Pettiford v. City of Greensboro, Civil Action No. 1:06cv1057.

CourtUnited States District Courts. 4th Circuit. Middle District of North Carolina
Writing for the CourtSchroeder
Citation556 F.Supp.2d 512
Docket NumberCivil Action No. 1:06cv1057.
Decision Date30 May 2008
PartiesNicole PETTIFORD and Anthony Pettiford, Plaintiffs, v. CITY OF GREENSBORO, Defendant.
556 F.Supp.2d 512
Nicole PETTIFORD and Anthony Pettiford, Plaintiffs,
v.
CITY OF GREENSBORO, Defendant.
Civil Action No. 1:06cv1057.
United States District Court, M.D. North Carolina.
May 30, 2008.

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S. Camille Payton, Donaldson & Black, P.A., Greensboro, NC, for Plaintiffs.

Alan W. Duncan, Allison O. Van Laningham, Smith Moore LLP, Greensboro, NC, for Defendant.

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

SCHROEDER, District Judge.


Plaintiffs Nicole and Anthony Pettiford, husband and wife ("Plaintiffs"), seek civil damages based on alleged misconduct arising from an investigation by the Greensboro Police Department ("GSO PD"), which is operated and governed by Defendant, City of Greensboro (the "City"). (Doc. 12.) Before the Court are Defendant's Motion and Renewed Motion to Dismiss pursuant to Federal Rules of Civil Procedure 12(b)(1), (b)(2), (b)(6), and (b)(7) (Docs. 9 & 15) (referred to hereafter simply as the "Motion to Dismiss") and several cross motions relating to the City's proposed evidentiary support for its Motion to Dismiss. (Docs. 14, 22, 23 & 25.) For the reasons below, the Motion to Dismiss will be granted in part and denied in part, and the remaining motions will be addressed in turn.

I. FACTUAL BACKGROUND

The following allegations from the Amended Complaint are viewed in the light most favorable to Plaintiffs for purposes of these motions. Erickson v. Parous, — ___ U.S. ___, 127 S.Ct. 2197, 2200, 167 L.Ed.2d 1081 (2007); Ibarra v. United States, 120 F.3d 472, 474 (4th Cir.1997).

On November 9, 2004, Plaintiff Nicole Pettiford exited a fast food restaurant in Greensboro around dinner time and, before entering her car where her children were waiting, was met by GSO PD Detective Scott Sanders. (Doc. 12 ¶¶ 10-11.) Detective Sanders displayed the insignia and badges of the GSO PD and ordered Ms. Pettiford to accompany him for questioning

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(Id ¶11.) At Detective Sanders' insistence, Ms. Pettiford drove to her husband's place of employment, where she left her car and, along with a female GSO PD officer, rode with her children to the home of Ms. Pettiford's sister, where she left her children. (Id. ¶¶ 12-13.) A GSO PD officer then drove Ms. Pettiford to the Residence Inn hotel in Greensboro, where Ms. Pettiford was questioned by several GSO PD officers for six hours about her knowledge of the activities of "certain black officers" of the GSO PD.1 (Id. ¶¶ 14-15.)

During this six-hour period, Ms. Pettiford alleges she repeatedly requested to leave, expressed concern for her children, was denied permission to answer her cell phone when her husband called several times to inquire about her whereabouts, and was told she would lose her children and spend forty years in federal prison. (Id. ¶¶ 16-19.) Around midnight, Detective Sanders and the other GSO PD officers permitted Ms. Pettiford to leave on the condition that she allow them to search her home, her car and Plaintiff Anthony Pettiford's car, which she did. (Id. ¶ 23.) Ms. Pettiford maintains that the GSO PD officers acted violently and verbally abused her during the search, ultimately seizing several financial records belonging to the Plaintiffs. (Id. ¶¶ 26-27.) Mr. Pettiford, who arrived home while the female GSO PD officer was still present, never consented to the search of his home or his car. (Id. ¶ 128.)

Beginning the next day, Ms. Pettiford claims, Detective Sanders embarked on a campaign to "harass" her by (1) calling her on the telephone; (2) informing her employer that she would be sent to prison, thus "ruining" her reputation and ability to perform her job; (3) contacting her mother to question her and to inform her that her daughter was "in trouble"; (4) notifying her bank and "manipulating its employees so that plaintiff Nicole Pettiford would incur bad check charges"; and (5) contacting the Department of Motor Vehicles "to arrange a frivolous hearing." (Id. 130.) Plaintiffs claim that at no time did Detective Sanders or the GSO PD ever inform them of any charges against them, nor have charges ever been filed against them. (Id. ¶¶ 14, 17, 20, 25, 29.) Plaintiffs further claim that, as a result of all this, Ms. Pettiford lost her job, and collectively they suffer a variety of emotional injuries from anxiety to physical sickness, as well as lost income. (Id. ¶¶ 30, 38, 39, 40, 45.)

Plaintiffs filed this action in the Superior Court of Guilford County, North Carolina, seeking recovery under the U.S. Constitution, pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, the North Carolina Constitution, and the common law of negligence. (Doc. 4.) The City removed this action on the grounds of federal question jurisdiction. (Doc. 1.) In lieu of answering, the City filed a Motion to Dismiss and, after Plaintiffs' Amended Complaint, a Supplemental Motion to Dismiss, pursuant to Federal Rules of Civil Procedure 12(b)(1), (b)(2), (b)(6), and (b)(7) (Docs. 9 & 15), which has prompted several motions related to the City's proposed evidentiary support.2

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II. ANALYSIS

A. Joinder under Rule 12(b)(7) and Rule 19

The City contends that throughout its investigation the GSO PD was acting at the direction of the Assistant United States Attorney and the United States Attorney's Office for the Middle District of North Carolina ("Federal Parties"). (Doc. 10 at 8; Doc. 21 at 11-12.) The City argues that the Federal Parties enjoy sovereign and prosecutorial immunities from suit and are necessary and indispensable parties because they may have information to support the City's defense that it benefits derivatively from these federal immunities. (Doc. 10 at 9-10, 12; Doc. 21 at 12.) Plaintiffs' failure to join them to the action, the City argues, requires dismissal, under Rules 12(b)(7) and 19, Fed.R.Civ.P. (Doc. 9 ¶ 3; Doc. 10 at 12, 13, 16; Doc. 21 at 13.)

Rule 19, as amended in 2007, sets forth a two-part inquiry for determining whether a court must dismiss an action for failure to join an indispensable party. First, a court must determine whether the person is "required" under Rule 19(a). Am. Gen. Life & Accident Ins. Co. v. Wood, 429 F.3d 83, 92 (4th Cir.2005). If the absent person is a required party, the court must order his joinder and the action may continue. RPR & Assocs. v. O'Brien/Atkins Assocs., 921 F.Supp. 1457, 1463 (M.D.N.C.1995). Second, if joinder is required but is not feasible, the court must determine whether the person is "indispensable" under Rule 19(b) such that the action must be dismissed. Wood, 429 F.3d at 92; RPR & Assocs., 921 F.Supp. at 1463. Dismissal for non-joinder is a remedy employed extremely reluctantly, "only when the defect cannot be cured and serious prejudice or inefficiency will result." RPR & Assocs., 921 F.Supp. at 1463 (citing Provident Tradesmens Bank & Trust Co. v. Patterson, 390 U.S, 102, 118, 88 S.Ct. 733, 19 L.Ed.2d 936 (1968)), The burden of proof is on the moving party to demonstrate that the absent person must be joined to facilitate a just adjudication. Wood, 429 F.3d at 92.

1. Required Parties

On a motion to dismiss, under Rule 12(b)(7), the court initially must determine if it should join the absent person as a party under Rule 19(a). RPR & Assocs., 921 F.Supp. at 1463. Rule 19(a)(1) requires joinder when:

(A) in that person's absence, the court cannot accord complete relief among existing parties; or

(B) that person claims an interest relating to the subject of the action and is so situated that disposing of the action in the person's absence may:

(i) as a practical matter impair or impede the person's ability to protect the interest; or

(ii) leave an existing party subject to a substantial risk of incurring double, multiple, or otherwise inconsistent obligations because of the interest.

Fed.R.Civ.P. 19(a)(1). Thus, Rule 19(a)(1)(A) focuses on the relief to existing parties, whereas Rule 19(a)(1)(B) focuses on the interest of the absent person and the effect, if any, his absence would have on either himself or the existing parties. Schweyer Import-Schnittholz GmbH v. Genesis Capital Fund, L.P., 220 F.R.D. 582, 586 (S.D.Iowa 2004),

a. Complete Relief

The City argues first that the Federal Parties' absence will preclude complete relief among the existing parties, pursuant to Rule 19(a)(1)(A). (Doc. 10 at

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8-11.) The City does not assert that Plaintiffs cannot obtain complete relief from it. Rather, it asserts that the Federal Parties are necessary so the City can adequately present proposed defenses of derivative sovereign and/or prosecutorial immunities. (Id. at 9-10; Doc. 21 at 12.) Absent the Federal Parties, the City contends, it "could be forced to defend actions that are not its responsibility and, moreover, would be prejudiced in that defense." (Doc. 10 at 8; Doc. 21 at 12.)

"Complete relief is any relief that "will effectively and completely adjudicate the dispute." 7 Charles Alan Wright, Arthur R. Miller & Mary Kay Kane, Federal Practice and Procedure § 1604 (3d ed.2001). Commonly read, this definition encompasses affirmative relief. E.g., Health Care Indem., Inc. v. King, No. 2:05-0913, 2006 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 707-83, at *27, 2006 WL 3342203, at *7 (S.D.W.Va. Sept. 25, 2006) (finding complete relief available between existing parties because codefendants were not necessary for court to enter declaratory judgment); Beckham v. Grand Affair of N.C., Inc., 671 F.Supp. 415, 420-21 (W.D.N.C.1987) (finding City of Charlotte police officers and department were not necessary parties because plaintiff can obtain complete relief without them through an award of actual and punitive damages, reasonable attorney's fees, costs, and other appropriate relief). Thus, if "complete relief were so limited, the City's request for dismissal for failure to name the Federal Parties would fail.

Nevertheless, there is no precise formula for determining compulsory joinder under Rule 19. Because the ultimate goal is to achieve...

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65 practice notes
  • Al-Quraishi v. Nakhla, Civil No. PJM 08-1696
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 4th Circuit. United States District Court (Maryland)
    • July 29, 2010
    ...contractor acts independently of precise directions and approvals, ... the defense is unavailable." Pettiford v. City of Greensboro, 556 F.Supp.2d 512, 540 (M.D.N.C.2008). "The level of governmental control required is significant; merely providing general direction while leaving the implem......
  • Fulmore v. City of Greensboro, No. 1:09–CV–373.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 4th Circuit. Middle District of North Carolina
    • July 6, 2011
    ...and (3) that the policy or custom proximately caused the deprivation of a constitutional right.” Pettiford v. City of Greensboro, 556 F.Supp.2d 512, 530 (M.D.N.C.2008) (citing Jordan ex rel. Jordan v. Jackson, 15 F.3d 333, 338 (4th Cir.1994)). Municipal policy can be found in (1) written or......
  • Kuwait Pearls Catering Co. v. Kellogg Brown & Root Servs., Inc., Civ. A. H-15-0754
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 5th Circuit. United States District Courts. 5th Circuit. Southern District of Texas
    • March 31, 2016
    ...169, 196 (2d Cir. 2008), citing Yearsley v. W.A. Ross Const. Co., 309 U.S. 18, 20-21 (1940). See also Pettiford v. City of Greensboro, 556 F. Supp. 2d 512, 539 (M.D.N.C. 2008)("Courts have recognized a brand of derivative immunity relating to work primarily arising from the performance of g......
  • Lawrence Alexander Jr. v. the City of Greensboro, No. 1:09–CV–293.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 4th Circuit. Middle District of North Carolina
    • January 5, 2011
    ...and (3) that the policy or custom proximately caused the deprivation of a constitutional right.” Pettiford v. City of Greensboro, 556 F.Supp.2d 512, 530 (M.D.N.C.2008) (citing Jordan ex rel. Jordan v. Jackson, 15 F.3d 333, 338 (4th Cir.1994)). Municipal policy can be found in (1) written or......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
65 cases
  • Al-Quraishi v. Nakhla, Civil No. PJM 08-1696
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 4th Circuit. United States District Court (Maryland)
    • July 29, 2010
    ...contractor acts independently of precise directions and approvals, ... the defense is unavailable." Pettiford v. City of Greensboro, 556 F.Supp.2d 512, 540 (M.D.N.C.2008). "The level of governmental control required is significant; merely providing general direction while leaving the implem......
  • Fulmore v. City of Greensboro, No. 1:09–CV–373.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 4th Circuit. Middle District of North Carolina
    • July 6, 2011
    ...and (3) that the policy or custom proximately caused the deprivation of a constitutional right.” Pettiford v. City of Greensboro, 556 F.Supp.2d 512, 530 (M.D.N.C.2008) (citing Jordan ex rel. Jordan v. Jackson, 15 F.3d 333, 338 (4th Cir.1994)). Municipal policy can be found in (1) written or......
  • Kuwait Pearls Catering Co. v. Kellogg Brown & Root Servs., Inc., Civ. A. H-15-0754
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 5th Circuit. United States District Courts. 5th Circuit. Southern District of Texas
    • March 31, 2016
    ...169, 196 (2d Cir. 2008), citing Yearsley v. W.A. Ross Const. Co., 309 U.S. 18, 20-21 (1940). See also Pettiford v. City of Greensboro, 556 F. Supp. 2d 512, 539 (M.D.N.C. 2008)("Courts have recognized a brand of derivative immunity relating to work primarily arising from the performance of g......
  • Lawrence Alexander Jr. v. the City of Greensboro, No. 1:09–CV–293.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 4th Circuit. Middle District of North Carolina
    • January 5, 2011
    ...and (3) that the policy or custom proximately caused the deprivation of a constitutional right.” Pettiford v. City of Greensboro, 556 F.Supp.2d 512, 530 (M.D.N.C.2008) (citing Jordan ex rel. Jordan v. Jackson, 15 F.3d 333, 338 (4th Cir.1994)). Municipal policy can be found in (1) written or......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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