United States District Court, E.D. Kentucky, Southern Division, Pikeville
BETTY Y, Administrator of the Estate of JOHN ALEXANDER Y, Deceased, Plaintiff,
RICHARD W. SANDERS, WILLIAM ALEXANDER PAYNE, DARREN STAPLETON, JONATHAN ROUSE, and CURT ROWE, Defendants.
OPINION AND ORDER
K. CALDWELL UNITED SATES DISTRICT JUDGE
matter is before the Court on two motions to dismiss for
failure to state a claim. The first filed by Jonathan Rouse
and Harold Curt Rowe, (DE 5), and the second by Richard W.
Sanders, William Alexander Payne, and Darren Stapleton, (DE
6). For the reasons set forth below, all claims against
Defendants Rowe, Sanders, Payne, and Stapleton are dismissed.
Plaintiffs claims against Defendant Rouse for violation of
John Casey's Fourteenth Amendment rights, the Americans
with Disabilities Act, negligence, and gross negligence are
dismissed. Plaintiffs claims against Defendant Rouse may
proceed as to her claims that he violated John Casey's
Fourth Amendment rights, committed battery, and for wrongful
death pursuant to Ky. Rev. Stat. § 411.130 based
on a battery theory.
following facts are drawn from the Plaintiffs Complaint and
accepted as true for the purpose of the Defendants'
motions to dismiss. In the morning of July 21, 2016, Kentucky
State Troopers Jonathan Rouse and Harold Curt Rowe arrived at
the residence of John Alexander Casey to arrest him on a
bench warrant for failure to appear in court. (Compl. ¶
9, DE 1.) The encounter initially proceeded calmly, but after
the Troopers advised John Casey that they were there to
arrest him he fled up a nearby hill. (Compl. ¶¶
10-11.) Trooper Rouse pursued John Casey, who may have picked
up a rock or empty blue Pepsi can to throw at Trooper Rouse.
(Compl. ¶ 12.) Before John Casey could throw the object,
he was shot a single time by Trooper Rouse. (Compl.
¶¶ 12—13.) An ambulance arrived forty minutes
later and John Casey died due to the gunshot wound inflicted
by Trooper Rouse. (Compl. ¶¶ 13, 16.)
Casey, John Casey's mother and administratix of his
estate, initiated this action alleging that Trooper
Rouse's decision to shoot John Casey was objectively
unreasonable, exhibited deliberate indifference for his life,
was negligent, and constituted battery. More specifically,
Betty Casey seeks damages under the Civil Rights Act of 1871,
42 U.S.C. § 1983, for violations of John Casey's
rights under the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendment to the U.S.
Constitution. She also alleges that the Defendant's
treatment of John Casey violated his rights under the
Americans with Disabilities Act, 42 U.S.C. § 12131,
et seq., based on his diagnosis for post-traumatic
stress disorder and major depressive disorder. Finally, she
alleges state law claims for negligence, battery, and
wrongful death pursuant to Ky. Rev. Stat. § 411.130.
Casey asserts claims against two sets of Defendants. First,
the "Trooper Defendants, " Troopers Rouse and Rowe,
are alleged to have personally engaged in the conduct leading
to John Casey's death. (Compl. ¶ 7.) The
"Supervisory Defendants" consist of Richard W.
Sanders and William Alexander Payne, Commissioner and Deputy
Commissioner of the Kentucky State Police ("KSP"),
respectively, and Darren Stapleton, Commander of KSP Post 9.
Betty Casey alleges that the Supervisory Defendants were
responsible for establishing policies and the employment,
training, and supervision of each of the Defendants
subordinate to them. (Compl. ¶¶ 4—6.)
Standard of Review
complaint is subject to dismissal pursuant to Federal Rule of
Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) if it "fail[s] to state a claim
upon which relief can be granted." To state a claim for
relief, 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).When evaluating a
motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6), "[t]he complaint
is viewed in the light most favorable to [the plaintiff]; the
allegations in the complaint are accepted as true, and all
reasonable inferences are drawn in [the plaintiffs]
favor." Gavitt v. Born 835 F.3d 623, 640 (6th
Cir. 2016) (citing Jelovsek v. Bredesen, 545 F.3d
431, 434 (6th Cir. 2008)). Legal conclusions that are couched
as factual allegations, however, need not be accepted.
Id. (quoting Bell Atlantic Corp. v.
Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007)).
Supreme Court has further elaborated on the requirements of
Rule 8(a)(2) in two cases: Twombly and Ashcroft
v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662 (2009). The pleading standard of
Rule 8 "does not require 'detailed factual
allegations, ' but it demands more than an unadorned,
Id. at 678 (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at
555). A pleading that merely "offers 'labels and
conclusions' or 'a formulaic recitation of the
elements of a cause of action"' is insufficient.
Id. (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555).
Thus, to survive a Rule 12(b)(6) motion, "a complaint
must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to
'state a claim to relief that is plausible on its
face.'" Id. (quoting Twombly, 550
U.S. at 570). Plausible does not mean probable; a claim is
plausible "when the plaintiff pleads factual content
that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that
the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged, "
but falls short if the "complaint pleads facts that are
"merely consistent with" a defendant's
liability." Id. (citing Twombly, 550
U.S. at 556-57).
when considering a Rule 12(b)(6) motion, the court must
assess the facial sufficiency of the complaint "without
resort to matters outside the pleadings. Gauitt, 835
F.3d at 640 (citing Wysocki v. Int'l Bus. Mach.
Corp., 607 F.3d 1102, 1104 (6th Cir. 2010)). If matters
outside the pleadings are presented to and considered by the
Court, the motion must be converted to one for summary
judgment under Rule 56 and the parties given reasonable time
to present all pertinent material. Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(d). Not
all outside matters require the motion to be converted. The
court "may consider exhibits attached to the complaint,
public records, items appearing in the record of the case,
and exhibits attached to defendant's motion to dismiss,
so long as they are referred to in the complaint and are
central to the claims contained therein, without converting
the motion to one for summary judgment. Gavitt, 835
F.3d at 640 (citing Kreipke v. Wayne State Univ.,
807 F.3d 768, 774 (6th Cir. 2015); Bassett v. Nat'l
Collegiate Athletic Ass'n, 528 F.3d 426, 430 (6th
Cir. 2008)). Matters of which a court may take judicial
notice may also be considered without converting the motion.
Ohio Pub. Emps. Ret. Sys. v. Fed. Home Loan Mortg.
Co., 830 F.3d 376, 382 (6th Cir. 2016).
turning to Plaintiffs specific claims, the Court will address
two initial matters. First, the Plaintiff has conceded that
the Defendants are not liable under the Americans with
Disabilities Act ("ADA") because Title II of the
ADA is applicable only to government entities, not individual
government employees. See, e.g., Ms. Kv. City of South
Portland, 407 F.Supp.2d 290, 296 n.3 (D. Me. 2006)
(collecting cases). Therefore, Plaintiffs ADA claims are
dismissed as to all Defendants.
Plaintiff has argued that the Supervisory Defendants have
converted their motion to dismiss to one for summary judgment
because it relies on matters outside the pleadings.
See Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(d). Specifically, the
Supervisory Defendants discuss testimony by Trooper Rouse
before a state grand jury concerning the incident. The
Supervisory Defendants argue that the Court need not convert
the motion because federal courts may take judicial notice of
other proceedings. See Granader u. Public Bank, 417
F.2d 75, 8283 (6th Cir. 1969). The Court will not consider
any of the testimony discussed in the Supervisory
Defendants' motion to dismiss and therefore need not
convert this motion to one for summary judgment. Accordingly,
Plaintiffs Rule 56(d) affidavit (DE 7-1) is untimely and will
not be considered in addressing the sufficiency of Plaintiffs
the Trooper and Supervisory Defendants argue that they are
entitled to qualified immunity as to Plaintiffs claim that
the Defendants violated John. Casey's constitutional
rights. In Count I, Plaintiff alleges generally that the
"Defendants' conduct was objectively unreasonable,
intentional, reckless, deliberate, wanton and/or malicious,
and was indicative of their total deliberate and reckless
disregard of and indifference to Mr. Casey's life as well
as his rights and the risk of harm to him occasioned by such
conduct." (Compl. ¶ 18.) Looking elsewhere in the
Complaint, and considering Plaintiffs response brief, the
claims against the Defendants can be summarized as follows.
First, that Trooper Rouse violated John Casey's Fourth
Amendment Right to be free from excessive force. (Compl.
¶ 14.) Second, that Trooper Rouse and Rowe were
deliberately indifferent, in violation of the Fourteenth
Amendment, to John Casey's medical needs. (Compl. ¶
16.) Third, that Trooper Rowe failed to prevent the use of
excessive force and contributed to his death by providing him
an alcoholic drink prior to the shooting. (PL's Resp. at
7, DE 7.) And fourth, that Defendants Sanders, Payne, and
Stapleton inadequately trained and supervised their
subordinates, leading to John Casey's death. (Compl.
doctrine of qualified immunity protects government officials,
including law enforcement officers, "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. 231, 229 (2009) (quoting
Harlow v. Fitzgerald, 457 U.S. 800, 818 (1982)). The
doctrine "balances two important interests—the
need to hold public officials accountable when they exercise
power irresponsibly and the need to shield officials from
harassment, distraction, and liability when they perform
their duties reasonably." Id.
'"Qualified immunity gives government officials
breathing room to make reasonable but mistaken judgments,
' and 'protects all but the plainly incompetent or
those who knowingly violate the law."' Stanton
v. Sims, 571 U.S. 3, 6 (2013) (quoting Ashcroft v.
al-Kidd, 563 U.S. 731, 743 (2011)).
immunity is "an immunity from suit rather than a mere
defense to liability" and therefore its applicability
must therefore must be resolved "at the earliest
possible stage of litigation." Id. at 231-32
(first quoting Mitchell v. Forysth, 472 U.S. 511,
526 (1985); then quoting Hunter u. Bryan, 502 U.S.
224, 227 (1991) (per curiam)); see Iqbal 556 U.S. at
685 ("The basic thrust of the qualified-immunity
doctrine is to free officials from the concerns of
litigation, including 'avoidance of disruptive
discovery.'") (quoting Siegert v. Gilley,
500 U.S. 226, 236 (1991) (Kennedy, J., concurring in
judgment)). That point, however, is typically summary
judgment. Wesley v. Campbell, 779 F.3d 421, 433-34
(6th Cir. 2015)).
determine if a defendant is entitled to qualified immunity,
the Court must ask "(1) whether the facts alleged by the
plaintiff make out the violation of a constitutional right
and (2) whether the right at issue was 'clearly
established' at the time of the alleged violation."
Id. at 640 (citing Pearson, 555 U.S. at
232). The burden is on the plaintiff to show that both prongs
are met and that the defendants are not entitled to qualified
immunity. Id. at 640— 41. The plaintiff can
carry this burden, and overcome a motion to dismiss, by
"alleging facts making out a plausible claim that
defendants' conducted violated a constitutional right
that was clearly established a the time of the
violation." Id. (citing Johnson v.
Mosely, 790 F.3d 649, 653 (6th Cir. 2015)).