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Homonai v. City of Fruitland Park

United States District Court, M.D. Florida, Ocala Division

April 26, 2017

JAMES HOMONAI and RITA HOMONAI, Plaintiffs,
v.
THE CITY OF FRUITLAND PARK, STEVEN FOSTER and JARED CRENSHAW, Defendants.

          ORDER

          JAMES S. MOODY, JR. UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         Rita and James Homonai allege City of Fruitland Park Police Officers Steven Foster and Jared Crenshaw used excessive force against them. The Homonais sued the City and officers for violations of their constitutional rights and Florida law. The City and officers now move to dismiss the nine-count Complaint for myriad reasons. Because the claims are properly pled, the Court concludes the motion to dismiss should be denied.

         FACTUAL BACKGROUND

         On October 28, 2012, James Homonai (“JH”) was driving his motorcycle with his wife, Rita Homonai (“RH”), on the back. City of Fruitland Park Police Officer Jared Crenshaw conducted a traffic stop for speeding. Officer Steven Foster arrived to assist Crenshaw. A video recording of the stop was filed by the parties and reviewed by the Court.[1]

         During the traffic stop, Crenshaw learned JH had a suspended license and began to place JH under arrest. During the arrest, Crenshaw had JH lean over the passenger side of the police cruiser and place his hands on the hood. Crenshaw began to search JH, and JH told Crenshaw he had a knife in his pocket. JH was, at this point, compliant and did not resist Crenshaw. RH, now standing at the front of the cruiser, told the officers she wanted to take JH's phone, and became upset when the officers denied her request.

         The video of what follows speaks for itself, and the Court declines to provide its own commentary or characterization. Suffice to say, Foster took RH by the arm, and used his stun gun on JH and RH, before placing RH in handcuffs. Crenshaw and JH moved out of the camera's range, but it appears Crenshaw also used his stun gun on JH before handcuffing him and placing him in the police cruiser. Paramedics were called to attend to RH, who allegedly suffered significant injuries. RH was taken away by ambulance.

         The Homonais were both charged: RH with resisting arrest without violence; and JH with driving on a suspended license, resisting arrest with violence, and battery on a law enforcement officer. The charge against RH was dismissed; the Court does not know what happened to JH's charges.

         The Homonais sued the officers and the City of Fruitland Park (the “City”), alleging the following counts:

Count I: § 1983 claim by RH against Foster for violation of Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments for using excessive force and for false arrest;
Count II: § 1983 claim by RH against Crenshaw for violation of Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments for failing to intervene and false arrest;
Count III: § 1983 claim by JH against Foster for violation of Fourth and Fourteen Amendments for failing to intervene and for excessive force;
Count IV: § 1983 claim by JH against Crenshaw for violation of Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments for failing to intervene and for excessive force;
Count V: § 1983 claim by RH against the City for violation of Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments for false arrest and for excessive force;
Count VI: § 1983 claim by JH against the City for violation of Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments for excessive force;
Count VII: Florida law claim by RH against the City for False Arrest and False Imprisonment;
Count VIII: Florida law claim by RH against the City for battery; and
Count IX: Florida law claim by JH against the City for battery.

         MOTION TO DISMISS STANDARD

         Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) allows a complaint to be dismissed for failure to state a claim on which relief can be granted. When reviewing a motion to dismiss, courts must limit their consideration to the well-pleaded allegations, documents central to or referred to in the complaint, and matters judicially noticed. See La Grasta v. First Union Securities, Inc., 358 F.3d 840, 845 (11th Cir. 2004) (internal citations omitted); Day v. Taylor, 400 F.3d 1272, 1276 (11th Cir. 2005). Courts must accept all factual allegations contained in the complaint as true, and view the facts in a light most favorable to the plaintiff. See Erickson, 551 U.S. at 93-94.

         Legal conclusions, however, “are not entitled to the assumption of truth.” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 664 (2009). In fact, “conclusory allegations, unwarranted factual deductions or legal conclusions masquerading as facts will not prevent dismissal.” Davila v. Delta Air Lines, Inc., 326 F.3d 1183, 1185 (11th Cir. 2003). To survive a motion to dismiss, a complaint must instead contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to “state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678 (internal quotation marks and citations omitted). This plausibility standard is met when the plaintiff pleads ...


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