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Bibby v. City and County of Denver

United States District Court, D. Colorado

October 28, 2015

CHRISTOPHER BIBBY, Plaintiff,
v.
THE CITY AND COUNTY OF DENVER, Defendant.

ORDER

R. Brooke Jackson United States District Judge

This matter is before the Court on the City and County of Denver‘s (hereinafter "Denver") motion to dismiss [ECF No. 12]. For the reasons stated below, the motion is granted.

FACTS

On May 13, 2013, Mr. Bibby was booked into Denver County Jail for a violation of probation. ECF No. 12 at ¶¶ 8-9. While he was being booked, Mr. Bibby observed another individual who was "unruly" and "needed many deputies to detain the person and calm them down." Id. at ¶ 10. Mr. Bibby was then assigned to a cell with this same person. Id. at ¶ 13.

That same day, Mr. Bibby left his cell to go visit the nurse. Id. at ¶ 14. Before he returned to his cell, Mr. Bibby asked a deputy if he could move to a different cell because he "feared for his safety" due to his previous observations of his cellmate‘s demeanor. Id. at ¶ 15. The deputy denied his request. Id. at ¶ 16.

The deputy called for another deputy to join him. Id. at ¶ 17. The second deputy reiterated that Mr. Bibby needed to return to his original cell, and Mr. Bibby again requested a new cell assignment because of his concerns for his safety. Id. at ¶ 18. One of the deputies then "took [Mr. Bibby‘s] arm, spun him around where [Mr. Bibby] hit his head on the column and then fell to the ground." Id. at ¶ 19. Additional deputies arrived to "assist in restraining [Mr. Bibby] by pinning him down and shoving a knee in [Mr. Bibby‘s] head. Id. at ¶ 20.

Mr. Bibby‘s face was bleeding, and the deputies escorted him to the same nurse for evaluation. Id. at ¶ 22. The nurse asked Mr. Bibby what had occurred, and he explained that "he requested a new cell as he feared for his safety and was denied." Id. at ¶ 23. The nurse responded by telling the attending deputy that "[y]ou have got to stop doing this to people." Id. at ¶ 24.

Mr. Bibby alleges "general and special damages, including . . . a cracked ribs [sic], cut on his head, medical expenses, loss of wages, pain, suffering, and severe emotional distress." Id. at ¶ 25. On May 13, 2015, Mr. Bibby filed this complaint alleging a violation of 42 U.S.C. § 1983 because the deputies‘ use of force deprived him of his right to be free from cruel and unusual punishment under the Eighth Amendment. Id. at 3. Specifically, he alleges that Denver established customs for the use of force against individuals and failed to train its deputies on the proper use of force. Id. at ¶¶ 27-28. He claims that Denver acted with deliberate indifference to his rights. Id. at ¶ 30. In response, Denver filed this motion to dismiss on the grounds that Mr. Bibby fails to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. ECF No. 12 at 2.

DISCUSSION

I. Standard of Review

To survive a 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss, the complaint must contain "enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face." Ridge at Red Hawk, L.L.C. v. Schneider, 493 F.3d 1174, 1177 (10th Cir. 2007) (quoting Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007)). While the Court must accept the well-pleaded allegations of the complaint as true and construe them in the light most favorable to the plaintiff, Robbins v. Wilkie, 300 F.3d 1208, 1210 (10th Cir. 2002), purely conclusory allegations are not entitled to be presumed true, Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 681 (2009). However, so long as the plaintiff offers sufficient factual allegations such that the right to relief is raised above the speculative level, he has met the threshold pleading standard. See, e.g., Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556; Bryson v. Gonzales, 534 F.3d 1282, 1286 (10th Cir. 2008).

II. Municipal Liability Claim Against Denver

In general, a municipality cannot be held liable under § 1983 for its employees‘ actions on a respondeat superior theory. Monell v. Dep't of Soc. Servs. of City of New York, 436 U.S. 658, 691 (1978). "Rather, to establish municipal liability, a plaintiff must show (1) the existence of a municipal policy or custom, and (2) that there is a direct causal link between the policy or custom and the injury alleged." Hinton v. City of Elwood, Kan., 997 F.2d 774, 782 (10th Cir. 1993). A plaintiff may show the existence of a municipal policy or custom in the form of (1) an officially promulgated policy, (2) an informal custom amounting to a widespread practice, (3) the decisions of employees with final policymaking authority, (4) the ratification by final policymakers of the decisions of their subordinates, or (5) the failure to adequately train or supervise employees. Bryson v. City of Oklahoma City, 627 F.3d 784, 788 (10th Cir. 2010).

A municipality‘s failure to train its employees adequately can constitute a municipal policy or custom for purposes of § 1983 under very narrow circumstances. Connick v. Thompson, 131 S.Ct. 1350, 1359 (2011) ("A municipality's culpability for a deprivation of rights is at its most tenuous where a claim turns on a failure to train."). A municipality‘s failure to train must amount to deliberate indifference to the rights of the citizens with whom the police officers come into contact. City of Canton v. Harris, 489 U.S. 378, 388 (1989). Ordinarily, the plaintiff must show a "pattern of similar constitutional violations by untrained employees" in order to "demonstrate deliberate indifference for purposes of failure to train." Connick, 131 S.Ct. at 1360 (internal quotation marks omitted). A pattern of similar violations demonstrates that the municipality‘s policymakers were on notice that a deficiency in their training program caused employees to violate citizens‘ rights, and the municipality continued to adhere to the inadequate training program anyways. Id. In exceptional circumstances, "deliberate indifference may be found absent a pattern of unconstitutional behavior if a violation of federal rights is a ...


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