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Helman v. Barnett's Bail Bonds, Inc.

United States District Court, N.D. Indiana, South Bend Division

March 13, 2017

ATTA BELLE HELMAN and LARRY DWAYNE HELMAN; and ATTA BELLE HELMAN and LARRY DWAYNE HELMAN, as Special Administrator of The Estate of GARY HELMAN, Plaintiffs,
v.
BARNETT'S BAIL BONDS, INC., MYRA L. BARNETT, MICHAEL E. BARNETT, THE PAPERS, INC., STACEY STALEY, TADD S. MARTIN, DANIEL S. FOSTER, MICHAEL C. THOMAS, and LEXINGTON NATIONAL INSURANCE CORPORATION, Defendants.

          OPINION AND ORDER

          Michael G. Gotsch, Sr. United States Magistrate Judge

         On November 23, 2016, Plaintiffs, Atta Helman, Larry Helman, and the Estate of Gary Helman (collectively, “Plaintiffs”) filed a Motion, pursuant to Fed. R. P. Civ. 15 and N.D. Ind. L.R. 15-1, for Leave to File their First Amended Complaint [DE 53]. On December 7, 2016, Defendant, The Papers Inc. (“Papers”) filed its response in opposition to Helman's motion [DE 59]. On December 19, 2016, Plaintiffs filed supplemental exhibits in support of their motion [DE 62]. No other defendants have filed oppositions to the proposed amendments.

         I. Relevant Background

         On August 23, 2016, Plaintiffs filed their complaint raising seven claims-violation of Civil Rights pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 through general allegations (Count I), violation of Civil Rights pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 through failure to protect (Count II), violation of Civil Rights pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 through supervisor liability (Count III), violation of Civil Rights pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1985(3) through conspiracy to interfere with civil rights (Count IV), violation of Civil Rights pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 through a claim got the estate for wrongful death under Indiana law (Count V), violation of Civil Rights pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 through a survival action for Gary Helman's deprivation of rights (Count VI), and claims for breach of contract and violations of Indiana's Deceptive Business Practices' Act (Count VII). Plaintiffs' claims are based on allegations that Defendant Stacey Staley, an employee of Papers, engaged in conduct that brought about the death of Gary Helman, the injury of Plaintiff Larry Helman, and the emotional distress of Plaintiff Atta Belle Helman. Plaintiffs claim Papers is vicariously liable for the actions of Stacey Staley.

         As background, Plaintiffs allege that on September 30, 2013, criminal charges were filed in Kosciusko County Superior Court against Gary Helman for battery and resisting law enforcement.[1] On November 27, 2013, Atta Helman, Gary's mother, sought the services of Defendant Barnett's Bail Bonds (“Barnett's”) to post bond for the release of Gary. Atta paid a $2, 500 premium and signed a contract with Defendant Lexington National Insurance Company (“Lexington National”), the surety for Barnett's. On July 18, 2014, a warrant was issued for Gary's arrest. Soon after, Barnett's hired Defendants Todd S. Martin, Daniel S. Foster and Michael C. Thomas to serve as bail recovery agents for itself and Lexington National and to apprehend Gary Helman.

         During this time, Stacey Staley, a reporter, had written and was in the process of covering news stories about Gary Helman as a Papers employee. Plaintiffs allege that Staley and Papers began acting as informants for Martin, Foster, and Thomas in their continued search for Gary Helman. As an informant, Staley allegedly set a plan to interview Gary Helman at the home of Atta Helman. Staley was expected to enter the Helman home to speak with and confirm the presence of Gary Helman. On August 25, 2014, Staley allegedly entered the Helman home, spoke with both Gary and Atta Helman, then left and reported her contacts to the bail recovery agents. Staley then waited at the location of the Helman house, while Martin, Foster, and Thomas approached the home armed with firearms. Foster went to the front of the house and shouted “warrant” and began knocking on the door. Foster and Martin went to the back of the house where they came into contact with Larry Helman, Gary's twin brother. Thomas and Larry Helman engaged in physical altercation while Martin entered the back of the house. After entering the home, Martin and Gary Helman engaged in a firefight, which resulted in Gary's death. Additionally, Larry Helman was shot in the back during the firefight and Martin sustained multiple gunshot wounds.

         Almost two years later, Plaintiffs initiated this suit, alleging that Defendants acted under color of state law by effectuating the Helman bail bond recovery. Plaintiffs' claims against Lexington National and Barnett's are based on their conduct of filing the bond with the court as sureties. Defendants Michael E. Barnett, Myra L. Barnett, Martin, Foster and Thomas allegedly cooperated to plan and effectuate the apprehension of Gary Helman under state authorized power as bail recovery agents. Plaintiffs allege that Staley and Papers jointly operated to assist in the investigation and planning of the attack on the Helman home, acting as government informants in the assistance of the bail recovery agents.

         Plaintiffs now asks this Court for leave to amend their complaint adding allegations of a violation of Civil Rights pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 through a claim of the Estate for wrongful death under Indiana Law against Defendant, Papers (Count IV). Further Plaintiff asks to amend their claim for vicarious liability for wrongful death (Count VII), and adding tort claims of Atta Helman and Larry Helman against Papers (Count VIII).

         Papers opposes this motion for several reasons. First, Papers argues that Plaintiffs conceded all federal claims against it, and that there is no reason for this Court to exercise its supplemental jurisdiction power on state claims that are duplicative of current pending actions in state court.[2] Second, Papers contends that Atta and Larry Helman's proposed tort claims in Count VIII do not give proper notice to individual parties. Third, Papers argues that Plaintiffs' proposed wrongful death claims in Count IV and Count VII do not meet the Rule 12(b)(6) plausibility requirement and are inevitably futile.

         II. Analysis

         A. Supplemental Jurisdiction and State Claims

         A district court may exercise jurisdiction to the full extent of Article III's case or controversy requirement. McCoy v. Iberdrola Renewables, Inc., 760 F.3d 674, 682 (7th Cir. 2014). Claims are part of the same case or controversy if they derive from a common nucleus of operative fact. Id. at 683. However, the district courts “may decline to exercise supplemental jurisdiction over a claim . . . [if] the claim substantially predominates over the claim or claims over which the district court has original jurisdiction.” 28 U.S.C. § 1367(c). In deciding whether to exercise jurisdiction over pendent state law claims, a district court should consider and weigh the factors of judicial economy, convenience, fairness, and comity. Faust v. Parke, No. 3:96-CV-103RP, 1996 WL 698024 at *10 (N.D. Ind. Oct. 3, 1996), aff'd, 114 F.3d 1191 (7th Cir, 1997) (citing Wright v. Ass'n Ins. Co., Inc., 29 F.3d 1244, 1251 (7th Cir. 1994)).

         It is the practice of federal court to exercise comity, which is explained as “proper respect for state functions.” Younger v. Harris, 401 U.S. 37, 43 (1971). Federal courts have the power to refrain from hearing cases that would interfere with state proceedings. See Huffman v. Pursue, Ltd., 420 U.S. 592, 603 (1975). Courts should refrain from hearing a case that is duplicative of pending state proceedings. Quackenbush v. Allstate Ins. Co., 517 U.S. 706, 717 (1996).

         Here, Plaintiffs filed a State Action in Kosciusko Circuit Court, Indiana on June 6, 2016, alleging negligence on the part of Papers for the incident at the Helman home in August 2014. Papers and Stacey Staley filed a motion to dismiss that complaint in State Court on August 3, 2016. On December 6, 2016, the state court granted the Motion to Dismiss as ...


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