United States District Court, D. Colorado
Michael E. Hegarty, United States Magistrate Judge
the Court is Defendants' Motion to Dismiss. ECF No. 23.
In this lawsuit, Plaintiff asserts one claim under 42 U.S.C.
§ 1983 for a violation of his Fourth Amendment rights.
Defendants argue the Complaint should be dismissed, because
Plaintiff does not state a claim against the entity
Defendants and Deputy Tyler Benjamin (“Benjamin”)
is entitled to qualified immunity. The Court heard the motion
on July 10, 2019 and has reviewed the briefs and operative
pleading. For the reasons that follow, the Court will grant
in part and deny in part the motion.
following are factual allegations (as opposed to legal
conclusions, bare assertions, or merely conclusory
allegations) made by Plaintiff in the Complaint, which are
taken as true for analysis under Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6)
pursuant to Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678
November 18, 2016, Plaintiff was driving a pickup truck that
was pulling a flatbed trailer heading southbound on Brighton
Road in Commerce City, which is located in Adams County,
Colorado. ECF No. 1 ¶ 12. Deputy Benjamin saw the
vehicle and decided to “check the license
plate” on the trailer, which revealed that it did not
have a DMV record. Id. ¶ 13. He initiated a
traffic stop, and Plaintiff pulled over into a parking lot.
Id. ¶¶ 13-14. Plaintiff was otherwise
obeying all traffic laws. Id. ¶ 13.
stopping, Plaintiff exited his vehicle. Id. ¶
15. Benjamin instructed Plaintiff to get back in the truck,
but Plaintiff discovered he had locked himself out.
Id. Benjamin then directed Plaintiff to turn around
and put his hands behind his back, and Plaintiff complied.
Id. ¶ 16. As Benjamin approached Plaintiff, he
noticed that Plaintiff had a pocketknife clipped to his
pants, and Benjamin took Plaintiff to the ground.
Id. ¶ 17. He then struck Plaintiff in the face
multiple times. Id. ¶ 18. Plaintiff suffered a
broken jaw, retinal detachment, and a traumatic brain injury
as a result of the blows to his face. Id. ¶ 22.
After these events, “officers” noticed that a
butterfly knife was sitting in plain view in Plaintiff's
truck. Id. ¶ 19. “Officers” broke a
window to get into the truck and towed the vehicle.
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)). Plausibility, in the context of a motion to dismiss,
means that the plaintiff pled facts which allow “the
court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is
liable for the misconduct alleged.” Id.
Twombly requires a two-prong analysis. First, a court
must identify “the allegations in the complaint that
are not entitled to the assumption of truth, ” that is,
those allegations that are legal conclusions, bare
assertions, or merely conclusory. Id. at 678-80.
Second, the Court must consider the factual allegations
“to determine if they plausibly suggest an entitlement
to relief.” Id. at 681. If the allegations
state a plausible claim for relief, such claim survives the
motion to dismiss. Id. at 680.
refers “to the scope of the allegations in a complaint:
if they are so general that they encompass a wide swath of
conduct, much of it innocent, then the plaintiffs have not
nudged their claims across the line from conceivable to
plausible.” SEC v. Shields, 744 F.3d 633, 640
(10th Cir. 2014) (quoting Khalik v. United Air
Lines, 671 F.3d 1188, 1191 (10th Cir. 2012)). “The
nature and specificity of the allegations required to state a
plausible claim will vary based on context.” Safe
Streets All. v. Hickenlooper, 859 F.3d 865, 878 (10th
Cir. 2017) (quoting Kan. Penn Gaming, LLC v.
Collins, 656 F.3d 1210, 1215 (10th Cir. 2011)). Thus,
while the Rule 12(b)(6) standard does not require that a
plaintiff establish a prima facie case in a complaint, the
elements of each alleged cause of action may help to
determine whether the plaintiff has set forth a plausible
claim. Khalik, 671 F.3d at 1191.
“[t]hreadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of
action, supported by mere conclusory statements, do not
suffice.” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678. The
complaint must provide “more than labels and
conclusions” or merely “a formulaic recitation of
the elements of a cause of action, ” so that
“courts ‘are not bound to accept as true a legal
conclusion couched as a factual allegation.'”
Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555 (quoting Papasan v.
Allain, 478 U.S. 265, 286 (1986)). “Determining
whether a complaint states a plausible claim for relief will
. . . be a context-specific task that requires the reviewing
court to draw on its judicial experience and common
sense.” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 679. “[W]here
the well-pleaded facts do not permit the court to infer more
than the mere possibility of misconduct, ” the
complaint has made an allegation, “but it has not shown
that the pleader is entitled to relief.” Id.
(quotation marks and citation omitted).
first argue that Adams County and the Adams County
Sheriff's Office should be dismissed, because Plaintiff
fails to state a claim against any entity Defendant under
§ 1983.Defendants also contend that Benjamin
should be dismissed, because he is entitled to qualified
immunity. The Court will address each argument as presented.
Adams County & Adams County Sheriff's Office
argue that Plaintiff does not plausibly state a claim against
either of the entity Defendants, because he fails to allege
that they caused Plaintiff's injury under § 1983.
The Supreme Court has determined that “[a] municipality
or other local government may be liable under [§ 1983]
if the governmental body itself ‘subjects' a person
to a deprivation of rights or ‘causes' a person
‘to be subjected' to such deprivation.”
Connick v. Thompson, 563 U.S. 51, 60 (2011).
“But, under § 1983, local governments are
responsible only for ‘their own illegal
acts.'” Id. (quoting Pembaur v. City
of Cincinnati, 475 U.S. 469, 479 (1986)). “[A]
local government may not be sued under § 1983 for an
injury inflicted solely by its employees or agents.”
Monell v. Dep't of Soc. Servs. of N.Y., 436 U.S.
658, 694 (1978). Thus, ...