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Doe v. City of Vero Beach

United States District Court, S.D. Florida

August 8, 2019

JOHN DOE, Plaintiff,



         Defendant, the City of Vero Beach, filed a Motion to Dismiss on June 26, 2019 after removing this action from state court to this Court. See Mot., DE 3; Notice of Removal, DE 1. The motion has been fully briefed. See Pl. Resp., DE 13; Def. Reply, DE 15. In addition, on August 7, 2019, the parties contacted chambers with a proposed order, in which the Motion would be granted, and Plaintiff would be given time to amend his Complaint. Upon receiving the proposed order, the Court ordered that a previously set hearing on the Motion would instead be conducted as a status conference. See DE 18. At the status conference, all parties and the Court reached agreement that the Motion should be granted, and the Complaint should be dismissed with leave to amend. The Court informed the parties that a written order would follow, to document the Court's analysis of the Complaint.

         I. Background

         In his class action complaint, filed pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, Plaintiff “John Doe” claims that the Defendant City violated his Fourth Amendment rights by installing video equipment in a massage parlor and recording the activities within that massage parlor “on a 24/7 basis for a period of approximately 60 days.” Compl., DE 1-5, 5. Plaintiff claims that he “had a reasonable expectation of privacy while receiving massages from licensed therapists in private rooms.” Id. ¶ 17. Presumably as a result of the video recordings, Plaintiff was “actually charged with a crime of solicitation of prostitution…[and] subject to public humiliation.” See Id. ¶¶ 20-21.

         In addition to seeking dismissal of the Complaint on Rule 12(b)(6) grounds, Defendant argues that Plaintiff should not be permitted to proceed under a pseudonym and that Plaintiff's class allegations should be dismissed.

         II. Motion to Dismiss

         A. Standard of Review “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, 678 (2009) (quoting Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007)). See Fed. R. Civ. P. 8(a)(2) (requiring “a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief”). Although this pleading standard “does not require ‘detailed factual allegations,' . . . it demands more than an unadorned, the-defendant-unlawfully-harmed-me accusation.” Id. (alteration added) (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555). Pleadings 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 (citation omitted), and must provide sufficient facts to “give the defendant fair notice of what the … claim is and the grounds upon which it rests, ” id. Indeed, “only a complaint that states a plausible claim for relief survives a motion to dismiss.” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 679 (citing Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556). To meet this “plausibility standard, ” a plaintiff must “plead[] factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged.” Id. at 678 (alteration added) (citing Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556).

         At the motion to dismiss stage, the “plaintiff's factual allegations are accepted as true. . . . However, conclusory allegations, unwarranted factual deductions or legal conclusions masquerading as facts will not prevent dismissal.” Davila v. Delta Air Lines, Inc., 326 F.3d 1183, 1185 (11th Cir. 2003). Furthermore, under Florida law, “[i]f [a] contract covers plaintiff's claims in clear and unambiguous language, then plaintiff's ability to state a claim upon which relief may be granted, thus surviving this motion to dismiss, depends on the specific terms of the contract, which the court analyzes as a matter of law.” Sarria Holdings, Inc. v. Walgreen Co., No. 02-23169-CIV, 2003 WL 1528711, at *2 (S.D. Fla. Jan. 31, 2003).

         B. Discussion

         Defendant argues that the Complaint does not properly connect Plaintiff's general allegations against various law enforcement agencies to the named Defendant, the City of Vero Beach. In addition, the Defendant asserts that the Complaint does not satisfy the requirements of a Monell claim. The Court agrees with both arguments.

         Plaintiff's Complaint alleges a Section 1983 action against a municipality, also known as a Monell claim. See Monell v. Dept of Soc. Servs. of City of New York, 436 U.S. 658 (1978). Pursuant to Monell:

[A] local government may not be sued under § 1983 for an injury inflicted solely by its employees or agents. Instead, it is when execution of a government's policy or custom, whether made by its lawmakers or by those whose edicts or acts may fairly be said to represent official policy, inflicts the injury that the government as an entity is responsible under § 1983.

Id. at 694. “[T]o demonstrate a Monell claim, the plaintiff must show: (1) the violation of a federal right occurred; (2) the existence of a municipal policy or custom; and (3) a causal connection between the violation and the municipal policy or custom. The plaintiff must also show that the constitutional violation occurred “under color of State law.” C.F.C. v. Miami-Dade Cty., 349 F.Supp.3d 1236, 1255 (S.D. Fla. 2018) (citations omitted).

         Significantly, the “touchstone of [a] § 1983 action against a government body is an allegation that official policy is responsible for a deprivation of civil rights protected by the Constitution.” Hoefling v. City of Miami, 811 F.3d 1271, 1280 (11th Cir. 2016) (quoting Monell, 436 U.S. at 690)). “There must be a direct link between the alleged constitutional violation and the municipal policy or custom.” Marcel v. Metro-Dade Police Dep't, No. 10-CV-20028, 2010 WL 5865816, at *3 (S.D. Fla. June 28, 2010), report and recommendation adopted, 2011 WL 705709 (S.D. Fla. Feb. 22, 2011) (citing Snow v. City of Citronelle, 420 F.3d 1262, 1271 (11th Cir. 2005)). Moreover, to state a Monell claim, the plaintiff must demonstrate that the official policy or custom was ...

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