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Mendosa v. City of Hialeah

United States District Court, S.D. Florida

December 20, 2017

Glen Mendoza, Plaintiff
City of Hialeah, and others, Defendants.



         Plaintiff Glen Mendoza brings this action against the City of Hialeah (the “City”), Officer Yander Morgado, Officer Esteban Holland, and Sergeant Victor Cabrera for violations of Mendoza's civil rights and the commission of various torts. All of the Defendants have moved to dismiss the Fourth Amended Complaint (ECF Nos. 42, 43). For the reasons set forth below, the Court grants the motions to dismiss.

         1. Background

         The Fourth Amended Complaint (“FAC”) alleges that on May 22, 2016, Plaintiff Glen Mendoza was a passenger in a car that was alleged to have been involved in a crash with a police vehicle. (FAC ¶ 12, ECF No. 41.) The driver of the car fled the scene of the crash. (Id.) Defendant Morgado and other police officers subsequently stopped the car and arrested the driver. (Id. ¶ 13.) The officers also ordered Mendoza to get out of the vehicle. (Id. ¶ 14.) Mendoza initially stated that he did not want to exit the vehicle and asked why he was being ordered to do so, although he did eventually comply with the officers' order. (Id.)

         Mendoza was informed that the car had been stopped because it hit a police vehicle, and he began to check the car for damage. (Id. ¶ 15.) Mendoza told the officers that he wasn't aware of a crash and asked again why the officers were ordering him around. (Id. ¶ 16.) Mendoza remembers being struck once and “then awoke in the hospital with a broken jaw which required the implanting of a metal plate to repair, a head wound, and damage to his brain.” (Id. ¶ 17.) Mendoza was arrested after his stay in the hospital for violently resisting an officer, but the “State Attorney's Office nolle prossed the charges.” (Id. ¶¶ 27, 29.)

         Witnesses allegedly told Mendoza that he verbally argued with the officers and that two or three of the offices repeatedly struck him in the head, causing Mendoza to fall and hit his head on the ground. (Id. ¶ 20.) However, the witnesses stated that Mendoza had not violently resisted any of the officers. (Id. ¶ 18.) The witnesses stated that the officers struck Mendoza even after he was unconscious. (Id. ¶¶ 19, 24-25.) According to the witnesses, at least two officers, including Defendant Holland, were involved in the violence against Mendoza. (Id. ¶¶ 21, 23.) The witnesses stated that one or two supervising officers, including Defendant Cabrera, were also on the scene, but did not intervene to stop the attack on Mendoza. (Id. ¶ 26.) After Mendoza's arrest, “Officer Holland gave sworn testimony that he struck Mr. Mendoza but claims he was using only the force reasonably necessary to thwart Mr. Mendoza's violent resistance.” (Id. ¶ 22.)

         The Court previously dismissed without prejudice the claims asserted against the City in the Third Amended Complaint, which included a claim for violation of Mendoza's Fourth Amendment rights under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and a state law claim of negligent training. (Order, ECF No. 40.) The Court also dismissed without prejudice Mendoza's § 1983 claim against the individual Defendants for excessive use of force and his claim against the individual Defendants for false arrest. (Id.) Finally, the Court dismissed without prejudice Mendoza's claim for battery against all of the individual Defendants except Holland.

         The FAC asserts a § 1983 claim for excessive use of force, as well as state law claims for battery and false arrest. Although Mendoza omitted the claims previously asserted against the City for failure to train under both § 1983 and state law, each of the three counts in the FAC is asserted against the City as well as the individual Defendants.

         2. Legal Standard

         Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 8(a) requires “a short and plain statement of the claims” that “will give the defendant fair notice of what the plaintiff's claim is and the ground upon which it rests.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a). The Supreme Court has held that “[w]hile 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 do. Factual allegations must be enough to raise a right to relief above the speculative level.” Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007) (internal citations omitted).

         “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 (2009) (quotations and citations omitted). “A claim has facial plausibility when the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged.” Id. Thus, “only a complaint that states a plausible claim for relief survives a motion to dismiss.” Id. at 1950. When considering a motion to dismiss, the Court must accept all of the plaintiff's allegations as true in determining whether a plaintiff has stated a claim for which relief could be granted. Hishon v. King & Spalding, 467 U.S. 69, 73 (1984). For purposes of Rule 12(b)(6), a court generally may not look beyond the pleadings, which includes any information attached to a complaint. U.S. ex. Rel. Osheroff v. Humana, Inc., 776 F.3d 805, 811 (11th Cir. 2015) (internal citations omitted).

         3. Analysis

         A. § 1983 Claim for Use of Excessive Force

         Count One of the Complaint asserts a 42 U.S.C. § 1983 claim against the individual Defendants for the violation of Mendoza's right to be free from the use of excessive force under the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments. Any person who deprives another “of any rights, privileges, or immunities secured by the Constitution and laws, ” while acting under color of state law, is liable to the person whose rights were violated. 42 U.S.C. § 1983. This law “creates no substantive rights; it merely provides remedies for deprivations of rights established elsewhere.” City of Okla. City v. Tuttle, 471 U.S. 808, 816 (1985). The Plaintiff has asserted Count One ...

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