839 F.3d 513 (6th Cir. 2016), 15-1722, Courtright v. City of Battle Creek

Docket Nº:15-1722
Citation:839 F.3d 513
Opinion Judge:MARTHA CRAIG DAUGHTREY, Circuit Judge.
Party Name:JEFF COURTRIGHT, Plaintiff-Appellee, v. CITY OF BATTLE CREEK; CRAIG WOLF and TODD RATHJEN, in their individual and official capacities, Defendants-Appellants
Attorney:ARGUED: Paul D. Hudson, MILLER, CANFIELD, PADDOCK AND STONE, PLC, Kalamazoo, Michigan, for Appellants. Shawn C. Cabot, CHRISTOPHER TRAINOR & ASSOCIATES, White Lake, Michigan, for Appellee. ON BRIEF: Paul D. Hudson, MILLER, CANFIELD, PADDOCK AND STONE, PLC, Kalamazoo, Michigan, Brad H. Sysol, BATT...
Judge Panel:Before: DAUGHTREY, MOORE, and STRANCH, Circuit Judges.
Case Date:October 14, 2016
Court:United States Courts of Appeals, Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit
SUMMARY

In response to a phone tip that Courtright had “come out of his room [at the Traveler’s Inn] with a gun and threatened to shoot” the dog of “another resident” at the hotel, Battle Creek Officers Wolf and Rathjen were dispatched to the Traveler’s Inn. Courtright claims that he “was nowhere near his room when the alleged incident was said to have taken place,” and that he tried to explain that to... (see full summary)

 
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839 F.3d 513 (6th Cir. 2016)

JEFF COURTRIGHT, Plaintiff-Appellee,

v.

CITY OF BATTLE CREEK; CRAIG WOLF and TODD RATHJEN, in their individual and official capacities, Defendants-Appellants

No. 15-1722

United States Court of Appeals, Sixth Circuit

October 14, 2016

Argued March 9, 2016

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[Copyrighted Material Omitted]

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Appeal from the United States District Court for the Western District of Michigan at Grand Rapids. No. 1:14-cv-01297--Robert J. Jonker, District Judge.

ARGUED: Paul D. Hudson, MILLER, CANFIELD, PADDOCK AND STONE, PLC, Kalamazoo, Michigan, for Appellants.

Shawn C. Cabot, CHRISTOPHER TRAINOR & ASSOCIATES, White Lake, Michigan, for Appellee.

ON BRIEF: Paul D. Hudson, MILLER, CANFIELD, PADDOCK AND STONE, PLC, Kalamazoo, Michigan, Brad H. Sysol, BATTLE CREEK CITY ATTORNEY'S OFFICE, Battle Creek, Michigan, for Appellants.

Shawn C. Cabot, CHRISTOPHER TRAINOR & ASSOCIATES, White Lake, Michigan, for Appellee.

Before: DAUGHTREY, MOORE, and STRANCH, Circuit Judges.

OPINION

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MARTHA CRAIG DAUGHTREY, Circuit Judge.

Prompted by a phone tip, the Battle Creek Police Department dispatched two of its police officers, defendants Craig Wolf and Todd Rathjen, to a local hotel, leading to the arrest of plaintiff Jeff Courtright. Courtright then filed this 42 U.S.C. § 1983 suit against Officer Wolf, Officer Rathjen, and the City of Battle Creek, alleging claims of excessive force, false arrest, and municipal liability. The defendants filed a motion to dismiss all claims against them, but the district court denied the motion. The defendants now seek relief on interlocutory appeal, contending that they are entitled to qualified immunity on the excessive-force and false-arrest claims and that the municipal-liability claim fails as a matter of law. Because Courtright alleged a plausible claim that the officers violated his clearly established constitutional rights, we affirm the district court's denial of the motion to dismiss the excessive-force

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and false-arrest claims. We also dismiss, for lack of jurisdiction, the appeal of the district court's denial of the motion to dismiss the municipal-liability claim.

FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

In response to a phone tip that Courtright had " come out of his room [at the Traveler's Inn] with a gun and threatened to shoot" the dog of " another resident" at the hotel, Wolf and Rathjen were dispatched to the Traveler's Inn. In his complaint, Courtright averred that he " was nowhere near his room when the alleged incident was said to have taken place," that he " attempted to tell Defendant Wolf that he was not in his room at the time the incident allegedly occurred, but was visiting friends," and that he further attempted to tell Wolf that he did not " leav[e] his room with a gun and threaten[] to shoot any animal." Wolf nevertheless arrested Courtright for felonious assault. In handcuffing Courtright in the course of the arrest, Wolf and Rathjen " forcefully grabbed Plaintiff's arms and pulled them behind Plaintiff's back," even though Courtright had told the officers that prior rotator cuff injuries and shoulder surgeries precluded him from placing his hands behind his back. Courtright repeatedly complained of pain to the officers after he was handcuffed, but neither officer " did anything to alleviate Plaintiff's pain." Though Courtright was jailed overnight, the prosecutor declined to issue a warrant, and Courtright was released the next day.

Subsequently, Courtright sued Wolf, Rathjen, and the City of Battle Creek, alleging use of excessive force by Wolf and Rathjen in violation of the Fourth Amendment and 42 U.S.C. § 1983 (Count I); false arrest by Wolf in violation of the Fourth Amendment and § 1983 (Count II); false arrest and false imprisonment by Wolf under state law (Count III); and municipal liability on the part of the City of Battle Creek under § 1983 and Monell v. Department of Social Services of the City of New York, 436 U.S. 658, 98 S.Ct. 2018, 56 L.Ed.2d 611 (1978) (Count IV).

The defendants moved to dismiss all four counts for failure to state a claim under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6). The district court declined to exercise supplemental jurisdiction over the state-law claims (Count III) and denied the motion with respect to the plaintiff's federal-law claims (Counts I, II, and IV), rejecting the officers' qualified-immunity defense. The district court reasoned that the federal excessive-force and false-arrest claims were " thin," but that there was " enough to kick the case forward into at least the basic discovery process," and that it was " okay to keep [the municipal liability] claim alive for now so that we can at least see if there's any potential for the plaintiff to flesh out what they claim in terms of policy and practice." The defendants filed an interlocutory appeal of the district court's denial of their motion to dismiss on Counts I, II, and IV.

DISCUSSION

Although most denials of motions to dismiss are non-final orders that do not fall within Congress's statutory grant of appellate jurisdiction, see 28 U.S.C. § 1291, " a limited set of district-court orders are reviewable 'though short of final judgment.'" Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 671, 129 S.Ct. 1937, 173 L.Ed.2d 868 (2009) (internal citation omitted). Pursuant to the collateral-order doctrine, " a district court's order rejecting qualified immunity at the motion-to-dismiss stage of a proceeding is a 'final decision' within the meaning of § 1291." Id. at 672 (internal citation omitted). We therefore have appellate jurisdiction over the

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district court's order denying the motion to dismiss based on qualified immunity. Id. ; see also

Heyne v. Metro. Nashville Pub. Sch., 655 F.3d 556, 562 (6th Cir. 2011).

" When a defendant appeals the denial of a motion to dismiss based on qualified immunity, we review de novo whether the complaint alleges violation of a clearly established constitutional right." Heyne, 655 F.3d at 562. In reviewing the motion to dismiss, we construe the complaint in the light most favorable to the plaintiff, accept all well-pleaded factual allegations in the complaint as true, and draw all reasonable inferences in favor of the plaintiff. Directv, Inc. v. Treesh, 487 F.3d 471, 476 (6th Cir. 2007); see also Heyne, 655 F.3d at 562-63. " No heightened pleading requirement applies" to our review of a motion to dismiss based on qualified immunity. Heyne, 655 F.3d at 562; see also

Back v. Hall, 537 F.3d 552, 555-56 (6th Cir. 2008).

To survive the motion to dismiss on qualified-immunity grounds, the plaintiff must allege facts that " plausibly mak[e] out a claim that the defendant's conduct violated a constitutional right that was clearly established law at the time, such that a reasonable officer would have known that his conduct violated that right." Johnson v. Moseley, 790 F.3d 649, 653 (6th Cir. 2015). The plaintiff also must allege with particularity " facts that demonstrate what each defendant did to violate the asserted constitutional right." Heyne, 655 F.3d at 564 (internal citations and quotation marks...

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