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Doe v. Foster

United States District Court, N.D. Ohio, Eastern Division

December 12, 2019




         Now before the Court is the motion of defendants, City of Norton (“City”), City of Norton Police Department (“Norton PD”), Chief of Police John Dalessandro (“Chief Dalessandro”), Officer Ryan Seeker (“Officer Seeker”), Officer John Karnuth (“Officer Karnuth”), Officer Brett McShane (“Officer McShane”), Officer Christopher Besse (“Officer Besse”), Officer Joshua Pond (“Officer Pond”), Solicitor Justin Markey (“Solicitor Markey”), Assistant Prosecutor Michelle Banbury (“Banbury”), and Assistant Prosecutor Jennifer Roberts (“Roberts”) (collectively, “Norton Defendants”), for partial judgment on the pleadings. (Doc. No. 27 [“Mot.”].) Plaintiff Jane Doe (“Doe”) did not file an opposition, and the time for filing such a response has passed. For the reasons explained more fully below, Norton Defendants' motion is GRANTED, and the remaining state law claims are REMANDED to state court.

         I. Background

         At all times relevant to the incidents set forth in the complaint, Doe was married to defendant David Allen Foster (“Foster”). (See Doc. No. 1-2 (Complaint [“Compl.”]) ¶ 1.) On August 6, 2017, Foster initiated a verbal and physical altercation with Doe, wherein he burned her chest and arm with a lit cigarette before dialing 911 and reporting that Doe had actually burned him with a cigarette. (Id. ¶¶ 1-3.) Officers Seeker and Karnuth of the Norton PD responded to the scene, prepared what Doe asserts was a false police report, and arrested Doe for domestic violence. (Id. ¶¶ 4, 6.)

         Doe was eventually prosecuted in the Barberton Municipal Court. (See Id. ¶¶ 10-15.) On January 2, 2018, Doe entered a plea of “no contest” to the crime of disorderly conduct, received a fine of $10.00, and was assessed court costs. (Id. ¶ 15.) There is no dispute that Doe subsequently obtained an order from the Barberton Municipal Court sealing her disorderly conduct conviction under Ohio Rev. Code § 2953.32. (Doc. No. 19 (Status Report) at 131;[1] Doc. No. 20 (Order) at 133-34.)

         On August 6, 2018, Doe brought suit in state court. (Compl. at 7.[2]) The gravamen of her complaint is that defendants conspired to violate Doe's constitutional rights by pursuing false charges of domestic violence against her. In her complaint, she raises the following claims: excessive force and deliberate indifference under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 (First Claim), malicious prosecution under § 1983 (Second Claim), malicious prosecution under state law (Third Claim), negligence and reckless conduct (Fourth Claim), intentional infliction of emotional distress (Fifth Claim), assault and battery (Sixth Claim), tortious interference with business relationships (Seventh Claim), and negligent supervision and failure to train (Eighth Claim).

         On August 14, 2019, Norton Defendants removed this matter to federal court on the basis of federal question jurisdiction. (Doc. No. 1 (Notice of Removal [“Not.”]) at 1.) Following removal, Norton Defendants filed the present motion, seeking judgment on the pleading as to all claims asserted against them, with the exception of the state claims of malicious prosecution, negligence, and intentional infliction of emotional distress, to the extent these claims are asserted against Officers Seeker and Karnuth only. Among the reasons asserted for judgment on the pleadings are: Norton PD is not suri juris, Doe's prosecutors are entitled to absolute immunity, the City is entitled to statutory immunity under Ohio Rev. Code § 2744, and certain claims are barred by Heck v. Humphrey, 512 U.S. 477, 114 S.Ct. 2364, 129 L.Ed.2d 383 (1994). Norton Defendants also argue that various claims against certain defendants fail to state a cause of action.

         II. Standard of Review

         Norton Defendants bring their dispositive motion under Rule 12(c) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. The standard of review for a motion for judgment on the pleadings under Rule 12(c) is the same as for a motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6). E.E.O.C. v. J.H. Routh Packing Co., 246 F.3d 850, 851 (6th Cir. 2001) (citing Grindstaff v. Green, 133 F.3d 416, 421 (6th Cir. 1998)). A motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6) tests the sufficiency of the pleading. Davis H Elliot Co., Inc. v. Caribbean Util. Co., Ltd., 513 F.2d 1176, 1182 (6th Cir. 1975). All allegations of fact by the non-moving party are accepted as true and construed in the light most favorable to that party. See Grindstaff, 133 F.3d at 421 (citing Meador v. Cabinet for Human Res., 902 F.2d 474, 475 (6th Cir. 1990)). The Court, however, “need not accept as true legal conclusions or unwarranted factual inferences.” Mixon v. Ohio, 193 F.3d 389, 400 (6th Cir. 1999) (citing Morgan v. Church's Fried Chicken, 829 F.2d 10, 12 (6th Cir. 1987)). Nor is the Court required to accept as true complaint allegations that are contradicted by public records and other evidentiary materials of which the Court may take judicial notice. See Moody v. CitiMortgage, Inc., 32 F.Supp.3d 869, 874-75 (W.D. Mich. 2014) (“court may disregard allegations in the complaint if contradicted by facts established by exhibits attached to the complaint[]”) (quotation marks and citations omitted); see also Williams v. CitiMortgage, Inc., 498 Fed.Appx. 532, 536 (6th Cir. 2012) (“if a factual assertion in the pleadings is inconsistent with a document attached for support, the Court is to accept the facts as stated in the attached document[]”) (quotation marks and citation omitted).

         The sufficiency of the pleading is tested against the notice pleading requirements of Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2), which provides that a complaint must contain “a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief[.]” Although this standard is liberal, “[t]o survive a motion to dismiss, a complaint must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to ‘state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.'” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678, 129 S.Ct. 1937, 173 L.Ed.2d 868 (2009) (quoting Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570, 127 S.Ct. 1955, 167 L.Ed.2d 929 (2007)). A claim is facially plausible “when the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged.” Id. (citing Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556). If the plaintiff has not “nudged [his] claims across the line from conceivable to plausible, [the] complaint must be dismissed.” Twombly, 550 U.S. at 570 (citation omitted).

         III. Discussion

         A. Norton PD is not Suri Juris

         Norton Defendants argue that Norton PD must be dismissed from this action because county offices and departments cannot be separately sued. It is well settled that administrative units of local governments, such as a municipal police department, are not suri juris because they lack the power to sue and cannot be sued absent positive statutory authority. Tysinger v. Police Dep't of City of Zanesville, 463 F.3d 569, 572 (6th Cir. 2006); Papp v. Snyder, 81 F.Supp.2d 852, 857 n.4 (N.D. Ohio 2000); see Hendricks v. Office of Clermont Cty. Sheriff, 326 Fed.Appx. 347, 349 (6th Cir. 2009). While claims against a municipal police department are construed as against the municipality, see Johari v. City of Columbus Police Dep t , 186 F.Supp.2d 821, 825 (S.D. Ohio 2002), there is no need to substitute the City because Doe has failed to assert any particular claims against Norton PD. Accordingly, Norton PD is dismissed from this action.[3]

         B. Want of Factual Allegations against ...

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