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Bickel v. City of Coral Springs

United States District Court, S.D. Florida

June 6, 2017

SCOTT T. BICKEL, Plaintiff,
v.
CITY OF CORAL SPRINGS, and JASON CARTER, Defendants.

          ORDER ON MOTIONS TO DISMISS

          BETH BLOOM UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         THIS CAUSE is before the Court upon Defendant Jason Carter's (“Carter”) Motion to Dismiss Count II of Plaintiff's Amended Complaint, ECF No. [35] (“Carter's Motion”), and Defendant City of Coral Springs' (the “City”) Motion to Dismiss Count IV of the Amended Complaint, ECF No. [20] (the “City's Motion”). The Court has reviewed the Motions, all opposing and supporting submissions, the record and the applicable law, and is otherwise fully advised. For the reasons set forth below, Carter's Motion is granted and the City's Motion is granted in part and denied in part.

         I. BACKGROUND

         Plaintiff Scott T. Bickel (“Plaintiff” or “Bickel”) filed suit against the City and Carter, a law enforcement officer with the Coral Springs Police Department (“CSPD”), on March 27, 2017, see ECF No. [1], and, in an Amended Complaint filed on May 1, 2017, see ECF No. [15], alleged various claims against them. As alleged in the Amended Complaint, this action stems from an incident that occurred at Bickel's home on September 6, 2013. See ECF No. [15] at ¶¶ 1, 9-22.

         According to the Amended Complaint, on September 6, 2013, an argument between Bickel's son and son-in-law occurred inside Bickel's home-located on the first story of an apartment complex-while Bickel and other family members were present. Id. at ¶¶ 9, 13. Neighbors called the police, and Carter and other CSPD officers were dispatched to Bickel's home. Id. at ¶¶ 9-10. “The argument inside the home had concluded” before any of the officers arrived. Id. at ¶ 13. Upon the officers' arrival, everyone inside the home was ordered to exit. Id. at ¶ 12. Bickel, his son, and his son-in-law all exited the home peacefully and without resistance. Id. at ¶ 13.

         As Bickel was exiting the front door of his home, he attempted to caution the officers about his “severely injured arm” that he had recently undergone a major surgical operation, from which a scar held closed by surgical staples was “readily identifiable.” Id. at ¶¶ 14-15. At that point, one or more of the officers present, possibly including Carter, “forced Plaintiff's arm behind his back [and] plac[ed] him in handcuffs” without attempting to protect his arm from further injury. Id. at ¶ 16. This caused further and permanent injury to Bickel's arm. Id. at ¶ 17.

         One or more of the officers, possibly including Carter, then moved Bickel a short distance from the home's front door and forced him down to his knees near the first step of the apartment complex's concrete stairway. Id. at ¶ 19. At no point did Bickel “oppose, resist, or fail to obey” any of the officers. Id. at ¶ 21. As Bickel remained handcuffed and on his knees facing the stairway, Carter “came up from behind, took hold of [Bickel's] head, and slammed it into the concrete stair.” Id. at ¶ 22. As a result of this encounter, Bickel sustained significant and permanent injury. Id. at ¶ 24.

         Thereafter, according to the Amended Complaint, Carter fabricated the police report he prepared as well as a “Use of Force Form” he was required to complete. Id. at ¶ 26. Apparently, Carter's use of force during Bickel's arrest was summarily deemed justified by the City, CSPD, and/or CSPD's Response to Resistance Board. See Id. at ¶¶ 27-28.

         Based in part on these factual allegations, Bickel brings five claims for relief, including: excessive force under the Fourth Amendment and 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against Carter (Count I); intentional infliction of emotional distress (“IIED”) against Carter (Count II); “assault and/or battery” against Carter (Count III); a claim “pursuant to 768.28 Fla. Stat.” against the City based on Carter and the other officers' purported “wrongful acts of battery and/or negligent infliction of emotional distress” (Count IV); and a claim under Monell v. Dep't of Soc. Servs., 436 U.S. 658 (1978) and 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against the City (Count V). ECF No. [15]. Through their respective Motions, Carter moves to dismiss Count II for failure to state a claim, ECF No. [35], and the City moves to dismiss Count IV, arguing that in seeking to assert a negligence claim against the City based upon its vicarious liability for the actions of Carter, Count IV fails as a matter of state law because “there are no allegations of negligent (as opposed to intentional) conduct” by Carter in the Amended Complaint, ECF No. [20] at 3.

         II. LEGAL STANDARD

         A pleading in a civil action 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). To satisfy the Rule 8 pleading requirements, a complaint must provide the defendant fair notice of what the plaintiff's claim is and the grounds upon which it rests. Swierkiewicz v. Sorema N.A., 534 U.S. 506, 512, (2002). While a complaint “does not need detailed factual allegations, ” it must provide “more than labels and conclusions” or “a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action.” Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007); see also Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009). The Supreme Court has emphasized that “[t]o 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.'” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678 (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 570); see also Am. Dental Assoc. v. Cigna Corp., 605 F.3d 1283, 1288-90 (11th Cir. 2010). With respect to Rule 12(b)(6), “[d]ismissal pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6) is not appropriate ‘unless it appears beyond doubt that the plaintiff can prove no set of facts in support of his claim which would entitle him to relief.'” Magluta v. Samples, 375 F.3d 1269, 1273 (11th Cir. 2004) (quoting Conley v. Gibson, 355 U.S. 41, 45-46 (1957)). A court considering a Rule 12(b) motion is generally limited to the facts contained in the complaint and attached exhibits, including documents referred to in the complaint that are central to the claim. See Wilchombe v. TeeVee Toons, Inc., 555 F.3d 949, 959 (11th Cir. 2009); see also Maxcess, Inc. v. Lucent Technologies, Inc., 433 F.3d 1337, 1340 (11th Cir. 2005) (“[A] document outside the four corners of the complaint may still be considered if it is central to the plaintiff's claims and is undisputed in terms of authenticity.”) (citing Horsley v. Feldt, 304 F.3d 1125, 1135 (11th Cir. 2002)).

         III. DISCUSSION

         A. Intentional Infliction of Emotional Distress Against Carter (Count II)

         A claim for IIED under Florida law requires a showing of: “1) deliberate or reckless infliction of mental suffering by defendant; 2) by outrageous conduct; 3) which conduct of the defendant must have caused the suffering; and 4) the suffering must have been severe.” Goldenv. Complete Holdings, Inc., 818 F.Supp. 1495, 1499 (M.D. Fla.1993) (citing Metro. ...


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