United States District Court, M.D. Florida, Orlando Division
REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION
R. HOFFMAN UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT:
cause came on for consideration without oral argument on the
following motion file d herein:
MOTION: DEFENDANTS, CITY OF DAYTONA BEACH AND AUSTIN
CLAYTON'S, MOTION TO DISMISS AMENDED COMPLAINT PURSUANT
TO RULE 12(b)(6), FEDERAL RULES OF CIVIL PROCEDURE, THE
DEFENSE OF QUALIFIED IMMUNITY, AND STATE LAW IMMUNITY UNDER
§ 768.28(9), FLA. STAT. (Doc. No. 21)
FILED: March 13, 2019
THEREON it is RECOMMENDED
that the motion be GRANTED IN PART AND DENIED IN
Hattie Mae Reynolds (“Reynolds”) filed a
complaint in state court against Defendants Daytona Beach
Police Officer Austin Clayton (“Officer Clayton”)
and the City of Daytona Beach (“the City”),
(collectively “Defendants”), following her arrest
in May 2018 by Officer Clayton. Doc. No. 1-1. Defendants
removed the case to this Court on November 8, 2018, pursuant
to 28 U.S.C. §§ 1441, 1443, and 1446. Doc. No. 1.
November 16, 2018, Defendants moved to dismiss the complaint.
Doc. No. 4. The Court granted that motion, finding that
Reynolds's complaint failed to state a claim, and
permitted Reynolds leave to amend. Doc. No. 15. See
Reynolds v. City of Daytona Beach, No.
6:18-cv-1921-Orl-28KRS, 2019 WL 463435, at *3 (M.D. Fla. Feb.
February 20, 2019, Reynolds filed an amended complaint,
asserting the same causes of action as the initial complaint:
(1) Count I - false arrest under the Florida constitution and
Florida tort law against Officer Clayton; (2) Count II -
negligent infliction of emotional distress
(“NIED”) against the City; (3) Count III - false
arrest in violation of 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against both
Officer Clayton and the City; (4) Count IV - municipal
liability under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against the City; and
(5) Count V - false imprisonment under 42 U.S.C. § 1983
against the City. Doc. No. 17. Included with the amended
complaint are: (1) a copy of a News Release by the Daytona
Beach Police Department regarding Reynolds's arrest; and
(2) the charging affidavit associated with Reynolds's
arrest. Doc. No. 17-1.
March 13, 2019, Defendants moved to dismiss the amended
complaint. Doc. No. 21. Reynolds has filed a response in
opposition. Doc. No. 22. The motion was referred to the
undersigned for issuance of a Report and Recommendation, and
the matter is ripe for review.
move to dismiss the amended complaint pursuant to Federal
Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6). Doc. No. 21. “To
survive a motion to dismiss, a [pleading] 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. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570
(2007)). While this pleading standard “does not require
‘detailed factual allegations,' . . . it demands
more than an unadorned, the-defendant-unlawfully-harmed-me
accusation.” Id. (quoting Twombly,
550 U.S. at 555). A pleading must contain “more than
labels and conclusions, and a formulaic recitation of the
elements of a cause of action will not do.”
Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555. Although a court must
accept as true well-pled allegations, it is not bound to
accept a legal conclusion couched as a factual allegation.
Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678. For purposes of this
analysis, exhibits attached to the amended complaint are part
of the pleading for “all purposes.” Fed.R.Civ.P.
10(c); see also Saunders v. Duke, 766 F.3d 1262,
1270 (11th Cir. 2014) (“[D]ocuments attached to a
complaint or incorporated in the complaint by reference can
generally be considered by a federal court in ruling on a
motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6).”).
ALLEGATIONS OF THE AMENDED COMPLAINT.
alleges that the City maintains a policy under its
Departmental Standards Directive whereby law enforcement
officers are instructed to make an arrest during an
investigation of a domestic dispute. Doc. No. 17 ¶ 66.
Officers are to determine what crime occurred; if the
relationship is domestic; and the primary aggressor.
Id. If the officer determines that there is probable
cause, the officer shall effect an arrest of the primary
aggressor without a warrant. Id. With this policy,
Reynolds alleges that the City permitted, encouraged,
tolerated, and ratified a pattern and practice of permitting
officers to engage in misconduct and to make arrests without
probable cause. Id. ¶ 67.
Clayton is a law enforcement officer with the City of Daytona
Beach. Id. ¶ 14. Reynolds is a 95-year-old
African American female who resides in Daytona Beach.
Id. ¶¶ 5, 15. On May 5, 2018, Officer
Clayton responded to an initial call made by Reynolds seeking
assistance in removing her 46-year-old granddaughter from her
home. Id. ¶ 17. Reynolds had advised the operator
that her granddaughter was “sassing her” and
refused to comply with Reynolds's demands that she leave
the home. Id. ¶ 18. Reynolds made a subsequent
call requesting help removing the granddaughter from the home
because the granddaughter refused to get out of
Reynolds's bed. Id. ¶ 19. When Officer
Clayton arrived on the scene, he did not observe Reynolds and
her granddaughter in a physical altercation. Id.
¶ 20. Reynolds advised Officer Clayton that the
granddaughter did not reside at the home. Id. ¶
Clayton interviewed Reynolds, who denied any physical
touching between herself and the granddaughter. Id.
¶ 22. Officer Clayton thereafter interviewed the
granddaughter, who initially did not mention that any
physical touching had occurred between herself and Reynolds.
Id. ¶ 23. Officer Clayton knew that he must
determine a primary aggressor in compliance with the
City's policy; therefore, Officer Clayton proceeded to
coax the granddaughter to say that Reynolds had physically
accosted her-Officer Clayton repeatedly asked her if there
was any physical altercation, to which the granddaughter
finally responded that Reynolds “threw a bedroom
slipper.” Id. ¶ 24. Officer Clayton then
asked her if she was “hit or smacked by [Reynolds]
today.” Id. ¶ 25. The granddaughter then
responded that Reynolds “took the bedroom slipper off
of [the granddaughter's] foot and slapped her with
it.” Id. After hesitation, the granddaughter
stated that Reynolds struck her “on the left side of
[her] face.” Id. Officer Clayton observed that
the granddaughter had no physical injury to her face.
Id. ¶ 27; see also Doc. No. 17-1, at 3
(“V1 had no marks or bruising on her face where D1
smacked her with the shoe.”). Officer Clayton confirmed
that the granddaughter had never resided with Reynolds. Doc.
No. 17 ¶ 28.
was arrested on the date of the incident after Officer
Clayton determined that she was the primary aggressor.
Id. ¶¶ 40, 41. She was released on May 6,
2019. Id. ¶ 40. A nolle prosequi was
filed on May 10, 2018. Id. ¶ 43. The charges
remain public record, and Reynolds has no prior criminal
history. Id. ¶ 44. After her arrest, Reynolds
was the subject of media publications, which were reported on
the radio, in the newspaper, and on television; her mugshot
and/or her name are also available on the internet and
through other media sources throughout the United States.
Id. ¶ 39.
alleges that Officer Clayton knew or should have known that
the granddaughter was being untruthful because of her
hesitation and because she gave Officer Clayton three
different versions of the story. Id. ¶¶
26, 29. Moreover, Officer Clayton observed no physical injury
to the granddaughter's face. Id. ¶ 27. In
addition, Reynolds had repeatedly told Officer Clayton that
her granddaughter was being untruthful about any physical
touching. Id. ¶ 30. Likewise, Officer Clayton
knew that Reynolds was “old and frail, and therefore,
unlikely able to take a shoe from [the granddaughter's]
foot who is much younger and mobile.” Id.
¶ 31. Officer Clayton observed that Reynolds was barely
able to ambulate. Id. Officer Clayton also knew that
the granddaughter did not reside with Reynolds and had never
resided with her in the past. Id. ¶¶ 21,
28, 36. Although Officer Clayton knew or should have known
that the granddaughter was being untruthful because she was
hesitant and kept changing her story, Reynolds alleges that
the City's policy required him to arrest someone
irrespective of whether probable cause was present.
Id. ¶ 26.
alleges that in Officer Clayton's police report, he
intentionally fabricated and wrote the false statement that
“D1 took her shoe and smacked her on the left side of
her face, ” and falsely wrote that Reynolds said,
“she began to start yelling and smacked V1 in the face
with the shoes she had on.” Id. ¶ 33-34.
She claims that Officer Clayton lacked probable cause to
arrest her, and that Reynolds was falsely charged with the
crime of domestic battery. Id. ¶¶ 48, 84.
She asserts that Officer Clayton unreasonably relied on the
City's training and policy regarding response to domestic
violence calls, which required him to arrest an individual
without discretion. Id. ¶ 15.
alleges that as a result of the incident, she has suffered
extensive mental anxiety, physical and emotional distress,
and she had to undergo three blood transfusions on May 14,
2018. Id. ¶ 45. She also claims that she
suffered “shock, fright, apprehension, embarrassment,
and humiliation, and loss of liberty and freedom.”
Id. ¶ 52. In addition, she alleges that she
suffered “dizziness, headaches, numbness and tingling
and visual disturbance, and anemia immediately following the
arrest and incarceration.” Id. ¶ 59.
addition to the City's policy concerning domestic
violence arrests, Reynolds claims that the City has
established a permanent and well settled practice and custom
of permitting officers like Officer Clayton to fabricate
arrest reports. Id. ¶ 14. Reynolds further
claims that the City permitted, encouraged, tolerated, and
ratified a pattern or practice of intentionally fabricating
statements and allowing officers to make arrests without
probable cause by failing to properly train and supervise
officers and failing to discipline officers for executing
police reports containing false statements. Id.
¶ 13. To support these allegations, Reynolds cites to
other civil rights complaints for false arrests that were
asserted against the City and were allegedly successful, and
asserts that other law enforcement officers currently
employed by the City have numerous complaints against them
for failure to truthfully and accurately complete affidavits
or citations. Id. ¶ 14.
III - False Arrest Pursuant to § 1983 - Officer
Count III of the amended complaint, Reynolds asserts a claim
of false arrest in violation of the Fourth Amendment pursuant
to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against both Officer Clayton and the
City. Doc. No. 17, at 11. I first address Reynolds's
allegations against Officer Clayton individually.
seek dismissal of Reynolds's claim in Count III against
Officer Clayton based on the defense of qualified immunity.
Doc. No. 21, at 9-15. Defendants submit that the amended
complaint lacks factual allegations demonstrating that at any
point, Officer Clayton falsified his report or lacked
probable cause or even arguable probable cause to arrest
Reynolds pursuant to Florida's domestic violence statute,
Fla. Stat. § 741.28. Id.
immunity provides protection for government officials
performing discretionary functions and sued in their
individual capacities as long as their conduct violates no
clearly established statutory or constitutional rights of
which a reasonable person would have known.”
Brannon v. Finkelstein, 754 F.3d 1269, 1278 (11th
Cir. 2014) (quoting Storck v. City of Coral Springs,
354 F.3d 1307, 1313 (11th Cir. 2003)). There is no dispute
that Officer Clayton was performing discretionary functions
when he interacted with Reynolds. See Doc. No. 21,
at 12, n.4. See also Bercini v. City of Orlando, No.
6:15-cv-1921-Orl-41TBS, 2016 WL 11448994, at *3 (M.D. Fla.
Sept. 30, 2016) (“[A]n officer making an arrest is
acting within his discretionary duty.” (citing
Crosby v. Monroe Cty., 394 F.3d 1328, 1332 (11th
Cir. 2004))). Accordingly, in order to ascertain whether the
qualified immunity defense applies to this case, the Court
must determine: “(1) whether the facts alleged make out
a violation of a constitutional right; and (2) whether that
right was ‘clearly established' at the time of the
alleged misconduct.” Bratt v. Genovese, No.
8:13-cv-3210-T- 36AEP, 2015 WL 12835684, at *3 (M.D. Fla.
Nov. 23, 2015), aff'd, 660 Fed.Appx. 837 (11th
Cir. 2016) (citing Pearson v. Callahan, 555 U.S.
223, 232 (2009)).
to the clearly-established prong first,  the law is clear
that “[a] warrantless arrest without probable cause
violates the Fourth Amendment and forms a basis for a section
1983 claim. ” Ortega v. Christian, 85 F.3d
1521, 1525 (11th Cir. 1996) (citing Marx v.
Gumbinner, 905 F.2d 1503, 1505 (11th Cir. 1990));
see also Medley v. City of Orlando, No.
6:08-cv-1456-Orl-18DAB, 2009 WL 10706233, at *6 (M.D. Fla.
Jan. 12, 2009) (citation omitted) (“[I]t is
clearly-established that an arrest made without probable
cause violates the Fourth Amendment.”). The same
standard for determining whether probable cause exists
applies under both Florida and federal law-“whether
‘a reasonable man would have believed [probable cause
existed] had he known all of the facts known by the
officer.'” Rankin v. Evans, 133 F.3d 1425,
1433 (11th Cir. 1998) (quoting United States v.
Ullrich, 580 F.2d 765, 769 (5th Cir. 1978)). Probable
cause exists “when law enforcement officials have facts
and circumstances within their knowledge sufficient to
warrant a reasonable belief that the suspect had committed or
was committing a crime.” DeGraw v. Coats, No.
8:11-cv-720-EAK-MAP, 2011 WL 2270398, at *3 (M.D. Fla. June
addition to the probable cause standard, the Defendants also
point to the lesser “arguable probable cause”
theory, which requires a determination as to “whether
‘reasonable officers in the same circumstances and
possessing the same knowledge as the Defendant could have
believed that probable cause existed to arrest.”
Skop v. City of Atlanta, GA, 485 F.3d 1130, 1137
(11th Cir. 2007) (quoting Lee v. Ferraro, 284 F.3d
1188, 1195 (11th Cir. 2002)). However, the law is again
clearly established that the absence of arguable probable
cause also violates the Fourth Amendment. See Id. at
1143 “([A]n arrest made without arguable probable cause
violates the Fourth Amendment's prohibition on
unreasonable searches and seizures.”). Moreover, the
law is equally clear that law enforcement officers “are
not entitled to qualified immunity if they fabricated or
unreasonably disregarded certain pieces of evidence to
establish probable cause or arguable probable cause . . .
.” Gurrera v. Palm Beach Cty. Sheriff's
Office, 657 Fed.Appx. 886, 889-90 (11th Cir. 2016)
(citation and quotation marks omitted). Whether probable
cause or arguable probable cause exists depends on the
elements of the alleged offense and the particular facts of
the case. Davis v. City of Apopka, 356 F.Supp.3d
1366, 1377 (M.D. Fla. 2018) (quoting Brown v. City of
Huntsville, Ala., 608 F.3d 724, 735 (11th Cir. 2010)).
on the elements of the alleged offense and the particular
facts alleged in the amended complaint, all of which must be
accepted as true, I find that Reynolds has sufficiently
alleged both that Officer Clayton did not have probable cause
or arguable probable cause to arrest her and that Officer
Clayton inserted fabrications in his arrest report such that
Defendants' motion to dismiss should be denied as to this
Clayton reported that Reynolds engaged in domestic violence
under Florida law, specifically Fla. Stat. § 741.28,
(2) “Domestic violence” means any assault,
aggravated assault, battery, aggravated battery, sexual
assault, sexual battery, stalking, aggravated stalking,
kidnapping, false imprisonment, or any criminal offense
resulting in physical injury or death of one ...