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Newton v. City of Charlotte

United States District Court, W.D. North Carolina, Charlotte Division

January 26, 2015

MATTHEW DENNIS NEWTON, as Administrator of the Estate of CLAY CRAWFORD MCCALL, III, Plaintiff,
v.
CITY OF CHARLOTTE, MECKLENBURG COUNTY, OLE S. SWENSON, JOHN J. GALLAND, RODNEY A. MONROE, ET AL., Defendants.

ORDER

FRANK D. WHITNEY, District Judge.

THIS MATTER is before the Court on Defendant Mecklenburg County's ("Defendant County") Motion to Dismiss (Doc. No. 4). The parties have fully briefed the motions, and these matters are now ripe for disposition. For the reasons stated below, Defendant County's Motion to Dismiss is GRANTED.

BACKGROUND

This is an action seeking damages pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 for violation of decedent Clay Crawford McCall, III's ("Decedent's") rights under the United States Constitution, as well as for state law negligence claims. Plaintiff Matthew Dennis Newton ("Plaintiff") is Decedent's brother and the administrator of his estate. (Doc. No. 1-6, ¶ 3).

Accepting the allegations of the Complaint as true, on September 14, 2014, three police officers employed by the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department ("CMPD") were called to the home of Decedent's grandmother, where they confronted Decedent, and an altercation between the officers and Decedent resulted in one of the officer's firing gunshots at Decedent. (Doc. No. 1-6, ¶¶ 9, 10, 26, 50, 54-80). Decedent suffered at least two gunshot wounds and later died in the hospital as a result of these wounds. (Doc. No. 1-6, ¶¶ 83-84).

On September 30, 2014, Plaintiff initiated this action alleging thirteen claims for relief, including claims against Defendant County for civil rights and deliberate indifference under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and state law wrongful death claims based on negligence, gross negligence and assault and battery. (Doc. No. 1-6, pp. 20-22, 35-39). On December 5, 2014, Defendant City of Charlotte removed the case to this Court, where it was assigned to the undersigned. (Doc. No. 1).

On December 6, 2014, Defendant County filed the present Motion to Dismiss, arguing the Plaintiff failed to state a claim upon which relief may be granted because the County may not be held liable for negligence, or under the doctrines of agency or respondeat superior. (Doc. No. 4-1, p. 7). Defendant County further asserts that Plaintiff has no basis for its § 1983 claim against the County. (Doc. No. 4-1, p. 5).

The Motion to Dismiss has been fully briefed and is now ripe for the Court's review.

DISCUSSION

I. Standard of Review

A complaint attacked by a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss will survive if it contains enough facts to "state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face." Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (quoting Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007)). "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. (citing Twombly at 556).

In Iqbal, the Supreme Court articulated a two-step process for determining whether a complaint meets this plausibility standard. First, the court identifies allegations that, because they are no more than conclusions, are not entitled to the assumption of truth. Id. "Threadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action, supported by mere conclusory statements, do not suffice." Id. (citing Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555) (allegation that government officials adopted challenged policy "because of" its adverse effects on protected group was conclusory and not assumed to be true). Although the pleading requirements stated in "Rule 8 [of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure] mark[ ] a notable and generous departure from the hyper-technical, code-pleading regime of a prior era... it does not unlock the doors of discovery for a plaintiff armed with nothing more than conclusions." Id. at 678-79.

Second, to the extent there are well-pleaded factual allegations, the court should assume their truth and then determine whether they plausibly give rise to an entitlement to relief. Id. at 679. "Determining whether a complaint contains sufficient facts to state 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.'" Id. "Where the well-pleaded facts do not permit the court to infer more than the mere possibility of misconduct, the complaint has alleged-but it has not show[n]'-that the pleader is entitled to relief, '" and therefore it should be dismissed. Id. (quoting Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2)). In other words, if after taking the complaint's well-pleaded factual allegations as true, a lawful alternative explanation appears a "more likely" cause of the complained of behavior, the claim for relief is not plausible. Id.

In reviewing a Rule 12(b)(6) dismissal, generally "a court may not consider any documents that are outside of the complaint, or not expressly incorporated therein, on a motion to dismiss. Clatterbuck v. City of Charlottesville, 708 F.3d 549, 557 (4th Cir. 2013) (citing Braun v. Maynard, 652 F.3d 557, ...


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