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Hayward v. Lee County Sheriff's Office

United States District Court, M.D. Florida, Fort Myers Division

October 30, 2017

AHMAD HAYWARD, Plaintiff,
v.
LEE COUNTY SHERIFF'S OFFICE, RYAN LOWE, KEITH DUNN, and RICH SNYDER, Defendants.

          OPINION AND ORDER

          JOHN E. STEELE, SENIOR UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         This matter comes before the Court on defendants' Motion for Judgment on the Pleadings (Doc. #54) filed on July 20, 2017. Plaintiff filed a Response on September 25, 2017. (Doc. #58.) For the reasons set forth below, defendants' Motion for Judgment on the Pleadings (Doc. #54) is granted.

         I.

         On February 13, 2009, Ahmad Hayward (plaintiff), accompanied by a friend, Patrick Towns (Towns), drove to Fort Myers Beach to pick up money from an unknown person. (Doc. #1, ¶¶ 7-13.) Plaintiff was unaware that the Lee County Sheriff's Office was working with a confidential informant, and that the meeting was part of an anticipated drug deal. (Id. ¶¶ 14-17.) Defendant officers stopped and detained plaintiff, even though they did not have a physical description of plaintiff and his vehicle did not match the description of the anticipated drug supplier's vehicle. (Id. ¶¶ 22-23.) When asked by officers, plaintiff denied having drugs in the vehicle. (Id. ¶¶ 24-25.) A K-9 search of the vehicle did not disclose any drugs. (Id. ¶¶ 26-27.)

         Despite not locating any drugs on plaintiff's person, Towns' person, or in the vehicle, defendants took Hayward and Towns into custody and seized the vehicle. (Id. ¶¶ 27, 29-30.) When questioned at the police station, plaintiff denied any involvement with drugs and invoked his right to counsel. (Id. ¶¶ 31-32.) A second search of the vehicle again did not reveal any drugs. (Id. ¶ 33.) Later, in exchange for immunity, Towns admitted that his previous statement was false and confessed that drugs were hidden in the headliner of plaintiff's vehicle. (Id. ¶¶ 35-37.) Acting on this information, defendants searched the vehicle a third time and located heroin in the headliner. (Id. ¶ 38.) Towns was then released from custody. (Id. ¶ 39.)

         Plaintiff was charged with "conspiracy to traffic, traffic in heroin, public order crime, and driving while license was suspended or revoked." (Id. ¶ 40.) Towns subsequently signed a notarized statement stating that he had lied to the defendants, that the drugs found in the vehicle in fact belonged to him, and that plaintiff had no knowledge of the drugs. (Id. ¶ 41.) Plaintiff was acquitted by a jury of the drug trafficking charge on August 12, 2010. (Id. ¶ 43.)

         On May 5, 2014, plaintiff filed a Complaint (Doc. #1) asserting claims against defendants Ryan Lowe (Lowe), Keith Dunn (Dunn), and Rich Snyder (Snyder) for illegal search (Count I), illegal seizure (Count II), false arrest (Count III), civil conspiracy (Count IV), and seeking to impose respondeat superior liability on Lee County Sheriff's Department (Count V) . (Id. ¶¶ 46-63.) On June 30, 2017, this Court granted in part defendants' Amended Motion to Dismiss, and dismissed Counts I and III with prejudice. (Doc. #52.) On July 20, 2017, defendants filed a Motion for Judgment on the Pleadings, seeking judgment on the remaining counts - Counts II, IV, and V. (Doc. #54.)

         II.

         The Federal Rules of Civil Procedure provide that "[a]fter the pleadings are closed-but early enough not to delay trial-a party may move for judgment on the pleadings." Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(c) . "Judgment on the pleadings is appropriate when there are no material facts in dispute, and judgment may be rendered by considering the substance of the pleadings and any judicially noticed facts." Hawthorne v. Mac Adjustment, Inc., 140 F.3d 1367, 1370 (11th Cir. 1998); e.g., Betts v. Hall, No. 3:14cv33/MCR/EMT, 2015 WL 3447500, at *5 & n.2 (N.D. Fla. May 27, 2015). Public records are among the permissible facts that a district court may take judicial notice of and consider when ruling on a motion for judgment on the pleadings. See Bryant v. Avado Brands, Inc., 187 F.3d 1271, 1279-80 (11th Cir. 1999); Blue Hill Invs., Ltd. v. Silva, No. 1:15-CV-20733-KKM, 2015 WL 9319394, at *2 (S.D. Fla. Dec. 23, 2015).

         When reviewing a motion for judgment on the pleadings, the court must view the facts in a light most favorable to the nonmoving party. Hawthorne, 140 F.3d at 1370. A judgment on the pleadings can be granted only if the nonmoving party can prove no set of facts which would allow it to prevail. Palmer & Cay, Inc. v. Marsh & McLennan Cos., Inc., 404 F.3d 1297, 1303 (11th Cir. 2005) (citations omitted).

         Because the plaintiff is proceeding pro se, the Court reads his pleadings liberally and adopts a less stringent standard than it would for one drafted by an attorney. Jones v. Fla. Parole Comm'n, 787 F.3d 1105, 1007 (11th Cir. 2015). Pro se parties are still required to conform to the procedural rules. Hickman v. Hickman, 563 Fed.Appx. 742, 743 (11th Cir. 2014) (internal quotation marks and citations omitted).

         Defendants request this Court to enter a judgment on the pleadings because the remaining counts of federal false arrest, [1] civil conspiracy, and respondeat superior are barred by the applicable statute of limitations. (Doc. #54.)

         A. Length of Statutes of Limitations

         As previously discussed, the applicable statute of limitations for each of the plaintiff's causes of action is four years. (Doc. # 52, pp. 6-7); see Wallace v. Kato, 549 U.S. 384, 387 (2007) (stating that the statute of limitations for a § 1983 cause of action is that "which the State provides for personal-injury torts"); Chappell v. Rich, 340 F.3d 1279, 1283 (11th Cir. 2003) (stating "Florida's four-year statute of limitations applies to such claims of deprivation of rights under 42 U.S.C. [§] 1983"); Navarro v. City of Riviera Beach, 192 F.Supp.3d 1353, 1364-65 (S.D. Fla. 2016) (four-year statute of limitations for claims of false arrest); Ba ...


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