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Lane v. Fayette County Sheriff's Department

United States District Court, S.D. West Virginia

September 30, 2019

JAMES LANE, Plaintiff,


          John T. Copenhaver, Jr. Senior United States District Judge

         Pending is defendant Fayette County Commission's motion to dismiss the amended complaint, filed January 30, 2019.

         I. Background

         On or around August 12, 2016, defendant Ethan A. Shrewsbury, a Fayette County deputy sheriff, responded to a 911 call from an individual at “Adventures on the Gorge.” Am. Compl. ¶¶ 13-14. The individual reported to 911 dispatch that plaintiff Lane was intoxicated and had a “perceived lack of ability to properly and safely supervise his child.” Id. ¶ 14. Lane was arrested for public intoxication and child neglect and transported to the Fayette County Sheriff's Department (“the Sheriff's Department”) by defendant Shrewsbury for processing. Id. ¶ 12, 14.

         Shrewsbury later reported that “Plaintiff attempted to attack him” while he was being processed at the Sheriff's Department. Id. ¶ 15. According to the written reports made by Shrewsbury and “other deputies, ” Shrewsbury “delivered an open hand palm strike to the right side of plaintiff's face in response to this attack.” Id. Plaintiff, however, alleges that Shrewsbury's report is devoid “of any information that would explain the other injuries [that plaintiff] suffered.” Id. Those injuries include “multiple facial lacerations, bruises, ” and “multiple facial fractures requiring surgical intervention, ” as shown by the plaintiff's medical records. Id. ¶ 16; Pl.'s Ex. A. Plaintiff claims these injuries resulted from being “repeatedly struck by Shrewsbury, “knocked to the ground” by defendant Ryan Fox, and “tazed” by defendant Brian Fernandez, ” all of whom were Fayette County deputy sheriffs and “acted as . . . agents/employees of the Fayette County Sheriff's Department.” Am. Compl. ¶¶ 4, 16.

         Plaintiff claims that medical records documenting his injuries contradict Shrewsbury's report, which allegedly states that he “administered one blow to the right side of plaintiff's face.” Am. Compl. ¶ 16. He further alleges that defendant Fernandez tazed him “numerous times” while he was “restrained, ” and that defendant Fox “failed to intervene on plaintiff's behalf and was responsible for using excessive force and knocking plaintiff to the ground.” Id.

         As a result of the alleged events, plaintiff instituted this action on August 10, 2018. He amended his five-count complaint on December 11, 2018. The amended complaint charges as follows: violations of Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments to United States Constitution/42 U.S.C. § 1983 (Count I); assault and battery (Count II); intentional infliction of emotional distress (Count III); negligent supervision/training (Count IV); and spoliation (Count V). The Commission seeks dismissal of Counts I, II, III, and IV. See Def.'s Mot. Dismiss.

         II. Legal Standard

         Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 8(a)(2) requires that a pleading contain “a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief.” Rule 12(b)(6) correspondingly provides that a pleading may be dismissed when there is a “failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted.”

         To survive a motion to dismiss, a pleading must recite “enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.” Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007); see also Monroe v. City of Charlottesville, 579 F.3d 380, 386 (4th Cir. 2009) (quoting Giarratano v. Johnson, 521 F.3d 298, 302 (4th Cir. 2008)). In other words, the “[f]actual allegations must be enough to raise a right to relief above the speculative level.” Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555 (citation omitted).

         Application of the Rule 12(b)(6) standard requires that the court first “‘accept as true all of the factual allegations contained in the complaint . . . .'” Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 94 (2007) (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 572). Such factual allegations should be distinguished from “mere conclusory statements, ” which are not to be regarded as true. Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (“[T]he tenet that a court must accept as true all of the allegations contained in a complaint is inapplicable to legal conclusions.”). Second, the court must also “draw[] all reasonable . . . inferences from th[e] facts in the plaintiff's favor . . . .” Edwards v. City of Goldsboro, 178 F.3d 231, 244 (4th Cir. 1999).

         III. Discussion

         A. Section 1983 Claims - Count I

         Plaintiff first alleges that the officers' “excessive force, assault and battery” violated plaintiff's Fourth Amendment right “to be free from unreasonable search and seizures and unreasonable intrusions on his bodily integrity” and was “egregious, outrageous, and an abuse of power in violation of Plaintiff's right under the Fourteenth Amendment to due process of law.” Am. Compl. ¶¶ 20-21. Plaintiff further alleges that “the violations of his constitutional rights were caused by implementation of a custom, policy, or official act of [the Commission], ...

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