Jones v. Louisville/Jefferson Cnty. Metro Gov't

Decision Date31 August 2020
Docket NumberCIVIL ACTION NO. 3:18-CV-00265-JRW-RSE
Citation482 F.Supp.3d 584
Parties Nashayla JONES, et al., Plaintiffs v. LOUISVILLE/JEFFERSON COUNTY METRO GOVERNMENT, et al., Defendants
CourtU.S. District Court — Western District of Kentucky

Christopher J. Hoerter, Coleman, Roles & Associates PLLC, Louisville, KY, for Plaintiffs.

Susan K. Rivera, Jefferson County Attorney, Louisville, KY, for Defendants Unknown Agents, Unknown Officers of Louisville Metro Police Department, Russell Coleman, Jeff Sessions, Mayor Greg Fischer.

Annale Renneker Taylor, Peter Frank Ervin, Susan K. Rivera, Jefferson County Attorney, Louisville, KY, for Defendants Louisville Jefferson County Metro Government, Thomas Schardein, Jeremy Boehnlein, Aaron Browning, John Casse, P. Cobb, Vadim Dale, Mark Granholm, Brandon Hogan, M. King, David Ledbetter, Shannon Parks, Luke Phan, Christopher Priel, Anthony Roberts, Brent Routzahn, John Seymour, Scott Walker, Chris Wells, Daniel Zummach.

ORDER

Justin R Walker, District Judge

1. The Court GRANTS IN PART and DENIES IN PART Louisville Metro and Schardein's motion to dismiss (DN 50), the eighteen individual officers’ motion to dismiss (DN 59), and Seymour's motion to dismiss (DN 65).
2. The Court DISMISSES with prejudice the following claims against individual Defendants:
a. The PlaintiffsFirst Amendment retaliation claim;
b. Nashayla's Fourth Amendment excessive force claim against all individual Defendants other than Schardein;1
c. The PlaintiffsFourteenth Amendment due process claim; d. The Plaintiffs’ trespass to land claim; and
e. Nashayla's claims of assault, battery, false imprisonment, conversion, and negligence.2
3. The Court DISMISSES with prejudice the following Monell claims against Louisville Metro:
a. The PlaintiffsFirst Amendment retaliation claim;
b. The Plaintiffs’ failure to train veterans claim; and
c. The Plaintiffs’ risk assessment matrix claim.3
OPINION

In 2017 the Louisville Metro Police Department executed a search warrant on the residence of Nashayla Jones and her daughter, Nascyauni Jones. Nashayla and Nascyauni brought First, Fourth, and Fourteenth Amendment claims against the officers who conducted the search and Louisville Metro under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. They also brought state law claims against the individual officers. The Defendants moved to dismiss under Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(6).

I.

In April 2017, Thomas Schardein, a sergeant with the Louisville Metro Police Department, obtained a search warrant for Plaintiffs’ residence and the surrounding property.4 (DN 45, ¶ 26). The target of the search warrant was Nashayla's husband. (Id. ¶ 29). They used a "Risk Assessment Matrix" to determine that the situation was "high-risk," necessitating a "no-knock" warrant and a SWAT team. (Id. ¶¶ 28-30).

The next morning around 9:00 a.m., twenty-one SWAT team members executed the search warrant on the Joneses’ home.5 (Id. , ¶¶ 40-41).

The SWAT team broke through several exterior doors and windows by force. (Id. ¶¶ 44, 56, 60). They detonated several stun grenades. (Id. ¶¶ 51-52, 57). They made their way to the lower level of the house, where Nashayla's husband was taken into custody. (Id. ¶¶ 44-46). They temporarily detained a then-unclothed Nashayla. (Id. ¶¶ 44-60).

Nashayla informed the officers that her son was on the upper level of the house and had Asperger's Syndrome

. (Id. ¶¶ 55, 59). But Browning fired his weapon at Nashayla's son as he was walking down the stairs. (Id. ¶ 59). Several officers repeatedly shot and injured Nascyauni's licensed therapy dog. One of them, John Seymour, later shot and killed the dog. (Id. ¶¶ 62-65). At different points during the raid, Plaintiffs and their family members were held at gunpoint. (Id. ¶¶ 53, 67-68).

The Plaintiffs allege that the officers broke windows, destroyed furniture, and ripped a gas oven from the wall causing a gas leak, even after the house was secured and the suspect was in custody. (Id. ¶¶ 72-74). They say that a variety of their property was intentionally and unreasonably destroyed during the raid, including a service animal, mirror, table, interior windows, and a dresser. (Id. ¶¶ 65, 77-80). Finally, Plaintiffs allege that during the search no officer wore or activated a body camera, and that an officer confiscated and destroyed the hard-drive of the surveillance cameras attached to Plaintiffs’ home. (Id. ¶¶ 76, 85-86).

The officers discovered no illegal drugs or firearms within the home and the Plaintiffs weren't charged with any crime. (Id. at ¶¶ 81-82). Nashayla and Nascyauni filed a complaint with the LMPD. (Id. ¶ 83). They say that law enforcement officers thereafter started calling their landlord to "dig up dirt" on the family. (Id. ¶ 84).

Plaintiffs initiated this action in 2018. Their Second Amended Complaint names Louisville Metro and 20 individual officers as defendants. They allege violations of the First, Fourth, and Fourteenth Amendments and violations of state law. (Id. ¶¶ 89-118). Louisville Metro and Schardein moved to dismiss. (DN 50). Seymour and the remaining eighteen named officers6 also moved to dismiss. (DN 59; DN 65).7

II.

Under Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(6), "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) ). The "court must (1) view the complaint in the light most favorable to the plaintiff and (2) take all well-pleaded factual allegations as true." Tackett v. M & G Polymers, USA, LLC , 561 F.3d 478, 488 (6th Cir. 2009) (citation omitted). Even so, the Court need not accept a party's "bare assertion of legal conclusions." Columbia Natural Resources, Inc. v. Tatum , 58 F.3d 1101, 1109 (6th Cir. 1995) (citation omitted). Ultimately, this inquiry is a "context-specific task that requires the reviewing court to draw on its judicial experience and common sense." Iqbal , 556 U.S. at 679, 129 S.Ct. 1937.

This Court will consider PlaintiffsSection 1983 and state law claims against the individual officers before turning to their municipal-liability claims against Louisville Metro.

III.

Our analysis begins with the applicable statutes of limitations in this case. Section 1983 claims in Kentucky are subject to a one-year statute of limitations. See Collard v. Kentucky Board of Nursing , 896 F.2d 179, 182 (6th Cir. 1990) (citing KRS § 413.140(1)(a) ). Actions for assault, battery, false imprisonment, and personal injury are subject to the same one-year statute of limitations. See KRS § 413.140(1)(a) ; B.L. v. Schuhmann , 380 F. Supp. 3d 614, 642 (W.D. Ky. 2019) (citations omitted); Dunn v. Felty , 226 S.W.3d 68, 70 (Ky. 2007). Actions for conversion and negligent injury to personal property are subject to a two-year statute of limitations. See KRS § 413.125 ; Newberry v. Service Experts Heating & Air Conditioning, LLC , 806 Fed.App'x 348, 362-63 (6th Cir. 2020). Trespass claims are subject to a five-year statute of limitations. KRS § 413.120(4) ; Ingram Trucking, Inc. v. Allen , 372 S.W.3d 870, 872-73 (Ky. App. 2012) (trespass to chattel is an intentional tort subject to the five-year statute of limitations under KRS § 413.120(4) ).

The officers searched the Joneses’ home on April 27, 2017. The Complaint was filed on April 26, 2018 and named Schardein and Louisville Metro. It wasn't until the Second Amended Complaint in September 2019 that the Plaintiffs specifically named the other individual officers. The claims against the newly-named officers do not relate back to the original complaint. See Smith v. City of Akron , 476 F. App'x 67, 69 (6th Cir. 2012).

Plaintiffs concede that Nashayla's claims against the individual officers — other than Schardein — are barred insofar as they are subject to the one-year statute of limitations. (DN 38 at #529; DN 68 at #990). They do not argue that there should be a different result as to the two-year limitation claims. In sum, Nashayla's individual capacity 1983 claims and any state law claims for assault, battery, false imprisonment, conversion, and negligent injury to person or property against individual officers other than Schardein are barred by statutes of limitation and are dismissed. The defendants do not contend that Nascyauni's claims suffer the same fate because she was a minor at the time of the police raid. The statutes of limitations were tolled for her claims. See KRS § 413.170(1). Thus, Nascyauni's claims are not time-barred.

A. First Amendment Claim Against Schardein8

Plaintiffs say that Schardein retaliated against them for exercising their First Amendment right to petition.9 (DN 68 at #990). A First Amendment retaliation claim requires the plaintiff to plead the following three elements: "(1) the plaintiff engaged in constitutionally protected conduct; (2) an adverse action was taken against the plaintiff that would deter a person of ordinary firmness from continuing to engage in that conduct; and (3) the adverse action was motivated at least in part by the plaintiff's protected conduct." Handy-Clay v. City of Memphis, Tenn. , 695 F.3d 531, 539 (6th Cir. 2012) (quoting Fritz v. Charter Twp. of Comstock , 592 F.3d 718, 723 (6th Cir. 2010) ). The Sixth Circuit has characterized this test as "context-driven" because "whether activity is protected or an action is adverse will depend on context." Holzemer v. City of Memphis , 621 F.3d 512, 520 (6th Cir. 2010) (cleaned up) (quoting Thaddeus-X v. Blatter , 175 F.3d 378, 388 (6th Cir. 1999) (en banc) (per curiam)).

Nashayla, on her and Nascyauni's behalf, filed a complaint with LMPD after the police raid, which triggered an investigation. (DN 45, ¶ 83). They also say that, after the petition was filed, law enforcement officers contacted Plaintiffs’ landlord to "dig up dirt" or "get dirt" on them. (Id. ¶¶ 83-84). They say that this was adverse conduct because it caused them to "live in fear...

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