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Buford v. Miami-Dade County

United States District Court, S.D. Florida

January 9, 2018

MIAMI-DADE COUNTY, et al., Defendants.



         THIS CAUSE is before the Court on Defendants, Miami-Dade County; Detective Miguel Carballosa; and Detective Corey Thomas's Motion to Dismiss [ECF No. 33], filed November 10, 2017. Plaintiff, Edison Buford, filed a Response to Defendants' Motion to Dismiss [ECF No. 34] on November 24, 2017; and Defendants filed a Reply in Further Support of Motion to Dismiss [ECF No. 35] on December 1, 2017. The Court has carefully considered the First Amended Complaint [ECF No. 26], the parties' written submissions, and applicable law.

         I. BACKGROUND [1]

         On June 10, 2013, Plaintiff, Edison Buford, was driving a 2004 Nissan Maxima in Miami-Dade County when he observed an unmarked and unknown vehicle following him. (See Am. Compl. ¶ 22). The unmarked vehicle was occupied by Detectives Carballosa and Thomas. (See Id. ¶¶ 29, 31). Plaintiff unsuccessfully attempted to lose the unmarked vehicle using evasive driving maneuvers. (See Id. ¶ 23). After failing to lose the unmarked vehicle, Plaintiff crashed into a pole. (See Id. ¶ 25). At no point did the Detectives activate their vehicle's police lights or sirens. (See Id. ¶ 24).

         After crashing, Plaintiff exited his vehicle carrying an unloaded firearm and cellular phone and ran past the unmarked vehicle with both items in his hands. (See Id. ¶¶ 26, 27). While running past the unmarked vehicle, Plaintiff tossed the firearm into a yard. (See Id. ¶ 27). The Detectives exited their vehicle with their weapons drawn. (See Id. ¶ 28). Plaintiff turned and noticed the vehicle occupants were police officers, he stopped running, and raised his hands in the air while still carrying his cellular phone. (See Id. ¶¶ 29, 30). Nevertheless, “[w]ithout provocation, ” the Detectives began firing their weapons, hitting the cellular phone but missing Plaintiff. (Id. ¶¶ 31, 32 (alteration added)). Plaintiff turned away from the Detectives and began to run again but was shot in the back multiple times, causing him to fall. (See Id. ¶ 33). Plaintiff remained on the ground, pretending to be dead, and was shot an additional six times in the back, legs, and in his testicles, causing him to lose a testicle. (See Id. ¶ 34).

         After the shooting, Plaintiff was arrested and charged with two counts of aggravated assault on a law enforcement officer and possession of a firearm by a convicted felon. (See Id. ¶ 36). The Office of the State Attorney subsequently filed an information including these same charges and an additional charge for fleeing and eluding, but it later nolle prossed the aggravated assault on a law enforcement officer and fleeing and eluding counts. (See Id. ¶¶ 37, 38). Plaintiff pled guilty to possession of a firearm by a convicted felon and was sentenced to three years in state prison. (See Id. ¶ 39).

         Plaintiff ultimately filed this lawsuit, asserting claims under 42 U.S.C. section 1983 against Miami-Dade County (Count I), Detective Miguel Carballosa (Count II), and Detective Corey Thomas (Count III). Plaintiff seeks compensatory damages and attorney's fees.

         Defendants move to dismiss all claims with prejudice and request the Court deny Plaintiff an opportunity to file a second amended complaint. (See generally Mot.). The Court will first address Count I and then addresses Counts II and III together.


         “To survive a motion to dismiss [under Rule 12(b)(6)], 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, 678 (2009) (alteration added) (quoting Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007)). “Facial plausibility [exists] 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. (alteration added; citation omitted). This pleading standard does not require “detailed factual allegations, ” but a complaint must offer more than mere “labels and conclusions.” Id. (citation omitted). “A formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action will not do.” Id. (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555) (quotation marks omitted).

         In considering a motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6), “the Court accepts the factual allegations in the complaint as true and construes them in the light most favorable to the plaintiff.” Speaker v. U.S. Dep't of Health & Human Servs. Ctrs. for Disease Control & Prevention, 623 F.3d 1371, 1379 (11th Cir. 2010). This deference is applied to factual allegations only, and not to mere legal conclusions. See Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678. If after considering the complaint[2] and accepting as true its factual allegations the Court determines a plausible claim for relief has been stated, the complaint survives the motion to dismiss.


         A. Count I - Monell Claim Against Miami-Dade County Under 42 U.S.C. Section 1983

         Count I alleges a section 1983 claim against the County. In Monell v. Department of Social Services of the City of New York, 436 U.S. 658 (1978), the Supreme Court established specific parameters for finding municipalities liable under section 1983. See Id. at 694; see also Grech v. Clayton Cty., 335 F.3d 1326, 1329 (11th Cir. 2003) (“The Supreme Court has placed strict limitations on municipal liability under [section] 1983.” (alteration added)). A county may be liable under [section] 1983 “only when the county's ‘official policy' causes a constitutional violation.” Grech, 335 F.3d at 1329 (alteration added; citing Monell, 436 U.S. at 694). Thus, a plaintiff must “identify a municipal policy or ...

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