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Ike v. Commonwealth

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

June 12, 2019

DALE IKE, Plaintiff,
v.
COMMONWEALTH OF KENTUCKY, et al., Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

          CLARIA BOOM, DISTRICT JUDGE

         This matter is before the Court on related motions. Defendants Commonwealth of Kentucky (the “Commonwealth”) and Commissioner Richard Sanders (“Sanders, ” collectively with Commonwealth, “Defendants”) have filed a Motion to Dismiss the Commonwealth, the named and unnamed state official Defendants sued in their official capacity, and Sanders with prejudice pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6). [R. 4] Following Defendants' Motion to Dismiss, Plaintiff Dale Ike (“Ike”) moved to amend his Complaint pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 15(a)(2) and to voluntarily dismiss Sanders from this action without prejudice pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 41(a)(2) (“Motion to Amend and to Dismiss Sanders”). [R. 6] Ike also filed a Response to Defendants' Motion to Dismiss. [R. 7] Defendants filed a Reply to their Motion to Dismiss and filed a Response in opposition to Ike's Motion to Amend and to Dismiss Sanders. [R. 8; R. 9] Ike filed a Reply in support of his Motion to Amend and Motion to Dismiss Sanders. [R. 10] These matters being fully briefed are now ripe for review. For the reasons stated herein, the Court will GRANT Defendants' Motion to Dismiss as to the Commonwealth and to the named and unnamed state official Defendants to the extent claims are brought against them in their official capacity, will REMAND the Defendants' Motion to Dismiss as to Sanders pending Ike's decision on whether to refile his Motion to Dismiss this Defendant with or without prejudice, and will DENY WITHOUT PREJUDICE Plaintiff's Motion to Amend and to Dismiss Sanders with leave to refile following Defendants' filing of defense costs associated with the defense of Defendant Sanders up to the date of entry of this Memorandum Opinion and Order. Upon review of defense costs, Plaintiff may refile the Motion to Amend and to Dismiss Sanders without prejudice with the conditions imposed herein, or may file a Motion to Dismiss Sanders with prejudice.

         I. Background

         Because this matter is before the Court on Defendants' Motion to Dismiss pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6), the Court must presume as true all of the factual allegations contained in the Complaint. See Total Benefits Planning Agency, Inc. v. Anthem Blue Cross & Blue Shield, 552 F.3d 430, 434 (6th Cir. 2008). Accordingly, the following background is drawn from the Complaint, and the factual allegations are assumed true for purposes of considering the Defendants' motion. [R. 1, Compl.]

         Ike alleges that on or about August 28, 2017, while driving from Frankfort, Kentucky to his home in Jeffersonville, Indiana, he began suffering from an “undiagnosed brain injury which effected [sic] his memory, reasoning, and motor skills.” [R. 1, Compl., at ¶ 5, 17] As a result, Ike “drew the interest” of Kentucky State Police (“KSP”) Trooper E. Whitworth (“Trooper Whitworth”), also a named Defendant in this action. Id. at ¶18. Trooper Whitworth attempted to stop Ike on I-64, but “[d]ue to Mr. Ike's brain injury [Ike] was unaware of what was happening and did not pull over for some time.” Id. at ¶18-19. When he was pulled over, Ike alleges “Trooper Whitworth and/or Unknown Troopers and/or Unknown Officers” tazed and violently assaulted him. Id. at ¶¶ 22-23. Ike alleges the force used was significantly more than was reasonable or necessary to gain control of the situation. Id. at ¶ 24. As a result, Ike has suffered serious and permanent injury. Id. at ¶ 25.

         Ike asserts five (5) causes of action against numerous Defendants (some unnamed) in this action. Relevant to the Defendants' Motion to Dismiss here, Ike asserts three distinct claims against Trooper Whitworth and the Unknown Troopers and Unknown Officers for which he claims the Commonwealth is jointly and severally liable. First, he alleges violations of the Fourth and Eighth Amendments. Id. at ¶¶ 27-30. Next, Ike asserts state law claims of general negligence and common law battery against these same Defendants. Id. at ¶¶ 32-24, 41-43. Ike also asserts a negligent hiring, training, and supervision claim against Sanders. Id. ¶¶ 36-39. Finally, he alleges that “[e]ach and every Defendants' [sic] treatment of Mr. Ike . . . exemplifies the tort of outrage.” Id. at ¶ 45. Ike seeks damages for past and future reasonable medical expenses, past and future physical and mental pain and suffering experienced, and punitive damages under Ky. Rev. St. §§ 411.184, 186. Id. at ¶ 49.

         Defendants Commonwealth and Sanders moved to dismiss the Complaint, asserting complete sovereign immunity to all claims against the Commonwealth and the named and unnamed state official Defendants sued in their official capacity. [R. 4] Defendants also asserted pleading infirmities as to all claims made against Sanders under the appropriate federal standard. Id. Before filing a Response, Ike filed a Motion to Amend his Complaint, removing the claims against Defendant Sanders (negligent hiring, training, and supervising and outrage) and moved to dismiss this Defendant from the suit without prejudice pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 41(a)(2). [R. 6] The remainder of the proposed Amended Complaint was identical to the original Complaint. See [R. 6-2, Am. Compl.] Ike then filed a Response in opposition to the Defendants' Motion to Dismiss the claims asserted against the Commonwealth, relying on a Kentucky Indemnification Statute, Ky. Rev. St. § 16.185. [R. 7] In their Reply to the Motion to Dismiss, Defendants maintained that all claims against the Commonwealth and the named and unnamed state officials sued in their official capacity should be dismissed on the basis of sovereign immunity. [R. 8] They also filed a Response in Opposition to Ike's Motion to Amend and Motion to Dismiss Sanders, arguing that if Sanders is dismissed, it should be with prejudice. [R. 9] In the alternative, if Ike's Motion to Dismiss Sanders is granted without prejudice, as Ike proposes, Defendants requested that the Court order Ike to pay the Defendants' attorneys' fees and costs. Id. Ike filed a Reply urging the Court to grant his Motion to Dismiss Sanders without prejudice, but if discovery bears a colorable claim against this Defendant, he be allowed to refile his claim against Sanders, delaying the payment of attorney fees and costs until this event. [R. 10]

         The Court will address the Defendants' 12(b)(6) Motion before turning to Ike's Motion to Amend and to Dismiss Sanders.

         II. Motion to Dismiss under 12(b)(6)

         A. Standard of Review

         Rule 12(b)(6) provides for dismissal of an action if the Complaint fails to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6). The moving party has the burden of proving that no claim exists. Total Benefits, 552 F.3d at 434. While the Complaint must be liberally construed in favor of the non-moving party, “it is still necessary that the Complaint contain more than bare assertions or legal conclusions.” Id. (citing In re DeLorean Motor Co., 991 F.2d 1236, 1240 (6th Cir. 1993)) (other citations omitted). Moreover, the Court need not accept unwarranted factual inferences. Morgan v. Church's Fried Chicken, 829 F.2d 10, 12 (6th Cir. 1987). “To survive a motion to dismiss, 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). A claim is factually plausible if the Complaint contains factual allegations that “allow the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged.” Id. This does not require a showing that the defendant is probably liable, but “it asks for more than a sheer possibility that a defendant has acted unlawfully.” Id. To meet this plausibility standard, the Complaint must contain more than “threadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action, supported by mere conclusory statements.” Id.

         B. Discussion

         Defendants argue that Ike's federal and state law claims against the Commonwealth should be dismissed as a matter of law. [R. 4-1, Mem. in Supp., at pp. 4-6] The Commonwealth relies on the Eleventh Amendment's grant of absolute sovereign immunity to the Commonwealth and argues that it has never waived this immunity for any of the federal or state claims in this suit. Id. Defendants specify that the defense of sovereign immunity extends not just to the Commonwealth, but also to any ...


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