Pleasants v. Town of Louisa

CourtUnited States District Courts. 4th Circuit. United States District Court (Western District of Virginia)
Citation847 F.Supp.2d 864
Decision Date12 March 2012
Docket NumberCase No. 3:11–cv–00032.
PartiesSloan PLEASANTS, Plaintiff, v. TOWN OF LOUISA and Robert Rigsby, Defendants.

847 F.Supp.2d 864

Sloan PLEASANTS, Plaintiff,
TOWN OF LOUISA and Robert Rigsby, Defendants.

Case No. 3:11–cv–00032.

United States District Court,
W.D. Virginia,
Charlottesville Division.

March 12, 2012.

[847 F.Supp.2d 868]

Jeffrey Edward Fogel, Jeffrey E. Fogel Law Office, Steven David Rosenfield, Rosenfield & Wayland, Charlottesville, VA, for Plaintiff.

Maurice Scott Fisher, Jr., David Patrick Corrigan, Jeremy D. Capps, Harman, Claytor, Corrigan & Wellman, Richmond, VA, for Defendants.


NORMAN K. MOON, District Judge.

This action for damages by Plaintiff Sloan Pleasants (“Ms. Pleasants”) against Defendants the Town of Louisa and Officer Robert Rigsby (“Rigsby”) arises out of Rigsby's warrantless entry into Ms. Pleasants's apartment and his subsequent decision to place her under arrest. Ms. Pleasants brings three claims against Rigsby under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, alleging violations of the Fourth Amendment on theories of false arrest (Count I), unlawful entry (Count II), and malicious prosecution (Count III). Ms. Pleasants is suing the Town of Louisa for failure to train under § 1983 (Count IV). Finally, Virginia state law claims are alleged by Ms. Pleasants against Rigsby for malicious prosecution (Count V) and gross negligence (Count VI).

On August 8, 2011, I conducted a hearing on Defendants' motion to dismiss Ms. Pleasants's complaint in its entirety pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6). Subsequently, on August 9, 2011, I issued an order taking Defendants' motion to dismiss under advisement pending the completion of limited discovery on Ms. Pleasants's unlawful entry claim. The parties have concluded this limited discovery, and the matter is before the Court on Defendants' renewed motion to dismiss. For the reasons that follow, I will grant the motion.

I. Background

As I have noted, the parties have conducted limited discovery on Ms. Pleasants's unlawful entry claim. However, for the purposes of deciding Defendants' motion to dismiss Ms. Pleasants's other claims under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6), I must not consider facts uncovered in discovery. Accordingly, I will consider the facts developed in the interim only for the purposes of ruling on the unlawful entry claim.

A. Facts as Alleged in the Complaint

Ms. Pleasants is a resident of the Town of Louisa, Virginia, and Rigsby is a duly sworn police officer employed by the Louisa Police Department. On November 1, 2009, Rigsby and Richard Pleasants (“Mr. Pleasants”), the estranged husband of Ms. Pleasants, appeared at the home of Ms. Pleasants, who subsequently ordered them to leave the premises. Then, on December 13, 2009, Rigsby and Mr. Pleasants again appeared at the home of Ms. Pleasants. Rigsby entered the residence of Ms. Pleasants, allegedly without consent and without just cause, and refused to leave when ordered by Ms. Pleasants. After entering the home, Rigsby began questioning Ms. Pleasants's minor daughter, referred to herein and in the parties' briefs as “K.P.” In response to one of Rigsby's questions, K.P. stated that her mother “had slapped her on her leg where her arm was resting” and “grabbed her by her wrist and told her to take a shower.” Compl. ¶ 12. Although Ms. Pleasants alleges that Rigsby saw no welts or other indicia of physical injury to the child, he placed Ms. Pleasants under arrest. Rigsby handcuffed Ms. Pleasants in front of her daughter, escorted her to his police car, and placed her in a cell at the police department. Ms. Pleasants alleges that Rigsby “had only a ‘somewhat’ [sic] understanding of parental disciplining” and had received only minimal training about this subject twelve and one-half years earlier at police academy training. Compl. ¶ 15.

[847 F.Supp.2d 869]

Rigsby obtained an arrest warrant charging Ms. Pleasants with the Class 1 misdemeanor of assault and battery against a family member pursuant to Virginia Code § 18.2–57.2,1 released K.P. to the custody of her father, and obtained an ex parte restraining order against Ms. Pleasants in order to prevent her from having contact with her daughter. Ms. Pleasants was later released on bond and retained a lawyer to defend herself on the charge of assault and battery on a family member. The charge against Ms. Pleasants was ultimately dismissed on motion of the Commonwealth's Attorney. As a result of the conduct of Rigsby, Ms. Pleasants and K.P. have been receiving psychological counseling.

B. Facts Developed During Limited Discovery

Rigsby's first encounter with Ms. Pleasants occurred on November 1, 2009, 2 after Rigsby was dispatched to meet with Mr. Pleasants at the Louisa Volunteer Fire Department, which is located on the same street as Ms. Pleasants's apartment. Mr. Pleasants had informed the dispatcher that Ms. Pleasants was “very violent” and “poss[ibly] intoxicated,” and this information was relayed to Rigsby.

After Rigsby arrived, Mr. Pleasants told him that K.P., who was with her mother, was upset and crying. Mr. Pleasants stated that Ms. Pleasants was threatening to throw K.P.—who was eleven years old at the time—out of the house. Mr. Pleasants informed Rigsby that Ms. Pleasants had custody, and Rigsby told Mr. Pleasants that he could not force Ms. Pleasants to release K.P. Nevertheless, Mr. Pleasants asked Rigsby to accompany him while he endeavored to pick K.P. up. As he told Rigsby, Mr. Pleasants had formerly been accused by Ms. Pleasants of intimidating her. Rigsby agreed to go along in order to prevent an altercation.

At Ms. Pleasants's apartment, Mr. Pleasants knocked on the door. Ms. Pleasants opened the door, conversed with Mr. Pleasants, stated “she's not going,” and then slammed the door shut. Shortly thereafter, K.P., who was crying, opened the door on her own, knowing that her father was outside. She told her mother that she wanted to leave, and ultimately K.P. left with Mr. Pleasants. Although Mr. Pleasants did not obtain her explicit permission, Ms. Pleasants indicated through her actions that she was acquiescing to K.P.'s departure with Mr. Pleasants. Throughout the duration of these events, Rigsby stood back, either at the end of the sidewalk or behind Mr. Pleasants, and did not communicate with Ms. Pleasants or K.P. However, he did observe that Ms. Pleasants was upset and that she had bloodshot eyes. At some point after this incident, Rigsby was contacted by Mr. Pleasants about an upcoming court case related to the alleged unlawful taking of K.P. on November 1, 2009. Rigsby ended up receiving a subpoena for this court case.

On December 13, 2009, after having spent the weekend with him, K.P. called her father on the telephone. Mr. Pleasants missed K.P.'s call initially, and attempted to call her back. When he did, Ms. Pleasants answered, but she refused to let him speak with K.P. Mr. Pleasants told Ms. Pleasants that he wanted to come over to check on K.P. During their phone conversation, Mr. Pleasants could hear K.P. yelling in the background.

[847 F.Supp.2d 870]

Rigsby was dispatched to meet with Mr. Pleasants. As was the case on November 1, Mr. Pleasants advised the dispatcher that Ms. Pleasants “drinks,” and this information was relayed to Rigsby. Upon meeting, Mr. Pleasants told Rigsby that K.P. had been “crying and screaming” in the background during his phone conversation with Ms. Pleasants, and he requested that Rigsby conduct a welfare check on K.P.

According to Rigsby, officers in his department are routinely dispatched to conduct welfare checks on a variety of citizens upon the request of concerned family members. During his deposition, Rigsby was asked about his concerns that night:

Q: Was there something that [Mr.] Pleasants told you that caused you any alarm?

A: That his daughter was crying and screaming in the background and that she was—apparently wanted to talk to her father, and her mother was not letting her.

Q: And did that signal to you some potential for unlawful activity?

A: Didn't signal to me of an unlawful activity but definitely of probable cause for investigation of an alarm.

Rigsby Dep. 26:25–27:10. Rigsby further testified:

Q: When you—keeping in mind, then, that you were looking to do a welfare check, what were you going to be looking for?

A: That the child was not in distress, that the child hadn't been injured, the child was being taken care of. The statements of the information that I received about the child crying, screaming in the background, whether the child was being hurt or had been hurt.

Rigsby Dep. 29:4–12.

When Rigsby and Mr. Pleasants arrived at Ms. Pleasants's apartment, Mr. Pleasants knocked on the door. When Ms. Pleasants opened the door, Rigsby was standing a couple of feet behind Mr. Pleasants, who was standing at the doorstep. Eventually, Rigsby stepped up to stand beside Mr. Pleasants.

At this point, the versions of what happened next differ. For the purpose of resolving Defendants' renewed motion, I review facts in the light most favorable to Ms. Pleasants. According to Ms. Pleasants, as soon as she opened the door and saw them, she told both Rigsby and Mr. Pleasants to get off of her property. Ms. Pleasants contends that as she began to shut the door, Rigsby stepped in front of Mr. Pleasants and came through the door, at which point he began questioning K.P. Although Ms. Pleasants concedes that in addition to her telling the men to leave, some further conversation occurred prior to Officer Rigby's entry, she maintains that Rigby's entry preceded any attempt to question her daughter.

Before entering the apartment, Rigsby maintains that he glimpsed K.P., but states that she was standing approximately ten feet inside the apartment. After entering Ms. Pleasants's apartment, Rigsby asked K.P. to come forward so that he could ask her some questions. While maintaining the distance between herself and her mother, K.P., who was crying, came forward. Rigsby then asked K.P. what happened. K.P. told him that her mother had hit her and had grabbed her by the...

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  • Lucas v. Shively
    • United States
    • U.S. District Court — Western District of Virginia
    • July 7, 2014
    ...quoted in Gregg v. Richmond, No. CIV.A. DKC 2001–1212, 2004 WL 257080, at *2 (D.Md. Feb. 11, 2004); Pleasants v. Town of Louisa, 847 F.Supp.2d 864, 879 (W.D.Va.2012) (quoting Street v. Surdyka, 492 F.2d 368, 372–73 (4th Cir.1974) (“ ‘[T]here is no cause of action for ‘false arrest’ under se......
  • Lucas v. Shively
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    • U.S. District Court — Western District of Virginia
    • July 7, 2014
    ...quoted in Gregg v. Richmond, No. CIV.A. DKC 2001–1212, 2004 WL 257080, at *2 (D.Md. Feb. 11, 2004) ; Pleasants v. Town of Louisa, 847 F.Supp.2d 864, 879 (W.D.Va.2012) (quoting Street v. Surdyka, 492 F.2d 368, 372–73 (4th Cir.1974) (“ ‘[T]here is no cause of action for ‘false arrest’ under s......
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    • February 1, 2016
    ...cause to believe that suspect was the predominant physical aggressor, Va. Code § 19.2-81.3(B); see also Pleasants v. Town of Louisa, 847 F. Supp. 2d 864, 879 (W.D. Va. 2012)(citing Va. Code Ann. § 19.2-81.3(B)) ("Virginia law authorizes (and perhaps even requires) arrest without a warrant i......
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    • October 22, 2013 or supervision process. See, e.g., Semple v. City of Moundsville, 195 F.3d 708, 713 (4th Cir. 1999); Pleasants v. Town ofLouisa, 847 F. Supp. 2d 864, 884 (W.D. Va. 2012); Smith, 777 F. Supp. 2d at 967. The Browns do not identify a specific training or supervision deficiency. Rather......
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