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Estate of Spates v. Crizer

United States District Court, N.D. Indiana, Hammond Division

August 19, 2019

ESTATE OF WILLIAM D. SPATES, Deceased, by MARINA SPATES, his Wife and Independent Administrator, Plaintiff,
v.
PORTAGE POLICE OFFICER GRANT CRIZER, STAR #159, Individually and as Employee/Agent of the City of Portage, and THE CITY OF PORTAGE INDIANA, Defendants.

          OPINION AND ORDER

          THERESA L. SPRINGMANN CHIEF JUDGE

         This matter is before the Court on the Partial Motion to Dismiss Plaintiff's First Amended Complaint [ECF No. 46] filed by Defendants Portage Police Officer Grant Crizer and the City of Portage, Indiana (Portage) for failure to state a claim pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6).

         BACKGROUND

         The Plaintiff filed a Complaint [ECF No. 1] on January 2, 2018, and a First Amended Complaint [ECF No. 40], which is now the operative Complaint in this case, on October 11, 2018. The Plaintiff alleges that, on April 22, 2017, Defendant Crizer initiated a stop of William D. Spates' car. First Am. Compl. ¶ 7. The Plaintiff states that Spates was alone in the car and unarmed. Id. ¶ 9. During the traffic stop, Defendant Crizer deployed his taser and fired electrically charged taser prongs into Spates. Id. ¶ 12. Defendant Crizer then un-holstered his firearm and shot Spates multiple times. Id. ¶¶ 13. Spates died at the scene from multiple gunshot wounds. Id. ¶¶ 13, 16. Spates did not pose an imminent threat of death or great bodily harm to Defendant Crizer. Id. ¶ 14.

         The Plaintiff brings four Counts against the Defendants: Count I is a § 1983 excessive force claim against Defendant Crizer, alleging that he violated Spates' Fourth Amendment rights; Count II is a § 1983 Monell claim against Defendant City of Portage; Count III is a state law wrongful death claim against Defendants Crizer and Portage; and Count IV is a state law claim against Defendants Crizer and Portage for loss of consortium.

         The Defendants filed a Partial Motion to Dismiss Plaintiff's First Amended Complaint [ECF No. 46] on October 17, 2018. The Defendants seek to dismiss Counts II-IV of the Plaintiff's First Amended Complaint for failure to state a claim pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6). The Plaintiff filed a response [ECF No. 49], and the Defendants filed a reply [ECF No. 50].

         LEGAL STANDARD

         A motion to dismiss brought under Rule 12(b)(6) “challenges the viability of a complaint by arguing that it fails to state a claim upon which relief may be granted.” Camasta v. Jos. A. Bank Clothiers, Inc., 761 F.3d 732, 736 (7th Cir. 2014). The Court presumes that all well-pleaded allegations are true, views these well-pleaded allegations in the light most favorable to the Plaintiff, and accepts as true all reasonable inferences that may be drawn from the allegations. Reynolds v. CB Sports Bar, Inc., 623 F.3d 1143, 1146 (7th Cir. 2010). Surviving a Rule 12(b)(6) motion “requires more than labels and conclusions . . . . Factual allegations must be enough to raise a right to relief above the speculative level.” Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007). “A claim has facial plausibility when the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged.” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (citing Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556).

         ANALYSIS

         The Defendants challenge Counts II-IV of the Plaintiff's First Amended Complaint: the Section 1983 Monell claim against Defendant Portage, the state law wrongful death claim against the Defendants, and the state law loss-of-consortium claim against the Defendants.

         A. Plaintiff's Section 1983 Monell Claim (Count II)

         The Plaintiff brings a Monell claim pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against Defendant Portage. Section 1983 provides, in pertinent part:

Every person who, under color of any statute, ordinance, regulation, custom, or usage, of any State or Territory or the District of Columbia, subjects, or causes to be subjected, any citizen of the United States or other person within the jurisdiction thereof to the deprivation of any rights, privileges, or immunities secured by the Constitution and laws, shall be liable to the party injured in an action at law, suit in equity, or other proper proceeding for redress . . . .

42 U.S.C. § 1983. To state a claim under § 1983, a plaintiff must allege “(1) that defendants deprived him of a federal constitutional right; and (2) that the defendants acted under color of state law.” ...


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