: (i) violation of the Fourth Amendment, (ii) violation of due process, and (iii) failure to train, supervise, audit, and discipline. (D.N. 10, PageID # 235-38) Cook also alleges various violations of state law. (Id., PageID # 238-41) Louisville Metro now moves to dismiss Cook's second amended complaint pursuant to Rule 12 and to stay discovery pending a ruling on the motion to dismiss. (D.N. 11; D.N. 12) Cook failed to respond to either motion.[2]

         II. Standard

         In order to avoid dismissal for failure to state a claim, “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)). If “the well-pleaded facts do not permit the court to infer more than the mere possibility of misconduct, ” the plaintiff has not shown that he is entitled to relief. Id. at 679. The complaint need not contain “detailed factual allegations, ” but it must provide “more than an unadorned, the-defendant-unlawfully-harmed-me accusation.” Id. at 678 (citing Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555). “Although for the purposes of a motion to dismiss [the Court] must take all of the factual allegations in the complaint as true, [the Court is] not bound to accept as true a legal conclusion couched as a factual allegation.” Id. (citing Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555). Furthermore, “[w]hile a complaint will survive a motion to dismiss if it contains either direct or inferential allegations respecting all material elements necessary for recovery under a viable legal theory . . . legal conclusions masquerading as factual allegations will not suffice.” Phila. Indem. Ins. Co. v. Youth Alive, Inc., 732 F.3d 645, 649 (6th Cir. 2013) (internal quotations omitted).

         III. Discussion

         In its motion to dismiss, Louisville Metro raises two arguments. First, Louisville Metro argues that it is entitled to sovereign immunity as to Cook's state-law claims. (D.N. 11, PageID # 244) The Court agrees. “[U]rban county governments constitute a new classification of county government . . . [and are] entitled to sovereign immunity.” Lexington-Fayette Urban Cty. Gov't v. Smolcic, 142 S.W.3d 128, 132 (Ky. 2004); see also Ky. Rev. Stat. § 67C.101(2)(e) (granting to consolidated local governments “the same sovereign immunity granted to counties, their agencies, officers, and employees”). Although Cook maintains that “the state claims found in the conduct complained of . . . are not directed at Louisville Metro” (D.N. 6, PageID # 147), his second amended complaint asserts three state-law claims against “the Defendants, including The City and The Department.” (D.N. 10, PageID # 238-40) Thus, to the extent Cook asserts any state-law claims against Louisville Metro, those claims are barred by sovereign immunity.[3]

         Second, Louisville Metro argues that it is entitled to dismissal of Cook's claims for relief under § 1983 because Cook's allegations are merely formulaic recitations of the elements of a § 1983 claim. (D.N. 11, PageID # 245-46 (citing Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678)) Even when viewing Cook's second amended complaint in the light most favorable to him, see Tackett, 561 F.3d at 488, the Court agrees with Louisville Metro.

         Section 1983 suits against municipalities “must assert both an alleged constitutional violation and a claim that the city was responsible for the violation.” New v. Louisville Metro Gov't, No. 3:15-cv-653-DJH, 2016 WL 1268299, at *3 (W.D. Ky. Mar. 31, 2016) (citing Collins v. City of Harker Heights, Tex., 503 U.S. 115, 120 (1992)). In his second amended complaint's first two counts, Cook alleges that Louisville Metro is responsible for Aubrey's alleged violations of the Fourth Amendment and Due ...


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