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Brown v. City of Pine Lawn

United States District Court, E.D. Missouri, Eastern Division

February 20, 2018

ROSLYN BROWN, et al., Plaintiff(s),
v.
CITY OF PINE LAWN, MISSOURI, et al., Defendant(s).

          MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

          E. RICHARD WEBBER, SENIOR UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         This matter comes before the Court on Defendants' Motions to Dismiss Parties [18, 31, 44].

         I. BACKGROUND

         On May 19, 2017, Plaintiffs Roslyn Brown and R.Z., a minor, through her Mother and Next Friend, Roslyn Brown (the “Plaintiffs”), filed this civil action seeking damages against the City of Pine Lawn; Police Officers Steven Blakeney, Lawrence Fleming, Brian Britton, Felicia Shelton, and Steven Lowman; and Pine Lawn Housing Inspector Raymond Winston. On August 18, 2017, the City of Pine Lawn, Fleming, Britton, Lowman, and Winston filed a joint Motion to Dismiss [18] all claims against them.

         In response, Plaintiffs filed a First Amended Complaint [s24] including ten causes of action against Defendants: Count I: Unlawful Use of Excessive Force - Cognizable under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 (by Plaintiff Roslyn Brown against Defendant Britton); Count II: Unlawful Search and Seizure - Cognizable Under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 (by Plaintiff Roslyn Brown against all Defendants); Count III: Unlawful Seizure - Cognizable Under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 (by Plaintiff R.Z. against all Defendants); Count IV: Intentional Infliction of Emotional Distress Under Missouri Law (by Plaintiff R.Z. against all Defendants); Count V: Negligent Infliction of Emotional Distress under Missouri Law (by Plaintiff R.Z. against all Defendants); Count VI: False Imprisonment Under Missouri Law (by Plaintiff R.Z. against all Defendants); Count VII: Malicious Prosecution - Cognizable Under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 (by Plaintiff Roslyn Brown against All Defendants); Count VIII: Abuse of Process Under Missouri Law (by Plaintiff Roslyn Brown against all Defendants); Count IX: Conspiracy to Violate Civil Rights - Cognizable Under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 (by Plaintiffs Roslyn Brown and R.Z. against all Defendants); and Count X: Municipal Liability Under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 (by Plaintiffs Roslyn Brown and R.Z. against the Defendant City of Pine Lawn).

         On October 9, 2017, Fleming, Lowman, and Winston filed a Motion to Dismiss [32] all claims against them, and on November 27, 2017, Blakeney filed a Motion to Dismiss [45] all claims against him. Plaintiffs have filed memoranda in opposition to both motions. For purposes of Defendants' Motions to Dismiss, the Court accepts as true the following facts alleged in Plaintiffs' First Amended Complaint. See Great Rivers Habitat Alliance v. Fed. Emergency Mgmt. Agency, 615 F.3d 958, 988 (8th Cir. 2010).

         On Monday, May 19, 2014, Lieutenant Steven Blakeney (“Blakeney”) approached Ms. Brown's residence located in the City of Pine Lawn, Missouri. Blakeney was accompanied by several other Pine Lawn Police Officers: Detective Lawrence Fleming (“Fleming”), Officer Brian Britton (“Britton”), Officer Felicia Shelton (“Shelton”), and Officer Steve Lowman (“Lowman”). Blakeney asked Ms. Brown the whereabouts of Ronald Zimmerman (“Zimmerman”), the owner of the residence, and Ms. Brown stated she did not know. Blakeney then yelled at Ms. Brown, demanding she give him information about Zimmerman. He told her if she did not provide the information, he would write her a summons, she would have to pay significant sums of money, and the police officers would continue to come to the residence and harass her.

         When Ms. Brown did not provide him with the information, Blakeney told her to produce proof of her identification, so he could write her a summons. Ms. Brown went to retrieve her proof of identification, shutting the glass storm door but leaving the main door open so she could remain visible. Blakeney then charged at the closed storm door in an attempt to break it down, breaking the locking mechanism in the process. Ms. Brown was shocked and frightened, and she came out onto the porch, closing both doors behind her. Blakeney shouted, “Arrest her!” Britton, using great force, yanked Ms. Brown's arms behind her back, handcuffed her, and had her walk to the patrol car. Ms. Brown was not wearing shoes and did not have her cane. Shelton escorted her to the patrol car and carried her cane. Both Shelton and Ms. Brown stated Ms. Brown needed her shoes and cane to walk safely and comfortably, and Britton responded, “She's gonna walk today!” Lowman and Fleming stood by and watched the arrest. As Ms. Brown was being taken to the patrol car, Blakeney entered the residence, followed by Fleming.

         Once Ms. Brown was in the patrol car, all of the officers entered the residence and began “ransacking” it. Housing Inspector Raymond Winston shortly arrived and joined the others in “raiding” the home. From the patrol car, Ms. Brown asked Shelton if she could make arrangements for R.Z., her eleven-year-old daughter. R.Z. was crying and sitting on the porch of her grandfather's house, which was located next door to Ms. Brown's residence. Ms. Brown shouted across the street to a neighbor (“Neighbor”), asking Neighbor to take R.Z. safely into Neighbor's house. Neighbor began to walk across the street, and R.Z. walked off the porch and into her grandfather's yard, approaching Neighbor. At this point, Blakeney and Britton exited Ms. Brown's residence.

         Blakeney and Britton intercepted R.Z. before Neighbor could, grabbing R.Z. by the upper left arm and leading her into Ms. Brown's residence. Blakeney yelled at R.Z., “Where's your father? Where does he work? I know you know something!” R.Z. cried and said she did not know. Blakeney told the others R.Z. was Zimmerman's daughter. Britton forced R.Z. to unlock Ms. Brown's cell phone without Ms. Brown's consent. Britton answered an incoming call from Zimmerman without permission. In front of R.Z., Britton told Zimmerman, “Everyone's going to jail today. Your daughter is going to foster care. What kind of father are you? Come and get your daughter.” While in the home, all officers and Winston held R.Z. down and forced her to watch the scene.

         At one point, Winston and Shelton asked Ms. Brown for her consent to search the home, and Ms. Brown refused to give it, claiming she was not the homeowner. Winston then threatened Ms. Brown, saying he would condemn the home if she did not consent and that she would not be able to get back inside to retrieve any of her belongings. Shelton added Ms. Brown would never be able to get back inside the house. Ms. Brown then consented to their entry.

         Britton eventually came out of the home and approached the police car. He informed Ms. Brown that R.Z. would also be escorted to the Pine Lawn Jail. Ms. Brown objected and stated Neighbor was permitted to have custody of R.Z. at that time. Britton told Ms. Brown he was “just following orders” and if she “didn't like it, [she] could take it to the next level.”

         Britton escorted R.Z. to the police car and placed her in its front seat. The officers took Ms. Brown and R.Z. to the Pine Lawn Jail, with Britton driving the patrol car. At the Pine Lawn Jail, Britton and Fleming escorted R.Z. into an interrogation room and Ms. Brown to a holding cell. Lowman and Shelton stated they were confused as to which charges they should include on Ms. Brown's citations. Blakeney told them, “She should have told me where he is.” They eventually charged her with “Failure to Comply” and 32 housing citations. After approximately one hour, R.Z.'s grandfather arrived at the Pine Lawn Jail to pick up R.Z. and take her into his care. After several hours, Ms. Brown was released on medical recognizance.

         Prior to May 19, 2014, Ms. Brown had been instructed by her doctor to keep her arm in a straight position so her elbow and wrist would be ready for an upcoming surgery. The surgery ultimately had to be delayed because of injuries Ms. Brown sustained during her arrest. Ms. Brown states she has experienced “significant physical injury and pain and suffering, as well as emotional trauma and suffering.” She states Defendants have caused R.Z. to experience “extreme emotional trauma and distress, including depression, anxiety, and night terrors, all of which continue to persist and interfere with R.Z.'s life.” The charges against Ms. Brown were eventually dismissed after Ms. Brown hired private counsel.

         II. STANDARD

         Under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure (“FRCP”) 12(b)(6), a party may move to dismiss a claim for “failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted.” The notice pleading standard of FRCP 8(a)(2) requires a plaintiff to give “a short and plain statement showing that the pleader is entitled to relief.” To meet this standard and to survive a FRCP 12(b)(6) 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) (internal quotations and citation omitted). This requirement of facial plausibility means the factual content of the plaintiff's allegations must “allow[] the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged.” Cole v. ...


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