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Fletcher-Hope v. Louisville-Jefferson County Metro Government

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

February 8, 2019

CYNTHIA FLETCHER-HOPE Plaintiff
v.
LOUISVILLE-JEFFERSON COUNTY METRO GOVERNMENT, ET AL. Defendants

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

          REBECCA GRADY JENNINGS, DISTRICT JUDGE

         Plaintiff Cynthia Fletcher-Hope brings this action against Defendants Louisville-Jefferson County Metropolitan Government (the “Metro Government”), Captain Darrell Goodlett, Lieutenant Timothy Huber, Officer Kenneth Bennett, and unknown defendants alleging sexual harassment under KRS § 344.010, et seq. (Count One), retaliation under KRS § 344.010, et seq. (Count Two), racial discrimination under KRS § 344.010, et seq. (Count Three), violation of Fletcher-Hope's rights under the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution and Section 10 of the Kentucky Constitution (Count Four), assault and battery (Count Five), age discrimination under KRS § 344.010, et seq. (Count Six), gender discrimination under KRS § 344.010, et seq. (Count Seven), negligent supervision (Count Eight), and defamation (Count Nine). [DE 1-2, Compl. at ¶¶ 21-83]. The Metro Government now moves to dismiss Fletcher-Hope's claims against it under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6). [DE 5]. The matter is ripe for judgment. Having considered the parties' filings and the applicable law, the Court GRANTS IN PART and DENIES IN PART the Metro Government's Motion to Dismiss.

         BACKGROUND

         The following facts are set out in the Complaint and accepted as true for purposes of the Metro Government's Motion. Davis v. Prison Health Servs., 679 F.3d 433, 440 (6th Cir. 2012).

         Fletcher-Hope is an African American woman employed by the Metro Government, d/b/a Louisville Metro Department of Corrections (the “LMDC”) as a corrections officer at the Community Corrections Center (the “CCC”). [DE 1-2 at ¶¶ 1, 10]. On June 28, 2017, Fletcher-Hope's assigned government truck and trailer were parked on the street in front of the CCC. Id. at ¶ 10. Fletcher-Hope observed Captain Goodlett outside with a K-9 dog, which was sniffing Fletcher-Hope's truck and trailer. Id. at ¶ 11. Captain Goodlett directed Fletcher-Hope to unlock the trailer to allow the dog to sniff inside. Id. The dog did not find any drugs or contraband in the trailer or on nearby inmates who were cutting grass outside of the CCC. Id. at ¶ 12.

         Captain Goodlett then ordered the K-9 dog to sniff Fletcher-Hope. Id. at ¶ 13. The dog sniffed Fletcher-Hope as she stood on the sidewalk on Chestnut Street in front of other officers, the inmates, and the public. Id. Fletcher-Hope has been “terrified” of dogs since she was seven years old, when she was attacked by a dog that left her with scars. Id. at ¶ 14. Captain Goodlett yelled at Fletcher-Hope as the dog searched her, and in total the search lasted more than one hour. Id. at ¶¶ 15-16. No. drugs or contraband were found. Id. at ¶ 16.

         Fletcher-Hope claims that she was traumatized by the search and continues to suffer emotional injury that requires counseling and necessitates time away from her employment. Id. at ¶ 17. Fletcher-Hope filed a union grievance, which the LMDC denied. Id. at ¶ 18. Fletcher-Hope then filed a Charge of Discrimination with the Kentucky Commission on Human Rights alleging discrimination because of her race, gender, and age, in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967. Id. at ¶ 19. On May 9, 2018, Fletcher-Hope received an Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”) Notice of Right to Sue, which indicated that the EEOC had terminated its processing of Fletcher-Hope's charge and that she had the right to sue in federal or state court. Id. at ¶ 20.

         Fletcher-Hope timely filed suit in Jefferson County Circuit Court alleging sexual harassment under KRS § 344.010, et seq. (Count One), retaliation under KRS § 344.010, et seq. (Count Two), racial discrimination under KRS § 344.010, et seq. (Count Three), violation of Fletcher-Hope's rights under the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments to the U.S. Constitution and Section 10 of the Kentucky Constitution (Count Four), assault and battery (Count Five), age discrimination under KRS § 344.010, et seq. (Count Six), gender discrimination under KRS § 344.010, et seq. (Count Seven), negligent supervision (Count Eight), and defamation (Count Nine). Id. at ¶¶ 21-83. The Metro Government moves to dismiss Fletcher-Hope's claims against it under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6). [DE 5]. Fletcher-Hope did not file a response and the time for doing so has expired.

         LEGAL STANDARD

         Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) requires a court to dismiss a complaint if the complaint “fail[s] to state a claim upon which relief can be granted[.]” Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6). To properly state a claim, 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 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). “But the district court need not accept a bare assertion of legal conclusions.” Tackett v. M & G Polymers, USA, LLC, 561 F.3d 478, 488 (6th Cir. 2009) (citation omitted). “A pleading that offers labels and conclusions or a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action will not do. Nor does a complaint suffice if it tenders naked assertion[s] devoid of further factual enhancement.” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (internal citation and quotation marks omitted).

         To survive a motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6), the plaintiff must allege “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 omitted) (quoting Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007)). A claim becomes 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.” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678 (citing Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556). “A complaint will be dismissed pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6) if no law supports the claim[s] made, if the facts alleged are insufficient to state a claim, or if the face of the complaint presents an insurmountable bar to relief.” Southfield Educ. Ass'n v. Southfield Bd. of Educ., 570 Fed.Appx. 485, 487 (6th Cir. 2014) (citing Twombly, 550 U.S. at 561-64).

         DISCUSSION

         A. Federal Claim

         Fletcher-Hope brings one federal claim against the Metro Government. In Count Four, Fletcher-Hope alleges that the Metro Government violated her rights under the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution when the Metro Government's employees “wrongfully, and without probable cause, illegally detained and searched” her, “effectively arrest[ing] her.” [DE 1-2 at ¶ 45]. Fletcher-Hope seeks damages for this alleged violation under 28 U.S.C. § 1983. Id. at ¶ 84. The Metro Government responds that Fletcher-Hope cannot base a Section 1983 claim on the conduct of its employees because respondeat superior is not an available theory of recovery under Section 1983. [DE 5-1 at 47-47]. Connick v. Thompson,563 U.S. 51, 60 (2011) (“[U]nder § 1983, local governments are responsible only for their own illegal acts. They are not vicariously liable under § 1983 for their employees' actions.”). Instead, a municipality is liable under Section 1983 only if the challenged conduct occurs pursuant to a municipality's “official ...


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