United States District Court, E.D. Missouri, Eastern Division
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER REGARDING COMPLAINT
D. NOCE, UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.
matter comes before the Court on the motions of defendants
Velda City Police Department and Officer Willie Mason to be
dismissed as parties to this lawsuit under Fed.R.Civ.P.
12(b)(6). (Docs. 3, 5). The parties have consented to the
exercise of plenary authority by a United States Magistrate
Judge pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(c). Although the
motions were filed on April 3, 2018, plaintiff has not yet
responded to them. Considering plaintiff's lack of
response, and considering the serious deficiencies of
plaintiff's complaint, the Court takes up the motions
without a hearing.
filed her complaint in the Circuit Court of St. Louis County,
Missouri, on March 14, 2018, and defendants timely removed it
to this Court, simultaneously filing the motions to dismiss.
Plaintiff's entire complaint is as follows:
My name is Brenda Belisha Berry. I am suing Officer Willie
Mason and the Velda City police department for damages caused
by the use of excessive force by said officer. The amount I
am seeking is ten million dollars. This is for mental,
physical, and emotional stress. I am in the process of trying
to obtain all body and camera footage for the day of
11-2-2017. Also all documents of arrest records for
(Doc. 1, Ex. 1).
Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6), a party may move to
dismiss part or all of a case for its failure to state a
claim upon which relief can be granted. Fed. R. Civ. Pro.
12(b)(6). A complaint “must include enough facts to
state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face,
” providing more than just labels and conclusions.
Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570
(2007). Such a complaint will “allow the court to
draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable
for the misconduct alleged, ” Ashcroft v.
Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009), and will state a claim
for relief that rises above mere speculation.
Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555.
reviewing the pleadings under this standard, the court
accepts all of the plaintiff's factual allegations as
true and draws all inferences in the plaintiff's favor,
but the court is not required to accept the legal conclusions
the plaintiff draws from the facts alleged. Retro
Television Network, Inc. v. Luken Commc'ns, LLC, 696
F.3d 766, 768-69 (8th Cir. 2012).
Defendant Velda City Police Department is not subject to
Velda City Police Department argues it is a department of the
city government of Velda City and not individually subject to
suit. See Ketchum v. City of West Memphis, Arkansas,
974 F.2d 81, 82 (8th Cir. 1992) (holding that a police
department is not a suable entity but merely a department of
the city government); Robinson v. City of St. Louis,
No. 4:16-CV-1535-RWS, 2016 WL 7491862, at *2 (E.D. Mo. Dec.
30, 2016), appeal dismissed sub nom. Robinson v. City of
St. Louis Div. of Corr., No. 17-3077, 2017 WL 8683787
(8th Cir. Oct. 26, 2017) (dismissing claims against the City
of St. Louis Division of Corrections and the St. Louis
Justice Center as non-suable entities).
Rule of Civil Procedure 17 provides that capacity to be sued
for a corporation is determined by the law under which the
corporation was organized, and for all other parties, by the
law of the state where the court is located, except that
“a partnership or other unincorporated association with
no such capacity under that state's law may . . . be sued
in its common name to enforce a substantive right existing
under the United States Constitution or laws.”
Fed.R.Civ.P. 17(b). Missouri courts have held municipal
boards of police commissioners to be suable state agencies,
see St. Louis Police Officers' Ass'n v.
Bd. of Police Comm'rs, 846 S.W.2d 732, 739
(Mo.Ct.App. 1992), but not county sheriff's departments.
White v. Camden Cty. Sheriff's Dep't, 106
S.W.3d 626, 631 (Mo.Ct.App. 2003) (affirming the circuit
court's finding that the Camden County Sheriff's
Department is not a legal entity capable of being sued). The
question is whether the department exists as an independent
entity with a legal identity distinct from the local
government with which it is affiliated. See Jordan v.
Kansas City, 929 S.W.2d 882, 887-88 (Mo.Ct.App. 1996).
Velda City Police Department is a department of the Velda
City local government, it is not capable of being sued
because the action would properly lie against the local
government entity itself. Id. Plaintiff has not
alleged that Velda City Police Department is an independent
entity and alleged facts that indicate that the statement is
plausible, and defendant has asserted that there is no
provision under Missouri law establishing it as a distinct
legal entity. (Doc. 4). The Court gives plaintiff until July
5, 2018, forty-five days from the date of this Order, to
amend her complaint to name the appropriate local government
entity or facts demonstrating the police department's
distinct legal identity.
Plaintiff has failed to state a claim against Officer
Officer Willie Mason argues the complaint fails to state a
claim and that he is also protected by the doctrines of
qualified and official immunity. Plaintiff has not provided
the Court with any facts to support her claim against
defendant Mason. The claim is a “threadbare . . .
accusation” that fails to meet the pleading standard
required by the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure.
Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009). The
complaint offers no facts for the court to draw any inference
about the liability of this or any defendant for any
misconduct. Therefore, it fails to state a claim upon which
this Court can grant relief. Officer Mason's immunity for
federal- or state-law claims turns on the factual
allegations. The Court gives plaintiff until July 5, 2018,
forty-five days from the date of this Order, to amend the
complaint to provide enough facts about the alleged excessive
force to state a claim upon which relief may be granted.
IT IS HEREBY ORDERED that the motions of
defendants Officer Willie Mason and Velda City Police
Department (Docs. 3, 5) are sustained. The
complaint of ...