United States District Court, S.D. Florida, Miami Division
L. GRAHAM UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
CAUSE comes before the Court upon Defendants
Miami-Dade County, Clifton Baldwin, and Julio Martos'
Motion to Dismiss Counts II and V of the Complaint
(“Motion to Dismiss”) [D.E. 10]. Plaintiff Tannie
Burke subsequently filed his Response to Motion to Dismiss
Counts II and V of the Complaint (“Response”)
[D.E. 17], to which the Defendants filed their Reply in
Support of Motion to Dismiss Counts II and V of the Complaint
(“Reply”) [D.E. 18].
COURT has reviewed the record and is otherwise fully
advised in the premises. As set forth herein, the
Defendants' Motion to Dismiss is granted as to Counts II
contends that on August 27, 2014, Officers Baldwin and
Martos, while engaged in their duties as police officers,
found a single marijuana cigarette on the floor of a
second-floor landing and arrested him and two other Black
men. Burke did not have any marijuana in his possession, and
he was not smoking marijuana. Burke submits that two of the
men were released after the officers gave them notices to
appear in court, however, he was placed in handcuffs and
forced to walk down the stairs without police assistance.
Notably, Burke suffers from Coats' disease, is legally blind
in his left eye, and is only able to see shapes and greater
detail within inches of what he is trying to see with his
left eye. With his right eye, he can only see light and make
out shapes and his right eyebrow and side of his forehead are
swollen and protrude over his right eye. Burke states that
there is no way of looking at his face without being alerted
to the fact that he has a physical disability.
alleges his stepfather, Marvin Armstrong, has often
criticized the police for profiling Black and
African-American males in his neighborhood based upon race.
Burke further alleges that Mr. Armstrong has frequently
videotaped police activity, enraging local police. Indeed,
Officers Baldwin and Martos knew that Burke and Mr. Armstrong
were related and, in fact, Mr. Armstrong was videotaping the
police at the time this incident occurred.
arrest, instead of taking Burke to jail or to the police
station, Officers Baldwin and Martos placed him in the front
passenger seat of an unmarked vehicle. While trying to sit
down, Burke's body collided with the top frame of the
vehicle. Mr. Amrstrong, irate that Burke was being falsely
arrested and unassisted because he is blind, said the
following to the police as they were loading him into the
car: “He blind dumbass. Y'all don't tell him
y'all walk him to the car, how the fuck he gonna know?
Stupid.” Officers Baldwin and Martos then entered the
police vehicle with Burke and drove away.
Baldwin and Martos claim that they received a radio
transmission over an official frequency that a suspect was
fleeing in the area and decided to assist with the search.
Burke, however, never heard the alleged audio transmission.
Coincidentally, all relevant radio-transmission records were
destroyed before the Miami-Dade Police Department
Professional Compliance Bureau investigators began their
investigation. With Burke in the car, Officers Baldwin and
Martos allegedly complained repeatedly about Mr.
Armstrong's actions, as opposed to making comments about
a fleeing suspect or any other search. Burke specifically
recalls the officers saying, “Your stepfather got a lot
of mouth. You know we don't like that.”
driving around for a while, Officers Baldwin and Martos
decided to release Burke with a promise to appear. They
directed him to exit the car and walk to its rear. As he is
blind, Burke was only able to do so by moving his hands
across the car to guide himself. The officers then presented
Burke with a document to sign. When Burke told them that he
could not see the document, they placed a large light on it.
Burke repeatedly told Officers Baldwin and Martos that he was
unable to see and described his sight limitations to them.
became clear that the officers intended to leave Burke out in
the dark, rural, lightless area, Burke asked them to drive
him back to his neighborhood. He also told the officers that
he could not be dropped off at a bus stop or busy street
because of his condition. Officers Baldwin and Martos
refused. Instead, they drove onto a dark, secluded, rural
street without any lighting and dropped Burke off on the edge
of some darkened farmland tract miles from his home. For the
better part of an hour, Burke trudged along the roadside. He
followed the asphalt's edge or the white stripe to
maintain his direction as he sought to find his way home.
Burke claims he was in constant danger of being hit by
vehicles or attacked by criminals. While walking, Burke
eventually came upon a Good Samaritan who helped him navigate
his way home. Burke states that Officers Baldwin and Martos
did this to him as an act of retaliation against Mr.
Armstrong because his stepfather had the audacity to question
their activities. Burke attests that he has been traumatized,
stigmatized, and left in fear as to when something like this
will occur again. He contends that he has suffered mental and
psychological damage, damage to his reputation, and is in
fear for his life by being placed in a circumstance where his
safety and life were in peril.
Rule 8, allegations within 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 a complaint is challenged under Rule 12(b)(6),
a court will presume that all well-pleaded allegations are
true, and view the pleadings in the light most favorable to
the plaintiff. Am. United Life Ins. Co. v. Martinez,
480 F.3d 1043, 1066 (11th Cir. 2007). The Supreme Court of
the United States has held that although a complaint attacked
by a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss does not need detailed
factual allegations, a plaintiff's obligation to provide
the grounds of his entitlement to relief requires more than
labels and conclusions, and a formulaic recitation of the
elements of a cause of action will not suffice. Bell Atl.
Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007).
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) (quoting Bell Atl.
Corp., 550 U.S. at 570). For a claim to have facial
plausibility and survive a motion to dismiss, a plaintiff
must plead “factual content that allows the court to
draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable
for the misconduct alleged.” Id. The
plausibility standard “asks for more than a sheer
possibility that a defendant has acted unlawfully.”
Id. Therefore, “threadbare recitals of the
elements of a cause of action, supported by mere conclusory
statements, do not suffice.” Id. In ruling on
a motion to dismiss pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6), the court is
generally limited to the four corners of the complaint and
pertinent attached documents. Grossman v. Nationsbank,
N.A., 225 F.3d 1228, 1231 (11th Cir. 2000).
II and V of Burke's Complaint are dismissed for the
following reasons: (1) Burke fails to allege a deliberate
indifference to serious medical needs claim while in custody;
(2) Burke fails to allege a deliberate indifference to an
extremely great risk of serious injury claim after his
release from custody; (3) assuming Burke successfully alleged
a constitutional violation, Officers Baldwin and Martos are
entitled to qualified immunity; and (4) Burke fails to allege
a claim under Title II of the ADA. Before the Court analyzes
the issues at bar, it briefly discusses whether Officers
Baldwin and Martos were sued in their individual or official
brings this suit against Miami-Dade County and Officers
Baldwin and Martos, but he does not specify whether he is
suing the officers in their individual or official capacity.
For the sake of clarity, the Court briefly discusses the
context in which Burke sues the officers.
plaintiff's identification of a defendant's capacity
is unclearly stated in the complaint, “the course of
proceedings typically indicates the nature of the liability
sought to be imposed.” Jackson v. Ga. Dep't of
Transp., 16 F.3d 1573, 1575 (11th Cir. 1994). The
standard for an official-capacity suit is that the
entity's “policy or custom” must have played
a role in the alleged constitutional violation. Kentucky
v. Graham, 473 U.S. 159, 166 (1985). For an
individual-capacity suit, however, the plaintiff must seek to
impose liability against the official for actions taken under
color of state law. Id. at 166 (“On the
merits, to establish personal liability in a § 1983
action, it is enough to show that the official, acting under
color of state law, caused the deprivation of a federal
Burke states in his Complaint that Officers Baldwin and
Martos were both “acting in their official capacity as
employees of Miami-Dade County, ” this assertion is not
located in the qualified immunity section of the briefing.
Indeed, none of Burke's arguments reference the
official-capacity standard; rather, his arguments reference
the individual-capacity standard. Burke does not allege that
the officers were following a Miami-Dade Police Department
policy or custom when they dropped him off on the side of the
road away from his home. Burke also argues that the
officers' actions were taken under color of state law.
Additionally, the case's stylization does not state that
Officers Baldwin and Martos are being sued in their official
capacity. Instead, it states that Burke is suing them as
“residents of the State of Florida.” As such, the
Court reads the Complaint to sue Officers Baldwin and Martos
in their individual capacity. See generally
Kentucky, 473 U.S. at 166; Miccosukee Tribe of
Indians of Fla. v. Jewel, 996 F.Supp.2d 1268, 1272-73
(S.D. Fla. 2013); Louisius v. Fla. Dep't of
Corr., No. 6:14-cv-931-Orl-40GJK, 2015 WL 667973, at *4
(S.D. Fla. Feb. 17, 2015).
Count II - Deliberate Indifference Claim
their Motion to Dismiss, Officers Baldwin and Martos argue
that the Court should dismiss Count II because the
“facts alleged in the Complaint fail to support the
elements of a ‘failure to render aid'
claim.” Specifically, the officers submit that
Burke cannot allege that he suffered a serious medical need
as defined by the Eleventh Circuit. Additionally, they argue
that they are entitled to qualified immunity because Burke
did not suffer a constitutional violation and, even if he
did, that right was not clearly established at the time the
alleged violation occurred.
Response, Burke states for the first time that the acts of
Officers Baldwin and Martos constituted an unjustified
intrusion of bodily integrity. Specifically, Burke alleges
that “[s]uch conduct can be nothing less than
actionable negligence, ” which shocks the conscience.
Burke also argues that Officers Baldwin and Martos are not
entitled to qualified immunity because they were not acting
within their discretionary authority and their conduct
violated clearly established constitutional law. Peculiarly,
Burke cites White v. Rochford, 592 F.2d 381 (7th
Cir. 1979), and Matheny v. Boatright, 970 F.Supp.
1039 (S.D. Ga. 1997), for the proposition that the officers
conduct, leaving Burke on a dark, rural road, violated
clearly established constitutional law at the time of the
incident. The United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh
Circuit, however, has traditionally held that only cases from
three courts, the Supreme Court, the Eleventh Circuit, and
the Florida Supreme Court, can clearly establish law in this
jurisdiction. See Loftus v. Clark-Moore, 690 F.3d
1200, 1204 (11th Cir. 2012).
their Reply, Officers Baldwin and Martos state that they
acted within their discretionary authority when they took
Burke into custody, transported, and released him.
Additionally, they assert that Burke fails to identify facts
that abrogate the officers' entitlement to qualified
immunity. Specifically, Officers Baldwin and Martos aver that
Burke fails to cite any pertinent Supreme Court, Eleventh