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Thomas v. Louisville-Jefferson County Metro Government

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

March 7, 2019

U.B. THOMAS, III Plaintiff


          Rebecca Grady Jennings, United States District Court

         Plaintiff U.B. Thomas, III brings this suit against Defendants Louisville-Jefferson County Metro Government (“Louisville Metro”) and Louisville Fire Department (“LFD”) officials Gregory Frederick, William Bowman, Brian Meurer, Henry Ott, John Griffith, Todd Leonard, Shawn Abma, and Jason Sanders asserting claims under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and Kentucky common law. [DE 1, Compl.]. Defendants now move to dismiss all claims under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6). [DE 4]. Briefing is complete, and the Motion is ripe. [See DE 7, Response; DE 8, Reply]. For the reasons below, the Court GRANTS Defendants' Motion.


         The Court accepts the facts in the Complaint as true for the present Motion. 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 2009, Thomas and his girlfriend, Colleen Compton, rented a house owned by Shane McCain in Louisville, Kentucky. [DE 1 at ¶¶ 13-14]. Fires occurred at Thomas's residence and three other houses owned by McCain. Id. at ¶ 16. The LFD investigated the fires and assigned investigators Abma, Griffith, Leonard, Ott, and Sanders to the matter. Id. at ¶ 17.

         Acting on a tip, the investigators believed that Thomas was partially responsible for setting the fires. Id. at ¶ 18. The investigators located Compton and induced her to participate in questioning by buying her alcohol. Id. at ¶ 23. The investigators interviewed Compton despite knowing that she was under the influence of alcohol and drugs. Id. at ¶ 24. Compton did not implicate Thomas in the fires. Id.

         The investigators brought Thomas to an LFD station for questioning. Id. at ¶ 25. To induce Thomas to participate in questioning, the investigators bought Thomas alcohol and showed him a recording of Compton's interview, in which Compton appeared intoxicated and upset. Id. at ¶ 30. Each time the investigators left the interview room, Thomas ingested narcotics pills that he had brought with him. Id. at ¶ 27. During questioning, Thomas implicated himself in the fires. Id. at ¶ 32. The investigators asked Thomas to sign a Miranda waiver and began video recording the interview. Id. at ¶ 33. Thomas alleges that the investigators “coerced [him] to repeat his false inculpatory statements.” Id.

         A grand jury indicted Thomas for his alleged involvement in the fires. Id. at ¶ 36. Two months later, Thomas wrote to the trial court and local news media about the investigators' conduct during his interrogation. Id. at ¶ 37. The Louisville Metro Police Department's Public Integrity Unit (“PIU”) began an inquiry and interviewed the investigators as part of the PIU inquiry. Id. at ¶¶ 38, 40.

         In August 2010, Thomas's trial began. Id. at ¶ 41. A jury convicted Thomas of several charges. Id. While Thomas was serving his sentence, a state-court judge granted Thomas's motion asserting ineffective assistance of counsel under Kentucky Rule of Criminal Procedure 11.42 and vacated Thomas's convictions. Id. at ¶ 44. The Commonwealth has appealed that ruling. [DE 4-1, Mem. Supp. Mot. Dismiss at 46].

         Thomas then brought this action against investigators Abma, Griffith, Leonard, Ott, and Sanders. [DE 1]. Thomas also sued Louisville Metro, LFD Fire Chief Gregory Frederick, and LFD Fire Marshals William Bowman and Brian Meurer. Id. In his Complaint, Thomas asserts claims for relief under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and Kentucky common law. Id. at ¶¶ 49-105. Defendants now move to dismiss Thomas's complaint. [DE 4].


         Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) instructs that a court must 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 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, 561 F.3d at 488 (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 quotation marks and citation omitted).

         To survive a motion to dismiss, a plaintiff must allege “enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.” Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007). 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.” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678 (citing Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556). “A complaint will be dismissed . . . if no law supports the claims 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).


         A. Fourth Amendment ...

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