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Bey v. Reed

United States District Court, D. Colorado

June 18, 2019

SGT. REED, Arapahoe County Sergeant, in his individual and official capacity, LT. MITCHELL, Arapahoe County Lieutenant, in his individual and official capacity, DEPUTY GILLESPIE, Arapahoe County Deputy, in his individual and official capacity, and DEPUTY ERICSON, Arapahoe County Deputy, in his individual and official capacity, Defendants.


          Kristen L. Mix United States Magistrate Judge

         This matter is before the Court on Defendants' Motion to Dismiss for Failure to State a Claim Under Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6) [#13][1] (the “Motion”).[2] Plaintiff, who is proceeding pro se, [3] filed a Response [#21] in opposition to the Motion, and Defendants filed a Reply [#22]. The Court has reviewed the Motion, the Response, the Reply, the entire case file, and the applicable law, and is sufficiently advised in the premises. For the reasons set forth below, the Motion [#13] is GRANTED.

         I. Background

         The following allegations from the Amended Complaint [#6] are accepted as true for the purpose of adjudicating the Motion [#13].[4] See Barnes v. Harris, 783 F.3d 1185, 1191-92 (10th Cir. 2015). On January 28, 2018, Plaintiff, her husband, and her daughter were driving home when they were stopped because the car's passenger-side headlight was out. Am. Compl. [#6] at 6. After the stopping officer asked to see the husband's driver's license, Defendants Reed, Mitchell, Gillespie, and Ericson arrived on the scene. Id. For reasons not clear in the Amended Complaint [#6], one unidentified Defendant allegedly tried to pull Plaintiff's husband through the driver-side window. Id. Afterward, Plaintiff attempted to get out of the car, but an unidentified Defendant closed the passenger-side door, catching Plaintiff's leg in the process. Id. Plaintiff does not allege any injury as a result of this incident.

         Stuck in the car, Plaintiff alleges that she tried to have Defendants Reed and Mitchell explain what was going on, but Defendant Mitchell responded, “we will tell you in a minute, ” then walked away. Id. Plaintiff proceeded to step out of the car, through the driver's side, and asked the arresting officer why her husband was being arrested. Id. at 7. At this moment, Plaintiff alleges that all four Defendants grabbed her, slammed her against the car's backdoor window, and handcuffed her. Id. In the process, Plaintiff alleges that the officers injured her left arm, although the precise nature of her injury is unclear. Id. Defendant Gillespie then placed Plaintiff in one of the police cars and wrote a ticket charging her with Obstructing a Public Servant pursuant to Colo. Rev. Stat. § 18-8-104. Id. Plaintiff allegedly continued to suffer from pain and weakness in her arm at least until the date she filed her Amended Complaint [#6] on July 9, 2018. Id. at 7.

         Plaintiff filed her initial Complaint on June 7, 2018, alleging vague and generalized constitutional violations against Defendants and four other parties. See Compl. [#1] at 2. However, pursuant to an Order to Dismiss in Part and Draw in Part, all claims and parties except Plaintiff's 42 U.S.C. § 1983 Fourth Amendment excessive force claim against these four Defendants in their individual and official capacities[5] have been dismissed. See Order [#7] at 8. As a result of Defendants' alleged actions, Plaintiff requests $75, 000 in compensatory damages and $75, 000 in punitive damages, as well as injunctive relief. Am. Compl. [#6] at 10. Defendants filed the instant Motion [#13] on September 17, 2018, seeking to dismiss Plaintiff's excessive force claim pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6) on the premise that they have qualified immunity. Motion [#13] at 3.

         II. Standard of Review

         A. Fed R. Civ. P. 12(b)(1)

         Subject matter jurisdiction may be challenged by a party or raised sua sponte by the court at any point in the proceeding. See, e.g., Am. Fire & Cas. Co. v. Finn, 341 U.S. 6, 16-19, (1951); Harris v. Illinois-California Express, Inc., 687 F.2d 1361, 1366 (10th Cir. 1982); Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(h)(3). Rule 12(b)(1) concerns whether the Court has jurisdiction to properly hear the case before it. Dismissal of a federal claim for lack of subject-matter jurisdiction “is proper only when the claim is ‘so insubstantial, implausible, foreclosed by prior decisions of this Court, or otherwise completely devoid of merit as not to involve a federal controversy.'” Steel Co. v. Citizens for a Better Env't, 523 U.S. 83, 89 (1998) (quoting Oneida Indian Nation v. County of Oneida, 414 U.S. 661, 666 (1974)). Because “federal courts are courts of limited jurisdiction, ” the Court must have a statutory basis to exercise its jurisdiction. Montoya v. Chao, 296 F.3d 952, 955 (10th Cir. 2002); see Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(1). Statutes conferring subject-matter jurisdiction on federal courts are to be strictly construed. F. & S. Const. Co. v. Jensen, 337 F.2d 160, 161 (10th Cir. 1964). “The burden of establishing subject-matter jurisdiction is on the party asserting jurisdiction.” Id. (citing Kokkonen v. Guardian Life Ins. Co. of Am., 511 U.S. 375, 377 (1994)).

         B. Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6)

         The purpose of a motion to dismiss pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6) is to test “the sufficiency of the allegations within the four corners of the complaint after taking those allegations as true.” Mobley v. McCormick, 40 F.3d 337, 340 (10th Cir. 1994); Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6) (stating that a complaint may be dismissed for “failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted”). “The court's function on a Rule 12(b)(6) motion is not to weigh potential evidence that the parties might present at trial, but to assess whether the plaintiff's complaint alone is legally sufficient to state a claim for which relief may be granted.” Sutton v. Utah State Sch. for the Deaf & Blind, 173 F.3d 1226, 1236 (10th Cir. 1999) (citation omitted). To withstand a motion to dismiss pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6), “a complaint must contain enough allegations of fact to state a claim for relief that is plausible on its face.” Robbins v. Oklahoma, 519 F.3d 1242, 1247 (10th Cir. 2008) (quoting Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007)); see also Shero v. City of Grove, Okla., 510 F.3d 1196, 1200 (10th Cir. 2007) (“The complaint must plead sufficient facts, taken as true, to provide ‘plausible grounds' that discovery will reveal evidence to support the plaintiff's allegations.” (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 570)).

         “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.” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009). “A pleading that offers labels and conclusions or a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action will not do. Nor does a complaint suffice if it tenders naked assertion[s] devoid of further factual enhancement.” Id. (brackets in original; internal quotation marks omitted).

         To survive a motion to dismiss pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6), the factual allegations in the complaint “must be enough to raise a right to relief above the speculative level.” Christy Sports, LLC v. Deer Valley Resort Co., 555 F.3d 1188, 1191 (10th Cir. 2009). “[W]here the well-pleaded facts do not permit the court to infer more than the mere possibility of misconduct, ” a factual allegation has been stated, “but it has not show[n] [ ] that the pleader is entitled to relief, ” as required by Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a). Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 679 (second brackets added; citation and internal quotation marks omitted).

         III. ...

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