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Butcher v. The City of Clarksburg

United States District Court, N.D. West Virginia

November 13, 2019

ROSA LEE BUTCHER, Plaintiff,
v.
THE CITY OF CLARKSBURG, MARTIN HOWE, ROBERT HILLIARD, and JOHN DOE, Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER GRANTING DEFENDANTS' MOTION TO DISMISS [DKT. NO. 5] AND DISMISSING THE COMPLAINT WITH PREJUDICE [DKT. NO. 1-1]

          IRENE M. KEELEY UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         In this civil rights case, the plaintiff, Rosa Lee Butcher (“Butcher”), alleges that the defendants, the City of Clarksburg (“Clarksburg”), Martin Howe (“Howe”), Robert Hilliard (“Hilliard”), and John Doe (collectively, “the Defendants”), violated her state and federal constitutional rights by conspiring to conceal the identity of John Doe, the Clarksburg Police Officer who allegedly tased her while she was in police custody (Dkt. No. 1-1).

         Clarksburg, Howe, and Hilliard (collectively, “the represented Defendants”) have moved to dismiss the Complaint contending, among other things, that Butcher's claims are time barred and, alternatively, fail to state a claim under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) (Dkt. No. 5). Because Butcher's Complaint fails to state a claim, and any such claim is nevertheless time barred, the Court GRANTS the motion to dismiss (Dkt. No. 5) and DISMISSES the Complaint WITH PREJUDICE.

         I. BACKGROUND

         A. The Complaint[1]

         In her Complaint, Butcher alleges two causes of action--the first under the West Virginia Constitution and the second under 42 U.S.C. § 1983--based on the same facts and circumstances (Dkt. No. 1-1 at 5-14). Specifically, Butcher alleges that, while she was in the custody of the Clarksburg Police Department in September 2013, officers used excessive force by tasing her while she was in handcuffs. Id. at 7. As a result, she filed a formal complaint with the City of Clarksburg in September 2014, which led to an internal investigation. Id.

         The internal investigation found that Butcher's complaint lacked merit because all officers on duty denied deploying their tasers. Id. The results of the internal investigation were forwarded to Howe and Hilliard, who did not refer the matter to an outside agency for further investigation. Id. During this time, Hilliard served as the Chief of the Clarksburg Police Department and Howe served as the City Manager of Clarksburg. Id. at 8.

         In September 2015, Butcher filed a complaint in the Circuit Court of Harrison County, naming Clarksburg, Officer Vinson, and John Doe as defendants. Id. at 7. Although the Court dismissed Clarksburg from the case, a jury found that John Doe used excessive force and awarded Butcher $5, 000.00 in damages. Id. at 7-8. After denying the state court defendants' motion for judgment as a matter of law, the Circuit Court of Harrison County entered a final judgment in favor of Butcher and awarded her $74, 620.00 in attorney's fees and costs. Id. The state court defendants then appealed to the Supreme Court of Appeals of West Virginia, where the case remains. Id.

         Based on these facts, Butcher alleges that Clarksburg, Howe, Hilliard, and John Doe have “conspired to conceal the identity of [her] attacker both pre and post verdict in an attempt to avoid the City of Clarksburg or their insurer being found liable for the attack on [her] and the judgment rendered by the [Circuit] Court.” Id. at 8-9. In support, Butcher alleges that the “Defendants conducted an adequate [sic] investigation prior to the jury trial . . . and refused to reopen the investigation post verdict in a continued attempt to keep the identity of John Doe unknown to [Butcher] arguing to the [Supreme Court of Appeals] that the City of Clarksburg's insurer should not be responsible for paying the judgment since [she] cannot name her attacker.” Id. at 9.

         Butcher further alleges that Clarksburg, Howe, and Hilliard “failed to call in any outside investigations [sic] to investigate [her claims] both pre and post verdict, ” despite calling for outside investigations in other cases “from September[] 2013 to August[] 2019.” Id. They also “failed to call in the WV State Police to investigate” her claims, despite utilizing the State Police to investigate other claims “from September[] 2013 to August[] 2019.” Id.

         As a result, Butcher alleges that the Defendants have violated her state and federal constitutional rights to due process by conspiring to conceal the identify of Joe Doe, causing her mental pain and suffering (past and future), humiliation, embarrassment, and degradation, and potential loss of her state court monetary judgment. Id. at 10-13. Butcher also seeks attorney's fees, costs, punitive damages, and additional training for the Defendants. Id. at 12-13.

         B. Procedural History

         Butcher filed this action in August 2019 in the Circuit Court of Harrison County, West Virginia (Dkt. No. 1-1). The Defendants timely removed it to this Court based on federal question and supplemental jurisdiction (Dkt. No. 1). After the represented Defendants moved to dismiss the Complaint (Dkt. No. 5), the Court held a scheduling conference during which it heard oral argument on the pending motion (Dkt. No. 14), which is now ripe for disposition.

         II. STANDARD OF REVIEW

         Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) allows a defendant to move for dismissal on the grounds that a complaint does not “state a claim upon which relief can be granted.” When reviewing the sufficiency of a complaint, a district court “must accept as true all of the factual allegations contained in the complaint.” Anderson v. Sara Lee Corp., 508 F.3d 181, 188 (4th Cir. 2007) (quoting Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 94 (2007)). “While a complaint . . . does not need detailed factual allegations, a plaintiff's obligation to provide the ‘grounds' of his ‘entitle[ment] to relief' requires more than labels and conclusions, and a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action will not do.” Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, ...


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