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Hendricks v. City of Griffith

United States District Court, N.D. Indiana, Fort Wayne Division

March 21, 2018

DAMONTEL HENDRICKS, Plaintiff,
v.
CITY OF GRIFFITH, et al., Defendants.

          OPINION AND ORDER

          RUDY LOZANO, JUDGE

         This matter is before the Court on Defendants' Partial Motion to Dismiss, filed by Defendants, Town of Griffith (incorrectly named City of Griffith), Officers Keith Hojnicki, Chris Herrmann, Michael Gauler, Jeffrey Beck, Robert Guiterrez[1], Richard Merschantz, Jacob Schoon, Jeff Gang, Curt Burrow, and Jim Sibley, on December 12, 2017 (DE #22). For the reasons set forth below, the Partial Motion to Dismiss (DE #22) is GRANTED IN PART and DENIED IN PART. The Partial Motion to Dismiss is GRANTED as to: Counts I-III as to Defendant Officers Chris Hermann and Jim Sibley and those claims against Defendants Hermann and Sibley are DISMISSED WITH PREJUDICE[2]; Count IV is DISMISSED WITH PREJUDICE as to Defendant Officers Keith Hojnicki, Chris Herrmann, Michael Gauler, Jeffrey Beck, Robert Guiterrez, Richard Merschantz, Jacob Schoon, Jeff Gang, Curt Burrow, and Jim Sibley IN THEIR INDIVIDUAL CAPACITY[3]; and Count V is DISMISSED WITH PREJUDICE in its entirety. The Partial Motion to Dismiss is DENIED as to Counts I-III against Defendant Officer Robert Guiterrez and those claims remain pending against Officer Guiterrez. Additionally, the Partial Motion to Dismiss is DENIED AS MOOT as to a Monell claim against the Town of Griffith, since that claim was not pled in the complaint.

         BACKGROUND

         Plaintiff, Damontel Hendricks, claims that officers of the Griffith Police Department used excessive force in arresting him and committed a false arrest on October 16, 2015. Hendricks has sued the City of Griffith, and Officers Keith Hojnicki, Chris Herrmann, Michael Gauler, Jeffrey Beck, Robert Guiterrez, Richard Merschantz, Jacob Schoon, Jeff Gang, Curt Burrow, and Jim Sibley “individually and as [] agents.” (DE #1 at 1.)

         The complaint alleges federal violations of 42 U.S.C. § 1983 for excessive force (Count I); false arrest (Count II), and failure to intervene (Count III). The complaint also alleges Indiana state law claims for false arrest (Count IV); and assault and battery (Counts V and VI).

         On December 12, 2017, the Defendants filed the instant partial motion to dismiss (DE #22) pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6). Defendants request: dismissal of the federal individual capacity claims against Officer Hermann, Officer Guiterrez and Officer Sibley in Counts I-III due to lack of personal involvement; dismissal of Counts IV and V as to all named officers in their individual capacities based upon the Indiana Tort Claims Act, I.C. §34-13-3-5; and to the extent Hendricks is seeking any Section 1983 claims against the Town of Griffith, dismissal under the Monell doctrine.

         Hendricks filed a response on January 22, 2018 (DE #31). Hendricks argues that it has adequately pled that the officers were involved in the false arrest and use of excessive force, that Defendants are not afforded immunity under the Indiana Tort Claims Act for the claims of false arrest and assault and battery, and that Plaintiff did not plead a Monell count or a section 1983 claim against the Town of Griffith.

         Defendants filed a reply on January 30, 2018 (DE #32). Consequently, the motion is fully briefed and ready for adjudication.

         DISCUSSION

         Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) allows a complaint to be dismissed if it fails to “state a claim upon which relief can be granted.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6). Allegations other than fraud and mistake are governed by the pleading standard outlined in Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 8(a), which requires a “short and plain statement” that the pleader is entitled to relief. Maddox v. Love, 655 F.3d 709, 718 (7th Cir. 2011).

         In order to survive a Rule 12(b)(6) motion, the complaint “must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to ‘state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face'.” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 129 S.Ct. 1937, 1949 (2009)(quoting Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007)). All well-pleaded facts must be accepted as true, and all reasonable inferences from those facts must be resolved in the plaintiff's favor. Pugh v. Tribune Co., 521 F.3d 686, 692 (7th Cir. 2008). However, pleadings consisting of no more than mere conclusions are not entitled to the assumption of truth. Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678-79. This includes legal conclusions couched as factual allegations, as well as “[t]hreadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action, supported by mere conclusory statements.” Id. at 678 (citing Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555).

         Facts

         Hendricks alleges that on October 16, 2015, at approximately 4:00 p.m., he left a friend's house located on North Wood Street, Griffith, Indiana. (Compl. at ¶ 14.) Upon arriving at his car, Hendricks learned the battery was dead. (Id. at ¶ 15.) While Hendricks waited for help, Mr. Dillon entered the car and sat in the back seat, and Mr. Richards entered the car and sat in the front passenger seat. (Id. at ¶¶ 16-17.) Richards brought a large clear bag of marijuana and, upon information and belief, a bottle of Alprazolam (commonly known as Xanex) into the car, and put the marijuana on the floor. (Id. at ¶¶ 19, 21.) Hendricks had no prior knowledge that Richards or Dillon used marijuana or that they were planning to enter his car while in the possession of marijuana. (Id. at ¶ 56.)

         At about 4:11 p.m., two patrol cars pulled up in front and behind of Hendricks' vehicle, with overhead lights flashing. (Id. at ¶ 22.) Shortly thereafter, five to six additional patrol vehicles arrived at the scene. (Id. at ΒΆ 30.) ...


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