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Novak v. Bradshaw

United States District Court, S.D. Florida

July 25, 2018

LARRY NOVAK, Plaintiff,
v.
RIC D. BRADSHAW, as Sheriff of Palm Beach County, Florida, Defendant.

          ORDER ON MOTION TO DISMISS

          BETH BLOOM UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         THIS CAUSE is before the Court upon Defendant Ric D. Bradshaw's (“Sheriff Bradshaw”) Motion to Dismiss Count II and Count III of the Third Amended Complaint, ECF No. [11] (the “Motion”). The Court has carefully reviewed the Motion, all opposing and supporting briefs, the record in this case, the applicable law, and is otherwise fully advised. For the reasons set forth below, the Motion is granted and the case is sua sponte remanded.

         I. BACKGROUND

         Plaintiff, Larry Novak (“Novak”), filed this action on October 28, 2015, against Stacy Scott or Stacy Hellow (“Hellow”) for malicious prosecution in the Fifteenth Judicial Circuit in and for Palm Beach County, No. 2015-CA-012028. Novak then filed a First Amended Complaint on March 1, 2016, against Hellow and Sheriff Bradshaw for false imprisonment and malicious prosecution. Subsequently, Novak filed a Second Amended Complaint on April 17, 2018, against Hellow and Sheriff Bradshaw for municipal liability pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Shortly thereafter, Novak filed a Third Amended Complaint on May 10, 2018, against Sheriff Bradshaw in his individual and official capacity for municipal liability pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Sheriff Bradshaw timely removed this action to Federal Court on May 14, 2018. See ECF No. [1].

         Novak's Third Amended Complaint contains three counts for liability: (1) false imprisonment under Fla. Stat. § 768.28; (2) fraudulent or negligent misrepresentation to the court under Fla. Stat. § 768.28; and (3) false imprisonment under 42 U.S.C. §§ 1983, 1988[1]. See ECF No. [1-1]. According to the Third Amended Complaint, Sheriff Bradshaw's employee, law enforcement officer Hellow, improperly seized, detained, and imprisoned Novak by falsely procuring a court order for Novak's involuntary commitment under the Baker Act. Id. at ¶ 8-10. In particular, Novak claims that the petition submitted for the Baker Act was “unsigned, unsworn, and misrepresented [Novak's] character, mental condition and actions.” Id. at ¶ 24. Sheriff Bradshaw purportedly violated Novak's “right to be free from unlawful seizure of his person and deprivation of his liberty as guaranteed by the Fourth Amendment and to substantive and procedural due process as guaranteed by the Fourteenth Amendment.” Id. at ¶ 34.

         Based on the foregoing, Novak alleges that, pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, Sheriff Bradshaw is liable for Novak's damages in his individual and official capacity because Hellow was an employee of Palm Beach County Sheriff's Department (“PBCSD”). Id. at ¶ 36-39. In response to the Third Amended Complaint, Sheriff Bradshaw moved to dismiss Novak's claims in Counts II and III for failure to state a claim. See ECF No. [11]. Novak and Sheriff Bradshaw thereafter filed a timely Response and Reply respectively. See ECF Nos. [14] and [19]. The Motion is now ripe for review.

         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). Although a complaint “does not need detailed factual allegations, ” it must provide “more than labels and conclusions, and a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action will not do.” Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007); see Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (explaining that Rule 8(a)(2)'s pleading standard “demands more than an unadorned, the-defendant-unlawfully-harmed-me accusation”). Nor can a complaint rest on “‘naked assertion[s]' devoid of ‘further factual enhancement.'” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678 (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 557 (alteration in original)).

         When reviewing a motion under Rule 12(b)(6), a court, as a general rule, must accept the plaintiff's allegations as true and evaluate all plausible inferences derived from those facts in favor of the plaintiff. See Miccosukee Tribe of Indians of Fla. v. S. Everglades Restoration Alliance, 304 F.3d 1076, 1084 (11th Cir. 2002); AXA Equitable Life Ins. Co. v. Infinity Fin. Grp., LLC, 608 F.Supp.2d 1349, 1353 (S.D. Fla. 2009). However, this tenet does not apply to legal conclusions, and courts “are not bound to accept as true a legal conclusion couched as a factual allegation.” Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555; see Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678; Thaeter v. Palm Beach Cty. Sheriff's Office, 449 F.3d 1342, 1352 (11th Cir. 2006). Moreover, “courts may infer from the factual allegations in the complaint ‘obvious alternative explanations,' which suggest lawful conduct rather than the unlawful conduct the plaintiff would ask the court to infer.” Am. Dental Ass'n v. Cigna Corp., 605 F.3d 1283, 1290 (11th Cir. 2010) (quoting Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 682). 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); Maxcess, Inc. v. Lucent Techs., 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. Count III: False Imprisonment Pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983

         The Court first addresses the federal law claim, Count III. Sheriff Bradshaw seeks to dismiss Count III of the Third Amended Complaint because it “fails to state a claim for individual or supervisory liability against Sheriff Bradshaw, nor for Monell liability for [Novak's] alleged confinement under the Baker Act.” See ECF No. [11]. In support of this argument, Sheriff Bradshaw argues that Novak's allegations in the Third Amended Complaint are conclusory and devoid of any factual support. Id. Accordingly, this Court must determine whether Novak has plead facts sufficient to state a claim against Sheriff Bradshaw under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 to sustain a claim against Sheriff Bradshaw individually and in his official capacity.

         i. Individual Liability

         “It is well established in this Circuit that supervisory officials are not liable under § 1983 for the unconstitutional acts of their subordinates on the basis of respondeat superior or vicarious liability.” Cottone v. Jenne, 326 F.3d 1352, 1360 (11th Cir. 2003) (internal quotation marks and citation omitted). “Instead, supervisory liability under § 1983 occurs either when the supervisor personally participates in the alleged unconstitutional conduct or when there is a causal connection between ...


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