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Early v. City of Homestead

United States District Court, S.D. Florida

July 12, 2019

Reginald Early III and others, Plaintiffs,
City of Homestead, Florida and others, Defendants.



         This matter is before the Court on Defendant's motion to dismiss counts III-X of Plaintiffs' Second Amended Complaint. (ECF No. 23.) The Plaintiffs responded (ECF No. 26) and the Defendants timely replied (ECF No. 27). Having considered the parties' arguments, the record, and the relevant legal authority, the Court grants in part and denies in part the Defendants' motion. (ECF No. 23.)

         I. Background

         On October 3, 2015, the Plaintiffs were on a family vacation and checked into the Floridian Hotel in Homestead, Florida. (Am. Compl. ¶ 11., ECF No. 22.) According to the Plaintiffs, while in the hotel room, the Defendant police officers (the “Officers”) from the City of Homestead Police Department, lacking a warrant or probable cause, entered the Plaintiffs' hotel room and arrested Plaintiffs Mildred Early and Regina Early. (Id. ¶¶ 16-28.) Mildred Early had been taking a shower when the police officers arrived. (Id. at ¶ 16.) Defendant Meece barged into the bathroom, knocked Mildred over, and threw a towel on her face. (Id. at ¶ 19.) She was not allowed to dress and was walked through the hotel property while naked. (Id. at ¶ 23.) She was without clothing for at least an hour while male bystanders watched and made comments about her appearance. (Id. at ¶¶ 24-26.)

         Both women spent the night in Miami-Dade County jail before being bonded out. (Id. at ¶ 29.) On March 23, 2016, all criminal charges against Mildred were dismissed. (Id. at ¶ 31.) On September 19, 2016, all charges against Regina were dismissed. (Id. at ¶ 32.) The Plaintiffs then filed a ten-count complaint alleging claims for false arrest, negligent infliction of emotional distress, illegal search and seizure, battery, malicious prosecution, and other negligence claims against the City of Homestead (the “City”) and the Officers stemming from the Early's arrest in October 2015. The Defendants now move to dismiss counts III-X of the Plaintiffs' complaint and to strike the Plaintiffs' request for declaratory and injunctive relief. (ECF No. 23.)

         II. 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).

         III. Analysis

         A. Count III - Negligent Infliction of Emotional Distress against the City

         Count III of Plaintiffs' complaint is against the City for negligent infliction of emotional distress. (ECF No. 22 at ¶ 43.) According to the Plaintiffs, the Officers' conduct, including the Plaintiffs being “handcuffed, battered, and Mildred Early being forced to expose her nude body to members of the public, ” resulted in emotional distress, including severe depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, and other physical and mental injuries. (Id. at ¶ 46.) The City moves to dismiss Count III because this negligence count is based on the same conduct that forms the basis of the intentional torts asserted in the other counts. (ECF No. 23 at 12.) The Plaintiffs argue that Count III survives because it is not based only on the Defendants' intentional conduct. (ECF No. 26 at 15.) Upon careful review, the Court agrees with the Plaintiffs.

         While the Defendants are correct that the Plaintiffs could not state a cause of action for negligent infliction of emotional distress based on intentional conduct, Garcia v. Carnival Corp., 838 F.Supp.2d 1334, 1337 (S.D. Fla. 2012) (Moore, J.), a negligence claim “based upon a distinct act of negligence may be brought against a police officer in conjunction with a claim for [an intentional tort].” City of Miami v. Sanders, 672 So.2d 46, 48 (Fla. 3d DCA 1996). The court in Sanders held that “the negligence component must pertain to something other than the actual application of force during the course of the arrest. It cannot serve as the exclusive basis for liability in an excessive force claim.” Id. Here, the Plaintiff's claim for negligent infliction of emotional distress appears to include intentional conduct as well as potentially negligent conduct. The handcuffing and battery relate to the intentional torts asserted throughout the complaint but forcing Mildred Early to walk around naked in public forms a separate basis to assert a count for negligent infliction of emotional distress. Accordingly, the Court denies the Defendants' motion to dismiss Count III.

         B. Counts IV and IX - 42 U.S.C. § 1983 Claims Against the City

         Counts IV and IX assert § 1983 claims against the City for failure to “train its officers to uphold basic civil rights during an arrest.” (ECF No. 26 at 6.) Municipalities and other local government entities are subject to liability under § 1983 and may be sued directly for relief where “the action that is alleged to be unconstitutional implements or executes a policy statement, ordinance, regulation, or decision officially adopted and promulgated by that body's officers.” Monell v. N.Y.C. Dep't of Soc. Servs., 436 U.S. 658, 690 (1978). A municipality or other local government entity “cannot be held liable solely because it employs a tortfeasor-or, in other words, a municipality cannot be held liable under § 1983 on a respondeat superior theory.” Id. at 691 (emphasis in original). Only if the alleged constitutional violations resulted from a custom, policy, or practice of a local government entity may that entity be held liable. Id. at 694; Wideman v. Shallowford Cmty. Hosp., Inc., 826 F.2d 1030, 1032 (11th Cir. 1987); see also Farred v. Hicks, 915 F.2d 1530, 1532-33 (11th Cir. 1990) (“Governmental entities may be held liable under section 1983 when a governmental ‘policy or custom' is the ‘moving force' behind the constitutional deprivation.”) (citing Kentucky v. Graham, 473 U.S. 159, 166 (1985)).

         A policy or custom “is established by showing a persistent and widespread practice and an entity's actual or constructive knowledge of such customs, though the custom need not receive formal approval.” German v. Broward Cty. Sheriff's Office, 315 Fed.Appx. 773, 776 (11th Cir. 2009) (citing Depew v. City of St, Mary's, Ga., 787 F.2d 1496, 1499 (11th Cir. 1986)). The practice or custom must be “so pervasive, as to be the functional equivalent of a policy adopted by the final policymaker.” Church v. City of Huntsville, 30 F.3d 1332, 1343 (11th Cir. 1994). For example, if a municipality's rules and regulations for the operation of its police department are repeatedly violated and the municipality has knowledge of the conduct but fails to rectify the situation, it may be liable. Depew, 787 F.2d at 1499 (“The continued failure of the [municipality] to prevent known constitutional violations by its police force is precisely the type of informal policy or custom that is actionable under section 1983.”). However, “[n]ormally random acts or isolated incidents are insufficient to establish a custom or policy.” Id.

         The inadequacy of police training may serve as the basis for local government liability under § 1983 only “where the failure to train in a relevant respect amounts to deliberate indifference to the constitutional rights of persons with whom the police come into contact.” City of Canton, Ohio v. Harris, 489 U.S. 378, 379 (1989). To establish “deliberate indifference, ” “a plaintiff must present some evidence that the municipality knew of a need to train and/or supervise in a particular area and the municipality made a deliberate choice not to take any action.” Gold v. City of Miami, 151 F.3d 1346, 1350 (11th Cir. 1998). “[A] pattern of similar constitutional violations by untrained employees is ordinarily necessary to demonstrate ...

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