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Stigall v. Louisville Jefferson County Metro Government

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

October 3, 2018

JORIAN STIGALL PLAINTIFF
v.
LOUISVILLE JEFFERSON COUNTY METRO GOVERNMENT, ET AL. DEFENDANTS

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          Charles R. Simpson III, Senior Judge.

         I. INTRODUCTION

         This matter is before the Court on Defendants' Motion to Dismiss pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6) for failure to state a claim for which relief can be granted. (DN 4). Plaintiff has filed a response (DN 5), to which Defendants replied (DN 6). Fully briefed, the matter is now ripe for adjudication. For the reasons set forth below, the Court will GRANT in part and DENY in part Defendants' Motion to Dismiss (DN 4).

         II. STATEMENT OF FACTS AND CLAIMS

         This is a civil rights action brought under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, with pendent state law claims. (Comp., DN 1). Plaintiff Jorian Stigall (“Plaintiff”) asserts that on March 23, 2017, two police officers of the Louisville Metro Police Department, Defendant Officer John Green (“Green”) and Defendant Officer Mary King (“King”) (collectively, “the Officer Defendants”), falsely arrested her. (Compl. ¶¶ 14, 63, DN 1). Plaintiff claims that on March 23, 2017, the Officer Defendants called Plaintiff and her roommate to request a meeting. (Compl. ¶ 13). Plaintiff agreed to meet the Officer Defendants at her residence and later agreed to travel to the police station for further questioning. (Compl. ¶ 13). The Officer Defendants “badgered and tormented the Plaintiff during the entire investigation” and when the Officer Defendants “were not satisfied with the answers of the Plaintiff, they concluded … that the Plaintiff was involved in a physical altercation with a person, where the Plaintiff and along with several other suspects jumped the person whom was the sister of the alleged victim in which the [Officer] Defendants assert that the Plaintiff assaulted.” (Compl. ¶ 13). The Court notes that this language is taken directly from Plaintiff's Complaint. Although it lacks the grammatical correctness and clarity that is expected of lawyers practicing before this Court, we will assume Plaintiff alleges that the Officer Defendants concluded Plaintiff assaulted another person.

         On April 11, 2017, the Jefferson County District Court held a preliminary hearing where the Officer Defendants “provided the Assistant County Attorney with fabricated evidence” to have the case referred to the grand jury. (Compl. ¶ 18-19). The Jefferson County District Court determined that probable cause existed for the charge of Complicity to Assault - 2nd Degree and referred the case to the grand jury. (Compl. ¶ 20). On June 27, 2017, the grand jury returned a No True Bill against Plaintiff, and the charges were dismissed in favor of the Plaintiff. (Compl. ¶¶ 21-22).

         Subsequently, Plaintiff sued the Officer Defendants in their individual and official capacities, as well as the Louisville Jefferson County Metro Government (“Louisville Metro”) (collectively, “Defendants”), alleging false arrest by the Officer Defendants under § 1983 (Count I); malicious prosecution by the Officer Defendants under § 1983 (Count II); municipal liability against Louisville Metro under Monell v. Department of Social Services of the City of New York, 436 U.S. 658 (1978) (Count III); false imprisonment by the Officer Defendants under state law (Count IV); negligent/intentional infliction of emotional distress and outrageous conduct by Defendants under state law (Count V); and malicious prosecution by Defendants under state law (Count VI).

         III. LEGAL STANDARD

         When evaluating a motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6), the Court must determine whether the complaint alleges “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)) (internal quotation marks omitted). A claim is plausible if “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 need not contain “detailed factual allegations, ” “a 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 (internal quotation marks and alteration omitted). “Nor does a complaint suffice if it tenders naked assertion[s] devoid of further factual enhancement.” Ashcroft, 556 U.S. at 678 (internal quotation marks and citation omitted).

         IV. DISCUSSION

         Defendants[1] seek dismissal on several grounds. First, Defendants argue that dismissal is appropriate because Plaintiff has failed to plead sufficient facts to state a plausible claim for relief. Second, Defendants contend that Plaintiff's state law claims against Louisville Metro and claims against Officer Defendants in their official capacities are barred by the doctrine of sovereign immunity. Third, Defendants assert that Plaintiff's Complaint is barred by collateral estoppel. The Court will address each of these arguments in turn.

         Collateral Estoppel

          Defendants contend that Plaintiff's Complaint is barred by the doctrine of collateral estoppel because Plaintiff had a full and fair opportunity to litigate the issue of probable cause at her preliminary hearing. (Defs.' Mem. Supp. Mot. to Dismiss, DN 4-1, at 7-9). “The Supreme Court has held that issues decided in a state-court criminal proceeding are entitled to preclusive effect in a subsequent federal § 1983 suit to the extent provided by the law of preclusion in the state where the judgment was rendered.” Donovan v. Thames, 105 F.3d 291, 293-94 (6th Cir. 1997) (citing Allen v. McCurry, 449 U.S. 90, 102 (1980)). In Donovan, the Sixth Circuit noted:

Under Kentucky law, res judicata, or claim preclusion may be used to preclude entire claims that were brought or should have been brought in a prior action, while the doctrine of collateral estoppel [or issue preclusion] only applies to issues actually litigated. Moreover, Kentucky has approved the use of non-mutual collateral estoppel, i.e., issue preclusion may apply against a party to a prior suit even though the parties in the subsequent law suit are not identical to the parties in the prior action.

Donovan, 105 F.3d at 295 (internal citations omitted).

         Issue preclusion “prohibits issues which were adjudicated in a previous lawsuit from being relitigated in a subsequent lawsuit.” Miller v. Admin. Office of Courts, 361 S.W.3d 867, 871 (Ky. 2011). “The rule contemplates that the court in which [issue preclusion] is asserted shall inquire whether the judgment in the former action was in fact rendered under such conditions that the party against whom [issue preclusion] is pleaded had a realistically full and fair opportunity to present the case.” Id. at 872. (quoting Moore v. Commonwealth, 954 S.W.2d 317, 319 (Ky. 1997)).

         The Court cannot conclude that Plaintiff had a full and fair opportunity to litigate the issue of probable cause at the preliminary hearing on April 11, 2017. Defendants contend that, because a preliminary hearing was held in which the Jefferson County District Court determined that probable cause existed for the charge of Complicity to Assault - 2nd Degree, Plaintiff is precluded from relitigating the issue of probable cause. (Defs.' Mem. Supp. Mot. to Dismiss, at 9). Defendant further states that “Plaintiff's counsel, the same counsel now representing Plaintiff had a full and fair opportunity to litigate whether probable cause existed.” (Defs.' Mem. Supp. Mot. to Dismiss, at 9). However, there is nothing to indicate “what facts were presented, what evidence was considered by the state court, or on what basis that court found probable cause.” United States v. Jimenez, No. 5:13-CR-00045-TBR-1, 2014 WL 2816018, at *4 n.3 (W.D. Ky. June 23, 2014), aff'd, 654 Fed.Appx. 815 (6th Cir. 2016) (declining to hold “that a probable cause determination at a postarrest preliminary hearing was sufficient to satisfy the requirements for preclusion of that issue under Kentucky law”). Accordingly, the Court will decline to grant Defendants' Motion to Dismiss on that basis.

         Claims against Officer Defendants

         The Complaint asserts federal and state law claims against the Officer Defendants in their official and individual capacities. These claims against the Officer Defendants in their official capacities are equivalent to claims asserted directly against Louisville Metro. See Kentucky v. Graham, 473 U.S. 159, 165-66 (1985) (citing Monell v. New York City Dept. of Soc. Servs., 436 U.S. 658, 690 n.55 (1978)); See also Greene v. Commonwealth, 349 S.W.3d 892, 903 (Ky. 2011). This Court will, therefore, dismiss the official capacity claims against the Officer Defendants since Louisville Metro is already a party. See Doe v. Claiborne Cnty., Tenn., 103 F.3d 495, 509 (6th Cir. 1996) (affirming district court's dismissal of official-capacity claims); Baar v. Jefferson ...


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