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Arnold v. City of Wichita Police Department

United States District Court, D. Kansas

January 13, 2020




         On February 6, 2019, pro se plaintiff[1] Lucas Arnold filed a Complaint under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against the City of Wichita, Wichita Police Department (“WPD”), and WPD Officers Bradley Berry and Rick M. Pena (Doc. 1). This matter comes before the court on defendants' Motions to Dismiss (Docs. 18 & 23) under Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(1) and 12(b)(6).[2] Plaintiff has responded (Doc. 26).[3] For reasons explained below, the court grants defendants' Motions to Dismiss.

         I. Background

         The Complaint alleges few facts, but the court recites those facts below and views them in the light most favorable to plaintiff. S.E.C. v. Shields, 744 F.3d 633, 640 (10th Cir. 2014) (“We accept as true all well-pleaded factual allegations in the complaint and view them in the light most favorable to the [plaintiff].” (citation and internal quotations marks omitted)).

         Defendants Berry and Pena “ran [plaintiff] off the road” in their police car on January 5, 2018. Doc. 1 at 2, 4. “Every time [plaintiff] tried to stop [his] motorcycle [the officers] would spe[e]d up.” Id. at 2. The officers “ran [plaintiff] down until [he] had nowhere to go but into the river.” Id. The resulting wreck knocked out plaintiff's teeth, and caused him permanent back and shoulder injuries and memory loss. Id. For relief, plaintiff seeks “maximum payout.” Id. at 6.

         II. Legal Standard

         A. Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(1)

         “Federal courts are courts of limited jurisdiction and, as such, must have a statutory basis to exercise jurisdiction.” Montoya v. Chao, 296 F.3d 952, 955 (10th Cir. 2002) (citation omitted). Federal district courts have original jurisdiction of all civil actions arising under the constitution, laws, or treaties of the United States or where there is diversity of citizenship. 28 U.S.C. § 1331; 28 U.S.C. § 1332. “A court lacking jurisdiction cannot render judgment but must dismiss the cause at any stage of the proceedings in which it becomes apparent that jurisdiction is lacking.” Basso v. Utah Power & Light Co., 495 F.2d 906, 909 (10th Cir. 1974) (citation omitted). Since federal courts are courts of limited jurisdiction, there is a presumption against jurisdiction, and the party invoking jurisdiction bears the burden to prove it exists. Kokkonen v. Guardian Life Ins. Co. of Am., 511 U.S. 375, 377 (1994).

         B. Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6)

         Under Rule 12(b)(6), a defendant may move to dismiss for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6). To survive such 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 (2009) (quoting Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007)). A complaint need not include “‘detailed factual allegations, '” but it must offer more than “‘labels and conclusions' or ‘a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action'” which, as the Supreme Court explained, “‘will not do.'” Id. (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555). Essentially, “the complaint must give the court reason to believe that this plaintiff has a reasonable likelihood of mustering factual support for these claims.” Ridge at Red Hawk, LLC v. Schneider, 493 F.3d 1174, 1177 (10th Cir. 2007). This plausibility standard reflects the requirement in Fed.R.Civ.P. 8 that pleadings must provide defendants with fair notice of the nature of the claims as well as the grounds for each claim. See Khalik v. United Air Lines, 671 F.3d 1188, 1191-92 (10th Cir. 2012); see also Fed R. Civ. P. 8(a)(2) (“A pleading that states a claim for relief must contain [a] short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief . . . .”).

         When considering a Rule 12(b)(6) motion, a district court must accept as true all factual allegations in the complaint, but it need not extend this presumption to any legal conclusions it asserts. Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678. Viewing the complaint in this fashion, a court must decide whether plaintiff's allegations give rise to more than speculative possibilities. See Id. (“The plausibility standard is not akin to a ‘probability requirement,' but it asks for more than a sheer possibility that a defendant has acted unlawfully.”). If the allegations in the complaint allow a district court “to draw the reasonable inference that defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged, ” the claim has facial plausibility and the court should not dismiss it under Rule 12(b)(6). Davenport v. Wal-Mart Stores, Inc., No. 14-CV-2124-JAR-JPO, 2014 WL 3361729, at *2 (D. Kan. July 9, 2014). But, if the allegations in the complaint at issue are “so general that they encompass a wide swath of conduct, much of it innocent, then the plaintiffs ‘have not nudged their claims across the line from conceivable to plausible.'” Robbins v. Oklahoma, 519 F.3d 1242, 1247 (10th Cir. 2008) (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 570).

         III. Discussion

         The court first addresses WPD's argument that the court must dismiss WPD as a defendant because it lacks the capacity to be sued. Second, the court addresses the argument that plaintiff has failed to state a claim against all four defendants because no “seizure” occurred under the Fourth Amendment. Finally, the court addresses the alternative argument that defendants Berry and Pena have qualified immunity. For the reasons explained below, the court grants defendants' Motions to Dismiss (Docs. 18 & 23).

         A. The Wichita Police Department is not an ...

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