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Coss v. Blatt

United States District Court, S.D. West Virginia, Charleston

January 29, 2019

BRANDON MATTHEW COSS, Plaintiff,
v.
WILLIAM A. BLATT, D.B. CROSS, and THE COUNTY COMMISSION OF WOOD COUNTY WEST VIRGINIA, Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION & ORDER

          JOHN T. COPENHAVER, JR. SENIOR UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         Pending is the plaintiff's motion for leave to file a third amended complaint, filed January 11, 2019.

         I. Background

         On February 28, 2016, defendant William A. Blatt, a deputy in the Wood County Sheriff's Department, initiated a traffic stop of plaintiff Brandon Matthew Coss's fiancé, Rebecca Dotson. Second Am. Compl. (“Compl.”), ECF No. 15, at ¶ 8. The plaintiff, who witnessed the incident, and Deputy Blatt had a confrontation over the propriety of the traffic stop. Id. at ¶¶ 9-17.

         Plaintiff alleges that on February 29, 2016, Deputy Blatt “swore to false statements in a criminal complaint in order to obtain a warrant for Plaintiff's arrest.” Id. at ¶ 19. “At approximately 11:00 PM on February 29, 2016, Deputies Blatt and Cross arrived at the Plaintiff's residence to execute the invalid arrest warrant” for either disorderly conduct or obstructing an officer. Id. at ¶ 20-21. Upon entering the residence, and despite the fact that plaintiff was already on the ground with his hands behind his back, Deputy Blatt allegedly struck plaintiff in the head with his knee multiple times. Id. at ¶ 29-30. Plaintiff also claims that Deputy Blatt unjustifiably continued to physically harm him after he was in custody, which Deputy Cross witnessed. Id. at ¶ 31-34.

         After being held in jail overnight, plaintiff went before the Wood County Magistrate. Id. at 35-36. Deputy Blatt had filed a second criminal complaint in which he alleged two counts of obstructing an officer and is purported to have made multiple false statements to the Magistrate in order to support these allegations. Id. at 36. The Magistrate found probable cause for one count of obstructing an officer. Id. That charge, the only one for which probable cause was found, was dismissed on December 13, 2016. Id. at 38.

         Plaintiff, acting pro se, initiated this action in the Circuit Court of Wood County, West Virginia on February 28, 2018. See ECF No. 1-5, at 1. Plaintiff, pro se, later amended his complaint, on June 27, 2018. ECF No. 1-1. Service of process does not appear to have been made on the defendants until after the plaintiff filed his amended complaint. Not. Removal, ECF No. 1, at ¶¶ 3-4; ECF No. 1-5. Although the original complaint was not transmitted to this court with the notice of removal, Exhibit 5, attached to defendants' notice of removal, appears to be the state court docket sheet which indicates that the original complaint was filed on February 28, 2018. The defendants removed this matter to this court pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1331 and subsequently moved to dismiss the amended complaint.

         Plaintiff later retained counsel and moved to amend his amended complaint to cure several deficiencies in the first amended complaint and to replace, as a defendant, the Wood County Sheriff's Department with the Wood County Commission. Mot. Am. Compl., ECF No. 12. On November 29, 2018, the court granted plaintiff leave to file a second amended complaint and allowed defendants to either withdraw or amend their motion to dismiss in view of the amendment. ECF No. 14.

         The second amended complaint includes: 42 U.S.C. § 1983 claims against Deputy Blatt under the Fourth Amendment for false arrest and excessive force; a claim against Deputy Blatt under the First Amendment for retaliatory arrest; a claim against Deputy Cross under the Fourteenth Amendment for failure to intervene; a claim for municipal liability against the Wood County Commission; a state-law false arrest and imprisonment claim against Deputy Blatt; assault and battery claims against Deputy Blatt; intentional infliction of emotional distress claims against Deputies Blatt and Cross; and a malicious prosecution claim against Deputy Blatt. Compl., at ¶¶ 39-72.

         On December 20, 2018, defendants filed their amended motion to dismiss plaintiff's claims. ECF No. 20. Instead of responding to defendants' motion, the plaintiff filed, on January 11, 2019, this motion for leave to amend the second amended complaint. Pl.'s Mot., ECF No. 22.

         Plaintiff's third amended complaint “would include facts omitted from the original document and would present a more complete and accurate description of the events giving rise to this action.” Id. at ¶ 3. Plaintiff specifically seeks to add “descriptions of the false statements made by Defendant Blatt in the process of obtaining criminal complaints against the Plaintiff.” Id. The plaintiff asserts that the amendment would not prejudice the parties inasmuch as the court's November 29, 2018 scheduling order set a January 11, 2019 date by which the parties might amend their pleadings, a date with which plaintiff has complied. Id. at ¶ 4. The third amended complaint does not seek to add any parties or causes of action.

         The third amended complaint only contains two additions of note. First, the plaintiff seeks to add the allegation that in an effort to obtain an arrest warrant for plaintiff, Deputy Blatt falsely told the Magistrate “that Plaintiff took an aggressive stance against Deputy Blatt, that Deputy Blatt attempted to arrest the Plaintiff during the incident, and that the Plaintiff confronted Deputy Blatt with an aggressive dog.” Proposed Compl., ECF No. 22-1, at ¶ 19. Second, the plaintiff alleges that in attempting to get the Magistrate to file a second criminal complaint after plaintiff's arrest, Deputy Blatt falsely said that “Plaintiff told officers they would have to kick in the door. Additionally, every statement attributed to Ms. Dotson is a fabrication.” Id. at ¶36. None of the other amendments make any meaningful changes to the substance of the second amended complaint.[1]

         Defendants have filed, on January 16, 2019, a response in opposition to plaintiff's motion, and the time in which ...


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